I slept one night and dreamed a dream. The dream was a movie that was so beautiful and charming that it touched me. I was touched so much so that when I awoke I wished to see it again but, alas, it was only a dream. So, I wrote it down that you might read and see and be touched. Then maybe, one day, we may both watch it again.
We came to this place, my son and I, a year and a half after Johnny died. We had been so much in love and looking forward to starting our lives together that once Johnny was gone everything that appealed to me in the place we were before went with him. When I saw this house the rough-hewn stone and rustic construction was comforting in a way that nothing else was. It was windy then, just like it is now as I write this. I remember I felt as if I could hear singing and that the voices knew of my pain and shed tears for me. The ground was so barren and dry then. It was like the land was something I could identify with, a physical picture of what my heart and soul had become. I was home.
I’m looking out the kitchen window at Bobby playing with his black and white dog, Fritz. He has grown so much. He’s now tall enough to look over the white fence at Fritz romping through the tall grass like the puppy he always was. I still remember Bill Thorinson and his beautiful little girl, Julie when they began coming here. Bobby was still just a toddler. Mr. Thorinson was such a big help around the place. He was so happy to help me build the fence and when the pipes needed repair. Perhaps it made him feel good to help someone who needed it so badly. Julie was helpful too, even though she was maybe only two years older than my son. I still remember the look on her beautiful little face when I began to trust her. It was fall of the year they first came. We were all right out by the fence Bobby’s looking over right now. Bill was in his dirty camel duster and cowboy hat, Julie in her bright pink parka. She always wore that jacket when it was cold. At times I wondered if it was the only one she had. Mr. Thorinson had needed to speak with me alone. I’d looked back, worried that my son would crawl into the tall grass and be lost to me. I asked her to stay there and watch over him for me. Then she beamed a smile from ear to ear. She stood between him and the fence smiling as if she had been given the most important job in the world. To me, she had.
I walk into the dining room to set the table for lunch now and can’t help but smile. I remember the times we invited them over for dinner. I set the plates on the hardwood table and can’t help but recall the memories of how Julie’s face would light up. I can’t help but place my hand on the rough surface. It reminds me so much of the feel of Bill’s weatherworn hand in mine when he gave thanks. He was always a kind, gentle man. I always feel safe and comforted when he is around. In the few years I’ve known him he has never made a move on me. Perhaps he realizes from when we talk that I could never love a man so soon. He never asks anything of me, just to help. I never see Julie anymore and Mr. Thorinson only occasionally will come and visit. Bobby says he doesn’t remember her and I think it’s sad sometimes. I wonder from time to time what would have been different if my son had grown up with the charming little girl. I remember to ask Mr. Thorinson sometimes what became of her but, he never answers me with anything more than a sad smile. I feel sorry for him. He must miss the little girl dearly. I know I miss the times we had together. All of us.
I go to the door to call my son in for lunch and there is a noise in the hallway. I turn and look in time to see one of the copper statuettes on the table fall to the ground. I smile and wonder if it is my little Fawn, come to check up on me. She had been Mr. Thorinson’s idea. Now, the wind whipping across this land is pleasant and even soothing, but the first winter after Julie stopped coming was different. A storm had blown up that seemed to want to rip the sturdy stone walls and wooden roof apart. What frightened me more was the angry howling that came when night fell. All the voices and songs that brought me so much peace before terrified me then. When I mentioned it to Bill he suggested a dog and told me of a couple up the road whose dog had had a litter recently. The couple bred champion show whippets and greyhounds. They were not impressed with my reasons for wanting a puppy but, they showed me the litter of whippets anyways. The woman had reached into the squirming array of browns, blacks, reds, and whites. She picked up a small tan female and placed her in my arms. She was the only one they would sell to me so I gave them the money, thinking Bobby’s father would not have approved of the price. She had done her best to prove her worth, though. Fawn loved my son. She played and explored with him, though they never went that far. Nothing like Fritz goes with Bobby now. She found me every time I could no longer hold back the pain and cried. She would refuse to leave me at those times and would stay by my bed or chair until I was better. She would often keep her vigil for days. She was the first to chase the wind.
The storms had continued to come that winter but, they were no longer as frightening. The times when I thought the house would finally lose out to the horrendous wind and collapse Fawn would stand at the window and bark with every ounce of her little body. When the wind blew harder than usual she would be excited, scratching and begging to be let out. As soon as the door was opened she would dash out the door and run all out. She would go far into the distance then return, barking the whole way. If anything was being blown around like leaves or straw she would do everything in her power to bring it down, sometimes leaping five and six feet off the ground. Bobby and I would watch in amazement and awe of how magnificent a creature she was. She loved that copper statue and was forever knocking it down. We enjoyed her company for five wonderful years. Then the bad year came. In that one year, we lost so much I thought we would lose everything dear to us and we nearly did. It all started with Fawn.
The house was old when I bought it. That was part of the charm. The old, rough-hewn stone walls and hardwood floors spoke to me of a time and place long before my husband came to be and so long before his death and the pain it brought. Mr. Thorinson had suggested I have the floors replaced more than once. I agreed it was old and probably long due for it but, I liked the color. It matched the tables and there were no signs of there being anything wrong with it. One day Bobby, being a typical little boy, caught his hand somewhere. I don’t remember where; a door maybe or a piece of furniture. I, being a typical mother, ran to the screams and cries of my child with Fawn hot on my heals. Halfway down the hallway, a termite-eaten plank gave way beneath me but the support held, driving the other end up in the air. It caught her full in the chest. My heart had cried out when I heard her breathy yelp but, my son needed me. When I came back to check on her she was already gone.
I mourned for her but, we were not alone. Two years before that the breeders we got her from called and offered us a six-month-old male who they never could sell and would not be suitable for their purposes. So, we acquired a fixed and up to date bay brown Biscuit. He was of the same stock as Fawn but heavier somehow and he never could match her beauty and grace in stride. Where Fawn was usually with me and Fritz is always with my son, Biscuit never seemed to decide who to follow or what to do. He didn’t even share in his sister’s fervor when she chased the wind. We lost him in the fire later on that year. He was missed too, but we lost so much more.
I walk out the front door to the empty yard. I look around before I call for my son and my eyes fall on the burned remnants of another building attached to the house. It had been a stable once, another casualty of the fire. We had kept horses there. There had been a dappled grey gelding named Silver, a bay gelding and mare, then a sorrel mare. Silver was already old when I got him. He didn’t have much spirit or many years left in him, but he was steady and patient. The others were an attempt at an old hobby I had as a teenager, I was to break and train them for a few friends I had found. I loved to train the others but Silver is ever my friend. With Bobby off at school, I often rode him just to feel the ever-present wind in his mane and my hair.
Bobby was at school the day of the fire too. I was sick and asleep on the couch with Biscuit nearby. I had awakened to the dog licking my face. I felt warm but attributed it to my fever breaking. Then I heard the horses screaming and got up to see what was wrong. I noticed a strange light coming from the window but didn’t think anything of it. I went to the back door that opened to the stable. I tried to open it just enough to look in, but the horses all barged through the door into the house to get away from the flames that had engulfed the stable. I was pushed between the door and wall, but poor Biscuit never had a chance to get out of the way. The roof caught fire which panicked the horses even more. I could not get past them to the front door. The bay gelding kicked at the wall twice and broke through it. The other horses rushed through the opening, but the bay had gone down and could not follow. I stepped through the opening into the waiting arms of firefighters. The prairie fire didn’t claim the house, but it took as much as it could. We lost the stable, garage and everything in them, both vehicles and, of course, Biscuit. The bay survived the fire but had to be put down for he had broken both his back legs beyond repair when he saved us. The roof had to be replaced and the hole in the wall fixed, but we still had a home. The two mares were never found, but I still see them now and then, always off in the distance. Silver comes around still, though I don’t ride him anymore.
For many years after that Biscuit and Fawn would return when the storms came. Bobby and I would watch them running and barking together, back and forth, untouched by the ice and snow. Eventually, they faded away. Perhaps they were content that their job was done. Bobby still saw them playing in the fields long after I ceased to see them. I asked him just the other day if he saw them anymore and he said no. I wonder if he misses them.
I see Silver now. He is hanging his head over the fence at me. I go to him and look into his kind, gentle eyes. I ask him if he’s seen my son and in his eyes, I see the reflection of Fritz dancing in the grass behind me. I smile and thank him. Fritz, we took out of pity. Sometime after the fire, a man showed up at our door with the dog in his arms.
“He is sick.” The man had said.
The vet had told him that it was something the dog was born with. He looked like Fawn, but smaller, thinner and still just a puppy. Fritz was sick for a few months. Several times I was sure we would lose him for good. We would have been sad but Bobby, and I especially, expected it any day. Even during those times, he was always my son’s dog. Bobby trained him. Bobby took him for walks. As he got worse Bobby fed him. When Fritz could not even get up it was Bobby who carried his small body out into the sun. When he was cold Bobby was the one who put blankets over him. When he breathed his last Bobby was the one beside him. Now that Fritz runs again it is Bobby he follows. I turn and see Bobby with Fritz, by his side as always.
“Look.” He says
I turn my eyes to look as he asks and there is Bill in his duster and hat, handsome as always. You see, Mr. Thorinson is the only one of us who is truly alive anymore. I went to visit him once, where he lives, in the extended care unit of Valley View Hospital. He lies in a coma there and looks years older than he does here. There can’t be much more time before he can stay here if he wishes instead of just visiting. He talks sometimes of a young woman who comes to visit him there. I smile and wonder if it is Julie.
I go to my friend and ask him to join us for lunch. The three of us talk and reminisce about other people and other times. I tell him that I wonder sometimes if we will just fade away, like the others. He smiles at me.
“Perhaps.” He says. “But never fear. If we do we will not leave this land untended. As the charm of this place demands, there will always be someone here to chase the wind.”