The Barn

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5134965628_19286605d8[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen. Edited by Sarah Newton.

I wonder if you are still here. I wonder if you are hiding behind a haystack, trying to catch me by surprise and throw a bunch of reeds over my head.

I hope you still think of the times we used to set the traps for the rats, to stop them nesting and infesting the place, ruining the crops we had worked so hard to harvest that year. I don’t have your way with cats, and they don’t hunt rats like they did when you were here.

I look at that old building, early in the mornings, and I still get the urge to go back into the house and tell you to wake up. You used to annoy me so much!

I still think of how proud you looked when you rode the plough to the fields the first time. Your face told a million stories. You were so happy.

So was I.

And the winters. How you hated the ice. Sometimes you got through the winter more through your stubbornness than the sharpness of that battered old plough you kept repairing.

“If it breaks, that means it can be fixed!” you used to say. How young you were! The smith misses you. He never mended a plough so often in his life–and no one else would have the scythe as sharp as you. Even after the old wizard taught you that cantrip to keep it sharp, you insisted there was “nothing like a good old stone to keep steel sharp enough to chop off a cow’s head”. We never had to try that, though it sure helped when that sorry gang of goblins raided us. I had no idea you could handle yourself so well.

And how you handled that old horse. How you convinced it to keep going when any other horse would have stopped in its tracks and refused to go on.

Of course I didn’t know a lot of things about you at the time.

I didn’t know about your adventures, when you said you were with friends. The horror in your mother’s face when we found you with Tommy. I guess the fact that he wasn’t human never even entered your head. Why would it?

Me, shouting . The fear of what the village would say if they knew! Your tears and your temper, your growing frustration when things went wrong. Sometimes I was scared you meant what you said. I was never sure. I know now I didn’t mean what I said, though I felt like I did when I said it.

You meant what you said, though.

Would you still be here if we had accepted you? Would you still be here if I hadn’t said those terrible things? Probably. Hindsight is your cleverest friend, but he’s never there on time.

Now you’ve gone. Or, rather, you’ve been taken away, even if it was by your own hand. Though it feels like it was by mine.

I tried to hate Tommy, you know. I told myself that if he hadn’t been there you’d still be with us. If we hadn’t found you two together your mother would still be able to leave the house. She hasn’t done that for nearly a year.

I haven’t repaired the barn since then, either. I barely go in anymore. I’m scared you won’t be there when I open the doors and look inside. So I don’t. I don’t because he’s gone now, too. He couldn’t live without you around the village, so now he’s gone, training to become a paladin. You’d be proud of him, son. You probably are anyway.

The plough is broken now, you know. No one can fix it. The smith refuses to try. “No one can use it like your son could. What’s the point, old man?” he says. I think he knows what the point is.

Your scythe has gone blunt. The stone won’t sharpen it, no matter how much I try. The old wizard’s spells don’t work either. I guess its life is over. Like yours.

But I can’t throw it away. I guess that’s why I don’t go in the barn anymore.


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