By the edge of the woods there is a field, a long field of grains, and roots, and leaves, and fruiting vegetables, a strong sun and wide sky framed by dramatic pointed hills. There is the lean yet sturdy man who rests his hands and chin on the back end of his shovel and gazes off at something else, he gazes off to feelings, some nostalgia. Relishing in this tender moment of sadness and regret for love lost and let down and long gone and dead friends. He is not dissatisfied, not by his losses, his persistent self contempt and recognizing that he had made the most significant mistakes. He punishes himself daily with meticulous and relentless laboring, raising whole buildings stone by stone or with pulleys and counterweights to set up heavy post and beams. He has made out houses, a fruit cellar, summer kitchen, spring house, barn for animals, barn for dancing, bunk house, bath house, main house with grand dining hall, greenhouse, and gardens, many of them, for all kinds of flowers, arranging their planting to make for special aromatic combinations, to walk past would extract certain moods or dig up memories, then the night blooming ones in their own house of glass so that they can gaze up with their skylight to the moon on bright nights. He has made everything for a small village, and is proud of his work, every detail, every nail set back and hidden, appropriate trim for the fancier rooms, and a simple look for rooms you might rest in. With exception perhaps to the barn these buildings have seen little use. He is the builder and care taker and that is all. The barn for dancing hasn’t felt one carefree step or musical skip. The dining hall has never seated a reunion of dear ones, the bunk house has never housed the sleepy heads of an overfill of guests or the young ones of the older ones. He has seldom used the kitchen but for in the deepest winter, and never has he tried the luxury of the outhouse. The fruit cellar is full though and the spring house has it’s share as well, bursting really, enough for ages. The barn has Abagail the mule, and Isaak the horse, and the lean yet sturdy man, he sleep there as well. In a bed of hay between the two, here he takes comfort in their heart beats and warmth in the winter. His body is tough, leathered from rough kicks from his bed companions on nights of worrying dreams, and from the labor he insists on with no end in sight, fueled by daily shame. Despite all that he has come to love his life, and it is not with some terrible drama that every day passes. He would have never been able to persist. Any other would have easily come to killing themselves, but that is not a thought of his. He does love his life, and his home, and Abagail and Isaak especially. He has made a beautiful home that would have been wonderful for his friends and the girl he loved, it is what they always talked about and what he wanted most of all. But it did not come to be that they should share this place, or that it would be built in anytime that they were all together as friends and the living. He builds it and cares for it, but does not partake in its use, instead he takes these moments to gaze off and think of when they would play together and of nothing else but living together and making music and sitting by fires and the joy of labor and the greater joy of creating or dumb jokes and silly banters. So even his shame and regret and sorrow and self defacing thoughts have become something he has settled into and smiles upon and it sits in his heart well enough that he can still see a beautiful sun dip behind the pointed hills, and he will whistle a strange tune that comes to his head that the girl in the woods had never imagined could come from the mind of a man, because of his practice in writing song with out the worry or influence of other men, and he will take in the smell of the grain and that slight soft and sweet that lofts from the sweet one even from all these yards between and the light wind and the trees and grain between. And he can tell already that she is harmless and maybe even special but scared and not anything like herself right now- or that is how it feels in his gut though he might not even make the attempt to turn the feeling into words or articulated observations, more he knows that he should make a gentle showing then return to the barn to say his good nights to Abagail and Isaak for he will be sleeping in the main house or bunk house tonight, to leave the lost one his broken in bed and the gentle companions. So what gentle showing? It has been some time since he has preformed, but still he won’t repeat some gesture even from a decade or more ago. He waits, closing his eyes, waiting for her to fill him up a bit and for things to turn around and inspire some sudden beauty. He knows that he is appearing odd in this moment, standing there with his eyes closed, up right and foolish, hopefully not fearful, but surely something will come that will turn things around and will be enough that she will brave a night in his barn. He has lived long enough to know that will come, he has to wait longer that is all, and even if the longer he waits the more he will appear a strange man, he knows what will turn round in him will prove something more wonderful still and make her feel easy again. He keeps his eyes closed and his mind wanders, and he realizes that he is especially tired today from the long work and the heavy sun. Then there is Isaak, nudging at his arm, he opens his eyes and smiles at his friend. He puts a hand to his nose and behind his ears, though Isaak has never really been a fan of that it is a comforting ritual still. “Okay Isaak.” And they walk back together to the barn, and after good nights he takes his solitary walk to the main house to find an empty bedroom with a soft bed who’s covers he strips off to make something more appropriate on the floor instead.
It is only just after dark, but he is unusually tired from the days work. Lying on the floor he closes his eyes and breaths deeply- typically this enough to drift into unpredicted worlds, some which torment him further and others that pay him a considerable amount of joy, entertainment at the very least. It is nice to close his eyes, and the focus on breath- but instead of sleep he lays awake in the still house, with no breathing horse or mule beside him, only the occasional creaking of the floor, the settling of the wood. The lean yet sturdy man is not one to scare easily, and a fear of ghosts that is a laugh, he has seen his share, even lived in houses full of them; even still he lays awake thinking of them, afraid or not the hairs stand on end, the spine chills, and his breath lives high in his chest, in this house he has built with his own hands, in this house that has never once seen death. There is of course the Indian burial grounds or long since raised colonial settlement, but those are inappropriate for the life he has lived or any story he will partake in. Never the less he can imagine them, wandering about his house, perhaps admiring his handy work. Apparitions born from his stress, distress, his psychotic ethereal matter soaked into the wood. But that is false as well, all the work he had done while mad and without any love in his heart, or too much that he was rotting and turned round, he has torn down and burned, for the work was not precise, not careful at all. And it is not his old friends or lover coming to visit him, they would have come years ago if at all, they had not and will not, he is not disappointed. So it is the lost girl who has brought with her haunting spirits. He knew that from the start but thinking through the rest, that is but the split second rambling of his mind. He knows she is in the barn, he heard her as careful as she was to step silently, she couldn’t hide the sound of the barn door, nor the greetings from Isaak and Abagail. This speaks well of the girl. Whom ever follows her has an appreciation for his aesthetic, and can see that despite what ever loaded intentions went into the building.
Morning is long in. The lost girl wakes by the smell of a fresh harvest, and she is hungry. The horse is gone, she had not once mistaken him for her dear one, she is proud of that, though she was comforted by his company. The mule is here, face in a mountain of fruits and roots and greens; not the sort of fair that was common in the fat man and woman’s home, but in an abundance that would put them to shame. With Abagail partaking, and with such quantity the lost girl can not refuse, and how it tastes! Having so often eaten only from the forest and along the river she had forgotten how sweet a radish could be. Hours later, the lean yet sturdy man would smile knowingly at the empty spaces, few as they were, the produce she had taken, of course the heaping pile was his strategy to invite her to eat, and naturally he could tell the difference between the delicate picking and eating of a young girl compared to the careless gorging of his mule.
Work is different for him today, naturally he is distracted, there is a child in his barn, and it has been sometime that he has had any human company what so ever, let alone someone with a potentially entertaining story. But he’ll exercise patience- you wouldn’t think anything but patience were you not the fruit waiting to be picked, or that moment in his own mind, those two are turning about at some rate- the fruit rippens on the vine, and his mind jogs along some wondering that is not the tasks of the day. He remembers a dream where he had met a back yard gardener who had grown massive trees of viney and bushy plants. The gardener told him that all plants strive to become trees- sure enough there were eggplant and zuccini trees in this man’s yard. Some had not been fully convinced of their transformation and so they were not so tall, but others were like the old sycamores.
The lean yet sturdy man will continue on with patience, a charade of that at least- he will not speak with her, or even come out directly and admit that he knows she is sleeping here. He will continue to leave large piles of food, and sneak in at sudden and strange hours to catch a glimpse- but she is good at hiding, if not for his strong sense for presence he would certainly think she was an illusion, some mild hallucination made by lonesomeness- for a moment he even questioned himself and wondered if she were not a ghost, but that is his imagination wandering off- she is real and though he has not seen one bit of her, he is sure she is there, but even where she hides exactly he can not figure. He had thought in one place behind a stack of straw and wooden chairs, and tried to glance from the corner of his eye, but he was wrong. Isaak is no help, he won’t take a side either way in this game, though the girl is certain she is winning on his favor, and Abagail could care less, she is more than happy by the abundance of harvest she can gorge herself on each day.
The lean yet sturdy man grows more accustomed to sleeping alone in the lonesome house, he begins catching up on the endless tasks that have suffered neglect. His heart still sits up high in his chest in the mornings and he has to think to take in deeper breaths when he is near the barn, but over all life is beginning to move into something closer to his routine. The calm.
The relentless heat returns. Though nothing compared to what they suffer in the town even the lonesome farm slows and wilts. The small plants make no attempt at growing. The larger one’s sleep as well. The shade they make is less than before. Everything steams and sweats and does not move save to wipe their brow. Siesta is in order. Or what would you call it if the siesta lasted all the day lit hours? He sleeps where he can have a good look of his day’s efforts, with jars of mint and tea and water baking in the sun. Keeping beneath the shaded porch, sheltered from the firery. And for the girl? She has been resourceful til now. She has not starved to death by lack of food or water. She might join Isaak and Abagail to the river. He hopes. Still she has not once been seen by the man, she will not risk that, and so she is in confinement, and must endure the sweltering heat, not of personal resolve or dedication to self hating values, some self designed prison, given boundries, rules as to what she must endure, or where she must stay- self flagulating responsibilities, dedicated, disseminated, dissassociated, now at the mercy of. He’ll bring her cooled mint tea in the worst of the day.
Then the foul stench, and a sad feeling. The feeling first, the smell soon after, from across the humid fields the beast like couple dragging a broken and shameful horse- not the dear one, he is dead, but some pathetic who’s strength is all in his body and his vanity. They move slowly, trampling along over the lean yet sturdy man’s plants. He doesn’t move much, just glances their way and continues to relax the best he can amidst all this heat. He can hardly blame them for their careless trudging through, he has little in the way of paths, especially straight ones that lead to other roads. If they were crossing over the winter squash seedlings he might say something, but it is blueberries and though their harvest is far from over they will need the abuse later on. The time between their first appearance to reaching his home is some enduring length. They stop twice to rest along the way. The beast like woman tries to mount the beast like horse once but can not get her leg in the first stir up let alone throwing her second leg over the horse’s broad back. The beast like man is of little help, she is broad and he can not do much to take weight off. The lean yet sturdy man resigns himself to relaxing, there is time enough to greet and endure all the courtesies he’ll give and may or may not be answered with. It is already apparent to him that they are not well to be out in the sun, they have either been twisted and demented from the relentless heat and blistering light or were already this way before leaving their homes. To do anything in this heat save sleeping on porches or bathing in the river seems insane. The lean yet sturdy man sleeps. Or closes his eyes and lets his mind drift, or keeps them open but the pupils roll back and twitch and his mind wanders mostly to the heat that is on his face and the itching in his hair or the sweat where his shirt meets his skin. The mint is likely withered now, he’ll move the jars to the water in the spring house soon, that’s of little importance now, mint grows with such fervor, it has become the ground cover of too many of his fields now, nice for walks, the sharp smell springs forth from every step in the summer, like fire in the winter, dirt in the spring and autumn, for now rest, let the mind go, the mint tea is of little importance, he’ll see to the girl when the tea is cool, for now she is with Abagail, and for as much a mule as she is, she is not stupid or uncaring, it is of little importance, breath in the clearing steam, this sauna, when the air moves it is cool where his shirt has been touching his skin, your breathing, your breath, inhale, relax, deep, exhale, melt away, all the way out, quiet down mind, easy, ok, let it go, it’s fine, the thoughts can flow, just don’t pay them mind, the breath, the breath, inhale, melt away, ha ha!, no, melt away is fine, deep, exhale, slow, relax, inhale.
The stench is strong now, rancid, sweat and sun marinated. The fat animal like couple and their horrible beast are upon the lean man and he is forced to come back. He’s tried not to judge, making superficial assumptions, or even to pigeon hold a person to their very own actions or beliefs of self- especially in his early manhood this was an especially considered conscious consideration. But in his mid to late adulthood he has been with Abagail and Isaak and the flowers and fruit, and all these things have been fine by his first impressions and he has even learned to see them as they really might be. After all a skunk may have a pleasant odor from a mile away, but when it is upon you make no mistake that the smell is neither good, nor was the cause for release a happy one. Still a pleasant word of introduction can turn a savage wolf into a harmless pup.
“What a day! I’ve made sun tea. It needs cooling first. We can take it to the river together and even cool ourselves a bit.”
“Sir!… You have no roads!”
“I have a river. There is nothing better than a mid afternoon swim in these savage late summer days. Savage. Savage.” Quietly: “savage, savage.”
“He is not right,” as if he were not there, or did not care, which is likely. “Have you seen a girl? She may have been by sometime this week?”
“She is lovely and tortured by something horrible.”
“What? What did she say to you?”
“What have you done! Did you touch her?”
“Is she here?”
“Don’t lie to me!” The fat man.
“Are you hiding her? Has she talked to you?”
The fat woman nudges the man to stop talking, “we’ve brought her this horse. She was sad that we put her horse down. He broke a leg and had to be. She was so upset she ran away.”
“He is a beast.”
“Magnificent, do you like horses?”
“Sure, he is a beast.”
“We’d like to give him to the girl.”
“We could go down to the river.”
“Sir, we are not interested in swimming. Is the girl here or not?”
“No. I should cool this tea. I think I’d like to swim now too, if I don’t I doubt I’ll want to bathe later and with all the sweating today I’ll likely smell awful.” The lean yet sturdy man stands, a foot shorter than the fat man, and nearly the same height of the woman if she were not in boots with heels. He collects the jars into a basket and lifts them a top his head. “I am trying to be good at balancing things on my head. There are dozens of cultures that have mastered this form of carrying. It takes some practice I think.”
The fat man has a quick temper and little in the way of restraint or a pressure valve. He is a rich man who has bought his way out of jail before, even after strangling a man in a bar, and pushing a homeless man into the river. At least that is how the lean man feels, lying on the ground with broken glass about him, having been given a quick shove, and unrepeatable savage words. The woman shows little in her face, but that her husband’s tactics are perhaps not the most effective- though cathartic for sure. Once orienting himself, the lean man goes to retrieve a broom and dust pan from inside. Having lived here in his humanly solitude all things have found a particular place- having broken glass scattered in front of the main house is not orderly. He wonders if he has become like fathers in their homes, so particular. But still glass is not safe, imagine he wander out barefoot at night, or the girl decides to visit startled by a dream or if her curiosity should conquer her fear. When he returns the animal like couple are half way back across his fields, trampling the blueberries down for a great crop next year.