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The leaves do pirouettes on the path before me as I make my way to the house. The autumn wind is strong between the break in the tree lined stonewall to my right. I pull the collar of my fleece-lined jacket up to cover my ears against the bite of winter that can be felt on the trailing edge of the wind. My footsteps make a crunching noise on the sparse gravel strewn along the path. The distant sound of geese lifts my eyes skyward to see the graceful flight in “V” formation as they make their long journey south.

The path leads around to the side of the house where it enters into the kitchen. The front door is rarely used now since the children are long gone. In New England, because of the winter, many homes put up a removable vestibule with its own door that fits over the main door to the house for insulation. I opened the outer door and let it slam shut behind me to announce my imminent arrival to the occupants within. Aside from the cacophony of barking and whining from my various canine companions, there is no other response. I open the main door to the kitchen and am instantly inundated with paws and snouts.

“Why, hello, hello, yes, yes, yes I know I should have taken you all with me. Yes I know you love the walk to the pond but you guys always chase the poor ducks that have come to rest.”

I am looked at with reproach by my boxer Becky whose intelligent eyes always make you believe she is smarter than you are. My chocolate lab Millie is oblivious and cares for nothing but the attention of her master. She will invariably butt her way in between whatever dog I may be petting just to steal caresses jealously. George my mongrel is shy with his affections but as faithful as they come. His tail cut to a stump by the parcel truck they all hate with a passion, wags as best as it can. Finally, there is Toxy, short for toxic waste. She is a mutt with poodle in the mix and for some reason has a body chemistry that creates the worst odors. Her bark is piercing and annoying as hell but I am loath to be rid of her. Despite her failings, she has become a part of this family.

“Hello my dear.” I say to my wife who is sitting at the kitchen table. I walk across to her, bend down and kiss her forehead. “Are you having a good day?” I ask her.

She is quiet as she looks at me. She has not spoken since her stroke four weeks ago and I can tell it is wearing on her. “I went to the pond to feed the ducks today. There is a new one. Another Mallard I believe but you know I’ve never been able to tell one from another.”

She looks away out the large sliding glass door. The view from our breakfast table is a breathtaking one to say the least. Beyond, you see the yard, which is bordered by stonewalls. One of our two ten acre fields on the other side of the wall slopes down to the Westport River that eventually makes its way out to Buzzard’s Bay, which you can see in the distance.

“How about I make a pot of tea. Does that sound good?” I ask. There is no response but I know she loves tea so I put a kettle on and bring forth the teapot from its corner.

I set a cup in front of my wife and take a seat opposite her.

“You know Julie is coming tomorrow.” I like to remind my wife of our daughters impending arrival as often as I can to bring her what comfort I can. Our daughter Julie lives in Boston and has not visited since the stroke. I believe she is somewhat frightened of what she will find. Julie was always sensitive and perhaps seeing her mother in this state took some courage to face. Again there is no response but I see a glimmer of interest in her eyes.

She shivers slightly as she looks out the window. “Let me get you a blanket.” I say as I move to retrieve one from the hallway closet. “You haven’t touched your tea Sweetheart, drink up; it will warm you right up.”

Her unresponsiveness continues through the evening with her food not being touched at dinner to me having to carry her to bed. I tuck her in and kiss her good night all with little or no response. “Tomorrow I’ll give Dr. Barnhill a call. Perhaps you are depressed my love. I know you are… silly me but know that I love you and that we will both see this through ok? Just remember Julie is coming tomorrow and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful visit.” I kiss her once again and turning out the bedside light, I exit the room leaving the door slightly ajar. I return to the living room and gather up the paperback I had been reading.

The next morning nothing had changed. She is still unresponsive when I sit her down at the table for breakfast. I feed her cream of wheat but her appetite seems to have gone as well.

It is about ten in the morning when I finally hear Julie’s car pull up in the driveway. The dogs of course go berserk and do not stop until Julie steps into the kitchen.

“Hi dad.” She says above the noise and four heads and four tails. We hug and kiss, dodging the many legs below. “How’s mom doing?” She asks. She looks over at my wife and stops dead still.

“What honey?” I ask as I see her look of horror. “She’s just been somewhat unresponsive.” “Oh, Daddy!” She cries. “Oh, how could you?”

I am confused by her strange outcry. Then a look of understanding and compassion grows on her face as she quietly leads me to a chair.

“Oh daddy, I have something very sad to tell you. Mommy is gone. She’s passed away daddy.”

“No she’s not she’s right there.” I point to my wife.

“Daddy, yes she’s right there but…” Tears are streaming down my daughters face. “…she’s dead dad, she’s dead.”

Suddenly I look at my wife and the world turns up side down.

"See the man with the lonely eyes, oh, take his hand, you'll be surprised." Supertramp.


The following comments are for "Autumn Wind"
by nauticus66

autumn wind
This story is at once poignant and disturbing. It reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. You have succeeded very well in producing a feeling of shock in the reader. At the same time, you have dissected the feelings of devotion and closeness that couples have for each other.

( Posted by: quantum [Member] On: August 5, 2004 )

Good story, nauticus66. Didn't see that one coming.

On top of that, fine job on building a setting. Most writers tend to sacrifice the locale (or forget it altogether) in order to get to the twist quicker. I must say it's refreshing to find somebody who takes the time to arrange the background before getting to the point. Good showing.


( Posted by: QueasyDillo [Member] On: October 29, 2004 )

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