|photo by http://www.trekearth.com/members/daviddeveson/|
The wind, warm upon the neck one month ago, now ran over his collar like an icy mountain river refusing its banks. His eyes watered as he squinted through the darkness at the distant light of his grim shack. It promised a flaming hearth and rest for his cramping feet which no longer tolerated the worn leather of his boots. He was done here.
He lobbed the shovel into the bed of the truck. He barely heard the thud of it while the wind whipped his ears. The wind was ferocious as it ran the hills, picking up speed as it approached like a band of wild horses. It paid no heed to the few rows of crispy brown cornstalks. They bowed to it and rattled their crusted leaves in homage.
He shoved himself away from the bed of his pick-up truck with his forearms and lurched toward the driver’s seat on stiff legs. His fingers hooked the handle he’d opened ten thousand times and dragged the rest of his aching body inside. He spat out the open window as he snapped the door shut. The engine growled. Once in gear, the truck began to rattle, tick, and bounce down the 3 miles of country road which led him home.
He probably dug it deep enough to keep the animals out. He dug it as deep as his strength took him. It would have to do. He wouldn’t sleep but that was fine. He never slept anymore. There would just be the crackling of the fire, the ticking clock, and the low groan of the wooden shack as it endured the furious wind. It sought to drive him into the dust. It wouldn’t be long now. It wouldn’t be long.
When he put her in the ground, it wasn’t the way she deserved. She deserved better than that. She should’ve gone in gentle, with family around her, making a bed of prayers for her to lay in. But he mainly dragged her down in that hole by her cold, lifeless ankles. She was wrapped in her favorite blanket and dressed in her favorite clothes. He tried not to look when he piled in that dirt. He made it something that needed to be done. She wasn’t there anymore anyway. She’d gone on to the hallowed place where the wind didn’t try to cut you in half. She was in fields where golden wheat waved back and forth like laughing children in brilliant, warm sunlight.
He hadn’t seen any family in years. She gave them life and they went on to create their own. They migrated all over the earth and went out and did all kinds of things. But they never came around anymore. He would drive into town tomorrow and use that telephone they let him use now and then when he needed to. He’d get a policeman to find them to give them the message their mother was gone. She was now in the angel gathering. Her body was cold and gone but her soul was woven in the fabric of love and awe. That’s the way he believed it.
He parked his truck. The keys dangled in the moonlight from the ignition. He used the truck for balance until he could find the front door. The hood of the truck was warm on his hand. It promised him the wind would go away. Once inside he left his jacket on. He left his boots on. He shoved another log on the fire and sat down in his old chair right in front of it. He didn’t turn any lamps on which would’ve shown him the empty chair she used to sit on. He wasn’t hungry. He wasn’t thirsty. Eating and drinking wasn’t of much interest anymore. Mainly it was sorting through the memories. Mainly it was walking alongside himself down the road he took to get here.
It seemed like it was always thoughts about the children that brought him the most comfort. When you live your own life you ain’t really there at the beginning. You’re mostly waking up then. But when your children are born, you see it all from the beginning. They’re the cups you fill in with the stuff you learned before they came. You better hope you got some gold to give. Otherwise you become a wolf when you should be a guide. There were too many wolves out there licking their teeth and sniffing through the scents in the wind.
Whenever he went to town he saw the packs of wolves. He heard them howling in the hills at night and kept a rifle close. The people in town were just like them. He watched them circle and pace. All their ornaments and gadgetry couldn’t hide the hunger. Their ribs and faces looked lean. They didn’t know the value of breath. They mainly tried to take your money and spent all their time wondering what they were doing. None of them could stick together because they didn’t know how to be alone.
Men weren’t usually allowed in there when children were born but he went. He wasn’t going to leave her when she was in pain and when she was at her finest. She was brave and strong and bringing forth a miracle. He went weak when he saw the child’s face for the first time and had to sit down next to her. He held on tight to both of them. He didn’t know how, after that, any man could walk away. That was the first thing he thought when his whole chest was heaving at the sight. How could any man walk away from this? Maybe because they were never really there at all. Wolves. Present for the issue of blood.
You could always spot one. Wolves spent all their time trying to make themselves look a certain way. They howled at light for disturbing the darkness that hid them. Blood drizzled on the ground around their jaws as they tore their prey apart. They were constantly looking for something weak to tear apart. They had frantic, slobbering mouths and eyes that looked at you like you were mere meat.
He thought about all the things he built up and all the things he tore down. He thought about the thousand ways he’d been a fool. He thought about how hard it was to make a good promise here and how time only ran one way. He tried not to think about those times when he’d hurt them or failed or lost what was best. That he could barely take and felt like swallowing ice.
He wondered where men went. Maybe they were all starving now, in little shacks. Maybe the wind got too strong. Maybe their idols robbed them of their minds or they found another ocean to cross. Cause and effect doesn’t bleed out when you try to cut its throat. It wouldn’t be long now.
He was taking this hood off.
It wouldn’t be long at all. He listened to the crackling of the fire, the ticking of the clock, and the low groan of his wooden shack. In the end it seemed right. He wouldn’t make her wait long. He could hear her voice beyond the wind. She was waiting to take his hand. They would go there together. It wouldn’t be long now.