The Silent Room – Chapter One

Eric and Marilyn were the perfect couple.  She was a raven haired beauty with ice blue eyes and a smile that could literally light up the room.  He was the traditional tall, dark and handsome.  He had black hair with sprinkles of silver that teased his temples.  Marilyn referred to his hazel eyes as “mood ring eyes” because of the way they changed color.  They had been described as “two beautiful people who belonged on top of a wedding cake.”

Marilyn was a doctor who specialized in emergency medical care and worked for a large, well-funded hospital. Eric was the CEO of a highly lucrative pharmaceutical company and a sometimes wannabe rock and roller.  Their professions had brought them together ten years earlier and as they say, the rest is history.

Although Eric was ten years Marilyns’ senior, they seemed to be soul mates in every sense of the word.  Two years after they married they had their only child, a daughter.  Marilyn named her Erica as an homage to her father.
Eric was a gentle, kind man who adored his wife and daughter.  Marilyn was clearly the center of his world and Erica was the light of his life.

When they were together, they were always hand in hand or arm in arm.  They seemed to want to always be touching each other.  Their friends used to say that if there had ever been two people who were made for each other, it was Eric and Marilyn.

Marilyn used to blot her lipstick onto a piece of paper and tuck it into Erics’ planner.  She would write on the paper, “where would you like for these lips to be?”
Eric was just as sensual.  When Erica had a sleep-over and he and Marilyn had a day off together, he would fix breakfast and serve it to her in bed, wearing nothing but a tie.

When Eric had one of his “gigs,” Marilyn was his loudest cheerleader.  After he finished playing, she would flirt with him and ask him to take her home, with the promise of doing things to him things that he would not soon forget.  She loved watching him play and seemed to be memorizing every line and curve of his face as he belted out the songs of Mick Jagger.

One large room in the basement of their house had been completely sound-proofed so that he and his fellow band members could practice without disturbing the neighborhood.
They weren’t a paid band but never passed up an opportunity to play at somebodys’ request.

When Eric suddenly started having nosebleeds, accompanied by flashes of light and sharp, stabbing pains in his head, he tried to hide it.  Marilyn suspected that something was wrong when he started snapping at her and Erica for no apparent reason, as that behavior was completely out of character for him.
After Marilyns’ consistent prodding, a much begrudged trip to the hospital revealed that Eric had a brain tumor.

Surgery was quickly performed and the prognosis was cautious optimism.  Marilyn knew what the odds of recurrence for that type of tumor were but she hoped that he was going to be one of the exceptions.

Two months had passed and Eric hadn’t yet returned to work nor had he returned to his music but he seemed to be recovering nicely.  Their anniversary was coming up and it had always been an anticipated celebration. Eric surprised Marilyn when he told her to get dressed because he was taking her dancing.  She asked him if he was sure he felt up to it.  He smiled and said “absolutely.”

He asked her to wear a certain red dress, which had always been one of his favorites.  They went to “their” place, the place where they had celebrated all of their anniversaries.  As they walked in, they could hear the band playing. Marilyn looked at Eric and wondered if he missed being able to play.

After they had a glass of wine, Eric took her hand and lifted her from her chair.  The dance floor cleared as they walked toward it.  Eric motioned to the band and Marilyn beamed as they started to play “Lady in Red.”
As they danced, they seemed to be lost in each others’ eyes.  Eric leaned over and whispered in her ear, “happy anniversary, darling.”  She smiled as she took his face in her hands and said “I want to thank you for giving me such a wonderful life.  Promise me that you’ll never leave me.” He hesitated for a moment and then said “I promise.”

Marilyns’ smile slowly faded as she watched blood trickle from Erics’ nose.

 

 

Facts About “The Find.”

Last night I got a call from one of my bloggy besties.  I knew what she was going to ask…”what were the four words?” The conversation ended with her calling me a “pain in the ass”…and not just once…but she did it with great affection. I won’t name names, but you know who you are, Deb.

Facts:

My grandparents did not have ten acres of land but my oldest daughter and her husband do.  It is a “long” property and is divided by a barbed wire fence.  Behind the fence is called “the back five.”

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The property that Loser will inherit as soon as Drunken Hines dies, is nestled in the mountains of South Carolina.  He always talked about building “our house” there after he retired.  I only visited the property twice.  He never bothered to tell me something about it until we were getting divorced.  That “something” was that the property has long been rumored to be “haunted.”
When I went the second and last time to help him cut up a log, he told me.  It was indeed eerie when I noticed that there were no birds flying around, no squirrels jumping from tree limbs and there were no mosquitoes.  That part of the story is true.

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My grandparents’ house really was in the mountains of North Carolina.  The description of every single room in their house is accurate.  The description of the outhouse is accurate.  The reference to my pet lizard, regretfully, is true.

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As soon as my mama paid off her house, she gave it to my oldest sister with the caveat that she could still live there. After years of neglect, the roof started leaking, the plumbing was clogged and some beams outside were rotting.  My sister called me and asked if I could help.  I told her that I could most likely fix everything that was wrong and for her to get the supplies and have her son take them to the house.  I told her I would drive up that weekend to get started.  She asked me who was going to pay for the supplies.  When I said “you,” she said she didn’t have any money.  I told her that I didn’t have any either.  She said “but (Loser) does.”  When I asked her if she really expected Loser to pay for the repairs of a house that she owned, she said “it would be for mama.”  Ummm….no.

After I refused, she decided to sell the house so I bought it.  Mama moved into a building that had been converted to apartments for old people on a fixed income.  From a window in her apartment, her house could be seen.  I have always hoped that she didn’t know.

The house had a basement that my daddy had literally dug with a shovel.  The washing machine and dryer were down there so one day while I was doing laundry, I decided to explore.  There was an area under the front porch that hadn’t been completely dug out.  I crawled on top of the dirt and found a shoe.  The more I dug, the more shoes I found.  I found twenty-eight shoes…all different styles and sizes.

The part of the story about a “shoe graveyard” under the house is true.

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The “stone” has great meaning.  That meaning is and will forever be known only to me.

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I will never reveal the four words.

 

 

 

The Find – Part Four

She was confused by the find and decided not to visit the back five the next day, nor the day after.  The stone and its meaning haunted her and she found herself writing the words down…over and over.  The words left her with an almost overwhelming sense of sorrow and they struck her through.  They were just words but they were the saddest words she had ever heard.
Somebody put that stone there.  Somebody wanted the words to be read.  Somebody wanted to be remembered…but some things are just lost to time and to history.

She never revisited the back five.

Ten years later, the state decided to build a highway to help ease congestion between two large cities and her land was right in the middle of the proposed site.  The state offered her a paltry sum for her property, which she ultimately accepted because she knew that if she didn’t, the law of eminent domain would just take it.
She was old and sick and didn’t have any fight left in her.

She moved into a building which had been converted into apartments for the elderly who were on a fixed income. She hated it and had few comforts but there was no other option.

She spent hours looking out the window of what she felt was her prison.  She could see her beloved mountains in the distance and often cried.  A few months after she moved in, she had to be hospitalized.
When asked about next of kin, she declined to give any names.  She had spent the last years of her life alone and thought it was just as well that she die alone.

The day they bulldozed Farthington to the ground, she died.  She was clutching a piece of paper in her hand, on which she had written the same four words that had been carved into the stone.  The nurse who read the words, wept.

Construction was progressing on schedule but when the workers reached the back five, the foreman was called to a particular spot.  When he arrived, the workers showed him a partially buried stone.  He wiped away the dirt and leaves and just stared for a minute.
He radioed his boss and said “we might have a problem here.”  The boss asked what kind of problem and the foreman said “I think we may have a cemetery.”

The boss came to the location and the foreman showed him the stone.  He said “I guess we had better get the GPR up here and see what we’ve got.”  After hours of imagining the ground, nothing was found so the go ahead was given to continue clearing the land.  The foreman asked the boss what he wanted him to do about the stone.  The boss said “we are under no legal obligation to do anything but I’ll leave that up to you.”

The foreman looked at the stone again and read the words.  He wondered who had put it there.  He wondered how long it had been there.  He bent down and traced the letters with his finger and gently patted the stone before he stood up.

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Five years later, a father and his son were walking through the woods that flanked the newly constructed highway. They were on their first hunting trip together.  As they crouched down trying not to be seen by any deer, the son noticed the corner of what looked like a marble stone that was partially buried.

 

La Fin.

 

 

The Find – Part Three

After she made it back to the house, she decided that she was going to devote at least two or three hours every day to the back five.  She wanted to feel like it belonged to her and she belonged to it.

The next morning when she walked out of the back door, she was delighted but at the same time puzzled when she saw an unkindness of Ravens sitting on the old clothesline.  She was hoping it was a good sign.
A Raven, to her, was one of the most beautiful birds she had ever seen.  She admired their exceptional intelligence.  A brief glimpse was all she got as they suddenly flew away as if startled by something.

When she made it to the back five, she gently touched the tree trunks as she made her way through the maze of leaves and fallen limbs.  She knew it would take weeks to explore the land but she was determined.

Every day she went but she never found a trace of anything that would suggest a structure of any kind had ever stood on the land.  There were no remnants of an old chimney.  There were no rotted pieces of lumber.  There were no shards of broken glass.  There wasn’t even a piece of trash that might have found its way there after a ride on the wind.

One day as she turned to head back to the house, she stumbled.  She thought she must have caught a tree root but on further inspection, she realized that it was an old stone.  Carefully, she swept away some leaves with her hand and discovered that it was a piece of marble which was almost completely buried.
A small group of Forget-Me-Nots’ were growing next to the stone.  “How curious” she thought.  There were no other flowers on the entire back five, yet here were these unimpressive flowers with an unforgettable name, growing next to a stone.

She was excited with the find but dusk was setting in and trying to uncover it would have to wait until the next morning.

At daybreak, armed with a whisk broom and a shovel, she made her way to the back five.  She carefully scooped the dirt from one end of the stone until letters started to emerge, one at a time.  The stone had deteriorated badly. Uncovering the rest would have been quicker if she used the shovel but when she picked it up, a wave of sadness suddenly gripped her.  She momentarily felt that if she pierced the land with the shovel, it would cry out.

She had walked through many cemeteries in her life and she knew what old tombstones looked like.  She knew what the ravages of time and the elements did to them.  She knew that this wasn’t a tombstone.  She also knew that this stone was far too old to have been placed there by her grandparents.  But did they know it was there?  Was that the reason her grandpa never went to the back five?  Was that the reason she was never allowed to go to the back five?

There were so many questions and she wasn’t sure if there were going to be any answers.

It took hours but she finally uncovered the stone and all the letters were revealed.  She sat there as if hypnotized. What did it mean?  How did it get there?  How long had it been there?  Was she the one who was meant to find it?

As she looked at the stone, she suddenly became acutely aware that during the past months, she had never heard any sounds on the back five.
She had never seen a bird or heard one singing.  She had never seen a squirrel or heard one chattering.  She had never seen a spider web, nor any critters crawling on the ground.  She had never even had to swat a mosquito.

She reverently traced each letter with her fingers as she sat and listened to the sounds of silence.

 

To be continued…………………….

 

 

 

 

 

The Find – Part Two

Farthington was slowly coming back to life.  She worked for weeks, dusting and cleaning and for the first time in many years, she felt as if she was “at home.”

She decided to leave the original light fixtures which were a simple pull chain light bulb in the center of the ceiling. As a little girl, she used to swat them back and forth and would occasionally pull the strings too hard and break them off. Her grandpa would get after her but he never raised his voice.

A door off of the kitchen led to the basement.  It was dark and musty and there were no walls.  It was sort of just a hole under the house.  She decided to go down there and she found the usual things, which were old doors, broken rocking chairs and shards of flower pots.

She thought she saw what looked like a shoe that had been buried.  When she uncovered it, she was surprised to find that it was indeed a childs’ shoe but she didn’t recognize it as one of hers.  The more she dug, the more shoes she found.  There were different styles and different sizes.  She was fascinated.
Why was there a shoe graveyard under her grandparents’ house and who did they belong to?  Altogether, she found twenty-eight shoes and none of them were pairs.  Maybe that’s what folks did back then.  When you lost a shoe, you just buried the mate in your basement.  Although intrigued by the shoes, clearing the land was beckoning.

The grounds were completely overgrown with weeds and vines.  One of the few things she had brought from her previous life was her John Deere riding lawn mower, which she had named “Doe.”  Her children used to laugh at her when she referred to it as “Doe the Deere, the female Deere.”  Even with Doe, she had a daunting task ahead.

She started by clearing a path to the old outhouse, which still stood.  As she reached it, she paused and thought about how many times she had trekked up that path.  The door with the crescent moon cut into it, looked like a sideways smile, saying “I know why you’re here.”

When she opened the door, she saw the bench with the hole cut into it and she was surprised to find the remnants of an old telephone book which had been used for wiping.
Outside, she found rusted snuff cans that had belonged to her grandpa and old glass medicine bottles that ranged in color from clear to amber.  The labels had long since worn off and she wondered what magic elixirs they might have held.

Having cleared the way to the outhouse, it was time to clear a path to the shed.  The shed was where her grandpa kept all of his tools.  He had built it himself when he was a young man.  What would she find inside?  As she opened the large double door, just one brief glimpse reflected what an organized, meticulous man her grandpa had been. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.

As she walked in, she immediately noticed something in the corner.  It was the old dinner bell that grandma used to ring to let grandpa know that supper was ready.  The last vestiges of red paint still clung to its sides.  Sometimes she got to ring it but now and then, she would get carried away.  Her grandma would come out and say “we’re going to have every cow from the next county straggling over here, thinking they’re going to get fed if you don’t stop ringing that bell.”

She marveled as she took stock of all the tools.  There were hand saws, chisels, screwdrivers, pliers and every conceivable size of nails.  There were claw-hammers, sledge hammers, ball-peen hammers and mallets.
A wooden barrel housed rakes, shovels and hoes but what caught her eye was a scythe.  She could make quick haste of the weeds with that, she thought.

Day after day, week after week, she worked clearing the land until she made it to the “back five.”  Her grandpa had always referred to his land as the “front five” and the “back five.”
She had never been allowed to go on the back five and she had never seen her grandpa go there.  When she asked him why she couldn’t go, he cupped her chin with his hand and said “some land just needs to belong to nature.”

A barbed-wire fence divided the fives but her grandpa had never put in a gate.  Her curiosity was peaked and not having a gate was no deterrent.  Being somewhat resourceful, she got two of her grandpas’ wooden step-ladders out of the shed.  She placed one against a post and carefully lowered the other across the fence.  An old blanket covered the barbed-wire and she traversed the fence with ease.

Even though she now owned the land, as soon as she stepped onto the ground, she suddenly felt as if she was trespassing.  She tried to dismiss the feeling and started walking, although she still felt uneasy.  Every few steps, she would glance backward so as to not lose sight of the fence.  After all, she had never been on that side before.

The land was full of tall trees and they had obviously been there for many years.  They formed a sort of canopy that only allowed the tiniest bit of sun to peep through, which made the ground below look as if it had been sprinkled with fireflies.

 

 

 

 

The Find – Chapter One

When her grandparents died, they bequeathed their farm to her.  Ten acres, nestled in the mountains of North Carolina and far from the beaten path of civilization.  She had spent her early childhood there and remembered happy times.

After finally getting out of an abusive, almost life-long marriage, she decided to uproot and leave the world she had always known behind her.  She needed something to occupy her thoughts and her time.

After having been a companion and a mother for more than forty years, she was now alone and on her own but she was also free to do anything she wanted.

When she got to the farm, it was like taking a step back in time.  Peaceful feelings wrapped around her as she walked into the house.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  It smelled like old people and old things.

The front room furniture was just as it had been for the last forty years.  The burgundy sofa where her grandpa sat and wrote in his little book was still at rest as were all the other pieces, with the exception of a turquoise recliner that her grandma love to sit in.

A smile came to her face when she looked at the wall and saw a picture she had painted when she was twenty-one years old.  The picture of her great-grandfather still hung in its mahogany, oval frame.  As she looked at it, she could almost hear her grandma telling her grandpa that she had dreamed she saw her daddy the night before.  There was an air of excitement in her voice when she told him because she had never seen her daddy.

The oil-fired furnace stood squarely in front of the fireplace and had been the only source of heat.  Grief came over her for a moment when she remembered her pet lizard.  It got brutally cold in the mountains and she was worried that her lizard would freeze if she left him in her room so she put him on top of the furnace.  It was a hard lesson to learn at the tender age of eight.

She moved from room to room and smiled as the floors creaked with each step.  Nostalgia seemed to be hovering in every corner.  Her grandma and grandpas’ room was straight off the front room.  Their bed was covered with a quilt, made from her grandpas’ old shirts and overalls.  Her grandmas’ hairbrush and a jar of Ponds’ Cold Cream still sat on the dresser.
It was in that dresser that she had found her grandpas’ gun when she was “knee-high to a grasshopper” as her grandma used to say.  She remembered that she was trying to pull the trigger when her grandpa caught her. He looked at her sternly and said “you mustn’t ever touch this again.”

Years later when she was grown and thought about finding that gun, she figured the angels must have been in the room with her that day.

The room where she stayed was in the very back of the house and slanted down toward the yard.  She sat on the brass bed she always slept in as a girl and heard the familiar squeak of the springs.  Her youthful self was revived for a moment as she bounced up and down.
She could almost hear the windows rattling, the way they did when the cold winter winds arrived.  She ran her fingers along the sill where the snow used to tease its way inside.  The walls in “her” room had been covered with newspapers.  There was no money for real wallpaper and they helped cover the cracks.

Her grandmothers’ Singer treadle sewing machine still sat in the corner.  She remembered how many times she watched her grandma sitting in front of it, with her feet dancing back and forth as the machine patched the rips in her grandpas’ pants.

In the kitchen, the old wood stove was still there.  Her grandma had cooked all the meals on that stove, including oatmeal every single morning.  She knew she would never be able to figure out how to cook on it and momentarily toyed with the idea of selling it.  It would probably command a pretty penny but it was her grandmas’ stove and to her, memories meant more than money.

The plastic curtains still hung over the windows.  How her grandma had coveted real cloth curtains but there were other things that were more important and money was tight.  The old meat grinder was attached to the corner of the table and the bucket that held grease drippings sat beside it.  The farm sink which looked so huge when she was little still had the brightly colored skirt her grandma had made to hide the plumbing.

Just off the kitchen was the enclosed back porch.  Her grandmas’ washboard and tub were poised on top of an old stool, as if waiting to be used.  A homemade bag, bulging with clothespins hung from a nail just above them.  Neatly folded in a basket were three of her grandmas’ aprons and a pair of her grandpas’ long johns.

Walking into the bathroom brought back a flood of memories.  She was there when her daddy helped her grandpa install their first indoor “necessary room.”  That’s what her grandpa used to call the outhouse.
While her daddy and grandpa were putting the finishing touches on the new bathroom, her grandma stood in the doorway and watched with wide eyes, like a child getting a first glimpse of presents on Christmas morning.  It was the first time in their sixty-plus years of life they had ever had an indoor toilet.

The old pedestal sink and claw foot bathtub had the same old timey fixtures, which had long since rusted.  She smiled as she turned the handles and although they squeaked like an out of tune flute, they were still functional.

As she walked back into the front room, she thought “I need to name this place.”  For some reason the word “Farthington” came to mind.  She knew that her grandpas’ ancestors were originally from England and she also knew that her grandpa had a treasured farthing that had belonged to his papa.

Their last name ended with “ton” so Farthington was, she thought, perfect.