Here is a short story that I wrote. I hummed and hawed over it, tweaked it and tried to improve it, and ultimately just found it to be incredibly wanting. So, now I put it up here for critique and discussion. Hope you enjoy!
Wine can ferment in as few as twenty-eight days. Sure, its not a hard and fast rule, and really applies mainly to wine kits and hobbyists, but it can be done in as few as four weeks. In four weeks you can go from what is essentially grape juice to either vinegar or wine. It can be suitable only to go on salads, it can be just the kind of thing you put into cooking, or it can be poetry in liquid form. So many different factors and variables can influence something over the course of just four weeks. A change in humidity, a spike in the temperature, so many things can go wrong. Conversely, so much can change and seem to go wrong, only to result in something amazing.
The first step is to start with what is essentially grape juice. Mix with water, sanitize it to kill off bad bacteria, add yeast and an airlock. That’s the broad strokes of how the journey starts.
It was like so many other nights. Sitting outside just watching people and life meander by. Stained with ink and tannins, self reflective, waiting. Not waiting for anything in particular mind you, just waiting. I had long ago realized that feelings like this, sometimes you listen to them. Your gut or your soul or whatever you want to call it, sometimes it puts that urge into your head. Maybe it was the sulphites. Something puts the thought into your head and you abandon the books and the writing and the grapes to head out. You listen, because what choice do you have?
A better night could have been chosen though. A chill was in the air; autumn had finally decided to descend upon us and it had brought drizzles. Correction, it was more like the evening than the night. The streets and cloud cover was still clinging to shades of grey rather than black and blue. Raucous cries of those jovial for the weekend drifted out with the breeze. A stiff coat protected me from all but the slightest caress of the chill. The perfect night to enjoy a drink out on the patio, watching people and waves. Additional correction; a much worse night could have been chosen.
“Why’re you all alone out here?”
In that wonderful level of intoxication where even a plane landing on the road in front of you with a message from the president wouldn’t surprise you I glance to my right and answer “Waiting.” She’s rather pretty.
Her eyes narrow, “Waiting? What for?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure. Haven’t you ever had just the urge to go somewhere and wait?”
“No…”, she smirks, this is pretty entertaining for her, “maybe you’re waiting for me?”
After it has sat for a week, you do what’s called racking the wine. For a hobbyist, this involves using gravity and air pressure to force the wine through a plastic tube into another container. This is accomplished by lifting the wine higher than the container it is going to go into. The principle is the same as siphoning gas. This allows the sediment to be separated out of the wine. In addition, it stirs everything up, waking the yeast and sparking a second fermentation in the wine. This second fermentation can be the difference between vinegar and wine.
I was right, she really is quite pretty.
“What’re you looking at?”
The way her dark hair rests on the pillow while individual hairs catch in the cross breeze from open windows; the curve of her back as she lies on her stomach, reminding me where my hand held her not too long ago… “Your eyes”.
As she rolls her eyes, “You’re cheesy…”
“Yeah, well, uhm… they’re just so striking. You know… you can get lost in them.”
As she smiles a knowing smile at me its almost like a challenge. The moment remains pregnant, waiting to see what will come. I back down and break eye contact. “So why does your place smell so different?” she asks after a moment, “I haven’t been anywhere that smells like this before.”
“Well, I honestly expected you to ask sooner. You’ve been here a couple times already. Its carbon dioxide being produced by fermenting wine.”
“That’s actually kinda cool. I was worried it was going to be something weird or creepy or something. So you like ferment your own wine?”
“Yeah. Its just a hobby thing… its nothing like how a proper vineyard does it. Much smaller scale and not really as scientific.”
“That’s cool. So what do you do anyways? This week has been so crazy…” she flashes a little guilty grin, so at least she admits its been a whirlwind as well.
“I, uh, dabble. I work from home but basically I just invest in things and trade stocks over the internet and stuff. It isn’t crazy money or anything but it keeps me comfortable. Uh; how about you?”
“I model but I’d really rather be a musician. Its just so hard to find the time though. It’d be an entire second career between the practicing, marketing, figuring out performances and everything. You really need to run your own shit nowadays.”
“So what’s holding you back?”
“I don’t know really… I’m really getting tired of it. But its scary! So much changes so quickly and you don’t know where that next cheque is going to come from.”
“Yeah… I could see that. Probably pretty scary. And you can’t do both?”
“I guess… its just modelling takes so much time and I find myself just drained by it.”
I lean back, my head resting on the pillow as I stare at the ceiling for a moment, thoughts slowly going through a swirl in my head. Things have been quite the whirlwind; its always this point where things are so exciting and chaotic and terrifying. A single misspoken word can ruin everything. There isn’t the same comfort and trust that can absorb the impact of a stray word wandering outside of what was intended. “Well…” I start, hoping the rest will fall into place as a result of momentum, “I guess its time you ask yourself that question then, would you regret it more to never try or would you always wonder what if?”
She flounces over as a method of turning on her side towards me. She arrests me with her green eyes, “What about you? You seem less than thrilled with what you do. If you could do anything, what would it be?”
Another week later you rack the wine again to remove sediments. At this point the wine needs to be agitated regularly for 24 hours. This allows the wine to breathe and the carbon dioxide which is in the wine to be released. This is integral to ensuring that the taste of the wine is enjoyable to the palate. This stage also includes the stabilization and clearing of the wine. This removes the final sediments from the wine and clears it to make it the translucent result you know and love.
I find myself on the computer again staring at properties. Its foolish. Silly. Stupid even. I can’t believe I’m even thinking this. Its such a big purchase. I don’t know anything about managing people, a team, leading something like this.
“Knock knock!” she calls as she comes in the front door, she has a key already.
“Back here” I respond, closing the computer.
“There you are!” She leans down for a kiss, “What’s the surprise!”
“Can you sit and just talk for a bit? We have to go out to get it and I’m not ready to face the chill just yet.”
“Uhm… alright. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to talk to you a bit.”
“Uhhh…. kay…” she looks a bit panicked.
“No no! Its just like, this has been so quick and I just wanted to make sure…”
“Make sure what?”
“That like, we’re on the same page with everything.”
“What page would that be?”
“Like… uh.. that we just know what’s going on.”
“And what’s going on..?”
“Isn’t it a little weird that this has happened so fast?”
“What’re you saying?”
“Like… does this happen all the time with you?”
“I don’t think I like what you’re saying”
“No. Like, do you think I’m a whore or something? I just go aroudn doing this?”
“That’s not what I’m saying! I’m just trying to figure out like…. where we stand.”
“And where do we stand?”
Oh god. This isn’t going like I thought or wanted at all. She’s angry, I’m confused. “I just, I’m just trying to figure that out. I wanted things to be okay and for no one to not know what’s going on.”
“You don’t need to label things for that! Why can’t you just trust what each of us feels and what our actions are?”
“No, look, I mean like, this was weird, wasn’t it?”
“You think this is weird? I opened up to you!”
“No; not like you’re weird, this is a weird situation. Right? Isn’t it?” Oh god. Not going well here.
“Why is it weird? Can’t you just live life? You have a dream just like me and you’re terrified to go get it!”
“So are you! You have the time and the talent to at least give it a real shot so why don’t you?”
“Look, this just… I don’t want to be here right now. You can keep your surprise.”
I stand there for awhile after she storms out. I’m dumbfounded by what happened. I am terrified about losing her. Its foolish. Silly. Stupid even. I can’t believe I’m even thinking this. I love this woman.
I grab my jacket and head out. I have errands to do.
Whether or not you go immediately to bottling is a difficult question. Some people say letting it sit causes the flavour to blend better. Either way, it should sit for at least a few days after stabilization. After that comes bottling. You fill the bottles and cork them, letting them stand upright for about a day. Storing them on their side helps ensure the corks do not dry out over time.
I sit on my new porch finishing up my investments for the day. I may have taken a jump, but certainly not a full plunge. I still have a safety net. It won’t be until next year that I am going to have any real difficult work here anyways; I bought so late in the season. There’s some logistics and getting to know the staff and everything, but right now we have time. I have time.
A smile plays across my lips as I close the computer. I had one last email to send, an invitation of sorts. It hasn’t been that long but we haven’t talked since then. Things have changed though. Sometimes fear is what you need to make everything change. Sometimes its inspiration. Sometimes… its just time. At least that’s what me and the guitar sitting here waiting for her think.
The wine waits alone in the apartment, left behind for whomever comes next. Twenty eight days in the making, twenty eight days of toiling and tears and fighting and laughter and love, sometimes less, sometimes more. The point is so much can happen in that little of time. Grape juice and yeast and water can become vinegar, or can become liquid poetry.