Word Count 498
By Terry Rainey
Trudging through the skeletons of the cut corn stalks, my Father carried my Brother Edward’s lifeless body across the field leading up to our house. As he came up the slight rise towards the house, I could see his red, swollen face, his heaving shoulders and heavy legs.
My Mother, bent over the water pump in the front yard, looked up and screamed. Her wail pierced the late December air. She ran to meet my father near the end of the yard, bawling “Oh sweet thing, my baby, my sweet thing…”
Father and mother collided in the middle of the yard, Edward between them. My mother clutched, squeezed, and strained to revive his limp body, his crushed spirit. It was futile, but she tried. My father slumped to his knees, weeping, while my mother continued to minister to Edward, sobbing “Just breathe, oh my baby, just breathe, just breathe!”
Edward was most likely dead already, but that exchange, that conjunction of the two great forces in my world — that sad communion of my parents — was his death moment. For me it was the last moment that I shared with my older brother.
Edward’s death at age nine when I was only six would hang over our family like a cloud and accompany my parents to their graves.
Other details of that day are less sharp, but questions still haunt me, all these years later,
Did Edward’s blood leave a line of red snow across the field west of our house? Did the crimson stripe appear in the snow years later? Was that the same path that we all took after we’d drained the maples, out past the far western field? Did my father find Edward already dead? Did the fall kill him? How long had Edward been on the cold, unforgiving ground?
I never dared ask my parents the questions that I grew up with. I was “too young to understand.” Not only was my age held against me. I was the only daughter, after four boys. My parents handled me with kid gloves. They shielded me from life, from failure, from risk, from tears as best they could. I was one flower raised carefully by two attentive parents.
On my mother’s death bed, one year ago, she told me, in one of her clear moments, that my singing had kept Edward alive for her all these years.
Sadness, melancholy, gripped me. I’d been having these flashes, these attacks of pure emotion threatening to overtake me. For a moment, I felt nauseated and dizzy. I flagged a bit. A tear leaked down my cheek and rolled to my chin, where it pooled. Then it dropped to the weathered page of the diary in front of me. My mother had been a faithful diary-keeper, and I had yet to read it since her death. What caught my eye, next to the splotch of my tear, was the year of the entry I was about to read. 1864.