11:24 p.m. - Saturday, Feb. 04, 2006
Things were different around the farm, although not so different as things are here.
We had only a weekend to stay. I would have stayed forever, myself.
It was all "do you remember?" and "what happened to —?" and sometimes "what happened" was nothing; the person or thing in question had done no more than grown older. "Do you remember" was always answered, Yes.
I was looking out from the gallery over the shallow valley that made the farm so beautiful, marking the little creek that began at a spring issuing from the hillside just beyond the house, the creek that descended through the cow pasture by steps made of flat red Ozark rock. In rainy weather, it was a respectable little creek. In dry seasons it faded to a trickle, sometimes disappearing into the ground and coming out a few yards lower.
The bit white dog was there with me, the one I remembered. I'd like to wander over the fields with that dog and visit all the places I remembered. But my sisters, my father, my aunt, all said it was time to go. In fact, my sisters packed up and left ahead of us. I had to hurry around packing my clothes; as usual, I had overpacked, and besides, I thought we were staying a lot longer. There was no time to pack everything. Some things I simply had to leave behind.
So my father and I drove back to Indiana. Then I walked back to my house. As I walked along Ridge Road, I passed long-vanished farms that had come back unexpectedly, perhaps for just a while. The farmers had slaughtered some sheep. The sheep's bodies were laid out in the loft of the barn, some with their legs distorted by rigor mortis or the swelling of decomposition. But some were moving. I realized with horror that they had been not quite killed. They were writhing in agony. I said to myself: it can't be, it can't be. One sheep had human hands that shook as they hovered over a terrible wound on its stomach, and a human mouth that grimaced in pain. It can't be, I said, and went on. Back at home, I was walking down some broad steps when I halted and began screaming, wordlessly, because my mind had gotten past "it can't be" and I knew that it was.
I controlled myself enough to stop screaming, but as I walked down the steps I kept saying to myself: "I'll never eat sheep again."
Not that I ever eat sheep anyway.
This dream brought to you by The Children's Blizzard (David Laskin, Harper Perennial, 2005).