Friday, September 16, 2011

Big Ben

Big Ben paused at the wooden fence surrounding his pasture. The bright westerly sun made him squint as he gazed over the fields to where his cattle were grazing. A few were still lingering at the pond, which shone at dusk like a large round mirror lying golden bright in the grassy field. He thought of his wife and of the times she spent making those final touches to her hair in her hand mirror. She never knew how really beautiful he thought she was. Now she was gone.

He waved his hand through a swarm of gnats that had gathered around his eyes. He made certain the pasture gate was secured and then he turned his slow steps toward the house.

He was still not used to the silence that now resided in his home. It greeted him like a spectre when he opened the door. Strange the contrast was between the serene and open farmland outside and the stark grim enclosure where he spent his evenings. He reached out to the radio as to a lifeline. A voice, any voice would do. And tonight it would be The Detective Hour. Silver Fox, private eye, was on the trail of yet another murder suspect. He stared at his meal of leftover stew there in his bowl slowly growing cold. He abruptly reached to shut off the radio and walked over to the window. His strong jaw was clenching and unclenching. The pond reflected the delicate crescent moon in its glassy waters.

He found himself emerging from the interior stifling silence into the soft cool breathings of the night. All the world seemed hushed, but yet not silent. Reaching his ears like music were the night choruses of crickets and toads. He paused to listen, and to remember.

He then approached his overturned wooden dory at the water’s edge and righted it. It made an audible splash which seemed to startle the toads into a moment of silence. His bare white feet stepped into the cool water and down into the soft muddy bottom. Bringing the boat behind him, he lowered down his hefty frame which caused the vessel to lunge towards the middle of the pond, heaving waves out ahead which shone white in the scattered moonlight. But Ben settled softly into peaceful repose, lying prone as if in an open casket, hands folded, gazing at the starry spectacle above.

The heavens seemed in motion as he drifted. How beautiful the stars are, he thought. Like sparkling teardrops suspended in the air, refusing to fall. And in such marvelous array. Ben understood how the ancients could see shapes in the stars they beheld every night. He thought of the nighttime faces he saw as a boy, gazing down at him from the smudged ceiling above his bed. Now he fancied he could make out Clara looking down at him with her sparkling eyes. The heavenly lights blended together as tears filled his own aged eyes. Too weary the days seemed now, and too lonely the nights. But there alone, and despite the hard bed he had made, Ben’s eyelids weighed heavy and he slipped away into slumber, nudged in his dreams by little waves through the night.

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