by The Brad
Contest entry - 1000 words or less based on a single picture each week.
A Muse by Bradley N. Honig
Word Count: 988
Ah, she felt every one of her 86 years of life as she groaned out of her old car. The skies above the farm were overcast. She straightened herself up, feeling the cool, damp wind coming from the southwest, and took a moment to bask in the crisp, clean scents of the countryside.
The faded, weather-worn buildings still stood high above the overgrown brush and weeds. Angled roofs no longer bright with color after a hundred years of protecting the dwellers from the sun rising from the east and always settling in the west; from the rains that brought life to the land and welcome relief to the people who lived there. She was surprised that most of the windows were still intact after so many lonely years. This farm was built like the people it once sheltered and protected.
The memory of her first visit here, nearly 60 years past, welled within her, prompting the obligatory tears whenever she reminisced too deeply. He wasn’t yet her husband, but when he introduced her to his older, loving parents, she immediately knew she would love them, too, as she did him. Fine, handsome Midwestern people, his father stood tall, his face leathery from years of working the Earth into his livelihood, his hands rough-skinned but also gentle, as he held his wife’s delicate fingers in his own. Her face was warm and sincere as it was oddly beautiful, holding back age with brightness in her soul.
She worked her way through the overgrowth slowly, appreciating the whispers of forgotten wheat, invading ragweed, and the occasional unattended sunflower, all the while watching the farm grow closer and closer. When she reached the cracked steps of the house, she broke down. She was overwhelmed with the images of her late husband playing on these steps as a small boy, and the wonders he discovered as he explored this land, this life, and these structures. He told her of flying through the rafters of the barn that was no longer there, of hiding from his “Pa” in the feed stores, and running freely through the cornfields. Oh, how he loved to recall his childhood when they were alone, and how those times had made into the man he was to become, the man she loved.
Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she stepped to the top of the stairs and tried the tarnished, brass doorknob. With a miniscule creak, it turned and invited her in as the old, paint-torn wooden door also moved to let her through.
The smell of musty, moldy air was strong. She wondered if her husband ever hated those city odors, or how much he missed the smell of country life. He never once complained aloud to her, but she knew, here and now that he must have. That he gave all that up for his life with her.
The floorboards groaned their old protests. Into the kitchen, the withered door to her left would take her into the cellar. She knew not to try the old storm doors in the back of the home, as they would have been secured with years of mud and weeds.
The wonderful vision of her husband, standing tall, proud, looking beyond handsome and fetching in his new blue suit startled her. She hadn’t been here for that moment when he broke away from the farm, his parents, this country life to start a new one in the big city, but after hearing his stories for so many years, she felt as if she had been there.
The door yielded easily, and she withdrew the flashlight from her handbag to light the stairs and the cellar below. Oh, how she yearned for him to be here, for only a moment so she could tell him how much she missed him. He wasn’t supposed to die- not ever- but everybody loses one battle in their lives, everybody dies. She wiped away the new tears that were forming.
The air was thick with dust, and trails of it danced slowly in the thin stream of her beam. She ignored them, and swept the beam around the room, floor-ward, until it came to rest on the object she sought: a pile of dry hay and a rust-covered wheelbarrow with the handles long removed resting on it. She made a small gasp, not afraid, but knowing that she was close to finishing her self-imposed task.
With little effort, she swept aside the barrel and kicked at the decades old hay until she could make out the outline of the door below. Now the tears flowed freely as she grasped the round handle and pulled up, and the trap door revealed a small storm cellar, and a single object.
She stepped down the ladder-stairs until she was on the dirt floor, standing before the odd metal cylinder that had remained buried on the abandoned farm for over sixty years. She wept openly as she reached into her purse, and removed the tied lock of black hair her husband had given her years ago. She never asked how he got it, she just kept it with her always, and now she was returning it to the place it came from.
She touched the latch he had often told her about and with a whoosh, a door appeared and swept open. Inside was simply an empty chamber, the blankets removed decades ago and used for other things. She bent over the opening, and with tears trailing down her wrinkled cheeks, she placed the lock of hair inside. Lois finally allowed herself a small smile, and as the door to the tiny spacecraft that brought her husband to Earth so many decades ago closed, she said aloud: “Goodbye, Clark. I love you.”
Looking at the old stairs, she sighed and began to make her way home, leaving behind the history and wonder of the old Kent Farm.