Hot, stifling air. A far-reaching, almost eerie silence. The sky: brilliantly blue, generously dotted with billowy “mashed potato” clouds.Replicas and visions from younger, happier days.
All of these had remained, helping to sustain him through the long, lost days. He had known only to well, the many faces of hunger and thirst. The nights, hardest of all to bear.
He stood slightly stooped; his back to the sun. Sweat clinging the coarse denim shirt against his gaunt, slender frame. In spite of the relentless heat he felt a chill, deep inside. Cold to the bone. No clothing or blanket would warm that space; his needy soul and tattered heart.
The long, gold and maroon train, once again picking up speed. He watched its departure with mixed emotions. Waving a farewell to no one in particular. Passengers peering out of the now dusty windows; grateful to be moving again. Leaving behind the flat, unforgiving Prairies as the Transcontinental continued on its regular run, due West.
Faded brown-striped grip in one hand, the heirloom 12 string in the other. The latter, his only treasured possession. Handmade so many years ago. Lovingly polished and preserved. Miraculously unscathed in spite of life’s bumps along the way.
Too many miles; too many alone. Late nights and bar fights. Cheap booze, poker games and words gone awry. County jails and letters,never mailed.
Familiarity: once shunned, often despised, now craved. The old room. The same old stories. How they would make for a welcome, much-overdue change.
He trudged the last five, long miles along the well-worn path. Almost as worn as his one pair of shoes.
There would be shade trees so high and cool clear water, back on the farm. The now “old” dog announcing his arrival, long before he would tap on the frame of the carved screen door. A warm welcome; wan smile? Her older but still beautiful face to greet him and hold him close? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Only to rest awhile. Not to look over his shoulder or “watch his back”. To slowly unclench his rough calloused hands. To sleep as if a young boy again, under the sun-dried handmade quilt, laid upon his single bed.
The green grass and greener pastures still to be found. But not now. Not for a while.
His bronze face relaxed. Looking up, he breathed deeply. The rays of sun reflecting a smile.
“The Homecoming” © 2008 Geraldine Helen Hartman. Revised 2015.
PS: I wrote and first posted this story back in 2008.It came to mind the other night, when I was watching a movie about another homecoming. As I have many new readers here at My Poetic Path, I thought it was worthy of an encore. ;-) I hope you enjoy it.
(Note: use of this photo was allowed when I downloaded it in 2008, but has since been disabled. My thanks to the photographer for an excellent image that I think complemented this story so well.