Time stretched and bent around her as she sat. She’d been sitting in this chair by the door for some time. She’d been sitting in this chair for a week, a week of just sitting in the chair, staring into space. It seemed like forever. It seemed like no time at all.
It seemed like she’d just moved here last summer, but it had been three years already. Three years of unrelenting hard work and fear. Fear of everything, it seemed. Fear of the dark. Fear of the new boar in the barn, 900 pounds of pure fury and a mean streak a mile wide, pacing, always pacing, looking for a weakness in his pen or a moment of inattention when he might get away with slashing at you with his yellow tusks, eight inches long, sharp as a saber. Fear of accidents and fire. Fear of running out of money. Fear of not having enough, not being enough, not getting enough done, always struggling to keep up with the endless chores, always something to do on a farm. Even in winter, when there wasn’t much outdoor work, there was always something, fixing stuff in the barn or the house, or building beehive frames. And for her, cooking and cleaning up, baking—homemade pies, nearly every day: blueberry pie with their own frozen blueberries, harvested from the back 40 with old-fashioned blueberry rakes; apple pie with apples from their orchard and stored in the root cellar; lemon meringue with homemade crust and meringue made with their own eggs, but with packaged lemon custard; so many pies—and of course caring for the animals. Boiling up potatoes for the pregnant sows so they could put more calories into growing their babies and less into keeping warm; hauling the potatoes, still steaming, out to the barn in five-gallon buckets that she’d have to hold up in the air at nearly shoulder height because she was so small and the snowbanks so high; chipping the ice off the water trough so the thirsty creatures could have a drink; finishing up with the milking, hauling the gallon buckets of milk back to the house, steam rising from the warm milk in the crisp morning air; going back out later to muck out the stalls. Hard work and fear, punctuated by the high drama of daily bickering and/or screaming matches, and/or stormy silences, punctuated too by the simply crazy shit like the Great Tragic Goose Slaughter.
Which was tragic, yes, but truth be told, she wasn’t really sorry the geese were gone. It was definitely not the way she would have chosen to get rid of them—though they did make for quite a feast at Easter—but she was not a big fan of geese anymore, not for a long time.
Oh, she’d thought they were absolutely adorable for about five minutes, when she met them for the very first time, wandering around the barnyard at Lindsay’s place, looking so peaceful, pastoral, and picturesque. Until they attacked her puppy when he jumped out of the back of the truck. Lindsay came after them with a pitchfork, and they scattered fast enough, but by this time the puppy had flattened himself under the car and it took twenty minutes and a handful of treats to coax him out again. Lindsay told her she should leave the dog at home—not the first or the last person to tell her that—but the puppy was so cute and he loved going for car rides, and really, what harm could he do, he was only six months old.
The only downside to losing the flock was the fact that one of the two lonely survivors was the fucking gander, who had developed an even fouler temperament than he’d already had, though she wouldn’t have believed this was possible. That damn bird had never had any respect for nor fear of anybody, but he’d had his harem to distract him. Now he was just pissed with everything and everybody, including the murdering dog, whose head he flew at every chance he got, hissing and honking and beating his wings until the poor dog didn’t know which way to turn. Not only that, but he’d begun to attack Sara herself, lying in wait for her when he knew her hands would be full so she couldn’t swat at him, like when she was coming out of the barn with a full milk bucket in each hand, or when she’d just gotten home and was getting something out of the back seat of the car. Then he’d rush over to her, bite the back of the knee hard and hang on, and then start humping her leg, leaving her trying to kick him off with her free leg or forcing her to put down whatever she was carrying so she could whack at him, hissing right back at him until he gave up. Tom thought this was hilarious. Sara was not amused.
As far as she was concerned, the only thing those geese were ever good for (except for a mighty fine Easter dinner) was that the flock made a better watchdog than the dog. Nobody, but nobody, could sneak up when those geese were around. As soon as a car paused at the foot of the driveway, one of them would notice—with a baker’s dozen of them, at least one was bound to—and of course, would have to tell the others. Then they’d all have to talk about it, raising such a hellish racket that even if you were playing Mick Jagger full blast in the barn while mucking out stalls, you could hear them.
And now, as she sat and stared into space, pondering time, she could hear the pathetic remnants of the flock, the nasty gander and his one remaining goose, sounding the alarm. Someone was coming. She vaguely wondered who it might be this time, if someone else would try to talk her into seeing a counsellor or at least going to the doctor for some antidepressants, or if maybe someone was just bringing some pie for the men because she sure as shit wasn’t baking for them anymore. She didn’t really care who it was, though.
She was much more interested in watching time eddy around her ankles, fluid, unstable, a collapsing wavefront of time, wide one moment and compressed the next, leaving her suspended in that weird state of dislocation where time is and is not, where she couldn’t tell whether seven days was a long time or no time at all, where time bends, stretches, collapses, ripples without warning. Watching time lapping at her feet. Lapping, lapping, at her feet, as she sat and sat and sat, in her chair, by the front door.
Photo credit: Copyright © 2018 Tunde Nemeth