I think I've only posted this short story once. If not, read it again....or not.
It all started after his father died. Between a hectic schedule, his children finally taking on the responsibilities of adulthood and settling an estate, Phil was to the point of mental collapse.
"You need to take care of yourself, honey." his wife, Angela, would remark. It would place his nerves on edge. He had too much to worry about and now he was being prodded to worry more about his health. The pressure only made him more determined.
One thing that nagged at his thoughts was the camp his father left in his estate. Originally, it was his grandfathers, his father inherited the property and now it was his. Although he enjoyed a trip to the camp as a child, the hectic preparation, long drive and few hours to enjoy the place as an adult, with a family, soured the experience.
“I’m going to the camp over the Labor Day holiday.” Phil announced to his wife. “You’re welcome to go, if you want.”
She didn’t respond for a few moments. After examining his face, she realized it would be a disaster if she went. The long drive, his attitude, and the knowledge of his typical reactions caused her to almost blurt out: “I have some important things to do over the holiday, so you go by yourself. Who knows, it might give you a chance to rest.”
“Not likely.” He quickly responded. “I have to go over everything and insure it’s ready to sell.”
The weekend arrived and Phil loaded his pickup for the trip to the camp. Distracted by his thoughts, the trip was filled with strategies to present the camp and receive the best price. He knew the acreage, the size of the house and the best things he remembered. All he needed was to remember to contact a real estate agent after the holiday and go over the details.
When he reached the farm gate that blocked the road to the camp, a thought appeared and he was whisked away to his youth.
The family decided to have Christmas at the camp. A light overnight snow had dusted the land, the house stood as a refuge to the cold, and everyone was full of excitement. They even sang Christmas carols during the trip.
It was a wonderful Christmas. His grandparents had decorated the house, the dinner was a bountiful feast, with all the things he liked and they shared a short prayer that night, when they sat around the campfire his grandfather prepared.
Slowly stepping from the truck, he took a deep breath and smelled the air. It was cool, fresh and full of the smells of the woods. Feeling energized, he opened the gate, climbed back in his truck and made his way up the winding drive that eventually revealed the wood frame house.
The camp hadn’t changed. The large front porch, with the two rocking chairs, was exactly the same as he remembered. The surrounding woods, with the acre of cleared land still seemed to surround the house, as though to keep out the ravages of the world.
“Well that’s good.” He muttered under his breath. Everything looked as though someone was still there every day, except for a few leaves that were on the porch. His father left a small account with enough money to have someone take care of the house for a year. Six months had passed, and Phil had wondered if those responsible were keeping their end of the bargain.
Looking about, Phil made a pass around the house before stepping onto the porch and going inside. He stopped for a few minutes, sat in his grandfather’s rocker and thought of the past.
He wondered if everything just seemed simpler back then and decided they were. People weren’t encumbered by electronic devices and the constant pressures that constantly filled his life.
Feeling a little guilty for stopping, he unlocked the door, entered the front room and felt years melt away.
Removing his camera from its case, he carefully went through the house and photographed each room. He insured every picture was the best he could take. He wanted to capture everything, so it would never be forgotten.
Remembering his groceries, he quickly returned to his truck to retrieve his ice chest and bags. Returning to the kitchen, he started putting put everything away; his grandmother frowned on being untidy; he’d learned well.
As he worked, he made note of needing a bulb for the refrigerator and decided a new box of baking soda was needed. Pausing, he wondered why he suddenly found such things important. He was planning on selling the camp and those things were trivial to a buyer.
Placing the small bottle of dish washing liquid by the sink reminded him he needed to light the water heater. Finding the kitchen matches, he opened the door to the utility pantry and found a newer water heater. He didn’t know his father changed it a few years before, which made him think of how much he didn’t know about how his father managed the camp after his grandparents passed.
After lighting the water heater, he went back outside to have a look at the water pump. The water ran fine, but he wanted to make sure there were no leaks or potential problems.
The small brick well house stood a few dozen yards behind the house. Half an acre away, two huge hickory trees cast shadows on the building, which helped keep the water in the tank cool during the summer. A few dozen feet away was a large stump; the top flattened and scarred from numerous strikes from an ax.
Opening the door to the well house revealed the large galvanized steel tank and the pump. Both were newer than the house and appeared to be in good condition. Examining the fittings, he found no signs of leaks and felt reassured. He’d wondered if the well was protected from freezing during the winter. He made a mental note to insure the process was completed.
Looking around the small room, he saw a few daddy long-legs in the corners. It reminded him of watching them for long moments when he would seek the cool of the well house during summer visits.
He whispered to himself: “God, we were young back then.” The memories returned of his aunt Rachel, who was his only companion during visits. Much younger than his mother, she was still living with her parents and would often come along for the visits when not involved with some school activity or college preparation. She was as lonely as he was and they both would find solace with each other’s company as they wandered the near woods and the small adjacent creek. She was more of a big sister and they were still close, although she’d moved far away after she married. Their communication was only the occasional call during the holidays and appropriate cards for special events.
Realizing there was little to do, and feeling a little uneasy about all the free time he now had, he decided to sit on the porch and take a few moments of relaxation.
Settling into what was his grandfather’s rocking chair, he wondered for a moment why he chose the chair. His grandmother’s was almost identical, but his decision was without hesitation and the thought of “why” gave him a few moments of introspection and wondering if he considered sitting in the chair some rite of passage.
“I miss you both” he whispered and was a little startled by his words. He did and he missed his parents. All were gone and he suddenly felt a lonely sadness that was overwhelming.
His unfocused stare at the woods was broken by a large squirrel that appeared next to the big oak near to the drive. Carefully watching, it gathered a large acorn and disappeared behind the tree. In the stillness, he could hear the squirrel as it climbed the tree, rustled some high branches and soon was quiet once again.
The event brought a smile. When his grandparents were there, the squirrels were welcome visitors and boldly moved about without fear. His grandmother would name those she recognized and speak to them like she would a pet. She was fond of them and would sit in contentment each morning; watching and enjoying her coffee.
Suddenly feeling guilty for just sitting, while knowing there were plenty tasks he should be doing, he spent a few moments kicking around the thought of leaving and arriving home after dark.
Rising, he suddenly felt foolish. He’d delegated the entire weekend for taking care of the camp, which didn’t now need his attention.
“Have I forgotten how to relax?” was his thought. Pondering on the thought, he realized it was true. Too much time occupied with tasks that needed constant attention had removed his ability to place them aside and spend some moments without distraction.
His spoken response was” “I’ll take a walk.”
Stepping from the porch, he started down the drive. He’d made the journey many times when he was younger. Ending at the gate, he’d spend long moments watching to see if a car would pass. Without much to do, the wait filled his time.
Reaching the gate stirred memories. Looking down the long asphalt highway as it disappeared across the distant hill reminded him of one late summer evening, when an approaching thunderstorm occupied his attention. It was a ferocious storm, full of lightning and high winds.
While dawdling at the gate, he found the initial gust of wind cooled his sweat and whisked the accumulated dust along the shoulder of the highway into a cloud. Spattering rain soon followed and his run to the house was futile in escaping the storm. A close lightning strike shattered a pine tree off the drive, which only made him run faster. He found his family at the porch as the heavy rain arrived. Soaked, they led him into the house, insisted on a hot bath and waited supper until the storm passed.
A falling oak leaf reminded Phil the seasons were changing. Soon, the woods would be bare and the grip of winter would turn the camp into a refuge from the cold. Turning to return to the house, he took a deep breath and enjoyed the earthy smells of the woods. They never changed and the years disappeared as he enjoyed the invigorating air.
Talking to himself, he said: “I think I’ll make some bacon and eggs for supper.” He’d stopped at a grocery store on the way and bought the food he longed to taste. His high cholesterol led to removal of such items from the family menu. He’d bought them to enjoy away from the constant scrutiny of his wife. After all, it was his weekend and he’d enjoy it for what it offered.
While he cooked, he stared out the window. The woods were changing and he knew the tree branches would soon be bare and snow would cover the ground. The thought made him happy, since the snow seemed to wrap the warm house in a blanket of comfort. The cold winds could blow as hard as they wanted, but the house would insulate the occupants from the harsh environment.
“I love this place.” As he thought of his words, he realized he did. The camp was a refuge and necessary. He’d avoided what he needed for years and the lost time made him sad.
As he ate his supper, he examined the photos on the wall. Almost unchanged from his youth, they were a testament of something he was struggling to grasp. He felt a strong compulsion to summarize what he was feeling and paused with his meal to try to find what was pulling at his thoughts. Unable to find what he was looking for, he finished, cleaned the kitchen and returned to the front porch.
The sun was setting behind the trees and the brilliant, orange sky was magnificent. He’d not enjoyed such a moment for decades and felt melancholy for the loss. It was a wonderful experience and only enjoyed if one was in the right place at the right time.
He sat on the steps and waited for the darkness to approach. Soon, he was staring at the brilliant stars through the tree branches. Unlike in the city, they were globes of light, with little space between and the silvery haze of the Milky Way embellished the beautiful evening.
Rustling down the road reminded Phil he’d left his flashlight in the truck. Momentarily at a loss, he remembered his key fob and pushed the button to unlock the doors. The headlights blinded him as he went to retrieve his flashlight.
A scan of the drive revealed nothing. He could still hear the rustling, which seemed to be moving away. Feeling a little vulnerable, he returned to the house and locked the door. The air was becoming chilly, but he knew the chill he felt was more than just a reaction to the temperature.
The house was still warm from the day, but the early autumn chill would soon make it uncomfortable. Finding the supplies, he lit the furnace and was satisfied when it started without problems. Turning the thermostat back, he prepared for bed.
Deciding on not disturbing the made beds, he took a blanket from the hall closet and soon was comfortable on the large couch in the den. The deep quiet was only broken by the slow chirps of crickets outside. Soon the cold would remove even that distraction and still nights would be without sound.
“You better get up, son. We need to chop some wood for winter today.”
Opening his eyes, Phil found his father standing by the couch and the morning light just appearing in the windows.
His grandmother was quietly singing in the kitchen as she prepared breakfast. The smell of coffee, pan sausage and biscuits forecast a hearty breakfast to start the day. His stomach rumbled in anticipation.
“Put on your heavy boots. We might find a copperhead in the wood pile and I don’t want you to be bitten.”
Looking at his dad, he smiled, stretched and soon was dressed for the day.
“I wish Rachel would have come.”
His mother soon replied: “That’s Aunt Rachel.”
“She told me not call her that – it makes her feel old.”
His mother laughed and tousled his hair as he passed to sit for breakfast.
The center of the table had platters filled with biscuits, sausage, scrambled eggs and mason jars filled with homemade jellies. Filling his plate, he soon dug in and observed his family as he ate.
His grandfather, gray at the temples, short and stocky built, was mostly silent. His chiseled features, close blue eyes and strong nose showed his German ancestry. His expressions told more of what he was feeling. His relaxed expression, occasional smile and nods showed he was content. If not, his scowl could chill the day. Phil had seen it on some occasions. It was something he didn’t like to see.
Grandma was talkative and animate as she ate. Conversing with his mother, the anticipation of a productive day occupied their thoughts and they had much to do.
His grandmother had the personality that lit up a room. Lithe, dark haired and outgoing, her optimism was contagious.
His mother had a similar personality, but was a striking contrast. Her fair features, blond hair, blue eyes and height were opposite of his grandmothers, yet they were almost eerily similar. Both were quick to anger, quick to forgive and found life a bounty of experiences to be shared.
Phil’s father was much like his grandfather. The resemblance was obvious, yet his father was taller, had more refined features and he inherited the dark hair of his mother. Both influenced his behavior, which gave him a unique aspect on life. Pragmatic, almost to a fault, he could be surprising with a determination to just be silly, or turn a day of work into a day of just going somewhere to have fun.
Now satisfied with their plans, his grandmother, and mother, turned their attention to his father and grandfather.
His grandmother was first: “I hope you men manage to keep your feet and toes.”
His father replied: “We’re only using dull axes today. After all, we wouldn’t want Phil to be exposed to all that gore.”
Phil’s grandfather just shook his head and continued eating. His grandmother and mother, laughed; his father just smiled.
After they finished, the women went to cleaning the kitchen and preparing to can the fruit brought from town. Phil’s father and grandfather donned their jackets, so Phil donned his own and they went out to start their task.
It was a beautiful clear morning. The trees were mostly bare and what was left of the fallen leaves were in numerous piles of ashes around the yard. The cut logs were piled against the well house and the wheelbarrow to haul the logs leaned against the wall with the door.
Without hesitation, Phil soon had the wheelbarrow full and pushed it to where the logs would be chopped into firewood. It was his job, until he mastered using the ax. After the logs were split, he’d stack them neatly and insure a few dozen were stacked near the front porch for use.
It wasn’t long before they removed their jackets and concentrated on their work. The morning sun was heating the day as they continued. The stack of chopped wood rose, the men worked in silence, and Phil’s mind started wandering.
The faint scent of cooking fruit, a squirrel fussing in the oak by the drive and an urge to do something else pulled his attention from his task. Lost in his thoughts, he was soon far away; thinking of exploring and the project for the next visit: Dead fall had damned the creek upstream and his grandmother missed the usual melodious trickle she could hear when the windows were open. They would clear the trees and allow the creek to flow unencumbered again.
As he imagined the jamb, what might be needed and how he wished Rachel would be there for company, he awoke.
Light filled the den. For a moment, Phil was disoriented. The room was silent, except for the low fan of the furnace. Realizing where he was, he felt robbed by awakening. It was a good dream; realistic and comforting.
Slowly rising, Phil stretched, made his way to the bathroom and started his shower, which stirred his past with memories of how the well water was so different from what was found in the city. It even had its own smell and he never found the taste offensive. It was an earthy reminder of better days, without the constant worries that now consumed his thoughts.
Drying his hair, Phil examined his face. The bags under his eyes, creases around his mouth and smile lines were apparent. They reminded him of his age, times long gone and the future, which he knew was now shorter than the past. Where the world was once an unexplored expanse of discovery, it now was a threat to surviving and age would eventually take all that was left.
He made a light breakfast of toast and coffee. As he quietly ate his breakfast, the ring of the phone startled him from his thoughts.
He’d forgotten the camp had phone service. The old rotary phone still hung on the wall; the long cord dangling under the handset. Rising, and wondering who would be calling, he answered with trepidation.
His wife’s voice was on the other end: “Honey, I hated to disturb you, but I have some bad news.”
Waiting, Phil’s mind raced with thoughts of what could be wrong.
“We just heard from Dave. Rachel has died.”
Phil didn’t answer. Momentarily confused about the name “Dave”, he realized it was Rachel’s husband and the sorrow of her loss only added to the uneasy feelings.
“I’m so sorry. I know how close you were.”
Phil could only ask: “When’s the funeral?”
“There won’t be a funeral. Her request was to be cremated and not have a service.”
“I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“You’ll be okay?”
Pausing, without knowing how he would be affected, he answered: “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Carefully, Phil went through the process of shutting down the camp. He turned off the gas, shut down the well, drained the pipes and flushed the toilet to insure it wouldn’t freeze. Inspecting the house one last time, he slowly drove down the drive, parked the truck and paused at the gate.
Looking up the drive brought tears to his eyes. All that was now left was a building and memories. His youth was now placed in a box and closed forever.
As he closed and locked the gate, he felt a loneliness that tugged at his very being. As he drove away, he mourned for the past and what was now gone forever.
Over the next long weeks, Phil continued with his tasks. Angela, now more concerned, didn’t want to push for Phil to find some relief, since she knew how much the loss of Rachel had torn his heart. She worried he would have a breakdown, but avoided any discussion about his health. He was so stressed and fragile. One more concern might be the final weight he couldn’t handle.
One evening, shortly before Thanksgiving, Phil received a package from Dave. Inside was a short letter:
“Rachel was adamant about her passing. She despised funerals, the gathering of mourners and what she described as “the waste of death”. She had only two stipulations: One was to be cremated and the other was to have her ashes scattered at her parent’s camp. I know you have much to take care of, but I’m asking you perform her final wish.”
Phil realized the small urn was all that was left of Rachel. A little perturbed her husband didn’t prepare him for this task; he soon realized it was probably best. He could always send the ashes back, but he knew he was more than honored. It was the least he could do.
Thanksgiving was somber. Even with the children and families in attendance, a sorrow pervaded the affair. Phil was mostly quiet and the family didn’t pry out of respect.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go?”
Angela examined Phil’s face and realized she didn’t.
“I have so much to clean up and tomorrow is Black Friday. It’s best you go alone and take some time for mourning.”
Phil hugged his wife. She understood and didn’t want to pry. The last few weeks had been tough and she knew he needed to get away to be alone.
Before he left, Phil asked his wife one last time if she wanted to go. She declined again, hugged him and told him to be careful
“A winter storm is forecast, so don’t hesitate to return or stay if the weather is bad. Call me when you arrive”
With a final kiss, Phil left and started his long trip to the camp.
As he drove, he watched the skies. The clear morning was replaced by high clouds and the horizon revealed a thick deck of clouds. A storm was coming and he hoped to be in the cabin before it arrived.
When he reached the gate, the first drops of light rain were falling. Hurrying with his tasks, he soon had a light on the water well, the furnace lit, and anticipated a quiet supper of leftovers packed by his wife. He’d even brought a small bundle of oak purchased from the local supermarket. With little effort, he lit a small fire in the fireplace, which cast comforting warmth and the faint smell of wood smoke. Remembering his wife’s words, he called to let her know he’d arrived safely.
“Dave called. He wanted to apologize on how he handled the ashes. I told him you understood and were honored.”
Phil realized he was and the thought of Rachel brought back memories.
“I like Dave. He was the best thing for Rachel and made her happy. I admire him for that.”
“If you need anything, just call. It might take me awhile to get there, but you know I’m here for you.”
Angela’s remark made Phil realize she was worried. He knew she had some reason to be so, but wanted to comfort her.
“I’m okay. I feel really good about all of this and want you to know how much I appreciate you for caring. I’ll call tomorrow afternoon, before I leave for home.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Hanging up the phone, Phil went to the den and sat to watch the fire. Not satisfied with the size, he added some logs and went to prepare his supper.
Soon, the fire was roaring and Phil quietly ate his leftovers, while he watched the flames.
After cleaning the kitchen, he took a quick shower, made a drink and settled in for the night.
Outside, the rain changed to light snow. The light tap on the windows was replaced with the silence of falling snow. Phil stepped to the porch to watch for a few minutes. His truck was already dusted and the bitter cold chased him back into the warmth of the den.
Fixing another drink, Phil spent a few moments reflecting how the well water added a unique flavor to his bourbon and water. He liked the flavor and soon found he was drowsy. Placing the glass on the table, he found his blanket, pulled it around his shoulders and enjoyed the fire. Retrieving his drink, he stared at the fire, reminisced and sipped his drink. The fire was mesmerizing and comforting. The long minutes seemed to pass in an instant.
Rising, Phil made a quick look outside. The snow was becoming lighter and the wind scattered the flakes. The few accumulated drops of water on the porch were now frozen and the bitter wind was strong from the north.
Returning to the den, Phil finished his drink, covered with the blanket and laid back on the couch. Before he fell asleep, he watched the fire as it consumed the wood he’d placed earlier. One larger log on the back would burn for hours. Phil knew it would probably be smoldering at morning as he fell asleep.
“Are you going to sleep all day?”
Phil opened his eyes to find Rachel glaring at him.
“Do you want to miss breakfast?”
Phil smiled, rose and stretched to show he was deciding to start the day.
Rachel smile back, and pulled the blanket away, so Phil had no choice but to arise.
Feeling self-conscious, Phil remarked: “Do you like the show?”
Rachel giggled and threw his robe. Phil, now covered, found his pants and put them on while Rachel turned her back.
The camp was dark, so they were first up. Rachel was now in the kitchen, starting the coffee and pulling breakfast ingredients from the refrigerator. There were bacon, eggs, canned biscuits, potatoes and jam.
“You can start by peeling some potatoes, sleepy head.”
Phil, now involved with the scene, replied: “Can I at least go and pee?”
Rachel laughed and replied: “Be sure to wash your hands. We have breakfast to cook.”
Returning to the kitchen, Phil found Rachel peeling potatoes.
“That’s my job.”
“I didn’t know if you were distracted, so I started without you.”
Feeling embarrassed, and not sure of what she meant, Phil quietly took the peeler from her hand and started peeling potatoes.
A pot of water was on the stove with the burner on full. Rachel moved to the counter and started cutting onions for the hash browns.
“It’s going to be a beautiful day.” Rachel remarked.
Phil nodded. It would be a beautiful day. Late summer was a special time at the camp. With clear skies, the woods filled with the sounds of summer and the contentment of family, few days could compare.
As they worked, Phil examined Rachel. Her dark brown hair framed her face and her features were much like his mother's. She too was in constant motion, invigorated by life and an optimist.
“We need to hurry, so they don’t have to do anything and we can make them feel guilty.”
Phil laughed, finished peeling the potatoes and started cutting them into small pieces with the knife Rachel placed at the exact time he finished peeling.
Pulling an iron skillet from the cabinet, Rachel soon had a fire under the skillet and some oil heating. Soon, she placed the onions and turned to Phil: “Are you going to take all day cutting those potatoes?”
Phil smiled, finished his task and handed Rachel the plate of potatoes.
Retrieving another skillet, Rachel placed almost a pound of bacon and started the burner on low. Soon, the kitchen was filled with the smells and sound of frying bacon.
“I hear you’re not pursuing sports.”
Phil was little embarrassed. Although he liked sports, he was smaller than his classmates and his contributions were minimal at best. Deciding he needed to pursue his academic career, he’d forgone sports and concentrated on what he felt was best.
“That’s okay; I never was much for sports either.”
Relieved, Phil was thankful for Rachel. She understood much of what he thought and wasn’t judgmental.
“I start college next semester. I haven’t decided completely on what major, but I’m sure it will come to me over time.”
Without thinking, Phil replied: “Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll be good at it.”
Rachel blushed and Phil noticed it immediately. Not wanting to embarrass her further, he silently watched as she placed the potatoes in the boiling water and added seasoning.
“Is that coffee I smell.”
Phil turned to find his grandmother standing at the kitchen door. Wrapped in a robe, she smiled, reached and hugged him tightly.
A little uncomfortable, Phil was relieved when she released him and went to hug Rachel.
Admiring them, he realized how much he loved them both. He felt a contentment around them he could find nowhere else.
“You didn’t have to make breakfast”
“I know, but I needed to get Phil to do something but sleep all day.”
His grandmother hugged Rachel and she winked at Phil over her shoulder.
Now embarrassed, Phil silently waited as they continued preparing breakfast.
Soon, his grandfather, mother and father came to the kitchen. All sat quietly, or helped in preparing the morning meal. Coffee was poured, a few comments were offered and soon they were enjoying the first meal of the day.
As they ate, Phil’s grandfather, and father, discussed removing the dead fall trees upstream. They planned on bringing axes, saws and pry bars. They’d work on the logs as needed and free the stream so it could return as was before.
“Can I come along?”
Phil looked at Rachel, then his grandfather. His grandfather soon replied: “I’d like that. It will get you out of the kitchen, with all the gossip and hen scratching.”
Fearing a reprisal, Phil soon realized she had probably asked before, since nobody seemed to react to the statement. His mother, and grandmother, just smiled and continued with their breakfast.
After finishing breakfast, those going to take care of the jamb were soon armed with tools, heavy clothes and departing to complete the task. Rachel fit right in, although she seemed hesitant. Torn between what was considered normal and what was considered “man’s work”, she didn’t quite know what to do. She’d soon find out what she had volunteered to do.
The jamb was about a thousand yards upstream. One big tree had caught numerous trees and branches. The creek was almost completely dammed from limbs and debris. A monumental task was at hand and Phil realized he didn’t relish what was to come.
Over the next few hours, they removed the small debris, chopped away at the larger limbs and carried everything far up the bank. All were tired and they eventually found only the large tree to focus their efforts.
Phil’s father and grandfather worked on the tree, until it was only smaller sections. Rachel helped him drag the smaller sections away from the creek.
After hours of effort, the creek was again open and the dead fall gone for good.
Muddy, wet and tired, the crew returned to the camp. Before going inside, Rachel stopped on the porch and sat in her grandmother’s chair. Phil soon followed and they sat in relief from the hard work.
The warm summer sun had baked the porch and the heat was comforting to both. Rachel was speaking about how she wished she hadn’t volunteered for the task and Phil found he was nodding in agreement, although the warmth was making him drowsy. Soon, he faded away into deep sleep.
“So, what have you found?”
Deputy Holmes paused a moment and replied: “We started our investigation this morning after a call from the wife.”
“Her husband didn’t call Sunday, so she called us this morning and asked if we’d go see if there was a problem.”
The sheriff looked down the creek and thought about what he knew to this point: A man disappeared and his wife was looking for answers.
“I arrived about 9:00 this morning. After I went into the house, I didn’t find anyone, so I started to look around.”
“What did you find?”
“The house was empty, there were ashes in the fire place and there were no signs of a struggle. After that, I went outside, examined the drive and determined there were no signs of any vehicle besides the truck in the drive and my own.”
The sheriff pulled his coat around his neck and turned away from the cold wind.
The deputy continued: “I called for backup and waited for it to arrive. Deputy Smith arrived at around 10:00 am and we started a search. We found tracks leading to the creek, so we called you and the search team.”
Soon, the search team returned and the lead officer reported to the sheriff.
“The tracks disappeared into the creek. We’ve followed the creek for about a mile each way. Other than the tracks leading into the creek, we haven’t found any other tracks.”
“Did the dogs hit on anything?”
“Nothing; It’s as though he disappeared.”
The sheriff looked at the tracks on the edge of the creek. The thin ice on the edge contrasted with the bare footprints that led into the creek and disappeared in the deeper water.
“I’ll call his wife. Contact the state and let them know we might need their help.”
The lead officer of the search team departed, leaving Deputy Holmes and the sheriff to their thoughts.
“What do you think?”
The sheriff just stared and didn’t answer for a few minutes.”
“I don’t know, but the temperature was below freezing for almost two days now. I don’t think anyone could last long barefooted in that temperature.”
Deputy Homes just nodded and realized the condition of the house indicated the man had been gone for a long time.
“Keep me informed. I have a phone call to make and I don’t like what I’ll have to say.”
The deputy just nodded as the sheriff walked away. Looking around, he admired the quiet beauty and serenity. For a moment, he was engrossed with the peaceful solitude and the thoughts of why anyone would wander off in such brutal conditions.
Whispering under his breath, he said: “Maybe it’s best. I can think of worst ways to go.”
As he walked back to his cruiser, he again admired the beauty of the seclusion. He’d wait in the car with the heater on. The strong, cold wind had chilled him to the bone and it would be a long wait for the state police.
In Case You've Wondered
My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.
If you're here for the stories, I started another blog: scratchingforchange.blogspot.com
One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.
I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.