The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
Benson was dialing the police again.
"The geese are on my steps, Milton."
"Yes, I guessed they were."
"They are leaving big piles all over my frozen steps, and I
cant even wash it off with the hose this time of year."
Hayes, police officer and zoning enforcer, promised Edie they would
be out just as soon as they could, given the weather, finished his
last gulp of Folgers coffee, and made a stop in the restroom before
putting on his heavy winter jacket. He would need to warm the cruiser
since it was twelve below, and he used the time to radio his best
friend, George McKenny, and ask him to meet at the Pearson farm.
Photo: © Sam North
barn and a small white clapboard outbuilding were all that was left
on the land. The Pearson farmhouse had been a casualty in the string
of arsons that had tormented the county four years back. Luckily, old
Mrs. Pearson had been at the eye doctor having her cataracts removed
when the fire struck. Although she had been spared combusting with all
her worldly goods that November day, the townspeople said it would have
been kinder if the Lord had taken her to heaven with the house like
a burnt offering, that even a fiery death would have been preferable
to later finding Mrs. Pearson frozen in her nightgown on the spot where
she was born, had birthed her own daughter, Mildred, and returned to
The nurses at the home theorized on how Emma had managed to sneak out
and make it back to her homestead, a full five miles away, despite the
arthritis in her knees, but more importantly, that fact that her vision
had never fully returned after the operation.
Perhaps she had hitched a ride, some theorized, or maybe she had managed
to stumble back with the help of some instinctual and recently activated
homing center in her brain, the same way lobsters will crawl toward
sea if they are taken miles inland.
The magnetic forces of the universe had steered the Pearsons to this
particular spot, and now Milton and George were there, shivering under
the full moon.
"Better get in the barn, George. That wind chill puts it close
to negative 20."
Milton sparked a Coleman lantern.
"Sure is a lot of stuff in here," George said, surveying the
contents. Couches, dressers, stereo parts, rusted mattress springs,
an oxen yoke, piles of clothing, trash bags and boxes, were all stacked
in knee to chest high piles bordering a winding path from one end of
the barn to the other.
A white emaciated cat stood in front of the pair and meowed, believing
its chances were better that these men would feed it and not eat it,
but not really caring if the men put him out of his misery, for fun
or mercy. Just he and the female calico were left of the twelve cats
that Sean and Mildred had owned. Those two cats, and the geese.
"Ill have to call the animal shelter." Milton said.
"Where are the geese? Mrs. Benson said there are geese."
The pair walked through the barn, Milton leading the way with the lantern
he had gotten with his Marlboro miles.
"You shoulda saved those miles for an oxygen tank," George
had told him when the package arrived.
Milton had become obsessed with finding Marlboro miles, even stopping
his car in the town center when he saw a crumpled pack on the curb by
the High School. Each Monday, the day before trash pick-up, Milton would
stop by the gas station George owned to scour the trash for empty packs
that Brian, the head mechanic, threw into the cans without removing
"I dont know what you are more addicted to, Milt, the squares
or finding the miles," George would say.
They heard the geese before they spotted them on the hay behind the
"I thought Mrs. Benson said there was a whole flock, Milt."
Maybe there had been a flock, but with this cold, and little feed or
protection for at least a month, the others had either starved to death,
undoubtedly keeping the cats alive, or entered their next existence
through the jaws of a coyote, Milt guessed.
By the hay was a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat on the top. Milton
did not need to peer inside at the frozen excrement to know that the
toilet seat had not found its way to the top of the bucket by cosmic
coincidence or by the law of thermodynamics that said that all order
goes to disorder, although this barn was a prime example of that law
at work. He had seen this set-up before, the makeshift latrine. If the
farm had been less than ten acres he could have cited the lack of a
proper septic system, but for parcels over that amount the rule didnt
"Shame that Sean and Mildred were living like this. Why didnt
she rebuild with the insurance money?" George asked.
The insurance money, Milt informed him, had been used for Emma Pearsons
long-term care, and even if there had been money to pass down, Emma
had willed the place to her grand-daughter, Sophie. Mildred Pearson
was a squatter on her familys land, a parcel owned by her blood
line for nine generations back to Shays rebellion, when an ancestor
had been sentenced to death and then pardoned for his role in the uprising.
"She must have gone south. Either way, I need to call the shelter."
The two geese followed them to the door, where the white and calico
cats sat. George wondered what other animal pairs lingered unnoticed
in the barn, waiting to be saved. He looked up at the giant hand-hewn
beams, and thought that the barn was an ark, a refuge in the sea of
frozen water that drifted in smooth waves by the side of the building.
"Poor Sophie," George sighed.
Wilson April 2004
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