November 17, 2021
Javier walked across his large yard as usual, taking his Australian shepherd Zooloo out for her morning run. It was still early, the sun was just beginning to rise through soft hazy shades of pinks in the sky, frosted puffs of cotton breath in the air, promising a crisp day ahead. Zooloo ran ahead of him, through the piles of leaves on the far side, near the maple and apple tree's, now darkened with the onset of winter; leaves fallen to the ground, branches bare and cold. Except for the wind rustling, silence permeated his surroundings. The frigid air moved through him, like a thousand tiny inch worms crawling into his bones. (He only wore a light jacket and jeans), not exactly ideal attire for a morning like this. Thin layers of crusted snow blanketed the fields. Time stood as still as the rocks, a simple life on this farm, Javier's thought's were on other things, like travelling.
Javier shivered, pulling his jacket tighter around him for warmth, wishing he'd worn a more suitable coat, 'winter is coming', he mused unhappily, wishing he could go South like he often did, but he had to stay here and take care of their farm, belonging once to his grandparents, handed down to his parents. This is where he was raised and grew up, but he dreamed otherwise. His bedroom boasted a large world globe ball, the kind you turn around and around, Javier would, every night before bed, mark the spots with tiny different colored stickers. Midwest winters were harsh, however, summer's were spent growing and harvesting enough food for the winter. Their animals needed enought to eat and stay warm, chickens and two cow's they kept. Several barn cats, and sweet Zooloo, she acted like it was all hers, she was the life of the party. Javier watched her, as she began to sniff, digging around fervously around one of the maple's, picking on one spot in particular. Paws frantic, leaves pushed up and around, while her breath smoked out in huffs into the cold air.
"Ok, girl, take it easy, what have u got? A dead squirrel....you...can't...eat that." He fondly scolded his dog, pulling at her halter, away from the spot she'd been digging, not wanting to see what she'd found if a dead animal lay beneath the dull leaves. Zavier's stomach growled, hunger crawling in him now, breakfast would be ready soon, his mother always on time. Routine had become redundant, but time flew by as they had plenty of chores to do.
"What the heck? Hmph, how did this get here?" He said to noone.
There it was, shining up at him like a little star in the dark of night, waiting to be picked up, taken home. Javier stared, his face scrunching to look more at what he thought he'd found, he then picked it up. A diamond ring, a large one at that, surrounded by smaller perfect little stones, dirtied of course, and looking old. He wiped off the dirt with the cuff of his sweater, Zooloo already lost interest and was running around him in circle's now.
'What the heck!" His mind raced, "Who does this belong to and why is it here, on our land, lyin' neath a pile of dead leaves, and how did Zoo know to find it?' These were all the questions running through his mind. Think. This ring is worth a fortune, definately enough to pay him a trip South, Florida or Cuba, wouldnt that be somethin' else. All his life he wanted to take that special trip, feel the warmth of sunshine, sit under palm tree's on a sandy white beach, just never happened, he was not going to leave his parents alone for now anyway, and he had to finish college. Once his Agriculture Degree was under his belt, diploma at hand, he might take a trip then, some of the local kids from town could help his parents out next winter for a month anyway, he could go somewhere.
"I have to tell someone, where would I explain gettin' enough cash to go on a trip, this ring must've belonged to someone.", he wiped back the sweat on his forehead, in spite of the temperature he was warm now, pulling shaggy hair back behind his ears, with strong weathered fingers, aged from work and the change of seasons for his age. He put the ring deep into the pocket of his jeans. Now he felt a sprig of anticipation seap into his veins at the find, wondering what it meant. Everyone had a story to tell right? This ring signified something, on their land. Meant to be told. He already knew who was going to tell it, he thought, knawing hunger continually winning him over.
"Com'n Zoo, let's go home for breakfast, bacon and eggs girl?" He called to his dog, who had already began to sniff out other spots and did her business. Tail wagging happily at the word "breakfast", she followed her master home, back to the warmth of the fireplace hearth and food. The kitchen already was full of the scent of coffee and bacon, he inhaled deeply as he stepped in from the cold. The large oak table was inviting, the fireplace warming the living room, food cooking on the gas range. The wood stove held the coffee pot, old cast iron having cooked a million meals in its time, already steaming with fresh made liquid. Javier bounded in through the door, leaving the empty field behind him as he entered the kitchen, slowing his pace down respectfully.
"Go wash up breakfast is ready." His mother said, tiredly. She rose early, began the cooking for the morning, made coffee, set the table, same old routine, then chores. She was in her fifties, signs of grey hair at the sides, once having been blond and beautiful hair, while her eyes portruded the laugh lines of living. Three generations here on this farm, she was a proud woman, the land was theirs. But nothing came without its price, and their land held its own secrets, she knew and kept to herself, no sense in dredging up what had been. Until now.
"Ma, I found something, or rather Zoo found it, in the leaves, stuck underneath one leaf.", Zavier pulled out the diamond, shoving a mouthful of scrambled eggs in at the same time, placing it on the table. "Who's ring was it? It was on our property, near the big maple tree across the yard.", He added, precariously, feeling it belonged to him.
"Let me see, oh dear, it was your grandmother's ring, I remember, you found it." Her voice flat, poured coffee into her husband's mug, he sat silent, rarely speaking most of the time, Trent was non-sociable person. But a good kind man. His body etched up to get a glimpse of the ring, his strong shoulders tightened in anticipation of this discovery. He knew what happened, of course he knew, but they never talked about it. Not after the funeral, she was small then, a little girl. But something changed, as his wife took a deep breath, so intense that he could feel it from deep inside her.
"Why would it be under a leaf?" Zavier persisted, spreading strawberry jam on his buttered toast hungrily, now he was curious. It would appear a story was in the works here, and he was anxious to hear it. His mother rarely spoke of his grandparents, he often wondered why whenever he'd asked about them.
"It's a long sad story, you may as well know now that you found their ring. It began a long time ago, after we were born here, in this house. Your grandfather was kind enough at first, but then, after the kids were born he began to drink, and it got worse.", She began, trying to remember that night, when the world changed for her grandmother and her aunts and uncle's, who witnessed the tragedy, left with the evils of alcohol and anger, and their struggle's to survive.
September 22 - Gran and Gramps
What are you talking about? I ain't never been to that place in my life." Gramps was pompous, overbearing as he'd shouted at his wife, a strong built woman herself, she stood up against him. Anette worked hard to keep the farm and her kids clothed and fed. Gabriel was already drunk, and in one of his moods, basted with alcohol, he hated himself enough lately, but he hated her nagging even more than himself. He'd loved his wife once, long before the kids were born, 8 children altogether, one having died, the last one.......then the cloud took over him. He tried to stop but couldn't.
"I heard you was down at her shack, with that hillbilly whore, Eilleen told me at the bazaar, saw you two kissin' through the open window. At least you could've shut the blinds."
"I won't have my husband flaunting around, not with me or our children in this house, you hear me old man?" Voice firm, her lips tight with angered emotion.
She'd sounded more on the attack to him, his breath stenched heavily with the smell of booze, his face unshaven, his eyes darkened with the devil. He'd lashed back at out at her, threw her up against the wall, shouting. His large body overbearing on her small frame, Annette couldnt fight against him, fear stung through her like lightining bolts. For the first time in their marriage she began to back away from him steps unsure of their footing, the kids could hear everything from their rooms, and now they had come out and stood above the railing, watching with wide eyes, waiting for the moment to settle down.
"I ain't done nothin', quit your haggling me over nothin' that happened at all. Those damn nosy busy bodies outta mind their own business", He shoved her aside, and went out on the porch, lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply. It was a hot muggy night for this time of the year, the air thick with humidity. Eilleen shuffled out after him, hoping to calm him down.
"I dont want to fight, come back inside and eat your dinner." She'd begged him, trying to take his arm and bring him inside. Aggravaton and anger took over after that. He yanked her hand away, aggressively. Eilleen teetered back, stumbling, on the top of the staircase facing the yard, she fell backwards. She hit her head, died the same night of concussion. The doctor was called and then the priest, leaving her husband with the aftermath of pain, and feeling responsible. In a truthful manner of speaking he was, even though it was a horrible accident, he had never meant to murder his wife. Gramps was never the same after that, inevitably so, he sunk into a deep depression, he couldn't face that horrible incident.
"Finally, two years later, he died they said, of guilt and shame. It was also said her ghost walked this house before he died, he would say she came to pay him back for his wrong doings, for sure none of it was probably the truth, who knew?" Javier's mother continued, fingers cradling her coffee mug. Outside the sun had risen, now shining through the kitchen window, glittering on her hair while she spoke, her voice deepened from sadness? "His two sister's who came to live there and take care of him, and the kids had even heard strange noises, late into the hours of the night, but nothing was ever substantiated. Haunted house stories were not uncommon in farm country, this one was no exception to tall tales", and now, the story was a demise, the words out like tar, poured onto the ground and tasting like a bitter black piece of gum.
'And so, Gramps of course was never the same, after the funeral he must have tossed the ring away on the ground, left there after all these years until now." His mother finished the sad story. Zavier said nothing, feeling only the remnants of grief for his gramp and gram, the kids left behind with no father. Times were hard then, but they got harder, especially for those poor kids. Her face held back the anguish she never mentioned; she then continued to sit down and eat her own breakfast.
Someday, he would go South, but not now, this ring was an heirloom piece, his mother would of course keep it, as she well deserved to keep it, the ring belonged to her. He got up, put a warm coat on, whistled to his dog, and went to the barn to do the morning chores. The tale of the tragedy that befell his family years before, the ghosts that lingered here, engulfed his heart heavy with memories of what he'd found that frosty morning under a leaf.