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Van Gogh In A Field, In the Rain

A young boy. Two crows. A strange man with a fiery beard. And the old barn that shelters them.

By Eric DovigiPublished 3 years ago Updated about a year ago 4 min read
First Place in SFS 1: Old Barn Challenge
Wheat-field with Crows, Van Gogh

When I was very young I would leave the old barn, cross the wheat fields into town and sit by half of a bridge until the sun rose. Once the sun had risen high enough to illuminate the north-south streets, I would move quickly—all children have no time to lose—to my mother’s house, where she would give me food and kick me back out into the street. Then I would wander around, sit by the half-bridge again for a while, eventually make my way to the house by the edge of the wheat field. I thought the man who lived there was my father because he would always give me something to eat when he saw me and he was handsome.

After my father would give me dinner and send me on my way it would be sunset.

Painters and children know that the horizon, which others suppose to be a fixed location, is in fact a traveling line. Sunset and sunrise are when this line runs over your head, and it always stirs your hair at precisely the moment it passes. Dogs and cats know it’s there. Very young children can hear the high whistle that the horizon makes as it zooms overhead and all eyes across the world that are watching the horizon are watching you and your little town, with its half-of-a-bridge across the stillest river, and they don't know it but you, if you know how to look, know it.

I’d eat my chunk of bread and sliver of cheese and pretend to balance on the horizon.

After sunset I would make my way back toward the barn. The old man who lived there would not let me sleep in the house. He lived with his one daughter. He didn’t seem to like me very much but suffered me to sleep by his one skinny mule.

Once, I was passing through the wheat fields. It was threatening rain, but the setting sun found a slim passage between clouds and illuminated the wheat in a way that even I, young and distracted as I was, found beautiful. Rays of light descended from storm clouds built of towers stacked on towers of cloud, vapors angling this way and that as they met different temperatures of the air, like a tiered cake melting in the sun. The rays of light were horses broken from the carriage, fleeing forward through the countryside.

There was a man standing in the middle of the wheat field. He wore a handkerchief tied around his head. He watched the wheat and the few trees that grew on the other side of the wheat in which stood a handful of crows. He looked up at the clouds with a queer expression. Like they were his friends and, for all their beauty they had let him down.

He’d erected a strange wooden apparatus, placed a large white square on it and was marking the square with a blunt pencil. He divided his attention between the white square and the trees, but no matter where he looked his hand never slowed. His features were hard to make out from a distance. All I could see from where I was, peeking around the corner of the open barn loft (where the hay was already damp from humidity), was a striking red beard.

The sky cracked. Through the sonorous fissure rolled thunder. Small dark circles began to appear on the loft hay, on my shirt, on the dirt below me. Redbeard, in a flourish of irritation, snatched up his white square and wooden apparatus and trudged toward the barn. I withdrew a little from the loft opening.

The rain came all at once. A heavy downpour. Redbeard skipped the rest of the way to the barn, pushed open the doors, and tossed his tools down onto the ground with a curse. I watched him from where the loft looked down into the barn.

Through holes in the roof raindrops came in at funny angles; they were mist by the time they reached the floor. Muted rolls of thunder resounded outside. The mule in the far corner of the barn had looked up when Redbeard entered, and already turned back to the pile of hay in front of it, which it considered with vague interest.

Redbeard moved to the doors and looked out. He slunk down to the ground and sat cross-legged, watching the rain fall. I scurried noiselessly back to where the loft looked out on the wheat field. Two crows had taken flight. Over the soft swell of hill they came out of the gathering night toward the barn. Down below, Redbeard watched them.

The crows landed close to his feet. They shuffled forward, studying him. After a while, they moved past him into the shelter of the old barn and started chatting in hushed voices. But soon their chatter trailed off, and they too looked out at the field from where they'd come. It grew quiet. Just the sound of the rain on the roof, and Redbeard's soft nose breaths.

Then all at once a mass of other crows rose over the wheat hill and came toward the barn; Redbeard started; the two crows shuffled backward. Against the horizon the rain clouds had dissolved, leaving a deep night-blue against which two pellucid clouds reflected the pale light of the past-set sun. A flash of lightning illuminated the ruts of the cart-road that cut through the wheat. No thunder followed.

The crows reached the barn. They set down in the patch of ground in front of the doors, and, eager to be out of the rain, pushed their way inside. In the dim light from the doorway I could see Redbeard surrounded by two dozen crows, shuffling, drying their glistening feathers. He examined them like an overwhelmed schoolteacher.

Soon the rain stopped. But the red-bearded man and the crows remained where they were, looking out together at the night that climbed across the sky like a dark promise.


About the Creator

Eric Dovigi

I am a writer and musician living in Arizona. I write about weird specific emotions I feel. I didn't like high school. I eat out too much. I stand 5'11" in basketball shoes.

Twitter: @DovigiEric

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