I wrote this a few weeks ago. If you like short stories, check it out. It has no title yet.
[Farmer and His Wife]
The farm house sat on a plot of secluded land in southern Georgia. The farmer, his wife, and their female Labrador were huddled in the attic listening to the rain clatter on the green copper roof. The storm had started a few days earlier. The couple, accompanied by Ellie, climbed into the dusty area at the top of their house to wait out its assault.
The farmer and his wife had seen a lot of storms in their day. Hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and more had destroyed their crops, wrecked their cars, shattered their windows, and now flooded their home. Yet in every instance, the copper roof held strong and the wooden house proved resilient. They were safe in their home.
It was late September and the summer heat was losing its edge. The attic was muggy but they hardly noticed. They both shivered with fear. Below them, their house was washing away. Their memories and belongings ruined by muddy water that kept rising, threatening their well-being. September was usually a month of new beginnings. Their children would’ve begun schooling, their crops would have been replanted, and the farmer would purchase new livestock. However this September felt like an ending. A monstrous storm sitting above their peaceful manor providing a discomforting reminder that even on the farm, they were at God’s mercy.
The farmer hugged his grey-haired wife while Ellie rested her head at his feet. Their two children, both boys, were now living elsewhere. John was in New York working as some sort of banker, while Eric, the younger son, was somewhere in California trying to make a career for himself as an actor. The old farmer and his wife of fifty years hadn’t heard from their boys in the past decade.
They moved to the farm house just after the war. He had returned from the Pacific Theater and attended a small private college in Virginia. He met a woman and they married shortly after graduation. He had grown up just outside of Savannah, Georgia and longed to move back to the area. His wife, a native of the big city, reluctantly agreed. After fifty years in the white wooden farm house with the green copper roof, it was her home. The interior and landscaping were beautifully decorated thanks to the keen eye of the farmer’s wife.
Her favorite room was their bedroom where pictures from their wedding day hung on every wall. In the mornings, her husband would look out the window at the barn and then turn to kiss her. She would stay in bed a bit longer, smiling at the framed photos. The farmer milked the cows, collected the eggs from the chicken coup, sheered the sheep, and then began the field work. Around noon, he would head inside to find his wife cleaning or crafting. She always had something for lunch prepared for the both of them. They would sit at a table he had made with his own bare hands. The legs were maple while the top was a stained oak. It was a strong table that withstood a lifetime of beating from dinner plates, flatware, and two wild boys.
The farmer spent his afternoons in the fields either with the crops or building fences to surround the massive property. He would cut down trees, split the wood into long planks, and build a sturdy fence. Ellie was always at his side. The farmer told his wife that the fences were to keep the livestock in and the wolves out. And while this wasn’t a lie, more often than not, he built fences to help pass the time. Life on the farm was rooted in the mantra that if one keeps busy, one keeps sane. He loved his wife more than anything but sometimes, he needed to get away.
The wife was an excellent knitter. She would awake early in the morning, collect the sheep’s wool from her husband, and begin cleaning it. By the end of each day, there was a new piece of clothing ready to be worn. She would prepare the meals, clean the house, manage the flower beds, and always end the night knitting beside her husband as he read aloud selections of Steinbeck, Chaucer, or Dickens. They had no phone and certainly no television. Contact with the outside world served no purpose to the farmer and his wife. They had all they needed in the farm, the house, and each other.
Occasionally they would turn on the old radio or put on a vinyl and slow dance in the candlelit living room as Frank Sinatra sang In the Wee Small Hours. Of course, they had electricity but light from a flame is a much better dancer than light from a bulb. They would eventually make their way to bed where even in their old age would not hesitate to make love like they were newlyweds. The two would close their eyes with Ellie asleep at the foot of the bed and all three would rest until the rooster wailed at the sight of dawn.
The storm had stunted this life. A week before, a man in a big Ford truck had driven up the long, oak shaded driveway and warned the couple. He was a neighbor from somewhere in the county and had gone to school with John and Eric. He knew the elderly couple didn’t have a television and wanted to offer them as much help as they needed in getting to a safer area. The farmer smiled at him and thanked the man. They would stay put in their safe farm house. All pleas to leave were met with increased politeness from the farmer. The man gave up and climbed back into his truck. Good riddance he yelled out the Ford and disappeared down the driveway.
A few days after the man in the Ford had come to warn of a great storm, the happy blue skies that graced the manor were darkened and greyed by an army of angry clouds. The clouds threatened the farm house with its deep voice and flashes of fury, often shaking the wooden structure to its core. Yet the farmer and his wife remained calm and continued about their business, unshaken and confident in their decision to stay.
The next day, the storm went on the offensive. The grey clouds that had given off a constant war cry began to assault the farm with bullets of hail. Rain soon followed, first coming down in a light drizzle that the farmer had laughed at. This incensed the storm and the shower turned to a downpour. By the end of the second day, the storm had its first victim. The crops had given up the fight and were drowned in its wrath. The farmer, his wife, Ellie, the house, and their livestock remained.
On the beginning of the third day, there was no crow from the rooster. The farmer and his wife awoke to the whines of their frightened Labrador. The storm was louder than the day before and the rain wasn’t letting up. The farmer stood from the bed and looked out their bedroom window. The grass was hidden under several inches of water and he could barely see the red barn where his cows, sheep, and chickens were sheltered.
The farmer put on a pair of rubber boots and opened the front door. The porch was level with the water and the farmer carefully eased himself into the pool and began to wade toward the barn. He was out of breath when he slid the door open. The building was flooded and the bigger animals were standing in the dark water. The chickens were clucking, the cows were mooing, and the sheep were bahing. All tried their best to out-scream each other but were collectively drowned out by the thunder and rain. The farmer filled the dry feeding bins with food and left, closing the barn door behind him. He slid a steel pipe between the door handles and made his way back to the farm house.
Their electricity had gone out the day before but there was plenty of firewood to offer heat and cook the remaining food in the house. The farmer and his wife spent the day in their living room huddled around the fire, watching the storm.
The wind began on the fourth day. The roof of the barn began to crack and the noises of the splintering boards awoke the farmer and his wife. He stood and looked out the window, his face frowning as the roof came clean off. One of the walls collapsed and fell with a splash into the pool of water. It floated away like a small boat down a river. A cow began to run helplessly down the driveway. She was followed by a several still chickens, floating in the murky water.
The farmer almost cried but his tears halted when he noticed that his knitted socks were wet. He looked down and saw that the floorboards were soaked and water was peeking through. He turned to his wife who was staring at the wedding pictures.
They took an oil lantern and two blankets and climbed a ladder to the attic. He was in overalls and she was in a white gown with faded pink and blue flowers. She climbed first and notice old boxes of forgotten memories littering the small space above the house. They agreed to place the boxes on their bed until the storm passed. Ellie was wet and scared but the farmer managed to lift the dog into the attic where she happily took up a spot beside her master.
The days and nights ran together. The clouds had blotted out the sun and the noises of typical daily life on the farm were no match for the mighty storm. The rain poured stronger, the wind blew faster, and the hail got bigger. The farmer clutched his wife and whispered in her ear that things were going to be okay. They fell asleep wrapped in the blankets on the hardwood boards of the dusty attic.
A loud crack of thunder woke the farmer. He looked at his wife who was staring back at him. Her eyes were wet and he could see she was afraid. He kissed her on the forehead and sat up. Peering over the edge, he could see the bottom floor of his house. It was waist deep in water. A piece of the hand-built table was floating beside a picture that came from one of the attic boxes. The farmer closed his eyes and tried to think of the memory captured by the photo. It had been when John was graduating high school. Eric was frowning since he wasn’t the center of attention. The farmer and his wife looked much younger. It was one of the last times the couple spoke to their oldest son. He left for college and never returned to the farm.
The farmer turned around and looked at his wife, now sitting up, squeezing the blanket to her chest. She looked terrified. He crawled over and wrapped his arms around her. The storm would pass, he reminded her. Ellie was walking in circles trying to find a comfortable place to lie. She scratched at the floorboards and eventually plopped down. The farmer spoke to her and she rested her head on his thigh. Her eyes never left his.
The house began to creak in a way that frightened Ellie. She lifted her head up and looked around for a place to hide. The farmer reached his hand out and began to stroke her head. She looked to him and then walked to the edge of the attic. The dog lowered her head and began to drink the rising water now just a few inches lower than their refuge.
The wind, rain, and hail played even louder on the metal roof. The farmer covered his wife’s ears and held her as close as possible. He could feel her shivering. He felt his pants begin to dampen. The water was coming through the attic boards the same way it had in their bedroom. The house swayed in the current and the metal roof let out a screech that must have surprised the storm. The rain stopped and the farmer stood up. He couldn’t see outside but he knew that the storm must have passed. He looked down at his wife and smiled. She reached out and touched his knee.
The attic boards were wet and the current was bending them in all directions. The farmer heard one of the wooden joints pop and saw Ellie stand up to investigate. A floorboard came loose and drifted into the water. It disappeared in the darkness. A support beam toward the edge of the attic floorboard let out its own awful noise and began to rattle in the pulsing water. The farmer reached down and pulled up his wife. Her legs were weak and she was tired so he held her up.
As they stood there, the farmer knew his house was collapsing in the power of the flood. He held his wife and reached down to hold Ellie by the collar. The flame to the lantern went out. They were in complete darkness and the farmer began to think of his wife when she was young. He gave her a kiss on the cheek and she began to sob.
The couple stood strong and felt the floorboards wobble under their weight. Their socks were wet and Ellie’s paws were submerged. She whimpered and the farmer bent down to hug her. She stopped and licked his face. Apart from the creaking wood, it was completely silent.
A board that gave way under the wife’s left foot. She stumbled forward and the farmer lost grip of her. She fell into the water. She was old but was able to swim. The farmer reached out his hand and took hold of her. He was pulling her back to him when the one of the joints to the roof support beams broke free. Half of the beam splashed into the water, landing on the wife and burying her in the blackness.
The farmer called out her name. He was crying and screaming at the same time. He almost jumped in but was too scared to move. Ellie began to bark. The hair on her back was puffed and raised. The farmer fell to his knees, the water splashing around his thighs. The boards he was on were holding firm. He let go of Ellie and she jumped into the water. He could only hear her paddling around. The farmer yelled for her to return to him but she too disappeared into the darkness. He began to cry louder before burying his face in his hands. His legs were shaking uncontrollably and the old farmer fell backwards, hitting his head, and passing out. He lay motionless on his back, halfway submerged in the water.
When he awoke, he was still wet but the water had receded. The house was still standing despite losing most of two walls and one of its main support beams. The farmer eased his way to the edge of the attic and looked down. His head was throbbing. The water below was only a few feet deep. The farmer eased his way down the remaining steps of the ladder and found his footing on the house floor. He moved toward the beam that had crushed his helpless wife. Resting his hand on it for support, he bent down in the water and began to feel around. His hand made contact with her night gown and he began to pull. It was stuck. He reached deeper and felt her. It was her stomach. Her skin was perfectly smooth but she was cold and still.
Tears flowed down his cheeks and dripped into the water. He squeezed his eyes shut and let out a cry that shook the house. He felt out of breath, scared, and alone. He looked out a gaping hole in the wall where a window had been and could see that it was day and the blue sky had returned. He could see one of the walls of the farm building still standing. Pictures and small possessions were floating around the house.
The man turned and looked into the bedroom, the same bedroom they had shared for fifty years. The bed was gone, its frame nowhere in sight. The walls were empty except for the wedding photo. The smile on his wife’s face was blotted out by mud and the frame had been shattered. The picture was ruined along with everything he loved.
The farmer filled with rage. This storm had taken it all. He stepped closer to the beam and felt the lifeless legs of his wife. He wondered if she had suffered or if the beam had taken her life instantly. She was gone, now. Ellie was gone. His house was destroyed and his crops were dead. The farmer reached down and grabbed his wife’s hand. He pulled hard and lowered himself into the water. He felt around the beam and wedged himself beside her. He found her face, kissed her lips, and then with tears still coming from his eyes in the dark water, he whispered he loved her. He apologized for everything and pulled himself close. He opened his mouth and inhaled as hard as he could, never letting go of the woman he loved.