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A Dilapidated Construct

by J. R. Lowe about a year ago in Short Story
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As minds fade, memories become all the more precious

I compare myself to a good barn. You can have a good barn, and if you paint it, it looks a little better. But if you take the paint off, it’s still a good barn – Dolly Parton

Grace loved the old barn deeply, but in a way, she also feared it. It was a reminder of her own mortality, and that she wouldn’t be young forever.

There were so many memories contained within the walls of the dilapidated construct. It hosted the experiences of a lifetime, painted fondly across each pole, with the most cherished of them all displayed proudly on the forefront of the structure - a beautiful coat of red paint, which had faded over the years, but remained just as inviting as the day it was applied.

At times, this was all one saw. To the outsider, the stories of this place didn’t always seem logical, and only senseless fragments seemed to remain amongst the decrepit remnants, but within them, there was an entire lifetime of stories waiting to be told.

"Can we go inside?!" Maisie asked excitedly as she grasped the rims of her wheelchair in anticipation. Dark blue veins protruded from her hands, and her skin was thin and wrinkled, not unlike the old wooden slabs which covered the exterior of the barn in front of her. She’d started to lose a lot of weight recently, which Grace knew was a sign that things were coming to an end.

Grace paused for a moment as she stared at the entrance, and tightly grasped the back of Maisie’s wheelchair. She didn't want to go inside, it looked dangerous. It was worrying to think how such an antiquated and seemingly undisturbed construct may react to two foreign visitors.

She wasn’t wrong to be cautious though. Despite being a place that was once so welcoming and homely, it had deteriorated over the years. At times, the old wooden structure could be aggressive, not by intent, but as a consequence of its old and weathered nature. Splinters, exposed nails and old tools long since forgotten lay hidden in the floors, unrecognisable for what they once were.

As Grace looked down at her grandmother’s old and wrinkled face, she could see the passion in her eyes. It hadn’t burnt so brightly in years. Not since her diagnosis. They hadn’t come all this way to simply leave.

“Ok,” Grace said hesitantly as she began to push Maisie forward, “But only for a few minutes.”

Inside, sunlight shone through the cracks in the ceiling, illuminating areas of the floor as if a grand performance were about to commence.

“Don’t tell my mother,” Maisie said shyly, “but last week, James and I carved our names on the barn post right over there, see?”.

Grace looked to her right where Maisie was pointing with a shaky crooked finger. Scratched into the old dry face of the wooden post, within the boarders of a roughly drawn heart, were the words Maisie and James – 1949.

“I’m going to marry that boy, you know? We’ve already agreed to it.” She chuffed, “And one day, we’ll buy a beautiful house with a fence and a garden full of marigolds!”.

“Oh really?” Grace said with a smile. James was her grandfather who had passed away several years prior. Maisie’s delusion certainly wasn’t that far from the truth though, even if it had happened many decades ago.

She did marry James, her childhood sweetheart, although when she realised she didn’t have the knack for gardening, her plans for the marigold garden had fallen through. Her parents sold the farm shortly after their marriage, and Maisie’s memories of the barn were all she had left of that time in her life.

The new owners of the land had been kind enough to let them take a walk around the property. It was all Maisie talked about anymore, so it seemed only right to let her see it one more time. In a way, it helped Grace to fully understand the context of her grandmother’s rambling.

The new owners had no use for the barn and it was saddening to see how it had depreciated over time. But to Maisie, it was just the same as it always had been.

As Grace continued to push the wheelchair forward, Maisie suddenly let out a loud gasp, “Where is Gilbert?!” she exclaimed, “His gate is open. He must have escaped!”.

“Gilbert?” Grace asked in confusion, “As in Gilbert the goat?”

“Quickly, we must find him!” Maisie yelled, as she looked around hastily. She looked up at Grace and suddenly became frustrated. Her wrinkled face was scrunched up, creating a complex maze of creases and wrinkles on her pale skin.

“Why aren’t you doing anything?” she snapped, “We have to find him. Now!”

Grace was unsure what to do. She wasn’t accustomed to Maisie’s outbursts yet. Gilbert was the family-famous goat with which Maisie had apparently spent much of her childhood. He had been dead for decades.

“It’s ok, Grandma, it’s alright.” Grace tried to comfort her, but it was no use. Maisie was too upset.

“No its not! He’s gone!” she wailed.

Grace began to panic. It wasn’t unusual for her grandmother to become so hysterical, but somehow it had never gotten easier to deal with. She always remembered her to be such a strong and put-together woman, as she was when Grace was younger. Seeing her so out of control was terrifying at times.

“Let’s go back outside.” Grace said desperately. But Maisie was already off in her own world, and wasn’t comprehending anything.

“He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone…” she sobbed as Grace wheeled her back outside in a panic. She wasn’t the same as she used to be, not entirely. But Grace knew that her grandmother was still there, perhaps in a less composed manner, but she was still there.

As they reached the exit of the barn, everything suddenly became quiet. There was a comforting breeze which swept through the old willow oak trees and soothed the tension. Maisie was silent as they both stared back at the old barn. After a moment of peace, Maisie suddenly spoke up again.

“Can we go inside?!” She asked in a fresh tone of excitement.

“Maybe tomorrow.” Grace said with a sigh, “It’s time to go home now. It’s getting dark.”

She smiled affectionately as Maisie sat comfortably in her wheelchair, grinning ear to ear while she stared intently at the old barn. It was as if she were looking at her own reflection. Her paint had worn thin, and it was difficult to recognise her at times, but in essence, she was still there – the same young girl she had always been.

Short Story

About the author

J. R. Lowe

I confess, I don't exactly have a specific topic or writing style, or an organised train of thought for that matter. On the plus side, that means there's probably something here everyone ;)


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