Abandoned Farm (PG)
Theresa steered the Jeep off the blacktop and onto the thin gravel path. She felt tired after being on the road for an hour already, returning from a business trip. But the old farm was only a little out of her way, and it wouldn’t hurt to stop just briefly. It might help her wake up, she thought.
She had made the pilgrimage to her grandparent’s farm a few times since it had been abandoned. The trip conjured up memories from the two weeks she had spent there each summer as a child. The experiences remained vivid, and it amazed her to think how many years had passed since she last heard her grandma’s sweet voice. She stopped the Jeep at the end of the driveway where a small crest of dirty snow had not yet melted and created a do-not-trespass line. With the sun almost down and the brush grown up around it, she could barely see what was left of the small two-story house. She rolled down her window, and for a moment, she heard Grandma’s voice in the warm breeze that rushed up against her face. It brought a vision of Grandma’s smile. Theresa remembered that smile from when grandma would stand on the porch and watch a much younger Theresa maneuver the wood swing in the big Cottonwood.
Then Theresa noticed a glimmer of light through the trees. It showed for an instant, hid, then reappeared. And the harder she stared, the more her eyes moistened until the light was just a blur. She imagined the light coming from the kitchen window. And in her mind, Theresa did not see the wood siding as water streaked and gray. She did not see the windows stripped of glass or left with jagged edge. She did not see that the porch roof had fallen in, its blue porch pillars splintered by a fallen tree.
Instead, her eyes followed the light, through the small kitchen, and to a tiny room under the stairs. A light bulb with pull string hung above the water basin where she had washed her hands as a child. The sound of the tin cup with the long handle clanging against the ceramic crock when dipping for water came to her ears. And from there, the nightly news could be heard coming from the small black and white television in the living room. Theresa took a deep breath as the vision took over her mind; her head now on the head rest, her eyes closed.
There was Grandma on the couch with the crimson fabric. A blanket over her knees. Dusty, the brown and somewhat round house dog rested its head on the blanket, on her lap. One of Grandma’s hands was on the arm rest where designs of flower vines wound their way down the side of the couch. Grandma’s other hand rested on the back of Dusty’s neck, and she worked the short hair and laxity of the dog’s aged skin with her fingers. The change in television scenes caused a strobe effect on grandma’s face. It looked soft, with few wrinkles. And to Theresa on this night, she looked very peaceful. Her brown eyes looked straight into the television, but somehow, Theresa knew her grandma’s mind had drifted away from the news. She, too, daydreamed of the early years, her husband, a house full of kids, canning meat and vegetables, feeding chickens, fetching water from the well near where the old barn had once stood. Or perhaps, she was thinking about her brothers and sisters, and her mother and father. And when she was alone, those things must have cycled through her memory like a neverending movie. And tonight when she lay her head down on her pillow, those daydreams and memories would travel with her. It would be the last things she would think about.
And tomorrow, when her brother Eli would stop by, he would find the kitchen cold. There would be no kindling in the stove to get the chill out. There would be no eggs cooking in the fry pan. There would be no shoebox AM radio crackling out the morning news. It would just be Dusty, sitting in the center of the kitchen floor, a light whine emerging from within. Dusty was too fat to make it up the stairs. He just knew that his master had not come down yet. And that she usually came down before sunup to leave him out. And Eli would go upstairs, and find her delicate figure creating barely a ruffle under the bedspread. He would sit in the chair next to the bed and say a prayer before driving back to his place to use the phone. Then Theresa heard a stick break just beyond her open window.
She shook the dream from her head, and looked out to see the now dark woods had crept up to her. She quickly rolled up the window, and put the Jeep in gear at the same time. The tires left a hasty print in the soggy gravel behind her. In seconds, she was on the highway headed north. The daydream was an assortment of broken pieces in her mind. Some she would put back together while driving the rest of the way home. But first, she questioned the small light she had seen. She thought about it for awhile, then concluded, no, it couldn’t have been.
More from Russ Victorian available for E-book readers on: