Just before the month started, they found out Eric wasn’t coming home for December.
James wondered if he was afraid of making the flight back. His father wondered if he was embracing Human culture. His mother wondered how she had raised a son so cruel. She wondered if she should disown him for being ashamed of his family. My parents would have, you know, she said, but stayed up at the kitchen counter anyway in case he sent word.
The weeks passed. No word came. The winter solstice did. Dongji, grandma Mi-Hi called it, and insisted on bringing them all home for red bean patjuk. It was the first winter solstice meal without Eric sitting at the table, but they set him a place anyway—his bowl stood empty. Grandma Mi-Hi, as always, proclaimed the porridge too bland when no one was eating it. She spooned sugar into their bowls until there was no choice but to give in or add more dumplings.
It was useless, though. The empty chair took up the whole table. It dominated conversation. No one could get a word in edgewise. James left early—slipped out, muttered something about checking if the direhounds needed to be brought in. They hadn’t been growing their winter coats in right–it was a warm season. Winds were low, the cold was soft, and some leaves had still survived the fall.
Never a good sign, Mi-Hi said, putting her ruby earrings on in the mirror. Winter should be winter. If it pretends it’s something else, it’s always hiding misfortune.
Winter and Eric had a lot in common this year. James stepped carefully over the sprinkling of red beans Mi-Hi left on the back porch. Leaned into the wind on the steps. The direhounds howled past the black pines. Under all the sugar, James’ tongue was sour. Eric wasn’t home. Not all the misfortune in the world could explain why.
Suddenly, James needed the sky. He ducked out from under the roof first–every young draca made that mistake once, stupid ones made it twice–and swept straight upwards from his feet into an explosion of dragons wings. It was a trick he’d just learned recently, and it pulled his muscles hard to crank up, up, up over the treeline.
I’ve made myself a goal to post a piece of my previous day’s Camp Nano writing for the rest of the month. Makes me more aware of coherency and dynamic scenebuilding and such. I’ve been reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” and I think it’s affecting my style something odd. Feel free to leave thoughts if they strike you.