Toiling On: Billybuc Photo Challenge Edition 2
It's time for a second edition of Bill's photo challenge. Once again, he generously provided us with breathtaking photographs to inspire our muses. The following is my fictional short, and as you'll see, I strayed completely off the railroad tracks with this one. At first glance, the building set on a snowy mountain appeared to be a barn and for some reason, a story set in the plains came to me. Ha! I had a solid line and a fragmented skeleton in my mind, as well as a feeling I wanted to convey, but the meat of the story was difficult to pull out. So much so, that I almost turned this into a long, free verse poem -- something that is usually pretty easy for me to write. However, I didn't want to break the one actual rule of the challenge. Most of you know I'm passionate about fitness and there's a saying that I'm particularly fond of: if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. I think it applies to many areas of life and certainly in writing.
Thank you again, Bill, for taking the time to inspire us all.
Autumn fades to winter in a spectacular show of pomp and circumstance. Ancient trees stand proud, their leaves dance in the light breeze to the tune of birdsong until finally settling in their desired resting place. A sea of deep crimson, burnt orange, and brilliant yellow seems to wither and die within a moment's blink. Fields once filled with giant green stalks reaching to the heavens, now lay cold with just a hint of greenish-yellow life peeking out from the muddy white slosh.
And so it was, as it has always been.
The old man opens his eyes and gently taps the empty space beside him, a good morning greeting to his beloved, two years gone from this Earth. He slowly sits up and reaches for his spectacles, folded neatly on the small brown table. With a heavy sigh and stretch, he stands.
There's work to do.
After a pit stop and change of clothes, worn jeans and a thick red flannel, there's time enough for a few quick gulps of coffee. He sits and pulls on his old brown boots, reaches for his cap, and makes his way to the door.
97 years he's lived here and not much changes. The old oak tree next to the house still stands tall and as he slowly passes by, a memory of a broken arm back in the summer of '31 flashes through his mind. Further back, just beyond the snowy hill is the great pond, a summertime hot spot back in the day. Many memorable nights with his love come to mind as he makes his way to the barn.
The first signs of daylight arrive on the horizon and he pauses to take in the moment. He used to enjoy watching the sunrise: God painting the sky in rich, vibrant color, each morning a different masterpiece to behold. But it just isn't the same anymore. Everything is muted now, all the brilliant hues have transformed into various shades of gray, dull and weary, as if God himself felt the same tired ache deep in his bones.
The animals start to stir and he sets to work with his daily tasks: feeding the cattle, pigs, chickens, and horses; cleaning out the pens and replacing the bedding; tinkering with the old green Oliver; firing up the Deere to survey the property. Life on the farm never stops.
And so it is as it has always been.
Morning turns to afternoon, the sun high in the cobalt sky, trying to sell the illusion of a warm spring day. The frigid northeast wind quickly shatters any hope with reality. Bands of smoky gray clouds move in and fluffy white snowflakes start to fall, turning the whole area into a large snowglobe.
Still, the old man toils on.
Afternoon fades to night without warning. The old man slides the heavy barn door closed and slowly makes his way back to the house. A change of clothes and a microwave-heated can of soup later, he settles in for the night. Sitting in the worn, blue recliner, he opens his bible to read under the warm glow of the table lamp. The spirit of his beloved surrounds him, as she does each evening, offering a temporary comfort to mask the deep ache in his soul. There they'll stay until morning comes again and she calls him home.
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