Lowering Sky

13 07 2010

The rain was spotty, occasionally heavy but only rain. The sky was what could only be called lowering, that odd look where the clouds are close to the ground, seeming as tho you could just reach up and touch them. Veils of rain sweeping across the open fields and blurring the dark shapes of trees, farm houses and barns. The man was walking along the lane, soaked by now, tired, chilled and hungry. He passed the clump of old scraggly oaks, shivering, sensing something old and unpleasant about them.

He quickened his pace to pass by the old trees more rapidly and slipped on the wet leaves in the lane falling into the muddy rut. He picked himself up and kept going, there wasn’t sufficient shelter to dry off or clean off the mud, it was best he keep moving.

After a few minutes he came to the farmhouse he had been headed for, went up on the porch and knocked at the door. An elderly woman came after a minute and asked what he wanted. He was shocked, she didn’t recognize him, and she was so old. He wasn’t prepared for that and he finally blurted out his name, the old woman froze, staring at him.

She finally said, “you can’t possibly be who you say you are,” and went to close the door.

“Please, wait. It is me, see? Here’s my birth certificate.” As he pushed the piece of paper against the screen.

“My son is dead. He died a long time ago. I saw his body, he hanged himself on one of the old trees there along the lane.”

“That can’t be true. I know you, Mother. Please, don’t close the door?”

“I saw the old scar on my son’s arm, when they cut him down.”

“This scar? The one I got when I fell out of the hay mow and broke my arm and the bone came through the skin. See? How could I know that if I wasn’t your son?”

“Someone told you. Lots of folks around here knew about that.”

“Did they know about how Father died?”

“What?”

“Did anyone but you and me know how Father died? We sat and watched till he bled to death, the doctor couldn’t get here fast enough. Did they know how we tried to stop the bleeding?”

“Most folks heard later, wasn’t a secret. You best leave.”

“I can’t, I’ve no other place to go. I fought so long to come home.”

“You’re not my son, he’s dead, fifteen years dead. Hanged himself on his birthday, all of nineteen. Because he couldn’t abide that hussy flaunting herself around the other boys, he just went and hung himself.”

“That wasn’t why, Mother. It wasn’t because Velma was flaunting herself, it was … it was because … she was pregnant with my baby.”

“It died too, so did she, in a car crash, two weeks after my son hanged himself on that tree there by the lane.”

“I know, I was the one driving the car we were in.”

“Why do you keep saying you’re my son?”

“Because it’s the truth, don’t you remember? You used to get so upset, kept getting us confused all the time. My twin brother hung himself, but he didn’t break his arm, I did. You’ve forgotten there were two of us.”

“I only had one son. I didn’t have twins.”

“Why are you doing this to me, Mother? Why are you denying you even had me? How could you have forgotten me?”

“I had a son and a daughter. My daughter and her husband farm here now, but they live on the other side of the fields. She wouldn’t stay after her brother died.”

“I don’t understand, we didn’t have a sister. We were twin boys.”

“Someone lied to you. I didn’t have twin sons.”

“This was my home. I played in that barn with my twin brother. We used to run down the lane so we didn’t have to be near those old oak trees any longer than necessary. You and Father had the bedroom right over this front porch.”

“You better go. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

“All right, I’ll go. I love you, Mother. Maybe you’ll remember, I’ll stay in the motel in town a few days.”

The old woman closed the door and the man turned back to the lane. He stood looking at the scraggly old trees and shivered. He was still wet and muddy. He didn’t know how he was going to get back to the town other than walk. He had no money, no car and it hadn’t stopped raining. Now it was starting to get dark. He turned and looked back at the house, it was dark. He looked more closely and saw the barn was leaning, it hadn’t been when he first saw it. Then he noticed the windows of the house, several were broken and the paint was flaking off the clapboards. He went back to the porch and knocked again. The door swung free and opened, revealing an empty house. He went in and walked through the rooms. There were water stains on the floor near the broken windows, the few pieces of furniture were broken and useless. He shook himself, he must have been hallucinating, but, his mother had been so real. He was so tired, the hunger wasn’t something he could do much about, there was no food here. Not much except some shelter from the now pouring rain. He went up the stairs. Looked in the bedrooms and decided to sleep in the one that had been his and his brother’s. He was cold and there were only the odd bits of broken furniture to use to burn but he had no way to start a fire. He sat against the wall and watched the rain till he fell asleep.

He woke to his mother calling him to come down to breakfast and pull the blankets off his brother too, they’d be late for school. He should have been able to smell breakfast cooking, but he couldn’t. He decided it was because he’d gotten so chilled he’d caught a cold and his head was stuffed. He threw off the blanket … no, he was on the floor. It was dark and cold and he was shivering. The house was empty but he could still hear his mother calling him. He dragged himself up and went to the stairs.

The sheriff brought the boys along with him when he came to check out their report. He went into the old farmhouse with his flashlight. There were holes in the floor and he had to go carefully. He’d already lectured the boys about playing in old deserted buildings. He came to the back stairs and stopped. Laying there sprawled on the floor was the body the boys had reported. It had been there a very long time, really more a skeleton than a corpse. Probably fell down the stairs and broke his neck stumbling around in the old house in the dark. He went back to his car and called the mortician, it was a poor county and they didn’t run to a real coroner. There was no hurry about getting the remains, they’d been there for years from the look of it, a few hours more wouldn’t matter to anyone.

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2 responses

23 03 2012
Anonymous

Fantastic blog post…

Like

17 02 2011
facebook

i love it

Like

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