Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pilgrim--a story (V)

He took a step or two up the bales and reached for her, drew her toward him with his arm, but she was stiff and frozen, no more human than the old mower in corner. He let her go again. She was a mannequin, heavy and rigid.

He scolded himself for his cowardice, grabbed her body with both arms, pulled her up high enough so the rope slackened, then held her to his side with his right arm and grabbed the rope. He had to get rid of his glove, so he pulled it from his left hand with his teeth and spit it away, then loosened the strangle hold of the stiff rope and slipped it over her head. He put her rigid feet down beside his on the bale and held her in place as he jumped to the floor. Then he leaned her hard body back into his arms and let her down to the barn floor slowly, stood beside her and let her own body weight bring her down so she lay beside him in the loose straw.

She looked younger now, in the sun light over her face—no silver in her hair, no wrinkles. She had more life to live. We all do, he thought.

He remembered Teddy, those apparitions in his grief. This was no apparition. But it wasn’t Carolyn either.

He bent down beside her, lifted her head slowly and brought the hood up and around her dark hair before gently letting her head back down. With his right hand, he pulled strands of hair back out of her face. With both hands, he held her face, his hands outside the hood, and looked at her, this woman he’d never known, and somehow the tears came, because whoever this woman was, that she had to go, that she had to crawl to this damned abandoned barn and climb the steps of straw to a noose she must have fashioned herself, it was beyond him.

There he sat, her head in his hands, thinking she was all he’d ever loved and all he’d come to hate. He rubbed his face with the sleeve of his coat, then pulled out a dry arm to try to soak the wetness. If he was God’s workmanship, as the Bible said, than what on earth was the Lord and Creator of the universe shaping in him?

He put her back on the straw, got to his feet, and walked out of the barn, circled the north side to the east. The silence all around him was broken only by raucous crows in the cottonwoods at the edge of the river, the cooing of doves on the silo, and somewhere, even in the dead of winter, the quiet sound of a thin trail of running water.

He pulled up a hand to his forehead because the sun was a burning ball of fire, the sky as bright as steel. He turned away from the bright morning sun to see the grayscale colors of January on the trees over the river still bright with life.


There were no pictures that morning, so he had no reason to go to his computer. But he did, clicked on his e-mail, typed in his password and found three ads he never read, a note from a student, and something from Breaking News.

Nothing from Carolyn. Again.

He went to a box he’d created for the eight e-mails she’d sent since leaving, same g-mail address. He opened the last, clicked on return, and a box popped opened, the cursor flickering top, left-hand corner, as if he had something to say.

He wanted to tell her what he’d found, wanted to describe what he’d seen out there in a barn on the river, wanted to tell her that no pilgrim should ever find her that way, so nameless, that what they’d been through was no reason for the story to end, wanted to say so much,

He’d told the coroner that he was sorry for taking her body down, but he just couldn’t let her there, nor anyone else. The old man said he understood, while behind him, the noose still hung like something immoveable.

Once, on a hunting trip in the Big Horns, with bull elks sounding their bellowing mating calls, Teddy had confided in a friend, told him everything about his wife’s death. When the man told him that life would go on, TR got fighting mad. “Don’t talk to me about ‘time will make a difference,’” he’d said. “Time will never change me.” The light had gone out of his life.

Two years later, after he’d spent some time in the hills, a place so remote, he once wrote, “that nowhere else does one feel so far off from all mankind,” he’d run for Mayor of New York City.

That too he had felt on Sabbath mornings, that very joy, so very far off from mankind.

He looked at his hands, his fingers wrinkling with age, white like a preacher’s. Spread them out over the keyboard. Something was working in him, he wanted to tell her, something was shaping him, changing him.

“I’ve moved to the edge of the plains,” he typed in. “There’s joy in all the openness, all the nothingness. There’s something here.” It didn’t matter if she didn’t understand. He had to tell her.

“You might just like it here,” he typed. “There are places I’ll show you where you can see forever.”

That was enough for now, he thought, and initialized the note.

But it wasn’t what was in him. He deleted his initials.

“I’m going to try to come get you,” he typed in the box. “Listen to me, Carolyn—wherever you are. I don’t care where. I’m coming to take you home.”

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