Ode to Spam

26 08 2014

Oh viagra, SEO optimization,

Oh payday loans and enhanced breasts.

Such a multitude of mindless copied comments

Spam, spam, spam in my comment moderation box.

Does it make you feel slick, like you’re spray painting graffiti on a wall?

Do you think I actually read your garbage strewn in my virtual yard?

It must reward you with something at your dead-end email addresses with your fake names and websites.

Your constant repetitive insanity – do you really expect anything from your spewing?

Oh payday loans, viagra, enhanced breasts, SEO optimization, salacious dating, gambling, and more.

It would be incredible if you’d keep your mindlessness to yourselves.

Spam, spam, spam in my comment moderation box.





Meditatio CCIXVII

2 01 2014

To all of you who love me and whom I love.

Celebrate my life.

I know you will mourn.

Remember the laughter, the joy, the jokes and fun.

The love is yours,

Your whole life long,

Though my former self is gone.

Only a shell, shed, like a butterfly,

From a chrysalis to winged beauty,

I’ve changed from flesh, loved by you, I know,

To spirit, born anew in different garb.

I’m always with you, in your heart,

Watching over, loving, those I love.

Do not grieve too long.





Meditatio CCIXVI

2 01 2014

Into thine soft encompassing arms,

O Angel of Death,

Falls my soul.

Released from this veil of tears,

Sweet deliverer,

To peace.

No more the trials and tribulations,

Messenger of God,

Of this mortal coil.

Grant those I love the comfort,

Gentle escort,

Of His love, and mine.

As another said, “I go quietly into this dark night,”

But only briefly,

For all those who have gone before await.

And we shall all watch over you,

Angels known by name and love,

With you through eternity.





Meditatio IX

17 08 2013

Send the solitude of night . . . giving rest . . .

For some a time of meditation

Reflection and deep thought

A time of quiet writing

Or of watching the unceasing stars

Diamonds on sable . . . drifting . . .

Deathly silent . . . till dawn . . .





Rain

12 01 2012

Rain.

It just kept raining. He was getting restless and feeling rather trapped, he’d been stuck inside for several days because it kept raining, not hard but steady and irritating. Cloudy and chilly with the constant weeping rain.

He was more than ready for a sunny day so e could get some of the outside work done before the snow started flying. He had some repairs to his roof, a long section of fence to get in, the holes in the access road to get filled and several other jobs that really couldn’t be done in the rain.

The door blew open so he got up to close it, adding replacing the latch to his list of needed repairs, but he’d have to get to town for a new latch as well as some of the other materials. He had planned to go a day ago, but he knew he’d have had problems with the wagon in the mud, that situation was not improving with the continuing rain. It was a messy walk to the barn twice a day to tend the livestock, he was displeased with the mud, deciding he was going to find a way to pave the way to the barn before winter.

Three days later he was still waiting for the rain to stop. He wondered how it could keep on like it was, over a week of steady rain. He was going to have to get into town soon, his supplies of food were getting low and he also had the materials for the repair work to get. It would be days before the mud dried enough to leave with the wagon even if it stopped raining immediately.

The skies wept, two weeks without stopping, tears of rain, steadily fell from the lowering gray clouds. The access road was completely impassable, getting to the barn was more difficult as well, his booted feet sinking deeper in the muck. He’d taken straw from the stalls and spread it on the path to keep the mud from getting any worse. He wasn’t even sure he could ride the horse without the poor creature getting stuck.

He was feeling even more trapped and definitely uneasy, the rain was falling so long it had to be unnatural. Was this another great flood as he’d read of in the Bible? It certainly left him very uneasy and he’d soon be rather hungry. The livestock weren’t doing well after more than two weeks of nonstop rain. At least the straw on the path made getting to and from the barn less difficult.

It was easier swimming to and from the barn and the cows had changed into a never before seen life form as had the horse and pigs. He was amazed at how dexterous his arm fins were, but standing on his flippers was harder and walking more of a challenge so he didn’t trip over the flipper on each foot. He finally decided to simply let the livestock loose. He’d run out of feed and they were becoming odder with each passing day and they’d likely manage better on their own. He sat and examined his new fins, they’d obviously been his hands, the fingers were separated and still more or less functioned as fingers there were now long flexible rays joined by thin flexible skin, there was something similar with his feet. He was completely underwater but breathing water, he’d evidently grown gills or something. He saw a large cow-like animal swim past followed by a pig-like creature. He swam further and then through the barn which somehow had the lamps burning. There was a horse-like creature eating hay in one of the stalls. He wondered where the chickens had gone. He surfaced to see that it was still raining. He decided it didn’t matter any more if it rained or not.

He woke up screaming in the rays of the newly risen sun streaming through the bedroom window.





Old Leaves

6 11 2011

It was early spring and time to clean up the garden. He went out and looked around but decided to wait a few days, there was a lot of work and the leaves of more than one autumn on the beds.

A few days later, he went out and started picking up the old leaves. He was doing that by hand, mostly because the plants were already coming up and he didn’t want to damage them with the rake or the blower. He knew it was more time consuming but he thought it was worth the effort. It would also give him time to see what was growing there. He had purchased the property late in the autumn, the leaves already down and had moved in shortly before the first snowfall. He filled several large plastic bags before he stopped for the day and went in hoping it wouldn’t rain for a few days.

He worked out in the garden a few hours every day and was making progress. He started close to the house and was working his way toward the fence. As he was working he realized that there was an area somewhat apart from the rest of the garden. That would be the last of the work.

It rained overnight two nights later and he was somewhat annoyed that he’d have to wait till the leaves dried out before getting back to picking them up. He knew he had gotten a lot done, most of the work, in fact. He had work to do on the house too, so did some of that while the old leaves dried out. It was warm and he was sure thing would dry out in a day or two.

The day dawned bright and clear and he decided to spend the whole day working on picking up the leaves, wanting to try and get that job finished as soon as he could. The morning went fast and he filled bag after bag with the old dry leaves and other debris. He stopped briefly for lunch and to make a phone call then went back to picking up the leaves. He finished most of the work, all but the somewhat separated area. He noticed it was rather dark there now, even tho it was only midafternoon. He brought the big bucket he was using to hold the leaves as he picked them up before emptying them into the big plastic bags.

He was irritated, the leaves in that area were still quite wet. The sun hadn’t dried the leaves there because it was so shady. Since there wasn’t really much else to do he just kept picking them up, trying not to put the earthworms into the bucket.

As he worked he noticed he was finding odd little things there under the leaves. Bits of bone, the odd button, a belt buckle, some change, small scraps of fabric and with the next handful of wet leaves, what he thought was a stick. When he saw what he had actually picked up he froze in horror, it was a bone, a long bone, with a knob at one end. He stood upright looking at the bone there in the bucket of wet leaves and felt queasy.

After a few moments he backed away from the bucket and turned toward the house. He called the police, who he realized didn’t seem all that interested. He finally said it looked very much like a human bone, that did get the attention of the person he was speaking to and he was told an officer would be along in awhile.

He waited on the porch till he saw the police car come along the road and turn into his driveway. The officer didn’t seem all that concerned. He took the officer to the shady area and showed him the bucket with the bone sticking out of it told the man he’d also found coins, a belt buckle, bits of fabric, and so forth. As he talked to the officer, that man was gently moving leaves aside with his fingers, exposing more bones, the remnants of a belt, a metal zipper, more buttons, a ring, a watch. As the leaves were being brushed away they both noticed that the remains were in a very shallow depression, enough that the leaves covering them were not mounded at all.

The police officer had obviously found enough and said he really had to call the coroner, they had disturbed the site enough. He left the officer talking on the radio and went to sit on his porch. Suddenly the day felt cold, the sun unable to warm him. He went in the kitchen and washed his hands, several times, before making coffee. He brought a mug out to the police officer who gladly accepted it. They stood there, quietly, drinking their coffee and waiting for the coroner to arrive.

They were still out there, special lamps had been brought and the coroner was very carefully removing the old wet leaves from the remains. He sat on the porch, not wanting any dinner, watching the goings on in the shady area of his garden. He’d asked the police officer if there had been any problems at that property, a murder, anything and was told nothing had ever been reported. He was tired but couldn’t go to bed, he didn’t feel like trying to sleep with that going on in his garden. He made more coffee and the coroner and his helpers had some when they took a break, thanking him for the kindness. They finally stopped around midnight, stringing yellow tape around the trees and telling him not to touch anything inside that area. He never wanted to go near there again, was beginning to wonder if he really wanted to stay in the house. Finding the remains was the most disturbing thing he ever had experienced.

The weeks passed, the garden wasn’t being tended, the weeds growing as well as the other plants, all benefiting from the removal of the old leaves. The police had finished with their investigation, the officer stopping by to tell the finding but found no one home. He tried again a week or so later then it just slipped away amid the daily business.

That autumn the police officer happened to be nearby and decided to see if anyone was home. He drove into the driveway, the car was there by the garage so he knocked on the door, there was no answer. He walked around the garden, noting the weeds and now falling leaves. He went to the shady area and stopped suddenly, looking in disbelief. There was the man, the one who had called him. He was dead, had been for awhile, the old leaves starting to cover his body and the new fallen ones taking their place too on the corpse. He looked carefully at the corpse but disturbed nothing, went to call the coroner and felt a shiver down his spine.





The Wind Was Howling . . .

18 12 2010

The wind was howling around the house, the windows rattling in their jambs. He woke to that unaccustomed noise. It was still dark out, well before dawn. He pulled the blankets closer around him and wished he could just go back to sleep, it was very cold in the room and drifting off would have been so easy….

He woke hours later, it was still dark and the wind was still moaning around the house but there was also a soft sound of something against the glass. He groaned and got up, shivering in the frigid room. There was nothing but swirling white outside and he realized he wasn’t going anywhere that day. He dressed quickly and went down to the kitchen, fixed himself some food and sat there feeling trapped and very much alone.

He busied himself around the kitchen, washing up the dishes he’d made and started a pot of stew. Since he wasn’t going anywhere till the blizzard let up and he got himself dug out he decided he’d start on the book he’d promised himself he’d write someday. That was one of the reasons he’d bought the old house out away from everything at the end of a small dirt road in the country. He’d found so much else to do, fixing the place up, getting the yard and garden into shape, making furniture he needed, he’d managed to put off actually sitting down and writing. He also put on a pot of coffee and when it was done poured himself a mug and settled at the kitchen table with his pen and paper. He sat for awhile, listening to the wind and snow on the windows, drank the mug of coffee and wrote nothing. He’d had so many ideas, so much he thought he wanted to put down on paper and turn into the sort of stories he’d always dreamed of writing, but there was nothing. Writer’s block, sitting there staring at that blank piece of paper, pen in hand wondering what the blazes to start working on.

There was a cheery fire in his bedroom, he’d gotten that going after deciding the words weren’t coming that day. He had a comfortable chair near the fireplace and had poured himself some bourbon. He sat there looking into the flames and remembering, just mentally drifting. The pen and paper were on a small table next to him and he picked them up and started to write. Page after page filled with words, flowed as the river not far from the house he now lived in. He finally reached a point where he was tired and banked the fire before getting into bed.

The next day dawned bright and frigid. The snow had blown into deep drifts, changing how the yard and garden looked. He suddenly realized he’d never be able to dig himself all the way to the paved road. He checked on what food he had and knew there wasn’t enough to last. He was going to have to find a way to get to town. He had breakfast and started digging his way through the snow to the shed he was using as a garage. He came in several times to warm up and rest, it was hard work in the cold. As he was working his way toward the doors of the shed he looked down the lane, the drifted snow was even deeper there, it was going to take him days maybe a week or more to get himself free. He stood there feeling for the first time in his life true despair. He didn’t think he could do that much digging, the lane was twisting and long, he hadn’t bothered to see how long it was but he did know it was probably too far for him to dig by hand and that was all he had. He turned around and went into the house, dropping heavily on one of the kitchen chairs. He had no way to communicate with anyone, he hadn’t wanted a telephone, now he was regretting that decision. He didn’t have a generator, didn’t have a snow plow, didn’t have much of anything but himself and a shovel. He was in desperate straights and felt paralyzed.

He woke suddenly, it was the cold. He had fallen asleep in the chair and the fire had gone out. He’d spent most of the rest of the day up in his room writing. It was dark and he was hungry. The stew was still on the stove waiting, he warmed some and ate, thinking about what he should do about his situation. He could get to the shed, had enough wood for several weeks if not more, the propane tank was full and he had more food than he first thought. He didn’t eat three large meals  a day, usually only a small breakfast and lunch with the dinner being a bit more substantial. The stew would last several days, he’d made a large pot of it. He divided it into individual portions and put his cooler on the porch right outside the back door, packed it with snow and put a heavy cast iron boot scraper on top to keep the animals out.  He started carrying wood to the back porch so he didn’t have to go to the shed every time he needed some, it was a covered enclosed porch and the snow didn’t get inside. He was feeling better when he got up to his room and built up the fire again. It was getting dark and he settled down to write. Things just flowed along like they had been and he was pleased with the results. It would have been impossible for him to dig himself out, he just hoped he’d be able to wait long enough that the snow would thaw. It was March and he didn’t think the snowfall would stay long.

The sun streaming into his room woke him. It was a bright but beautiful day, the sort he’d have gone out for a walk if there wasn’t all the snow still piled and drifted around the house. He went down and had his breakfast. Stepped out on the back stairs and realized it was melting. Then he noticed the yard light looked like it was on, he flipped the switch and it went off. He had power again, evidently the problem wasn’t close to him. He resolved to get a phone as soon as possible once he could get out and to town. He had some chores to do and got at them. Made himself a pot of coffee and went up to his room to work. He wrote from the time he finished the chores till dinner. He went down, ate and washed up then went back up to write. He was having no problems with the work, it was going just as he has always hoped it would. There would be a manuscript to send off by the end of the month if things kept on the way they were. Maybe the snowstorm was a good thing after all.

The days had settled into a comfortable routine, breakfast when he woke, chores then writing in his room by the fire, dinner, washing up and back to the writing till he was tired and went to bed. The pages kept accumulating as the hours passed and he was coming to the end of the story. He hoped he’d be able to keep on like he’d been with another story, he felt he had many to tell.  The snow was gone, but he hadn’t gone to town, didn’t want to disturb the flow till he had finished what he was working on.

The delivery man for the propane company came to fill the tank but discovered it was still half full. He thought that odd, the man who owned the place had his car there by the house. There was no answer when he knocked but he didn’t think anything of it, probably the man was out for a walk that lovely late April day. It was a bit isolated for a house but the setting was beautiful. The ground under the old tall trees covered with wildflowers and the leaves unfurling. He left a note to call when he wanted the propane tank filled and left. The silence descended again once the truck rumbled off down the lane.

It was May by the time the mail man realized there was no one to pick up the mail. There wasn’t often mail for the old house down the long lane but what he’d put there back in April was still there and he called the sheriff to have someone go check that everything was all right.

The sheriff went out the next day to see the man he’d tried to talk into having a phone all those months ago when the fellow had bought the house. He knocked at the front door, then at the back door, no answer. He hollered a couple times, checked the shed and noticed the car had a flat tire. He went to the front door and tried the knob, it was locked. He went around back again and tried that door to have it open for him. He kept calling as he went inside, searched the lower floor then climbed the stairs. He found the man sitting in his chair with papers scattered on the floor around him, empty bourbon bottles behind the chair near the fire and the man, dead, in the chair. There didn’t look to be anything criminal there. The sheriff went to his car and radioed for the county coroner to come then went back to gather the evidence for the hearing. He took photographs of the room, the body, and then began picking up the papers. He noted the numbers on the pages and was somewhat  surprised by what he found on them, page after page of just scrawled lines, there were only the page numbers that were legible. Until he found the first page, that had some words but only a couple lines of them. It looked like the beginning of a story but there wasn’t enough to make much sense of.

“The wind was howling around the house, the windows rattling in their jambs. It was still dark out, well before dawn. It was very cold in the room and still dark and the wind was still moaning around the house but there was also a soft sound of something against the glass. There was nothing but swirling white outside ….”

 

It looked like he had started a story during that heavy late snowstorm, but the words just became scribbles after that point and he carefully put the pages in order and into a large envelope. Then he looked more carefully at the body. It had been there quite awhile. There was blood on the back of the chair and when he looked more closely he saw the gun next the to leg where it had fallen. It was a small caliber but sufficient to do the deed. Suicide. He was very sure that was what had happened and that the coroner’s hearing would have that finding. He looked through the desk down in the parlor, found an address book and took that along out to his squad car. The coroner came and took a look and called the mortician the county used for such cases, few though they were. The two men waited till the mortician came and helped him get the body into a body bag and into the hearse. Then the three cars drove off down the long twisting lane to the road and away. the setting was beautiful. The ground under the old tall trees covered with wildflowers and the leaves unfurled. The silence descended again….





Reverse

14 10 2010

He was walking backwards toward the fireball that was the exploding car. What the blazes was going on?

The fireball was condensing, returning to the confines of it’s beginning, the car coming back together behind him as he kept walking backwards toward it. He sensed something wasn’t quite right but couldn’t quite grasp what that might be. By the time he reached the point he began to turn toward the car, it was solid and there was no sign of an explosion. He got back into the car after saying something in a language he didn’t understand to the man with the angry face who said something to him in the same language. The car backed away from where it had been parked. It kept going backwards as tho that was the most normal thing possible.

He finally arrived and got out of the car, walked backwards to the hotel and through the doors, up the stairs and to his room. He was now feeling definite discomfort about going backwards. There was something really wrong. He hadn’t tripped or stumbled at all, which he felt he should have done. The driver of the car hadn’t hit anything either and he was confused. He began to remove his clothes but in the opposite order he’d have done otherwise, went into the bathroom and proceeded to put the whiskers back on his face with the razor, the water coming back up the drain. The same thing happened when he was in the shower. He really had a hard time with what happened on the toilet, that was not right. He felt disgusted and sick. He backed himself to the bed, sat down and then laid down and went to sleep, as the sun went down in the east. His last thought was he was having a nightmare.

He woke while it was still dark, backed into the bathroom and again experienced the unpleasant sensation of his urine coming out of the toilet and back into his bladder. He wanted to scream but found he couldn’t. He dressed again, the wrong way, backed down the stairs and into the dining room. He found himself removing food from his mouth and putting it back on the plate, coffee as well was returned from his stomach to the cup. He noticed the same thing was happening to everyone else in the dining room with him, the waiters going backwards with trays of food to the kitchen, taking orders in that strange language. He finally got up and backed out of the dining room, said something he couldn’t understand to the desk clerk, who also said something unintelligible to him then he backed out of the hotel and onto the street.

He spent a good hour wandering around backwards through the streets, put back a couple things, was given his money back and finally met someone he recognized. He tried to say something but it came out like everything else he’d tried to say, all wrong. They seemed to understand each other then backed away and as they got distant waved. He was beginning to think he must still be asleep and dreaming when he saw the man who was at the car before it exploded. In a few minutes more of backing away from the man, he stopped, turned and backed into a sidewalk cafe and sat down. He was there for quite awhile, returning the drink he had to the glass and feeling uncomfortable.

Then suddenly there was a very delicate young woman standing and looking at him, he didn’t remember her from before. She spoke to him, “You have your wish, you may live over these hours that have run back to this point. You may do the same things as before or you may change them. You have the memory of that time to use as you wish.” Just as suddenly she was gone. He turned and looked for her but it was useless.

He sat there unsure what to do, then realized he’d picked up the glass and taken a drink in the normal fashion from it. As he sat there he came to understand that he had the opportunity to change what had happened. He could stop the car from exploding the next morning. He knew who the man was now, he might be able to stop all the things that he knew would happen after he walked away from the exploding car. What he wasn’t sure of is whether that was the right thing to do. Should he change what he knew had happened, or would happen if he did the same things. He was still reeling from having things the way they’d been the last twelve hours or more. What should he do?

He watched the man who would be at the car in the morning. He did nothing, as he’d done the first time. He went through the same walking around the streets, made his purchases, had dinner, went to bed, showered, shaved, went in the car and met the man. He walked away from the fireball that was the exploding car, shaking his head. He was sure now he’d done the right thing.





Alone

7 09 2010

Tendrils of fog curled around the damp, old headstones in the lonely cemetery, the moisture condensed on the cold stones, grass and leaves, leaving a slight sheen to everything. Dawn wasn’t far off, but it was still dark, just that slight grayness in the east through the trees signaled that the sun would be rising in awhile. There was a deep silence, something almost palpable – that and the sense of waiting.

Standing alone there, shivering from the chill and damp. Watching the horizon lighten slowly as dawn crept closer. There was the slightest stirring of the air, fog moving, dancing around the headstones and tree trunks. Then a bird, far off, singing as the sky brightened. The candle had long guttered out, leaving only the fog and darkness. Once it was full light the vigil would be done and then the long walk home.

It would be good to feel the warmth of the fire, have dry clothes and shoes for the rest of the day – a very long day. No sleep till after dinner, no food till then either, but the dead had been honored, as was required.

Hours later the day’s work done, feeling as tho moving in a dream. Heading home for a meal and sleep, both long overdue. Feet heavy, arms tired and back sore, the door finally came to sight. Then it came crashing down, there would be no supper waiting this night or any other from today on. The house was empty now, only one to live there alone. If food was wanted it would have to be prepared, no one else was there to do so. There was no one to warm the bed, sing while doing chores, bake bread. All those things would be no more. The fire had gone out, the house cold. There was no wood chopped or kindling found. How would it be possible to go on?

There was some bread and cheese in the cupboard which needed no fire or preparation. Washing was done in cold water, then the long, quiet, cold night alone to get through. It felt as tho the cemetery was still where one was standing instead of laying in the bed, so lately shared. The tears finally came, wrenching, wracking sobs, till finally nothing was left but exhausted sleep.

Another dawn, waking to the sudden realization that there was no one else in the bed. The numbness after the scorching grief, facing the day, going to work the fields after tending the chickens, taking the remnants of the bread and cheese for lunch.

Sundown and the trudge home, except it wasn’t really home any longer. The house empty and quiet, the dog gone, but no one was going to search for it. The fire built, eggs and bacon with some gruel for dinner. The washing up done and again the empty bed. This night, there were no tears, the hours crept by, but sleep was elusive. Waiting to hear the soft breathing or movements that would not be there again.

Arising hours earlier than usual, deciding to forgo the day’s work and try to decide what to do. Walking away from the house, not even paying attention to the direction, the movement of the body sufficient in itself until the destination was revealed. The mound of earth, still high and loose, the stone not yet carved or set, remains of a candle on the mound of the grave. Coming upon it, realizing there was something laying at the foot of the soft mound. Seeing the dog, dead, curled and at peace, as it had been at the feet of the one dead and buried. Taking the time to dig, with hands alone, gently placing the dog in the grave with the one it so loved, then filling the hole. Shaping the mound again and wondering why the dog should be granted that peace and boon.

Finally sitting near the mound, talking softly as before when together in the bed at night. Wanting to hold and touch, but the other beyond reach. It had been so long, the years together, happy years mostly, there for each other. Children born, children dead, raising those who lived and seeing them marry and leave, glad to escape the hardscrabble existence of the parents. Suddenly there was no denying the tiredness, sleep overtook and quieted the grieving one.

Several days later someone passing the old cemetery found the one dead laying on the still fresh grave and notified the gravekeeper. That evening there was another grave, fresh and mounded the stone laying at the head, waiting for carving and setting. The children did not come to keep vigil as they had not before, but there was no one else and there was no honor done this death. The house was empty, the fields left, there would be no more loneliness, they were together again.





The Long Drive

4 09 2010

He’d been driving for hours, alone in the truck with just the sound of the engine and tires on the pavement for company. The radio had long ago ceased working and he’d never bothered to fix it. The day had been cloudy, the rain started after dark. A drizzle at first then a soft steady rain, the wipers going back and forth thunking at the bottom of the stroke. He’d seen a few other vehicles earlier in the day but as the hours and miles passed and he’d gotten further into the country the traffic had disappeared. He just wanted to get home.

The rain kept on and so did he, driving steadily but not too fast for the road conditions. He’d stopped for a meal several hours earlier but was getting closer to home now and the end of the journey was near. The terrain had been mostly flat, but as he got closer to his destination there was more swell and dip, not hills really, just rises and the accompanying dips that followed them. The engine roared along, he knew exactly how fast he was going by the sound of the engine.

He topped a rise and felt a sudden chill. There was nothing there, nothing in the truck, nothing on the road, but something wasn’t right. He wasn’t sure what it was but it felt different now. The engine sounded the same, the tires on the road, it was still raining that soft steady rain but there was something wrong. He thought about pulling over and stopping, but he was only about five miles from home now, it wouldn’t take long and he was tired.

He checked the odometer and wiggled in his seat a bit, just to make sure he wasn’t sleepy. The wipers thunked, swished, thunked, swished, the headlights shone ahead and the truck kept eating the road beneath it heading home. He knew about how long that five miles took, the time passed but the miles hadn’t. the odometer was the same. The road was different, as it should be, but maybe that was the problem, the odometer had broken and the small noise had been lost in the roar of the engine and tires singing.

He drove and drove, he should’ve been home an hour ago now. He saw lights in the distance and kept driving toward them, just a car going in the opposite direction. He knew he hadn’t missed the turn, knew that intersection well.

The five miles stretched on and on, feeling like five thousand. He didn’t know why, but a line from a poem kept running through his head, something about miles to go before he slept. He’d certainly have that tonight. He still felt something was off.

He checked his watch, that too evidently had broken, it was just after midnight. He should’ve been home an hour ago. He’d planned it so he’d have time for a leisurely hot shower then a good night’s sleep. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he knew he should’ve been home by now. Odd too that both the watch and odometer had quit. Nothing but dark rainy countryside flew past the truck as it moved along the pavement. He was losing track of how long he’d been driving. He only wanted to get home.

After what must have been another two hours he realized he should’ve run out of gas but hadn’t. The gas gauge read full, he knew it shouldn’t. What the blazes was going on? Had he lost touch with reality? He didn’t think so. He finally slowed the truck and pulled off onto the shoulder of the road. But as he went to open the door realized he was still moving. He felt panicky. The truck was moving sideways along the road. So he went back to driving, then things were better. He saw lightning in the distance and realized he was very tired, he didn’t want to have to drive through the coming storm.

He turned at the intersection, never slowing down. It felt like he did and he was on a different road. It looked familiar. Had he finally gotten to his long driveway? He was hoping he had. He knew his driveway, the one very crooked tree, just off the road. Yes, he was finally on the last half mile of his trip. And just as suddenly as he’d feel the chill earlier he felt much better after he passed the crooked tree. He was home in less than two minutes. Stopped in the yard and looked at the house.

The lights were all off, well it was later than he expected and he was sure his wife had gotten tired of waiting up for him. He looked at the odometer and the mileage was about right, his watch was fine, it was just gone eleven. The gas gauge showed a half of a tank left and he felt confused and vaguely angry. He left the truck in the yard, grabbed his gear and got out, walked to the house and found the door ajar. He pushed it open and the lights came on. his wife was sitting in the chair by the kitchen table, smiling at him, but she was ancient, wispy white hair, parchment skin, sunken eyes but smiling in recognition. He froze, got a glimpse of himself in the window, just a reflection. He had also gotten very old. At least the reflection was. He looked at his hands, they were the hands of a man in his forties, as they should’ve been. He felt sick. Stood there with his eyes closed and tried to control the wave of nausea.

He opened his eyes and it was like someone had been holding a very large exact photo in front of his wife. She was back to normal now. looking at him questioningly.

He took a deep breath and said hello. She got up and came over to him. Asked if he was all right. He told her he was tired, it had been a long drive and had been raining almost all the way home. She suggested he have a nice hot shower and try to relax. He took his gear upstairs, left it in the bedroom and had the shower. He could smell bacon and eggs cooking. He realized he was hungry. He put on his pajamas and slippers and went downstairs. His wife set a plate of food in front of him and one for herself on the table and they ate in companionable silence. He thanked her for the meal, which got him an odd look. He said he was going up to sleep and she said good night as he started up the stairs. He got in bed and was asleep quickly.

He woke suddenly, in a cold sweat. He wasn’t at home, he was in the truck, driving in the dark rainy night, down the road that didn’t seem to end. He must have fallen asleep at the wheel, very briefly he hoped. The lightning was closer, then the rain got heavier and it was harder to see the road. He wished he had stayed another day in the city. He had to slow down because the rain was heavy and he couldn’t see very far ahead on the road. It seemed to last for hours. He drove and drove. He thought of his wife, he’d been looking forward to being home. He just wanted to go home.

The sun was shining, the bedroom bright with the morning light. He sat up in bed. closed his eyes and opened them again, not sure he should believe what he saw. His wife was still sleeping next to him. He laid back down and gently pulled her close. She snuggled against him and he went back to sleep.

He never said anything about the drive home, he tried to forget that seemingly endless drive. He thought about it, but could never quite decide what had happened to him. After several months he came to be less aware of it, decided it had just been a long tiring drive and he’d hallucinated a bit, but there was always a question in his mind about that night.





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.





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.