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Flowers in the Barn 

 

 

    “Most people would say you can’t grow flowers in a barn but we did”. Growing up I had my grandfather utter those words countless times but I was fully an adult before I understood their meaning.

    I was cleaning out the attic, watching through the small window as dark clouds rolled across the summer sky when my fingers straying from their task, lighted on a small photo. I sat dumbly staring at it for several moments, then flew down the stairs. My grandfather had always been the king of stories and I knew that there must be a wonderful, horrible story attached to this picture.

    He was sitting as always in the heavy oak rocking chair near the window. His eyes had just drifted shut as I walked in. “Grandfather?” I spoke quietly and his eyes drifted back open twinkling. Those eyes were always twinkling as if he had just been laughing or was just about to laugh. “Grandfather, who is this?”. I placed the dusty old photo in his hand. That was the first time I ever saw the twinkle depart from their blue depth. He sighed an odd sort of wistful, reminiscent sigh and then began.

     As I recall the day was not unlike this one, dark and rainy, barely a week after my fifth birthday. The sun had set but the sound of pounding rain drummed on. Wind whipped about our little farm house standing in the darkness. Suddenly through the noise we heard a tapping on the door. Mama rose to see if someone was there. She opened the door and then bent and lifted something. As she turned we could see it was a basket covered by a blanket.

“What is it Mable” Papa called.

“ I think it’s a baby ,“ she called back and then she smiled.  That was the last time I saw her smile until long after the end of It.

    Mama carried the basket to the table and removed the blanket. I watched the color drain from her face. She stifled a scream. Papa ran to her and peered over her shoulder.

“wha-what is it?” he stammered.

“ I don’t know, Charlie, I just don’t know”

    I crossed the room  to see what had caused the commotion. Now I had always lived on the farm so I had no real experience with babies myself, consequently I didn’t see anything wrong with one having two heads.

“Wait wait wait,  it really had two heads, grandfather?” I asked interrupting his tale.

“ You see it in the picture, don’t you?”

“ Well, yes”

“Then be quiet and let me finish.” commanded my grandfather as he settled back into his chair.

   Anyway, he continued, I lay in bed that night listening to Mama and Papa quarrel.

“We can’t kill it, Charlie,” Mama pleaded

“ We should get rid of it. It doesn’t belong here,” Papa muttered

“ It’s a person!” I could hear the angry rising in my mother’s voice.

“ Listen to yourself Mabel, it’s hideous, we can’t keep it.” Papa still sounded calm.

“ But it’s only a baby,” Mama wept.

That was the last I heard until morning.                                                        

    The next day I ran into the kitchen to find the basket along with its inhabitants gone.

“Where’s the baby?” I asked innocently hoping that Papa had not won the argument the night before.

“ In the barn and there it shall stay,” Mama replied frowning.

“ Now sit down and eat your breakfast”

“ What will we call it, Mama?” I inquired

“ It will not have a name” she answered coldly.  “You may call her ‘It’.”

I would not call the pretty young creature ‘It’ but to please Mama I agreed and went outside.

After wandering about the fields for a while, I decided to sneak into the barn to see ‘It’. I needed to decide what to call them… well I thought it was a two people,  so I needed two names.

All day I contemplated and considered, but no name really fit. The following afternoon I decided on  Daisy and Rose the loveliest flowers in our garden.             

     The girls grew and blossomed, 10 years passed before anything concerning them happened. Every day I would bring them flowers and beads trying to bring them something colorful. That’s what life was missing, color. Mama wasn’t ever the same.  Her face had never reclaimed it’s former color and she never laughed, never smiled. Papa was different too he was always quiet. He avoided the barn and seemed to be continually worried.

     I was only five when we found it but I could still remember when life was good, sweet, when instead of arguing my parents would stay up laughing. It was slowly ripping our family apart, but I was right about one thing it was two people. Rose was quiet, she lived in her head but Daisy spoke constantly . I never quite understood one request of theirs, they always wanted paint. I never saw them use it or any paintings for that matter, but they were always asking when they could have more.

    Sometimes we would sneak out and play in the creek or go for long walks. I knew better than to let mama see us sneak out, so we came up with secret calls and passages to use, to keep out of her site.  I was getting older going on 16. Rose and Daisy on the other hand were only 10. I was tired of their games and spent less time with the annoying younger children. I guess that was when all the trouble began. The girls became restless and noisy it became harder and harder to keep the secret. Our farm hand became nosey. He searched the barn time and time again trying to find our what we were hiding.

     His name was Bill. Two more years passed before fateful day when the hateful man found them. That morning we heard a yell followed closely by a shriek. Papa and I ran to the barn to see what had happened. Bill stood staring dumbly at Rose and Daisy. Then before we could stop him he dashed out of the barn and down the road.                                                                       “We will be killed, they will take you from us” sobbed Mama

“ Everything will  be fine Mama” I said trying to be reassuring, but I knew nothing would be fine at all.

    Papa paced nervously muttering how we never should have taken It in the first place. After hours of nothing happening I went to the barn to check on the girls. I found them crying in a pile of hay.

    “We are going to get you killed” wailed Daisy, tears streaming down her cheeks. Then we heard a loud cry.

    “Hide !” I yelled running quickly out to see what had caused all the commotion. Dusk had fallen but through the fog I could see lights coming toward us.

    “No, NO!”  I shrieked as Papa pulled me into the house. I kicked and fought with all my might but he held me fast.
    “They are going to kill Daisy and Rose” I sobbed angry and desperate.

    “What did you say?” My father voice sounded harsh and cold. Only then did I realize my mistake.

    “It, I mean they are going to kill It.” I said helplessly choking down my tears , but I knew the mistake had been made.

    The angry voices grew nearer, I could see the lights clearly now through the window . My father tied my hands to a bedpost and told mama to stay inside. He walked slowly out to confront the mob.

    “Where is the monster?” demanded one man.

    “The town is not safe,” shouted another. More furious cries were uttered before my father spoke.

    “It will not hurt anyone.” He said but he moved aside anyway. A torch was thrown at the barn. Then for a single moment there was complete silence. With a mocking crackle the barn went up in flames. The fiery tongues licking at the roof. Then with a crash one wall fell and in the fire light we saw a painting so glorious; the likes of which no man had ever laid eyes. The spectacular scene seemed to come alive. For a moment I forgot all my trouble.  Slowly with a scream like creak the wall came tumbling down.

    I sat stunned. How could one so tortured and mistreated make something so beautiful. Had she not the right to live more even than the rest of us. I sank slowly to the ground. I could still see the fire light, but there were no more voices only silence. I ached all over I couldn’t move couldn’t cry. Tears were not enough for the loss. What was wrong with people? I couldn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend why anyone would do such a thing, to put an end to perhaps the greatest artists in the world without even giving them a chance. I was filled with regret at our last years together,  how little attention I had paid Rose and Daisy. Long years went by, I grew up and married your grandmother but as long as I may live I pray never to forget the flowers in our barn.

                            

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