The Storm and the Skeleton
The wind whistled through the trees, blowing swiftly along the plains. Off in the distance swirling gray clouds concealed the setting sun. Martha knew that a storm was coming. With a cautious eye and fear in her heart she anticipated the troubled times ahead. Her son, Clark, was all grown up and soon he would leave the farm for the big city. It was to be expected.
A figure appeared behind her.
“Hello, son,” said Martha. She could feel his presence.
“Mother,” said Clark, walking up next to Martha.
They both stared off into the sunset.
“I suppose it’s time for you to leave us.”
“I’m sorry to go, Mother, but I can’t stay here on the farm,” said Clark. “I need to see the world.”
“I understand, son. I never told you about your father. I never told you what happened.”
“My father?” Clark asked. “But I thought he died in the war fighting the Germans.”
“I’m sorry, Clark. That’s not entirely true. We weren’t at war with the Germans in 1985.”
“Well that part of the story did seem a little off,” said Clark.
Martha drew a deep breath, “The truth is, while your father was not a soldier he was nonetheless a very loving man that cared deeply about both of us. You see we built this farm together long ago, with only the help of a few friends who were also farmers.”
“Like a co-op,” Clark said.
“That’s right, dear. You always were a smart boy, well except for the part about the Germans. Anyway, for a while we were doing pretty well. Then the bottom fell out of the soybean market, and we couldn’t get the money to stay afloat. The bank threatened to foreclose, and your father had to go into Dallas to make some extra money. He got a job delivering pianos. The job needed a strong back, so he could certainly handle it.”
“So what happened?” Clark asked.
Martha sniffled, “Well, one day he was delivering a grand piano to a customer who lived on the top floor of a ten-story apartment building in Oak Cliff. There was no elevator big enough for such a large instrument, so your father had to carry the instrument up the stairs himself. Like I said he had a strong back. He got to the fourth floor and stopped to take a rest. Unfortunately the old railing on the stairwell had suffered some wood rot, and it snapped when he leaned on it. He fell down four stories, and hit the floor in the lobby.”
“Oh my god,” replied Clark.
“But he was okay,” interrupted Martha. “However, what soon followed was the grand piano, which landed on top of him...”
“Oh my god!” interrupted Clark.
“But he was okay.”
Clark was dumbfounded. “How could he be okay after being crushed by a piano?”
“This may sound rather strange, but your father was a very resilient person. Anyway, after clearing away the broken piano parts they put your father in the ambulance and took him to the hospital. Unfortunately, on the way there the ambulance got a blow out and drove off a cliff...”
“Wait wait wait,” Clark interrupted. “There aren’t any cliffs in Oak Cliff,”
“Son, it’s called ‘Oak Cliff’ for a reason,” said Martha. “The ambulance burst into flames, and there were no survivors. Your father’s body was never found amongst the wreckage,” Martha said, wiping away her tears.
A rumble of thunder growled across the sky, and there was a sudden chill in the wind. Martha and Clark felt an unnatural presence. Slowly they turned around to see the standing skeleton of a man looking in their general direction. His bones were charred a light gray, and his eye sockets held only shadows.
“Hello?” Martha asked the skeleton.
The skeleton cocked his head and smiled, despite having no lips. “You telling me you don’t recognize your old flame?” it said in a familiar nasal voice.
“Jonathan?” Martha asked.
“Martha!” the skeleton said, and walked towards Martha with open arms. Despite the awkwardness of the moment Martha cautiously hugged the skeleton.
“Well I’ve had a long journey, and it’s good to be home,” Jonathan the skeleton said.
“Dad?” asked Clark.
“Yes, son,” said the skeleton. “You were only eighteen months old when I left. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for your childhood.”
“You’re dead,” Clark said to Jonathan the skeleton.
“Now that’s not a very nice thing to say to your father,” said the smiling skeleton. “Now how about some dinner? I’m starving!”
Martha led Clark and Jonathan into the dilapidated farmhouse. Inside the aroma of roast beef filled the kitchen.
“That smells delicious,” Jonathan the skeleton said as he sat down at the head of their dining room table. Martha brought out plates of roast beef, soybeans, and mashed potatoes for the three of them.
“Er... what would you like to drink, dear?” Martha asked the smiling skeleton.
“Milk, please,” said Jonathan. “After all we want to instill good nutrition in this boy’s impressionable young mind.”
“Dad, I’m twenty-six,” Clark said, but no one was listening.
Martha brought out three glasses of milk, and dinner was underway. However, the only one that was eating was Jonathan the skeleton. The other two could only stare awkwardly. Every bite of delicious roast beef went down the skeleton’s throat, bounced in his ribcage and fell onto the floor.
“Dear, I hate to be rude,” Martha said softly, “but you’re spilling a lot of food.”
“I apologize for my messy eating, Martha. I promise to clean it up after dinner. Where’s that dang dog at? He can help me. Roscoe! Here, boy!”
“Dear. Roscoe’s been dead for ten years,” said Martha. “You have been gone a long time,”
Jonathan picked up his milk glass, and proceeded to drink. The milk splashed onto his gray bones, and splattered onto the floor. Jonathan wiped the food particles off the front of his skull.
“Now how about some dessert?” Jonathan asked.
“You’re not having dessert,” said Clark, now staring at his food.
“Now call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure I saw some cherry pie cooling on the counter. So if you weren’t all the way at the other end of the table I’d pop you one for lying to me,” Jonathan said.
“I just don’t think pie would do any good for you, Dad,” said Clark, now a little agitated.
Martha nodded. “He’s right. You don’t have a stomach, so all that food is just falling on the floor.”
Jonathan frowned, or at least as close to a skeleton can come to frowning.
“All right!” the skeleton blurted out. “Maybe I have changed a little in the time I’ve been away. Change isn’t a bad thing. I just have a different kind of life now. I thought you’d be happy to see me!” he stood up and threw his napkin on the table.
“We are happy to see you, but we think it may be time for you to move on. We have a nice plot set up for you at the cemetery. There’s nothing in that plot, because we never found any part of your body.” said Martha, trying to hold back tears.
“I see,” said Jonathan. “In that case I have a surprise for you.”
The skeleton got down on one knee, and looked up at Martha.
“Martha, will you come with me to the cemetery?” asked Jonathan.
“Well I guess I could take you to the cemetery,” said Martha.
“No, Martha. I would like you to come with me. You are dead after all.”
“What?” Martha was taken aback. “When did this happen?”
“About thirty minutes ago,” Jonathan said as he stood back up. “Your blood pressure dropped dangerously low, and you collapsed in the field.”
The skeleton held out his bony hand and Martha took hold of it.
“Goodbye, son. I’ll see you again someday... hopefully not soon,” said Martha.
Clark gulped. “Does this mean I’m dead too?”
No, Clark,” said the skeleton, as a scythe appeared in his hand. “You die a grandfather. I just wanted to screw with your head.”
“That’s not very nice,” said Clark.
The skeleton grinned, “No one ever said I was nice.”
Clark waved goodbye to his mother, as she walked with the skeleton out into the darkened field and disappeared.