August's Farm, conclusion
Before long, someone banged on the back door. When August opened it, Beverly Amos, not Darla Jenkins, stood there in the blizzard. Behind the pastor’s wife stood their son, Bill, holding a picnic cooler. They looked like Eskimos on a strange outing. “You gonna let us in the door, August?” Beverly shouted through the wind.
“Oh.” He ushered them in and watched, speechless, as they stomped snow off their boots. August noticed then that a tractor idled in his drive. “What in the world?”
“Arnie and Darlene will get here in a little bit,” she said. “But there was a bad wreck out on 80, and Darlene’s on call at the emergency room. Arnie’s still clearing the main streets in town.”
“They called you?”
Beverly smiled, taking off her coat and scarf. “Arnie’s my brother-in-law, remember?”
That’s the way it is in small towns out in the country. One person’s news is everyone’s news. And you never know who will end up helping you in the hour of need.
“Anyway, there’s enough food here for everybody. Where’s the baby and mama?” The question was just a formality; Beverly was already at the bedroom door. She opened it slowly and disappeared inside. Jay followed her.
That’s how it was for the next two hours, with the storm whooshing snow all around, while August and Bill enjoyed ham, potato casserole, green beans, fresh rolls, ginger-ale Jello with cherries, okra pickles, and Black Forest cake. And Beverly tending to Amy and the newborn, whom she reported was healthy as could be.
When Arnie and Darlene arrived on the snow plow, they walked into August’s little family room, finding the tree lit up and Christmas music on the radio, and food on the table, including the treats August had picked up in town. Sonny was lying in a contented circle in front of the heater, as if such celebration happened all the time around there. Darlene went to the bedroom, and the men could hear womanly coos wafting out the door.
“Can I see?” asked Bill, who was seventeen and had the look of someone just opening up his heart to the world and all its secrets.
August shrugged. “Don’t know why not. The women’ll shoo us out if they want to.”
So he and Bill and Arnie crept up to the bedroom door and peeked in.
August said to himself, many times in the years that followed, that the scene in his bedroom that night was about the most beautiful thing he’d ever pondered—with the exception of Millie walking up the aisle on their wedding day. There was Amy and the baby, all cuddled up and happy, and Jay leaning in, bright with pride and relief. And Darlene and Beverly sitting by, looking peaceful in the way women look only after they have lived awhile and suffered and discovered just how strong they are. And at the end of the bed August and Arnie and Bill stood reverently, like men who have learned that no matter how hard you work, some things are given to you absolutely free.
Suddenly, Darlene’s head came up and her eyes widened. “Where are those bells coming from?”
“What bells?” Beverly looked toward the curtained window. “The closest church is ours, and we don’t have any bells. Is it the T.V.?”
But they could hear a commercial for hearing aids coming from the family room. By then, the sound was clear, and close. August went to the window and opened the curtain. The light from the room shone outside, illuminating a large face. Darlene gasped.
August laughed. “It’s just Harry.” He slid up the window, and Harry poked his nose right in. Beside him, Moony stood and snorted, causing the cowbell to jangle.
“We left the barn door open when we carried Amy into the house. Harry always has to be where the action is, and this old cow just tagged along.”
Now both beastly heads were framed in the window. The wind had calmed, and the snow was falling lightly, dusting the sill and drifting into the room.
“Well, I think all of this is quite appropriate for a baby born on Christmas,” said Beverly. Then her eyes filled with tears, as did Darlene’s and Amy’s, and no one spoke for a long time. August cleared his throat because it ached a little the way a throat tends to ache when the heart is bursting with grief or with bliss.
This is the story of August’s farm, which is now well known in that community. Visitors who hear it, while grabbing a bite at Brownings before continuing on their journeys, will look at the storyteller as if this is local fiction, one of those tales that grow more fantastic with each telling. But August knows the truth of it, along with Beverly and Darlene, Arnie and Bill. And especially Amy and Jay, who send August a Christmas card every year, along with a picture of Emily, so he can see how much she’s grown and how wonderful she is.
August fixed up his house the spring after that special Christmas, and every holiday season he begins decorating just after Thanksgiving. He even strings lights on the barn, but the brightest spot for miles is his front porch and yard, where the walkway is lit so that no stranger will ever be mistaken again, about where the house is.
Harry died in his sleep one warm April night, but Moony still wanders the property, her new cowbell clanging its contented rhythm across the pasture or down to the pond or along the fence by the road or through the pecan grove. When the weather gets cold, August leads her to the barn every evening and makes sure the door is latched. Actually, Sonny rounds up the cow most days, nipping at her ankles until she heads the right direction. Moony moos in annoyance but obeys just the same.
Most people driving by would think that August’s place is just an old farm, empty of activity and aging in the sun and wind. But anyone who comes a bit closer, and pays attention, will sense that a miracle happened there one Christmas—and that in fact most days there are miraculous.
Copyright Vinita Hampton Wright © 2008