BY DAVID WATTS
Copyright is held by the author.
“CAREFUL LADS.” The foreman gave instruction to the men carrying furniture down the stairs and outside to the moving van. “Don’t leave marks on the walls.”
Janet went to be with her mother waiting in the kitchen.
“Hi Mom,” Janet said. No answer. “Mom … ?”
“What … Oh, sorry dear,” Mrs. Simpson said. “I must have been miles away.” Janet kissed her mother’s cheek then placed the kettle on the stove’s gas flame. Her mother turned back to the window over the kitchen sink and looked out toward the big barn. Janet looked too, at the old weathered building beginning to sag. But aside from the big van, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Around the truck was the dooryard, now strewn with fallen autumn leaves. Her mother never shifted her gaze, once again lost in thought and memory. “I can still see him. There he is now, coming out the side door, and heading for the pasture to bring in the cows. Those damned cows. Sorry, dear. They’re wearing him out. They’ll be the death of him one day.” Her voice trailed away.
“I know Mom.” Janet had heard it all before. Her father had died in that barn. He had a heart attack right there on the floor, after he’d finished the milking. That was a long time ago now, nearly 15 years, but her mother had never let him go. There was no life for her without him.
“Last week, I was straightening up a bit, getting ready for morning, and I expected him to come in any minute. But he didn’t come. I waited … as long as I could. But then I went out to the barn to see if anything was wrong.”
She said nothing after that, but watched as history played out in real time in front of her.
“That’s right, Mom. Now, please sit down and rest. Let’s have our tea.”
“Okay, dear. I’ll put the kettle on.”
“I’ve already done that. It’ll be ready in just a minute.”
Mrs. Simpson placed three mugs on the counter while Janet went to the front door to check on the men’s progress. They were nearly finished, had almost everything stowed in the truck. Janet returned to the kitchen. “Now, tell me, Mom, how was your morning? Did the mailman come? Did you speak to him about changing your address?” Her mother heard none of the questions.
“We’re loaded now, missus,” the foreman said, standing at the door. “We’ll take this lot to your house, will we?”
“Yes, that’s right. Put everything in the garage.”
“Was that your father, dear? Did he come in for tea?” Mrs. Simpson turned from staring at the yard.
“No, Mom. That was the moving men. The truck is leaving now.” The van set off down the driveway and pulled onto the road, but the woman didn’t notice.
“Oh, there he is, your father. He’s up on the ladder replacing shingles that blew off in the wind last night. He must have done that 10 times this year if he did it once.”
Janet breathed a sad sigh. “Tea’s ready now, Mom. Come and sit down.”