The Screen Door

lonelyThe weathered gray door hung askew; the many holes in its screen told of uselessness; the middle hinge was still at work with what the top hinge had accomplished—separation from the old house frame, though the screws in the top hinge still met some wood. It had hung there for a long time, a long time serving a need, letting in what needed to, and keeping out what best be kept outside. Now it squeaked from the small gusts of wind that sent in twisting on its hinges, perhaps asking if anyone was home, a silly thing to aspire to a lifeless door which no longer had purpose.

It had been some time since anyone had yanked that door wide open. Even as it shut now and again, resting from its battle with the breeze, it scarce stayed closed long enough to keep any mosquitoes out; its only effective job now to hang there and be the mocking cry to all of silence.

The bits of early autumn leaves, curled with the sun’s heat, and the tumbleweeds of disregarded things, in the dry dusty garden, moved like the misty smoke on the surface of a warm pond in the chill of early morning; no sound; and, as if in irritation, the breeze would stop and sit them down again. Such things a man would do when all that needed attention also needed repose.

The windswept barn, its doors wide open, splayed, incapable of any protection to what might live there, the worn wooden latch and the frayed piece of rope that held the slider in place, now hung loosely, most likely beyond fixing, a puzzle to anyone less familiar with old things; best forgotten. The stalls sat empty, the scent of who might live here was now a distant glow of sanctuary having been abandoned; the water buckets rested on their sides, empty; the swarms of flies settled on what remained of discard, nothing new to attract their attention. Two stall doors were beaten down as if something had wanted desperately to get out. There was blood mixed with the splinters of wood, not the blood of the prey to the predator, rather the blood of desperation. What had been here was now gone.

Not all though, some had still a ways to go. A couple of horses grazed in the lower pasture, their backs to the farmhouse; a few sheep kept their heads down, far from the old barn, to the right of where the two-track dirt road curved off into the distance, next to the river which gave what water they needed. There was no sign of hens or ducks. The tops of corn stalks in the upper field moved slightly; not likely the wind would move them in such a manner, perhaps the cows had made their way there.

This old farm was different that most; a sparsity of machinery here, save the old John Deere with more rust than green. It still ran, by the looks of it, and parts that never again would be attached for sewing or reaping lay sprawled about, the tall grass doing all it could to hide they even existed.

An old wagon wheel hung on one side of the barn, maybe a link to some other time; and down along where the rains would tumble from the roof during the summer rainstorms, links of old chains lay curled, for a purpose only who had put them there would understand.

It wasn’t time for harvest, nor was it time for planting. It was sometime south of where all the work was done, and the work yet to come was still a few paces north—an interlude of sorts. Not that anyone would come this far to look for anyone who entertained such notions.

Those he loved had long departed. The separation had not been done with any intention of ill will. Nor was it done with any particular grand exodus in mind; first one, and then another, and then, only he was there as the old screen door began pulling itself to be free of the house.

It was fair to say that hugs and laughter, waves and smiles, came with each exit, each small step to being alone. That part was lost to memory devouring memory. There came a time when he had no need to even recall their names. Still, he held on to a desperately needed recollection of love, and he watched the road each evening when his work was done, the seasons doing their best to end his vigil.

He was not an angry man, nor was he lost in some world where humanity was not needed. He was not too kind, too selfish, too brave, too lost, too anything, other than being what he was. He understood deeply that his ways were just that, his. He understood that all things must come to an end. A way of life is merely adopted. His mother and father, their parents before them, had passed that way of life onto him. His intention was nothing more than to pass it on, father to son, mother to daughter. That was not to be; and even in that he understood and accepted the reality of all things; there must be a last.

The old screen door slammed itself once more. This time the top screw fell out and landed on the porch, bounced once, and slid down a crack and out of sight.

Just a week or so ago when he had come inside to retire, he had marked his intend to fix that door, bring it back to as it once had been. Even from where he slept, the distraction was loud enough to wake him.

But that was before he let the door close behind him one last time.