The old barn, with its rusty tin roof, has honeysuckles, wildflowers and vines climbing its twists.
It is so old , that when the wind blows, the tin roof peels backwards.
The old barn has an opening where two boards are missing at the top of the eve.
Sometimes, when the sun is shining two buzzards walk slowly from one end to the other end of the tin roof.
Sometimes, at night you can hear a barn owl screech.
While walking next to the old barn one day, it started raining. I heard the rain on the tin roof and looked up. And just then, one buzzard landed on a vine just below the eve. I stood still, watching. He walked up the vine slowly and stood at the entrance of the eve where the boards are missing. After getting his footing, he walked on in to the old barn! I didn't see when they came out. I'm believing they just made it home.
I wonder how many feet that tin has imprinted. And how many souls those eves have comforted from the rains. Even more so, the joy that has echoed through boards of time. How many eyes have seen the old barn for the gifts brought forth.
That old barn that sits on the ridge, basks in sun, weathers every storm, holds many unknowns, and alone the old barn is not. The security light shadows her and the dirt bleeds with her. The package may not be as in visioned by one, yet nonetheless, the gift God intended. She echoes the birds song in the early horizon, holds the heat of hours at dusk and breathes the hand that nailed. The old barn.
Cindy Lynne Webster
Photography ny Al Forbes
The next morning I woke up leant against an old oak tree. It was late September and I should have felt cold but instead I felt embraced and warm. Embraced I was, in Gai’s arms as he slept beside me. I moved slowly and silently as not to wake the sleeping man. As quietly as I could I started to walk deeper into the woods.
‘Where do you think you are going, Kip?’ I felt Gai’s hand grip tight into my shoulder, I hadn’t been quiet enough.
‘I’m leaving’ I said as matter-of-factly as possible.
‘Oh are you indeed’ Gai said gruffly. ‘And just how far do you think you’ll get with no money and no identity? Where are you going to live, Kip, and how?’
I stood rigidly still, looking at the fallen leaves on the ground, fighting the urge to cry. Gai was right; I had no way of proving who I was or earning a living. I felt Gai’s grip on my shoulder loosen and then his arm round my shoulder. ‘I was going to go to the coast and …’ I stammered.
‘Find a boat or something.’
‘And sail away to the mysterious lands in the stories you read?’
‘Something like that’
‘Let’s go home and get some tea, Kip. It’s easier to talk with a warm drink inside you and we need to let Arina know you are safe’
When we walked back into the house Arina grabbed a chair and stood on it. She then clipped my ear with her hand ‘Don’t you ever scare me like that again, you hear me?’ Gai went into the kitchen to make tea and hide the fact he was laughing at Arina as she climbed off the chair.
She proceeded to fuss me out onto the veranda and made sit at the table with Loban, whom she dismissed with a wave of her hand. Loban got up and went to his shed giving me that look men share when a woman is making too much of a fuss leaving me to deal with Arina’s cooing over me like a baby.
Gai came out with the tea tray and whispered to Arina and she left us saying ‘Yes you need to have a good talk boys’.
I looked at Gai as he poured the tea and feared the worst. ‘Am I in trouble, Gai?’
‘Not really, Kip. They were worried about you. They are worried about you.’
‘They understand you better than you do, Kip!’
We talked for a long time about the future, but at least I knew I had family now. ‘
© JG Farmer 2014
One blisteringly hot June day a new face appeared on the street. He walked with an easy swagger of one who is used to the good things in life. He held his nose high and his aura declared he was a force to be reckoned with.
Sharples watched the stranger from his vantage point on the shed roof of Number 8. Not that he was a nosy cat but he liked to keep an eye on the goings on. The shed roof was a perfect spot to do just that and to take a little nap now and then. He was always discreet and chose it mingle with the clematis that climbed freely over the roof affording a cat of distinction such as Sharples some shelter from the elements.
As he half-dozing, half-watching the pathway he saw the pretty little lady cat from number 18 taking her stroll. Her bluish-grey fur reflected delicately in the sun as she made her way. The stranger started to follow her.
She disappeared into the garden of number 4. The stranger followed her. Seconds later the little grey cat ran out of the gate her hair on end. Sharples jumped down beside her.
The stranger reappeared and the grey cat coiled behind Sharples. The stranger ignored Sharples and moved in on her. Her fur raised even further until she looked like a powder puff as a deep growl echoed from her throat. Her message was clear she wanted nothing to do with the new cat on the block.
Sharples moved between them and howled warningly at the stranger.
There was a brief scuffle of claws and teeth accompanied by the ear piecing wails and squeals. The grey cat ran to the safety of her garden.
Later the stranger was seen limping further down the path his gait a lot less arrogant than before. Sharples watched from the shed roof – he had done his duty.
And the lady cat was telling all she could of the brave warrior, Sharples.
© JG Farmer 2014
In the days before we escaped there was no such thing as hope. Each day was the same, yesterday blended in today and no one dared think of tomorrow. Here in a quiet suburb life was gentler and not a desperate scrap for survival. There was time to think, time to learn and time to observe. Most evenings I would sit out on the garden veranda with Arina doing homework or reading. She was sat in her rocking chair her knitting needles clicking as wool seemed to weave itself together.
Tonight we were sat out and Gai and Loban were chatting over beer in the garden. I was reading yet another book – Arina had noted that now I could read I was keeping the library in business with my constant demand for books. I sipped my soft drink and looked over at the two men. Maybe there was a sense of curiousness to my demeanour or maybe I sighed I don’t know.
I went back to my book and was soon engrossed. I did not notice Arina stop knitting and go into the house. I simply felt her touch my arm and hand me a bottle of beer. ‘You are coming of age, Kip’ she said ‘you need to start joining in their conversations.’ I wanted to do that. I wanted to show them I was old enough to be part of their world even if I was not educated enough.
I took the beer and muttered some sort of thank you. I did not move, however, and just sipped the sharp, bitter liquid. Gai caught my expression as I tasted the beer and burst into a deep belly laugh which earned him a scolding from Arina. I just ran inside to our room feeling ashamed.
I could hear them talking but refused to listen. Instead I started throwing my few possessions into a bag. I scribbled a note to Arina and left it on the table. I felt alone and dejected as I slipped silently out the door. I had no idea where I was going, but I was going anyway.
I had walked about 300 yards when I heard Arina scream. ‘You go find him right now.’ I assumed she was yelling at Gai and quickened my pace before cutting into a footpath through the fields. I heard Gai's feet crunch past on the street and I continued into the woods. They would be a good cover for the night.
© JG Farmer 2014
On a hot summer’s day there is little to be done. Leftovers from last night’s barbecue make an easy breakfast leaving plenty of morning hours to find the perfect shady spot.
A stroll through the town arboretum capturing the last coolness as the sun gets higher in the sky. There is even time to sit and watch a child with chubby legs feeding the overfed white ducks that loiter on the lake. Those ducks know they only have hang around at the water’s edge before a human will offer a meal of bread they bought from Tesco’s.
As the last crumbs scatter about on the floor for a babble of hungry sparrows it is time to climb up the manmade hill they call a rockery. Half way up is a bush covered in small yellow flowers. Beneath its outstretched limbs is the perfect spot to keep cool, doze or watch the madness as the sun worshipers from nearby offices eat their lunches stretched out on the finely manicured lawns.
From his cool sheltered spot on the hill, Sharples was more than content to leave the intense heat of the midday sun to the mad dogs and Englishmen that sprawled on the grass.
© JG Farmer 2014
The weeks passed and my twenty-first birthday was getting closer. It was now the first days of autumn and the trees and countryside were taking on the vibrant shades of fall. I had never got excited about my birthday before. I only knew it was October 3rd because they had told me. I did not really know if that was the day I was born or the day they took me from my mother. It was the day I had so it was close enough it would do.
I had walked home from school that day just so I could enjoy the autumnal colours. I wanted to make the most of the last days before the winter came. I wished Gai could have some time off work so we could sit under the changing trees and read poetry. I could read it for myself now. I could even read one of Loban’s newspapers and understand how tense the border situation was.
I walked past the old church. I didn’t believe in a god or salvation but I do remember how angry the folk of the township I had lived in had been angry when a similar building had been flattened by the system officials. I had been just eight years old when the matrons had marched us to the building and forced us to watch as first the priest and then his helpers had been executed with a gunshot to the back of the head.
I remember I felt sad but I did not cry. None of us had cried we were already conditioned not to show emotion. From my earliest memories I could associate crying with a beating for daring to show tears. Then later how the first time I cried with Gai and cowered as he raised his hand to reach out and comfort me. I remember how he had sworn loudly at the sky because he saw me cower.
I was still thinking about the past when I got home. Loban and Arina were out, I knew they would be as it was Friday and they always went out on Friday afternoons. I could hear the shower and knew it meant Gai was home. So I went into the bathroom and sat on the side of the bath watching him shower. Back in the old country showers were rare so we had shared when we could as water was expensive. It seemed normal to just sit and watch but my body was reacting in ways I did not understand. My senses told me it should not do that.
I left the bathroom silently and went into our room. Gai entered a few minutes later to find me curled on my sleep mat shaking with tears and fear. He must have noticed my presence in the bathroom as he sat beside me stroking my head. ‘You’re a man now, Kip;’ he said, ‘you got to work this one out yourself!’
All I could do was scream into my pillow.
© JG Farmer 2014
It was one of those winter evenings that bite at the throat with every breath. The clear night sky lit by a radiant moon sharpened the outlines of the houses on Craydon Street. The street itself was silent, with a haunted stillness that descends as people remain inside next to a roaring fire.
He was no different as he stretched out on the thick pile rug watching the flames dance and play in the grate. He felt his limbs absorbing the warmth. Oh the luxury of the sensation after walking the streets on such a bitter night. He stretched a little more – relishing every moment.
Life on the road was all very well most of the year. In fact, he enjoyed it. He loved meeting people as he made his way from place to place. In the winter there was not so much fun to be had. People did not have the time or inclination to stop and chat for a few minutes.
A few days ago he had been sitting on the front wall of the house at the end of the street when Mrs. Johnson had spotted him. ‘Hello fella!’ she had said. He played the game and shied away, watching her from a distance.
The next day she saw him again. This time he followed her for a few yards then shied away again. Each day he followed her a little bit more then shied away until she stood at the door of this house. She offered him a plate of food and he accepted.
Now just a day or two later Sharples looked around him as he stretched in front of the fire, his tongue kissing the last remains of cream from his lips. Yes, he had done very well to find Mrs. Johnson.
© JG Farmer 2014
That first walk on dry land was heavenly. The rocks were wet from the crashing foam whipped up by the storm as the jagged plank cruised in on a wave. Its passenger dismounted and leapt on to a higher rock that offered some refuge.
Further along the beach, Jones looked around to see if any of the family had made it to the shore. So far it seemed he was alone.
Jones, however, still went about building a fire from the deadwood he found on the beach. His wet butler’s apparel clinging to his skin squelched with every move. Even so he kept adjusting his clothes so as to make them somewhat presentable.
The fire had been burning a few minutes when Millicent was washed semi-conscious to the shore. Jones dragged her close to the fire using his now semi dry jacket as a blanket.
Millicent was the youngest daughter of his family. Now it was his duty to care for her. The beach seemed deserted and as Millicent came round she huddled close to Jones for warmth.
He watched them from the rock. He thought it better to keep his distance and probably safer too. He had got lucky finding a bit of wood to float him to the shore. He looked at the two castaways indeed that is what they want the world to believe they are.
Yes the storm had been a bad one and would cover their tracks. Millicent’s father would be claimed as lost at sea when the boat had crushed on to the rocks and not brutally murdered by his butler.
As Millicent tossed the cat into raging sea she had not expected him to survive. He, Sharples, would remember.
© JG Farmer 2014
Since our arrival Gai’s half-starved body had gained weight. He was now tall and muscular in physique, standing just short of six foot. The asylum officials had assigned him to work as a labourer at a recycling centre. The manual nature of his work had toned his body to a defined tightness that rippled every time he moved. It suited him.
They had taught Gai to drive the collection wagons, and most days he’d be waiting for me to return from a day at school so I could join him on the last run. How quickly times had changed. Yes the wagon was rough and ready but it was a vehicle with an engine. To me it was the epitome of luxury.
After his first week of work Gai received his first pay-check and handed me a crisp note. I had sat on the veranda just staring it for hours having only seen loose change before. Gai would see me and chuckle.
‘What you going to spend it on, Kip?’
The next day Gai took me into the town and helped me buy some clothes for school. Despite my being almost 21 the smart dress code still stood at school. Nonetheless I had bought my own clothing for the first time in my life. Gai also bought me a pair of blue denim jeans. Jeans, the subversive clothing that had always been illegal and I now had a pair. I remember seeing a young girl take a severe beating by the militia for just having pictures advertising Levi.
That evening we had sat by the river and with denim clinging to my legs I told Gai about that girl. As I spoke I felt the emotion of memory surge through me and I could not stop the tears flowing. I felt Gai’s arm tight on my shoulder and his soft voice comforting me.
‘Let it all out, Kip, let it go.’
© JG Farmer 2014