Short Fiction or How I Process in a Pinch

22 06 2009

This subject of loss and reaction to loss has been much on my mind lately. Why can some people withstand enormous loss and suffering while the smallest deprivation takes the life right out of others? What do you do when everything you love is taken away from you? What if the one who took it all is placed fully within your power? How generous, how forgiving can you be?

 

It’s one day since the stranger killed my husband.

 The stranger began it, coming into our fields to steal our crop. His uniform and Mercurial-class firearm gave him away from three fields over. We never have understood why the Mercs insist on dressing their foot soldiers like last century’s clowns. Nor why their firearms are so totally distinctive. If ‘twere up to me I’d dress em as much like the locals as I could- blending in’d serve em better.

 I sent Samuel out to confront him. I sent my husband to his death. He wouldn’t have probably seen the stranger at all if I’d not pointed out the splash of yellow moving amidst the corn. Samuel’s eyes never recovered from his stint in the Armed. He thinks twas the flash-bombs that did it, I think twas his heart getting sick of watching folks die. Sometimes our body does things like that- takes away our sight when we can’t stand seeing or our hearts when they hurt too bad.

 I should know. It was my heart the stranger cut out when he shot my Samuel. It was my heart lay bleeding red amongst the green.

 In the next hours I’ve had cause to thank that scum for taking my heart when he took my husband entire. The new hole in m’ chest don’t hurt none. It don’t feel sadness for the loss, it doesn’t bother me that I left the stranger where he lay, my husband’s bullet buried in his leg.

I’ve stayed out of that field since I took Samuel’s body from it. The red against green has disappeared- I can’t see it from the house. Sometimes when I look the wrong way I can see the mustard yellow of the stranger’s uniform. But I’m not noticing it. He can die right there. Maybe his blood’ll wash the shame out of the land.

 The farm was cold when Samuel left it. My thoughts scattered like crow-birds and wouldn’t settle.

               The wind makes strange noises that I never heard before. Sounds like it’s moanin’ after someone.

                                 I’ve always hated wind. Samuel used to hold my hand on stormy nights.

 I wish the wind’d stop. I hate the sound of it.

            Why does air movin’ always sound so sad? It sounds like nothing else in the world so much as crying.

 Damn it! I can’t even hear myself think over this wind!

     But it’s not the wind at all. The leaves on our corn are hangin’ still.

It’s him. The stranger. He’s cryin’.

           Let him cry! He can cry for my Samuel. He can die for my Samuel!

 But no… Samuel wouldn’t want that. It might even be Samuel’s spirit what’s wailin’ out there. Samuel wouldn’t want him to die. Samuel wouldn’t see that it’d set anything right.

 Samuel’d want me to save him. To help him if I was able to.

 I hated to walk back into that field. I hated to see the blood and the flattened corn and most of all I hated the sufferin’ on the face of that stranger. His face matched the hole in my chest, puzzle-like.

 His leg was bad. Real bad. Full of dirt from him rolling around in pain. He was just a lad but big and strong and heavy. It took me something like hours to drag him back to the house. I hadn’t it in me to get him any farther than the front porch. But I cleaned his leg and took out the bullet with the tweezers from Samuel’s Armed medkit. He passed out before ever I got around to the stuff that’d have hurt him.

 And he never said a word.

 For seven days I fed that boy, cleaned him when he soiled himself and made him as comfy as my time let me. I was busy, though, tryin’ to get in a crop. In peace time we’d have hired six hands. As it was it was just me- most of the men in our region were drafted or dead. Besides which, these days you couldn’t trust even your nearest neighbor not to put a bullet twixt your eyes to get your corn.

 Dust choked me and corn leaves sliced my face but I got most of our crop in before my back gave out. The soldier on my porch hadn’t talked none, but his eyes were scared whenever he saw me. Dunno but his mates in the Mercs had told him that my kind ate his kind. Not true, course, but truth don’t seem to matter much in war.

 On the eighth morning I woke up again to wind. I went out to check on the stranger. The wind can kick up fierce dust and its none too easy to breathe. Sleepin’ out in it ain’t pleasant.

 But he was gone.

 He left me two things behind. The first I felt right off. Dunno how but that stranger who stole my heart found a way to give it back, ‘cause all the sorrow in the world poured back into my chest, all the anger too. I shook from plain sufferin’.

 The other was his uniform jacket, wrapped around something solid-feelin’. When I stopped shakin’ I unwrapped that coat and found three ears of corn and sixteen pieces of Merc gold. Enough to buy out Samuel’s farm from under the mortgage and more left over to hire off-world help.

 I never spoke one word to that boy after I drug him in from the field, but I’m glad I did it. Even now, years after the war, I’ll smile at the Merc gaurds posted city-ward. They may be invaders and scum, but my Samuel would want me to treat ‘em well.

 For my Samuel I will.

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