John is a poet and short fiction writer who enjoys collaborating on stories with other writers, and partaking in challenges.
Bill Holland's (billybuc) Challenge
Cutting a long story short, Bill was asked by fellow hubber and friend Shauna Bowling (Bravewarrior) if he would bring back the photo prompt challenges that he used to provide other creative writers from time to time.
Bill can't say "no" to a lady, and therefore did the gentlemanly thing and did exactly what asked. Bill provided the photos, and the instructions were basically this:
"The pictures must be used in the order that they appear, from top to bottom.
Each story must be a minimum of 1000 words in length.
Each scene must be described, in some way, in your story, and, as mentioned earlier, they must be used in the order they appear."
The story that follows called "Coming Home" is my response to the challenge. It is 1028 words. I had to rework it a bit to reach the required word count but pleased I did as I think it improved it. I hope you enjoy my story.
A wooden sign read “BROYLES CEMETERY.”
The small private graveyard felt strangely welcoming. The forest just seemed to open into a lovely clearing. It was a little unkempt but this made it feel less morbid and more like a field as beautiful wildflowers poked their pretty heads above the long grass.
A couple of graves were simply marked by small plaques with the names “Samuel A Broyles”, and “David John Broyles” and the dates born and died. These seemed rather basic tributes to the life and death of those now rotting beneath them, and were easily missed on first entering the graveyard. Why were these two of my ancestors less worthy than the person buried beneath the solitary large headstone that had immediately caught my eye?
I pushed these thoughts aside as I approached the large headstone and read the inscription:
NANCY J BROYLES
Born July 3 1828
Died Feb 18 1910
This was, however, the grave I had specifically come here to see. This was where my great great grandmother lay. She was by all accounts the true matriarch of the family. Perhaps that explains the extra significance seemingly bestowed on her in death. In my 67 years this was the first time I had been here. In fact I didn’t even know this graveyard existed until I had begun to research my family history some six months ago.
Since that discovery, I had been overcome by a pressing urge to visit this place and see where my ancestors (at least on the Broyles’ side) lived and died, first hand. I say “lived” because the cemetery was connected by a short gravel road to a farm that the family-owned and called home as they worked the land.
Leaving the graveyard I drove slowly along the lonely road shaded by a beautiful canopy of trees. Though gravel, the road was in surprisingly good order and I wondered if the farmhouse and buildings would have been maintained as well. I’m not even supposed to be driving but what’s the worst that could happen, they arrest me or take my licence? I don’t even have one, I chuckle to myself.
Now, once again in open countryside I soon passed the old barn with its rusted roof, the machinery shed, and the silo used for storing whatever grain crop that was harvested here and that provided a living for the families who worked this land. I wondered if they ran cattle, sheep or some other type of farm animal, and Imagined what a wonderful place it would have been for children growing up.
My grandmother actually spent her childhood here before her father died in a tractor accident and there was no one left to successfully run the farm. Her mother was left to raise three small children on her own. The eldest two could help with the odd chore around the house, but none were old enough to effectively help with the rigors of farm work.
Reluctantly, the farm was sold and the family subsequently moved into town to be closer to other relatives and to make life easier. What happened to the property from that time on I don’t know. Possibly, it changed hands more than once over the years, but now it was abandoned and had recently been listed “FOR SALE.” This was another reason for me coming here.
I soon arrived at the old weatherboard farmhouse, which was also in a state of some disrepair, though still standing and appearing not beyond restoration. Stepping out of the car I made my way to the front door, using the key I had obtained from the Real Estate Agent to open it.
My eyes roamed around the entry room. The house still contained most of the furniture. Original? Probably not, but old and possibly antique all the same. As was the case with most abandoned buildings countless spiders had made themselves a home, and webs and dust covered most of the interior.
After strolling through the downstairs rooms I felt a little faint and gripped the banister to steady myself before slowly making my way up the rickety staircase to check out the upper bedrooms. This effort took a lot out of me so I eased myself down into an inviting old rocking chair situated in what appeared to be the main bedroom.
Even though in today’s age of increased longevity I wouldn’t normally be considered “old” I lack the energy I once had. Cancer is a fickle fiend who cares not about age or circumstance. I have always hated the word, “terminal,” unless it is to do with cabs or buses. I smiled at my own little piece of humour. Believe me I have already spent enough time feeling sorry for myself, so now I was trying to see the funny side of life.. and the alternative.
As I relax here, rocking gently, I am reflecting on many things and, taking out my journal, I write what you are reading now.
My name is Nancy Jane Stanton (maiden name Broyles.) I was married to a fine man Frederick John Stanton for 35 years but am now widowed. As you would have now guessed I was named after my great great grandmother. Coincidentally or not, today, February 18, 2010 is exactly 100 years since my dear ancestor passed from this life.
I jangle the keys to my house, the one I had just purchased. Happy memories and pleasant scenes are invading my mind as I recline. Closing my eyes for a moment I see a lake, clear, beautiful and serene. Somewhere I’d been before and loved - maybe as a child. My thoughts are becoming jumbled and vague - blending into each other.
I have a daughter..what’s her name? Sarah, yes, that’s it. I hope she likes this farm. It will be a good place to bring up kids, I think…
…I’ve finally come home… to die.
© 2020 John Hansen