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The Hills

An Old Barn Story

By Bernadette JohnsonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 6 min read
The Hills
Photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash

A breeze blew in through the open upper doors of the red barn. A man in overalls and a woman in a floral dress and apron sat there, feet dangling, looking across the yard at a white wooden cottage on a stone foundation. A long porch hugged two sides of the structure, and like the rest of the house, it was weathered and peeling, but otherwise sound. The barn, on the other hand, looked as though it had just gotten a fresh coat of paint.

“Look at that, Mrs. Hill. Such sturdy walls. And what a perfectly laid roof. Who did such fine work?”

“If you find out, let me know,” said Mrs. Hill.

“Why’s that?”

“I’d like to marry him.”

“Good news,” he said. “You already did.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Mrs. Hill said with a laugh. She went to kiss Mr. Hill on the cheek. He intercepted the kiss with his lips. After a couple of seconds they broke free and smiled at each other.

He put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him and hugged him around his waist. As they looked back out at the house, a bird landed on the edge of the porch roof.

“What do you think it is?” asked Mr. Hill. “A sparrow?”

“Looks like a brown thrasher,” said Mrs. Hill.

“I’ll go get the bird book and settle it.”

She pinched him and said, “You’re not going anywhere.”

“You’re right, as usual,” he said. “What do you want to do today?”

“We’ve already bird watched. Let’s tend to Bessie,” she said. “Then maybe we can sit together again for a while.”

“Or have a dance,” he said. He kissed her on the cheek, sprang up, stepped over to the edge of the loft, and jumped off onto a pile of hay on the floor below.

“Mr. Hill, you’ll break your neck one of these days.” She got up. swung herself onto the ladder, and descended more sensibly.

“Oh, I’m fine,” he said. “Got to keep Bessie entertained.” He motioned toward a black and white cow a few feet away. Bits of hay stuck out of her mouth as she chewed.

“Bessie doesn’t find your antics amusing,” smiled Mrs. Hill as she reached the floor.

“Sure she does,” said Mr. Hill. “She’d applaud if she could.”

Mrs. Hill laughed and shook her head. “Can you hand me the brush, Mr. Hill?”

“Certainly, Mrs. Hill.” He picked a brush off of a hanging peg and tossed it to her.

She caught it and began brushing the cow, who grunted appreciatively.

“There now, Bessie,” said Mrs. Hill. “I’m so glad she feels better. It would have been awful if that illness had carried on.”

“Yes, indeed,” said Mr. Hill, walking up and scratching Bessie behind an ear. The cow closed her eyes and leaned into the attention.

After switching to the other side and scratching for a while, Mr. Hill grabbed the brush from Mrs. Hill, tossed it aside, grabbed her by one arm, spun her, and pulled her toward him. “How about that dance.”

“Oh, you,” she said, following his lead in a waltz around the barn while he whistled a tune.

“From our wedding,” she said.

“Yep,” he said. “Aunt Agnes was quite an organist.”

“You were once pretty good at the fiddle, I seem to recall.”

“I was more than pretty good,” said Mr. Hill. He stepped back and played an imaginary violin with an invisible bow as he whistled again.

“Forgive me, maestro,” she said with a laugh. Then frowned and added, “I’m sorry you don’t have one with you.”

“I’d rather have you any day,” he said, leaning in and kissing her again.

She smiled, ran a hand through his hair, and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They heard a rumble in the distance. Mr. Hill rushed back up the ladder followed closely by Mrs. Hill. They plopped back onto their spots at the hayloft doors and craned their necks toward the noise.

Two cars kicked up dust down the gravel drive, a silver sedan followed by a blue hatchback a couple of lengths behind.

“We have visitors,” she said.

“And more than one,” he said.

“It’s been a while.”

“It has, at that.”

“Could it be anyone we know?” asked Mrs. Hill.

“Probably not. Should we go down?”

“Let’s stay here for now.”

The cars pulled up near the house and parked. A woman in a gray pantsuit got out of the sedan. A woman in jeans and a burgundy sweater got out of the hatchback, and a little girl in a red jacket, jeans, and a pink wool hat sprang out of the passenger’s side.

Mrs. Hill nodded toward the pantsuit woman and whispered, “She looks like cousin Lucy.”

“Cousin Lucy’s been dead for a long while,” he whispered.

“Could be a relation,” she whispered.

“Why are we whispering?”

“Don’t want to startle our guests, do we?”

“I suppose not.”

The woman in jeans said to the other woman, “This place is lovely.”

“Isn’t it? Built in the ‘40s. Very good construction. Needs a bit of TLC, but sturdy as all get out.”

As the little girl ran toward the barn, her mom called after her, “Don’t wander too far, JoJo.”

“I won’t,” said the girl.

The Hills crept over to the edge of the loft and looked down into the barn as the girl stepped in.

JoJo surveyed the floor and walked right past Bessie.

“What an adorable child,” whispered Mrs. Hill.

“I wonder what JoJo is short for,” whispered Mr. Hill.

The girl looked up towards the loft for a second, then returned her attention to the ground and skipped off to the back of the building.

“What’s this?” JoJo asked as she hopped up onto a very short stone wall and balanced her way to the end.

“That’s the foundation of the old barn,” said the pantsuited woman as the girl turned and followed another stretch of wall back toward the two women. To the mother, the woman added, “Burned down with the original owners inside. The Hills. Tending to a sick cow overnight, as the family story goes.”

“Poor Bessie,” said Mrs. Hill from above. “She really was in a state.”

“That’s so sad,” said the mother.

“A terrible tragedy,” the realtor frowned and nodded. “Only married a couple of months. They were kin, too. My great grandma Lucy was one of Mrs. Hill’s first cousins.”

Mrs. Hill nudged Mr. Hill and said, “I told you she looked like cousin Lucy.”

Mr. Hill smiled, shook his head, and said, “You’re right, as usual.”

“Would you like to see inside?” asked the realtor. “It’s got a lot of space, and more light than you’d expect from such an old house.”

“You really could build ‘em,” said Mrs. Hill.

“I built it for you,” said Mr. Hill.

“And I love it,” said Mrs. Hill, leaning in and hugging him.

“It’s too bad we can’t go in,” he said.

“At least we can still look at it,” she said.



He put his arm around her, and they watched as the visitors entered their house.

Short Story

About the Creator

Bernadette Johnson

Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.

You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at

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