He stood still in the hay field for a moment, not trusting his ears. Everything he heard now was suspect. The same went with his vision. Nothing was as it should be anymore. Degeneration of, well, everything was upon him.
He thought he heard it once again and decided it may be worth checking out. He was standing by the stalled tractor in the six acres of the hay field. The swather, sitting uselessly behind him, couldn’t work unless something was actually pulling it. He had been fixing it long enough that the field dust had already settled. Now, with the chirping of the telephone beckoning him, he had an excuse to get the tools from the barn. He stood up slowly, not wanting to strain his back out of place. It was difficult to admit the loss of youth at first, but after acceptance, he continued on the best he could.
His neighbors checked up on him, slyly they thought. He knew they were worried about him being all alone on the farm. He graciously accepted the casseroles and pies and invitations to the after-harvest barbeques. He wasn’t a curmudgeon, but farming takes a lot of work and farming was all that he knew to do.
His thick fingers securely twisted the nut so he wouldn’t lose it. He turned toward the barn, one steady foot in front of the other. At least he had already swathed the area he had to walk through. The weight of the last five years had hunched his shoulders forward a little more than before and he was glad he only had a few hundred yards.
The phone chirped again. He didn’t walk any faster; he was pretty content with the answering machine taking over and he would return the call if it was important. That would wait, too, because there was a phone in the barn which was quite a bit closer than the house. If it happened that it was still ringing when he was in the barn, then he would answer that one. Especially since she died three years before. His love and his motivation for life had left him after two years of prayers, medicine, and together beating the doctor’s prognosis time and time again. She finally succumbed to death. All he could do was stand helplessly by, wishing for a little more time just to be with her. He felt deep down that it was one of those forever moments. He had been ready to say goodbye, yet knew no one could truly be ready for such things.
It used to drive her crazy when he used the barn phone so much. Still, it was also easier to call each other for the little needs they had shared together. Supper was ready. Do you know where this or that is? I’m ready to go, are you? Even though he could do whatever he wanted now, it didn’t change his habits. He still used the barn phone and still wished he could hear her voice coming from the house phone.
And then he did. He fumbled the phone at first when he thought he was mis-hearing it, but once he was able to clear the clouds out of his thoughts, he called out her name.
And then, nothing. In this world, the old, lonely farmer was gone. Yet he knew that it wouldn’t ever be gone, just different.