Sunset

15 08 2010

The day had been sunny, not warm but not really cold either. Sitting in the kitchen of the farmhouse watching over the fields as the day drew to its close. Dinner was cooking and it was a case of waiting to finish the meal for a few minutes.

There was a wide expanse of sky visible, across the empty fields with only some trees off on the horizon. Wisps of cloud were pink and pale gold. As the sun sunk further the clouds turned bright fuchsia and molten gold before things slowly faded to darkness with only a hint of light where the sun was below the horizon.

The meal was finished and chores should have been done, but there was no sign of the husband. Finally the wife decided to go see what he was doing. The yard light was out, he hadn’t replaced the bulb, one of the chores he’d said something about taking care of today. She went back in the house for a flashlight and checked the barn, the cows were milked but the milk was still sitting in the buckets near the creamery door. The feeding was done, the eggs collected, but her husband wasn’t around. The vehicles were all parked as usual, so he hadn’t left in one, she’d have heard it anyway. She thought he might have stopped to watch the sunset, as she had, it was a rather spectacular one. She called his name, looked around some more and finally went inside to wait a while longer.

The food was cold by the time she came back in the house and she was no longer hungry. Time oozed by for her until she had to do something and took the flashlight again to look around some more. It was full dark for quite some time by then, and she knew it was probably foolish to try to find her husband in the dark, but she couldn’t just keep sitting there waiting.

She went back to the barn and looked in the hay loft, he wasn’t there. She looked in the shop, the other outbuilding and sheds, but he was not around. It was then she knew something was very wrong. She stepped back into the shop and picked up the phone, it was dead. Then she walked back to the house and tried the phone there, it to was dead. She was beginning to be very afraid.

After thinking a few minutes she took the keys to one of the vehicles and went out. She started the engine and drove around the house since the driveway surrounded it. As she came to the front and turned for the road she saw the old dead trees in the unkempt strip of land on the neighboring farm. They were well lit by the headlights and hanging from one was her husband. She screamed and almost lost control of the car.

She knew he was dead, knew there was no point it trying to save him, but she tried. Left the car running and the headlights on, ran back to the house for a kitchen knife to cut the rope. She ran back and found he was hung with wire and the knife was useless, his body already cold. She was crying and screaming but no one was around. The neighbor was too far away to hear her. She didn’t want to leave her husband just hanging there like he was. She finally calmed enough to walk to the neighboring farmhouse, never thinking about the still running car sitting there.

The sheriff was called and the emergency medical team. She knew it was too late for them to help. The neighbor offered to have her stay till the sheriff arrived but she wouldn’t she needed to be with her husband. The farmer walked back with her and they waited together.

The sheriff asked if the man had been depressed or upset, the usual sort of questions. He’d left no note, there was only his corpse hanging there from the wire around his neck over a branch on the old scraggly tree. She didn’t want to go back to the house, but didn’t really have anywhere else to go. The sheriff suggested coming to town, she could stay at the motel, but she didn’t want that. Eventually she told him she’d be all right where she was. The car was parked in it’s usual place again. She was told to call if she thought of anything that might have prompted her husband to hang himself, or if she remembered anything that might be of use. Then suddenly she was alone. Exhaustion overtook her and she fell asleep in one of the living room chairs.

She woke before dawn, milked the cows after throwing away the milk from last night and washing the buckets. She didn’t bother collecting the eggs but did see that the animals had what they needed and went in the house. The food from last night still on the table, as tho her husband would at any moment walk in and sit down with his customary grunt and grin.

The telephone repairman came and fixed the cut wires. Said it was deliberately done to be sure she couldn’t call for help, couldn’t mistake the tool marks on the wire. The sheriff came out again and brought her into town to make the arrangements for her husband’s body. The funeral parlor was dark and smelled of formaldehyde and dead flowers. All the arrangements were made and she was taken home again. The death ruled a suicide with no apparent cause.

Two days later, on the day of the funeral, she was not at the funeral parlor. It was raining, the sort of day long rain that happens in very early spring, before the buds start swelling. Since the man was a suicide, the local pastor had refused burial in the cemetery, so she’d decided to have her husband cremated and scatter his ashes on the farm. The phone rang and rang in the farmhouse but there was no answer. Eventually the sheriff decided he better to see if she was all right and he drove out to the farm. Everything looked normal. He knocked on the door, called her name, but there was no answer. He looked in the outbuildings. Found the cows in some discomfort and called for someone to come and help him.

He was waiting at the road when he thought he saw something among the old trees and walked across the road. It was the woman, hanging there, as her husband had, from the very same branch, hung with wire as he had been. The sheriff was sick. He called on the radio to have the emergency medical team come even tho he knew it was pointless, she was dead and had been awhile. Rigor mortis was well advanced.

He searched the house, there was no note, nothing to indicate why she would have done something like that. No more information than with her husband. He stood there on the porch, watching the rain and wondering.

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