August's Farm, Part 3 of 5
On December 22, August went to town again and bought dog food for Sonny and some treats for himself—some German cookies covered in powdered sugar, some frosted cookies shaped like snowmen and Santa Clause, a summer sausage from Schiff’s meat counter, cherry chocolates, and peppermint ice cream. That evening, he and Sonny watched movies on the television, the living room aglow with candles and tree lights.
The next day, pastor Amos, from August’s church, came out for a visit. “Just wanted to make sure you’re okay out here,” said the man, whose voice was as warm as his handshake. “There’s a bad storm coming—you got everything you need? Would you like to spend the holiday with our family? We’ve got plenty of room and would love to have you.”
August had received this invitation before, and it had never crossed his mind to accept. He was fine, just as he was. But this year he felt a little more alive, and he was tempted to go to the pastor’s home and spend some time with people. Only now he had a cow and a dog, not to mention old Harry, and he didn’t want to get stranded somewhere by the weather and be unable to tend them.
“If weather permits, August,” said pastor Amos, “someone will come out in a day or two—my wife will want to send you an entire dinner, as usual.”
August smiled. Mrs. Amos cooked a fine holiday dinner. Her pecan pies didn’t stand up to Millie’s, but she couldn’t be blamed for that.
When Pastor Amos left, August noticed that the light on his front porch had burnt out. The yard light, on its post out in the driveway, hadn’t worked for about two years. August knew every step of his place, and he had nothing to steal so didn’t worry about having lights for security. As the pastor’s truck made its careful way to the end of the long drive, August realized that the whole house was but a dark gap in the white atmosphere. He could barely see down the road to the other drive that led directly to the barn. There, the lamps inside caused a yellow glow in the middle of the landscape, where their illumination escaped from the small window.
On Christmas Eve, the weather took a turn for the worse: freezing rain, then hail more than an inch deep, then a heavy blowing snow that stung the skin and latched onto every surface, piling in massive drifts and filling the road to August’s old farm. No one would be coming with Christmas dinner any time soon. He would spend the holiday in startling white, cold solitude. He walked out to the barn with some difficulty, fending off wind and ice, and made sure Harry and Moony were comfortable and had plenty of food and water. Jan and Till observed from their perch, their feathers ruffled so much that they looked like puff balls with eyes.
That evening, August couldn’t sleep for the wind howling across the land and around his house. Sonny lay across the man’s feet, while August sat in his favorite chair and stared into the Christmas tree. He was overwhelmed by the feeling of being there in his house with his dog, and that the colored lights and the little nativity were merely extensions of himself. The whole room was him, and the chilly land outside was him, too. August couldn’t separate himself from his home and all that had occurred there through the years.
He felt something else, too. Millie was there in the room and the lights, not in a spooky, ghostly way, but as a part of him that could not be taken away. Right here, the two of them enjoyed the glow of the tree. They breathed the air of the room and created a warm place in the midst of the winter gale.
In other words, August felt the completeness of himself and the fullness of his life, there in the weather-beaten farmhouse, on his barren land, in the company of just himself and Sonny, and Moony and Harry out in the barn, and even Jan and Till the doves. This was an odd sort of happiness, but August didn’t try to understand it. He dozed off at around midnight, too settled and content to get out of his chair.
Copyright © 2008 Vinita Hampton Wright