The Beginning of the End

The old man is on the veranda before me. Although we are but feet apart, he cannot see me. I am afraid to confront the man and dare not let his gaze meet mine. I look through a torn seam on the drawn drapes that cover the window, careful not to disturb the frail, sun-bleached fabric. This place is a relic, a castle for the sculpture of flesh and bone beheld in my eye. Twenty years of blood, sweat and tears was the price for this home. He’s in his chair just off to the right, as always, swaying with the wind. They say life is short and the end is always near, but when the end is here, what else is left? Words no longer have meaning for him and he, he just lays his cold stare upon me whenever I am near, something that gives me the chills even on the warmest of days. He is impervious to pain, forever numb.

In the days of late his only comfort was the warm liquid embrace of a bottle. Barely able to walk in his drunken ecstasy, he was confined to the chair like a cripple. But for now he sits on the chair, rocking back and forth with the summer breeze. It utters a faint creak as it moves to and fro, as if the chair is weeping, but he doesn’t even seem to notice. The bottle that was once held proudly as his sole weapon to oblivion now lies on the ground before his feet, its contents as empty as the man towering above.

His hat sits low upon his brow, his face crimson with the August sun. The soul has fled this barren landscape stretching across the horizon, the red earth parched by the ever oppressive sun above. I keep quiet, like ol’ man on the veranda, for there is no longer anyone to talk to, only something to talk at. When there is nothing but time left, your pulse is an ever haunting reminder of your mortal insignificance. I understand that now, as I look upon him…sitting in that chair.

I often think back on that fateful day, it is engrained in my psyche permanently. As an old man now myself, I understand my ol’ man in the chair. Things didn’t have to be this way, but it is hard to erase the pain of the past. It isn’t all my fault, I never wanted to see Johan go like that. But the well was deep and I was afraid. So he went instead and…never came back up. The walls collapsed, it was a freak accident. We tried to dig him out, as hopeless as it seemed, but reality slowly sank in. He was dead, buried alive. With no water we were forced to let everything go. The crops withered and blew away, the livestock we didn’t slaughter died of starvation. Mother left this world not long after Johan and I was the living grim reaper in his eyes, the harbinger of death. He never laid a hand on me, but his eyes were those of pure hatred. A staunch catholic, he felt eternal damnation awaited us both and he welcomed it.

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