A rumble of distant thunder – woke me up from a deep sleep.
My horse too, reacts to the sound. Doesn’t like rain. Me neither.
Plus, he’s been acting skittishly these days. Don’t know why.
I just want to get home as soon as I can.
That’s why I’m taking a shortcut through this heavily wooded area that was suggested to me by some locals. Never been here before. Unknown territory.
As I roll up my blanket, I picture my wife and child, she just recently born.
A mere infant. So new, well, Clair & I don’t even have a name for her. We need to decide that when I get home. I want to see them. Really do.
Yet, I don’t want to see them – ‘cause I’ve got bad news. Couldn’t get the signature I needed. “The Depression affects everyone,” I was told. Didn’t even say he was sorry.
So: it looks like we’ll go broke.
I don’t want to bring this bad news.
But I do want to see them – both.
As I tie my bedroll to my saddle, and my horse acts skittishly again, I have a dark thought. Ya know, it’d be best if I died.
Really, my death would be a good thing. She could cash in that Life Insurance Policy – it would get them through the next year, and probably many more.
Another roll of thunder. Stormy weather coming.
“Let’s go,” I tell my horse, as I mount and lead him along this new-to-me path that I hope is really a shortcut to the clearing, unlike the usual long meandering trail around all this vast wooded terrain.
My horse starts moving at a good clip.
But then goes faster and faster, changing into almost a gallop. “Okay, as long as you don’t get yourself too tuckered-out. I’m in a hurry anyway, so it’s all’s well with me if you set a fast pace.”
Since this path, although narrow, is well-trodden and almost straight as an arrow, I assume we’ll be able to make good time.
Another louder clap of thunder, getting closer.
Oh! A lightning strike. Close. Lights up these woods. And then an earsplitting clap of thunder, followed by a massive downpour, as if the heavens opened up th―
“Hey! What’re you doing”? My horse slightly rears and darts off the given path, straight up another path, through a thicket, ever gaining speed.
I pull on the reins to stop him, but ─
Cripes, he’s chewed through old reins that I used, since I stopped using the bit. Trying to be nice. Crap, see where it got me.
I can’t control him at all, and so I’ll just hold onto the saddle.
The downpour is saturating the trees, thus soaking me and my horse. Wet branches constantly slapping and splashing me in the face.
I can’t stop him. He’s mesmerized about darting forward ever faster through―
Ow! I need to duck my head. I’m going to lose an eye at this rate.
Since I can’t stop him, I have to get off. Somehow.
If I can grab a branch, maybe he’ll just move forward under me.
But the branches are too small; they just snap off in my wet hands.
Oh, I see a large branch, just ahead…. I’ll just grab―
Oh no, my horse has leapt across a … what? Where’s the other side? We’re suspended over, what?
There’s no other side!
As we separate, I look down. We’re both falling into a deep pit, filled with dead bodies. … People and animals. … My God it’s deep! … We’ll join them.
Is this it?
Isn’t my life supposed to flash before me?
Ah, what is that?
The cavern is not, what is it?
Ah, the birth of our daughter? … Uh, I see the head, her emerging crown, with the tuft of her soft, red hair, coming forward between my wife’s legs.
Oh, yes, the midwife. I’m so anxious, even fearful, but she takes over and – my mind goes blank until she hands me our child.
“Do you have a name for her?”
“No, we haven’t come up with one yet.”
But as I place our child in Clair’s arms, I say,
“Her name is Olivi─”
# # #
Eighteen months later, in the office of an Insurance Company, in town.
“I am sorry for your loss. But you must understand that we couldn’t act on your policy until we had a body. Please excuse my blunt language. Bu─”
I know. There must be proof of death. And anyway, I wasn’t pushing you, for I was hopeful that he might be found alive, with there being some bizarre explanation for … well, you know how it is … not giving up. … But I still am puzzled as to how he ended up in that ditch in those thick & dense woods so far from town. And he always was so good with horses … although this was a new horse, who … ah, well, I’ll never ….”
“I understand. And with you being so young, with a child as such. … Um, so, here are the forms. … Just sign here … and here … and over here …. Uh, and that’s it. … I have your check, already made out to you. … Here. … Oh, young lady, you may keep that calendar you’re playing with. … It’s yours. And where did you get that lovely red hair?”
“From my daddy.”
‘Now we don’t have to worry about money for food and things for quite some time. But I’d rather, oh, well. … Come along. Give me your hand, Olivia, let’s go home.”