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Empty Harvest (standard:horror, 1452 words)
Author: David EngarAdded: Aug 18 2002Views/Reads: 2022/1256Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Nostalgic visit to the farm.

We arrived in the late afternoon.  My father pulled the work van onto
the sharp upward slope of the dirt drive just as the first signs of 
dusk put a red haze across the western sky.  The clanking van crested 
the hill and the house crawled up to greet us. 

Plainly designed, the farmhouse was like the bitter woman who had owned
it.  The broad shoulders of her rectangular form were square to the 
road, allowing her to scowl condescendingly at passing strangers.  The 
large attic on a one story frame denied her a normal height; instead it 
formed a hunched back of not quite two levels.  And the full-length 
porch became a furrowed brow over her dark, peering windows.  She sat 
far up from the road on a tall hill in a large yard empty of trees, 
yet; on clear sunny days she bent away the sun's rays, keeping herself 
in gloomy shadows, as if the light could not penetrate her 
self-inflicted loneliness.  The outbuildings: the old pig sty, the 
granary, the crumbling silos, and the shed all shared a calm acceptance 
of fate.  Even the old barn, with its base of crumbling stones, its two 
stories of dilapidated wood leaning dangerously to the left, and its 
roof of rotting wood shingles was content somehow; satisfied with its 
brief existence.  But she was stubborn like her master: her dark, 
foreboding windows remained unbroken; her slightly dipping roof held 
functioning shingles; and the missing paint chips showed the grain of 
still serviceable wood.  Clinging to her illusions with sinister pride, 
yearning for absolution from her altered reality, she was the bearer of 
dark secrets, a depraved custodian of sins and denials.  No longer 
conscious of her age, waiting on that lonely hill, she refused to die 

My father, LeRoy, had spent the hour grilling me about my mother.  He
would habitually try to use me like a foppish fifties housewife would 
use a new neighbor as a source for gossip.  He demanded that I choose a 
side, betray all other trusts, and consistently spew forth an array of 
vile and contemptible acts performed or orchestrated by his imagined 
enemies.  Accused offenders were my mother, anyone allied with her, 
including my other siblings not specifically opposed, or anyone 
unwilling or unable to perceive the horrible affliction she imposed 
upon his grand righteousness.  Never mind the verbal abuse, the 
threats, the inevitable explosions of rage and violence.  Ignore the 
night spent fleeing across neighbors yards, desperately pounding, 
searching for a Samaritan willing to take in and protect the strangers 
cowering at their back door in their underwear, begging for sanctuary.  
Forget also the humiliating questions from school children after news 
reports of his public displays of suicidal passion such as his demand 
for my mother's reacceptance to a squad of public servants as he 
dangled from the roof of a water tower.  This was not proper 
conversation; psychotic acts performed in a throw of passion were to be 
dismissed, concealed, never to be spoken again.  Eventually, if the 
events were dismaying and atrocious enough, the entire community would 
discard their memories.  It was better etiquette to drill the young spy 
on the nature of his mother's whoring ways and the details of her and 
her associates elaborate plots to destroy him.  The bitter, silent 
pauses and lack of responses quickly lent themselves to one-sided 
debates over the “child's” degree of brainwashing by ultra-liberal 
femi-Nazis.  All occasions led to anxiety, a desperate need for a 
journey's end, and great relief at any opportunity to leave the 
confines of the moving prison. 

Escaping made the clean, cold air revitalizing and I took several deep
breaths while peering out at the fields and pastures.  I noted the 
cloud of dust where, miles away, an invisible car traveled the gravel 
roads.  To the north and east, the pasture, with its hoof-worn, knobby 
hills and wayward, tottering creek, resembled old skin, taut over 
knotted, bony high points, while creasing and crinkling in low valleys; 
huddles of cattle slowly moved across it.   To the south and west, 
decapitated cornfields, still filled with bent and broken shafts, 
spanned for miles; only a few dusty roads separated the scenery.  Few 
farms, the closest more than a mile, broke the horizon.  Even my 
family's farm, at the far end of the pasture, was concealed from view 
by the faltering barn.  I was always amazed how insignificant and 
menial I could feel in the presence of a vast open landscape, 
especially in the bitter cold of December.  Wind carried the sound of 
creaking boards and hollow pounding footfalls. 

LeRoy, no longer having a captive target for interrogation, was on the
porch removing a rusty padlock with one of the million keys on his key 

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