Fading Love and an old Barn
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 by Frank Shortt
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A whispering, chilling wind stole by as a young man made his way quietly forward. With the wind came winter’s first soft flurries reminding the young man that autumn was over and winter’s harshness threatened.

His thoughts wandered back to the small, cozy home he had just left. A rabbit’s tracks, leading toward his den, bespoke of cold, frosty nights. He wondered if the rabbit would face turmoil when he arrived home. “Where will I lay my weary head tonight?” He thought, as snow began filling the stark landscape. Bareness, where flora had bloomed, soon disappeared with the chilling blanket. He and his young wife had quarreled!

Things had not gone well with the young man recently as he had suspected that his ex-beauty queen wife had reconnected with one of her many beaus. His job, working for his wife’s dad as a bookkeeper, suddenly came to an end just the week before. “Why didn’t I see this coming? He asked himself over and over. I should have read the warning signs while we dated. There was always one or the other man making eyes at her and her back at them. I can’t help it if they were better heeled than I. My old ’55 Ford just wasn’t good enough to hold her!”

The young man’s thoughts ventured further enveloping his mind like a tight vise. Suddenly, an old barn loomed up in front. He had seen this old barn many times as he had hiked during summer. He removed the small flashlight from his back pack as the night fell. The barn door opened slowly on squeaky hinges that had seen very little use in the past few years. The flashlight revealed a gloomy atmosphere filled with cobwebs, the only inviting area was the hay storage area up top. As he made his way up the small ladder he once again thought of his troubled life. “Should I go back and try to make a life with my wife, or should I keep running, never knowing where I will end up?” He noticed an old rope hanging from the rafters where children had swung from one pile of hay to the other.

After making himself as comfortable as possible in the hay remnants, he suddenly noticed that he was not alone in the hayloft. Small mice ran around, feeding on hayseed remnants. As he watched them, he noticed that they would meet each other, seemingly kissing, then separating, going to another mouse, repeating the same process. This caused the young man further anguish as this was what his tormented brain told him was happening to himself.

Later, the young man took his young wife’s photograph from the backpack, shining the small light directly on it. She smiled up at him, beckoning forth memories of their courtship. He remembered the time they had double dated with her sister and a friend from the Coast Guard. They had no money to go to the drive-in movie, so they drove to a secluded place above town called Sierra Grande. While trying to park the young man had backed into a concrete retaining wall denting the bumper of the old Ford. “My father will kill us,” she cried. Not because she and the young man had parked but because they had taken her younger sister and her boyfriend to park. It took a lot of scrambling to get the friend’s father to straighten out the bumper enough so that it was not like an eyesore giving them away. They later married going on their honeymoon in the same old Ford.

Loneliness invaded the young man! Loneliness he could feel deep inside his bones! Suddenly, the young man sat erect! He thought, “Why should I allow other men to wreck my home and marriage? Why should I feel inferior to other men? We all have love to offer, me even more! I may not be the handsomest, richest, or the most popular man around, but I know that I have the ability to make a life for even the most beautiful woman in the world!” With this sudden revelation of his manhood and stability, he left the confines of the old barn and trekked homeward.

As the young man approached the cozy little house that he called his home, he noticed all the lights were on and several automobiles were parked around the perimeter. He walked carefully up to the porch not wanting to be seen immediately. He listened at the partially open door to see what was happening.

“It is not like him to run off like this!” he heard his young wife say.

 She had become frantic at his disappearance and had called in their mutual friends to search for him. Her mind immediately thought the worst.

“I’ve never known him to let depression overcome him,” a friend replied.

Another said, “Aw, he’ll be back in the morning!”

Without warning, the young man entered the room where all were assembled. “What th” one of his friends exclaimed! Another came over and slapped him on the back. All demanded an explanation for his sudden disappearance!

“Well, uh, I thought the worst of my wife. I thought she was planning to run off with one of her old beaus. Even the mice in the old barn tried to influence my mind that this was so! Somehow, I was able to overcome my feelings and come back to face the music!” Shamefacedly he admitted his own shortcomings.

Later, when everyone had gone away to their own homes and their own problems, the young wife declared, “I married you because I saw attributes in you that none of my other boyfriends possessed. I was not looking for someone already rich! I wanted someone I could work together with to make a life, to make a home and family! Besides, I am going to have a baby!” The young man did not have words to describe his thankfulness and the joy he felt.

The young man realized then that the mind is a very tricky thing. The mind can take someone into deep, dark despair! It is only the heart that can lead to peace. As he drifted off to sleep he saw the old musty barn fading away and in the place of mice, two turtledoves kissed and cooed as they planned their life together.