Chapter 1: Winter's coming
There’s only one thing in the world that I care about, and that’s my Pops.
I was named after him. John Billy Bob McDonald. Most folk call me Billy, but Pops called me Little John. When I was young, and we were dirt poor, living in a rusty trailer from the 50’s, he bought us a VCR player and the Disney movie, Robin Hood. I must’ve watched it hundreds of times as a kid. That’s when he gave me my nickname, after the outlaw sidekick of the hero, Robin Hood.
I eventually grew into my nickname. Burly and bear-like, I tower above everyone else in the trailer park. Thanks to the manual work I do at the car shop on the highway, I’m thick and strong, although the beer’s done its work on my gut. I grew thick reddish hair with a curly beard to match.
My voice is deep and brusque. My scowl, permanent. Remnants of Pa, I bet. But Pops said my blue eyes are soft and kind. I tie my hair into a bun, like Pops used to before he went bald, because he said it opens up your face. It makes you look kinder. Pa used to laugh at him, I remember. Would he laugh at me now?
Pops owned this trailer park. Did I mention that? He said he and MawMaw wanted to build a community of their own when they thought they couldn’t have children. Of course, eventually, Pa came into the picture. They called it a miracle.
And then I was there. And soon, Pa and Ma left.
I wanted to leave. I did. But I stayed for Pops. I stayed because this community meant the world to him, and I wanted to protect it at all costs.
I’m still here at 28 years old. Lounging on the only chair we own, a lawn chair as old as I was, just outside our rusty trailer. The dirt and grass, or what’s left of it, is frozen underneath my feet. It’s snowing, very softly. The park is deathly quiet as the sky grows steadily darker, save for the occasional rumbling laughter from a far-off trailer or a slamming door. A tall wooden sign, towering over the trailers, bends lightly with the wind.
It says: Winterfalls.
I lift myself up, grab the shovel leaning against the trailer and begin the slow trudge over to the sign, marking Winterfalls' entrance. The shovel hangs loosely in my grasp, plowing the land beneath it as it drags along the earth.
I’ve had five, six cans of beer, but I still feel cold. My chest is tight, like someone is clutching my lungs. Little John doesn’t cry, Pops would say.
But he doesn’t know what Little John would do if his Robin Hood were gone.
I’ve nearly reached the entrance when I catch a glimpse of a man slouching on his doorstep, watching me with a cigarette sticking out of the corner of his light-hearted smirk and both hands in the ripped pockets of his oversized jean overalls. Dean’s a mysterious one. Always looks like he knows something he shouldn’t. But his eyes are soft.
“Where’re y’going, kid?” Dean calls out.
“Same as usual,” I mumble, not meaning to.
“Same as usual, he says,” he cackles.
I shrug. “Nothing really changes around here.”
“Sure ’bout that?” He looks up at the sky and lazily holds out a hand, watching the snow rest on it like a blanket and melt into nothing. “When was the last time we had a good snow ‘round here? Must’ve been 3 years ago.”
I shudder lightly as a breeze brushes by and cross my arms, shovel banging against my knees. Dean cackles again and, as if trying to show off, rolls up his plaid sleeves to expose his forearms.
“Dean, aren’t you a bit cold?” I ask. “Do you need a jacket? I have some extras of…of mine back in the trailer.”
Dean shakes his head, still smirking. “Keep ‘em. You’ll need ‘em.” Before I can protest, he waves me off lazily. “Now get on wit’ it before the sun goes down. Don’t wanna hafta send someone to find y’later.”
I pause for a moment longer, then nod and trudge onward. Another chill pierces my coat, and I shiver and pull up my hood.
I hear Dean mutter something as I leave. I turn around at the entrance and face him. “What?”
The smirk is gone from his face, but his eyes are still soft. He’s gazing at the sign with a far-off look, as if he’s about to drift into sleep. I see his mouth move and barely make out the words.
“Careful, John. Winter's coming.”
To be continued in Part 2!
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