• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
Image by

The Key

Jamie tossed the black a Raleigh to one side and ran to the barn door, sliding the great splintered door open to reveal dark, musty bales of hay, harnesses and tackle lining the walls. The smell of sweaty horse lingered in the air. She knew where she was headed. She hoisted herself up the Rickey ladder to the hay loft, choking on straw and what else? Anticipation caught in her throat. Scanning the loft, she spied the old chest and knelt down in front. The rusty key on its cord was warm from her throat as she lifted out of her sweater and over her head. It took some time to work the key in the old lock, but eventually it creaked open and she threw off the lid.
Lying in crumpled newspaper were some old white baby shoes, a christening gown now moth eaten and falling to pieces. And there they were; the diaries she had been looking for. She threw herself against the bales and began to read:
September 19, 1913. Rain
September 23, 1913 clear enough to begin in north field. Pa had to repair Yankee’s yoke half way through
December 25, 1913. Pa had to bring cows into barn, fields froze
The years drawn out in inevitable cycles of rain, harvest. The entries didn’t change much with the birth of a daughter, granddaughter. New tools crept into the diaries: a new harvest, a conveyor belt to the loft. A hired hand.
The cool of the morning floated away, as the sun warmed the fields. A distant bonfire filled the air with wood smoke. Fertile and alive around her, remnants of fruitful and productive lives. Lives of work and purpose, season after season. What had she done? The sneaking around to ingratiate herself with classmates, dropping out of school, the nasty boyfriend, her failures clouding her heart with rage. What had these people been thinking? Didn’t they love or care ? So where was it? Not in these diaries. Jamie tossed the


The Key

diaries back to the trunk, tears stinging her eyes. Empty, that was what her family was, empty. Her grandmother’s and mother’s useless lives and now hers. She buried her head in her arms and sobbed.
Soon, sounds of machinery and people filled the air. Not Pa and Grandpa now. She slid back down the ladder, the rusty key falling out of her pocket. She picked it up, was about to toss it, all it’s empty secrets, useless promises. Holding it like that in her palm, so simple, unchanged, useful, she looked up, the perfect rolling hills around her, cared for forever by her family over generations. It was she who was empty, selfish, useless. Back around her neck, and racing away on her bike, the key would open something new, now, in her.