Old Hubbard's Barn, a short story by MichaelPendragon. Date added: 2012-04-09. Times viewed: 624.
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- Intro: A boy thinks he sees his father, who'd disappeared several years ago, looking out of his neighbor's barn ...
Curiosity killed the cat. -- Anonymous
Late Wednesday morning Zeke came running home faster than the time he'd been poking sticks into a hornets' nest on a dare. He was shouting, and swearing, and kicking up a bigger ruckus than the devil himself. So much so that he'd set all the dogs to barking, and the horses to neighing, and the chickens to clucking, till it got so all-fired zoologically noisy that a feller couldn't take a decent nap. Zeke was always a bit of the high-strung type: least-ways ever since Pa disappeared. Ma took off a couple months later leaving Zeke and me to be brought up by our older brother, Jesse. Now I'm not one to be saying anything against Jesse -- he done his best, sure enough -- and him being barely even fifteen at the time. But in point of fact, ol' Zeke and me were raised without the necessary sense of structure and discipline that's said to come from a stable family environment.
"Snakes an' lizards! Cats and kittens!" Zeke swore. "Sakes alive! I jus' seen Pa!"
Jesse had been tinkering around all morning with Pa's old Ford pick-up -- trying to get it to run again, so he said. It had been sittin' in the shed, rustin' away for nigh on seven years -- ever since Pa had disappeared -- and didn't look likely to ever run again ... unless pick-up trucks have an Afterlife like humans. Jesse worked on that old truck just about every day, but I guess he wasn't too mechanically inclined. Still he seemed to like working on the truck all the same -- his way of tryin' to bring some part of Pa back, I s'pose -- and there weren't nothing either Zeke or me could do to draw him away from it 'til he was blamed good and ready.
But this morning it was different. No sooner had Zeke mentioned Pa's name, than ol' Jesse shot out from under the cab like he'd found another squirrel's nest in the motor.
"Zeke, if you're a-lyin' I'll tan your hide an' black your eye, an' knock out what-all's remainin' of your teeth!" Jesse weren't threatening for serious though -- least-ways I don't reckon he was. And, anyhow, Zeke had all of his teeth. In his seven years of being both our Ma and Pa, he didn't never once lay a hand on either of us. That's why Zeke had growed up so high-strung. A boy needs to get himself a good tannin' every now and then. Gives him what the city folk call a smatterin' of "character." Pa'd have whupped a truckload of character into the three of us, if we'd given up schoolin' 'fore we was sixteen an' all -- if Pa was still around, that was. Pa was always good about things like that.
"I'm swearin' Jess," Zeke said, crossin' his heart and what not, "I done see'dPa. I see'd him lookin' out of Old Hubbard's barn."
A dark cloud passed over Jesse's face. I don't think I'd ever seen him half so riled as he looked at that particular moment. Not even the time the Callahan boys pelted Zeke an' me with rotten eggs from their father's chicken coop. They stunk real bad -- and their eggs did as well -- an' Jesse had to make us wash our hair every night for a week before the smell done went away. Jesse had looked like a wild'un back then; but today he looked absolutely fierce. Plus, with his wild, black hair all tousled, an' the grease from the pick-up truck streaked acrossed his face, he looked like a Comanche Injun on the war-path.
"And what was Pa doin' lookin' out the winder in Old Hubbard's barn?!" he asked. And from the sound his voice was makin' at the time, I sure-as-shootin' didn't want to be in Zeke's place. Specially if I were up to telling a fib.
"There ain't no winder in a barn," Zeke answered. "I see'd him lookin' at me through the top half of the door." Meaning that Old Man Hubbard had opened up the upper half of the barn's dutch doors, to give his animals a little fresh air.
"Alright," Jesse said, the color slowly fading from his face. "I was just testin' you. Did you say that Pa was lookin' at you? Did he see you? Did he say anything?"
"He didn't say nothin', but I think he see'd me none-the-less."
"How so?" I asked.
"Cause he was lookin' me dead in the eye. He weren't more'n fifty yards away, by my configurations."
"Didn't you call to him?" Jesse asked. "Heck, if I'd see'd Pa I'd 'a shouted to him or somethin' -- didn't you want to know what he's been doin' all this time in Old Man Hubbard's barn?"
"Course I wanted to know -- that's why I run back to tell you an' Josh." Josh is my name, by the way -- it's short for Joshua from the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures. Zeke's name was culled from the Good Book as well. But Jesse's warn't -- he was named after the outlaw, Jesse James. It's kinda strange how my folks would name two of their sons from the Scriptures, and 'tother one after a bank robber, but that's exactly what they did. Zeke always said that his name an' mine was their way of repentin' after Jesse turned out to be such wild 'un.
"I wanted to run over and hug him, an' cry, an' all sorts of stuff ... but I couldn't do a thing about it at the time," Zeke continued. "Old Hubbard himself was a-comin' up the cow-path with a milk-pail." Zeke was scared of Old Farmer Hubbard. We all were. Both Pa and Ma had been set on seeing him -- set on getting some answers from him: Pa about our missing prize hog; and Ma about Pa, when the latter never come back. We'd always thought Old Hubbard had killed 'em both. But now Zeke had seen Pa locked up in the barn. This changed everything. If Zeke was tellin' the truth, that is. Zeke had told some mighty tall tales in his day ... but he'd growed up quite a bit since then.
And while it didn't seem quite natural for Pa to be settin' around in Old Hubbard's barn for seven years, it didn't seem at all strange for Old Man Hubbard to have chained him up in there. Maybe he had Ma chained up in there as well. Cause, as we all knew, he was just evil enough to do it. I don't think a meaner feller ever walked upon this earth. His wife had left him over a dozen years ago -- longer ago than either Zeke or I could even remember. She just packed up her things, rounded up their children, and drove off. The story goes that when shestopped at Pete Munner's gas station, to fill up her tank on the way out of town, she'd a homemade bandage wrapped around her head and coverin' one of her eyes. She told Pete that the townsfolk ought to get together and shoot down her miserable husband like you'd shoot a rabid dog.
Of course it's one heckuva long leap in logic to go from beatin' -- and possibly mutilatin' your wife -- to locking your neighbors up inside your barn. So once again ol' Jesse made Zeke swear that he was telling the God's honest truth; then, seeing how we believed in him -- and seeing that we had every reason not to believe in the natural decency of Old Man Hubbard -- we all joined hands and swore a sacred oath to storm the barn and set our father free. Ma too, if she was in there. We further pledged to take the old man's life -- and thus avenge the myriad wrongs he'd perpetrated against our kin.
"But not until we're certain that Pa's there," Jesse cautioned. "If he's locked up our Pa for seven years ... well, nobody'd say a word if we was to kill him for that. 'Justifiable Homicide' -- that's what them legal fellers calls it -- 'Justifiable Homicide.' But if'n he ain't got Pa locked up -- an' us goin' off half-cocked an' shootin' the old man dead -- well, they'd toss us straight-way into prison sure-enough ... toss us in an' throw away the key."
And they would too. Jesse was pretty smart about those kind of things.
Pa had left an old shotgun hanging in the woodshed. Jesse always kept it clean and oiled -- "just in case we'd ever need it" -- he'd say. He didn't never shoot it though; seeing how we had so little buckshot. Pa had shown him how to use it when he was ten -- Pa had even taken him hunting a couple of times, since he turned fourteen. Anyway, Old Hubbard had a gun -- and a good one at that! We'd seen him shootin' at bottles and critters and all sorts of things many a-time in the fields behind his house. Old Hubbard was a fairly decent shot, too. Rumor had it that he was a World War II vet -- on the Nazi side as some folks were wont to tell. And he did have some traces of a foreign accent ...
"Still, there's three of us, an' only one of him," Jesse said. "An he's an old man, to boot!"
"Maybe so," Zeke concurred, "but Josh ain't no more's than a little kid."
"I'm thirteen! ... or thereabouts," I added defiantly.
"Josh can hold his own, I reckon," Jesse said. Jesse didn't let nobody ever bad-talk his little brother. "Weren't Josh what come home a-runnin', an' cryin' like a sissy-boy on top."
"I weren't cryin'" Zeke said, albeit guiltily.
"Well you was fumin' and fussin' and stirrin' up an' awful row," Jesse compromised.
Now Old Man Hubbard and us was next door neighbors, so to speak -- although our property was a good solid twelve acres in itself, and Old Hubbard's was about five times that size. In any case, you can see how Old Man Hubbard's barn could be quite a little hike aways -- specially when said hike was mostly goin' through a woods and all. We coulda reached his farm from the street, of course, but the barn was set far back behind the house and we certainly couldn't go marchin' up his driveway if we had any hopes of gettin' in it. He'd have shot us all before we reached the pig sty. The only other option left open to us was to cut through the woods; so through the woods we chose to go.
It was going onone o'clock, by the time we actually started out. I'd packed us each a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, whiles Jesse and Zeke went about collecting us some weapons. Jesse got the shotgun, of course -- him being the eldest, and the only one that Pa ever taught the first thing about operating it. Zeke took him the hunting knife and the hatchet, which left me with nothing but a pocket knife and a baseball bat. Jesse really didn't want me in on any fightin', if it were to come to that, and I figure this was his way of discouraging me. For added protection, we decided to bring the dogs along as well.
We had three dogs -- one German Shepherd called "George," which also happened to be Old Man Hubbard's name, and two mutts named "Barney" and "Pooh." We used to have a fourth dog, but Old Man Hubbard shot him. This we knew to be a fact, since the old man made no bones about his having done it. He claimed our dog, "Blackie," was maraud-ing in his chicken coop with a no-account pack of strays. So he shot it -- dead to rights insofar as the local law wasconcerned -- or, rather, insofar as Old Hubbard told us it were. They say that once a dog's got a taste of chicken blood in his mouth he's ruined. He'll just keep goin' back for more. Course there ain't a lick o' truth in it. George was missing on the morning of the chicken raid as well, an' he never went back for more killin'.
Naturally, we kept our dogs tied up from that day on. Old Hubbard come over a-swearin' up a storm and sayin' how he wanted to shoot the lot of them, but Pa told him where he could go. Pa didn't take no guff from "that old kraut b_____d," as he used to put it. Pa'd served in the war as well, only the Korean one, as he wasn't near as old as Old Man Hubbard was. Pa coulda whupped him in a fistfight any day of the week as well. "With one hand tied behind his back," by Jesse's accounting. Jesse had always looked a lot like Pa, and now that he was gettin' older, you could almost say that he'd become a spittin' image of his dad.
Jesse gave me the responsibility of keeping an eye on the dogs 'til we got there. They weren't on leashes, or chains or nothing; we just let 'em run along free beside us. (Though Jesse had rigged up some short rope handles to their collars -- "Just in case," he said.) The route through the woods was along an old deer path, and deer not bein' acquainted with the geometric theorem of the shortest distance between two points, their path kinda went off in tangents and around in little curlicues. I only knew about the theorem from Jesse, who'd gotten up to geometry in school before Pa and Ma's disappearances brought our education to an end.
There was a pond about midway along the trail, where the deer liked to go to drink water, and that's where we decided to have our lunch. After which we took a little break and let the dogs cool off by chasing each other about in the water. It was one of those moments that a boy might remember forever -- and might've been a real happy one, too, if only the specter of our parents' bein' locked up in a barn for seven years weren't hanging over our heads. I prayed that when we met up with that Old Man, the dogs would immediately fly at him and tear his leathery old body to shreds like it were some big chew-toy. I've always had a liking for poetic justice, what with him killin' Blackie and all.
By three o'clock, we'd finally reached our destination. We were situated at the edge of the woods -- a good fifty yards, or so from the barn where Zeke had told us he sawPa. Unfortunately, there weren't no sign of Pa that day. Jesse and Zeke were busy plotting out our next move, while I was left with the thankless task of keeping the dogs quiet 'til they'd come to a decision.
"I swear, Zekiel, if this turns out to be another one of your stories ..." Jesse threatened, holding his clenched fist up alongside of Zeke's face.
"I'm tellin' you he's there!" Zeke said, in hushed, yet emphatic, tones.
"Well I'm not seein' him," said Jesse, "an' my eyesight's just as good as your'n."
"Look Jesse, don'tcha think I'd recognize my own father's face from here? It ain't so blamed far's I'd be confusin' him with someone else -- not that Old Hubbard ever had another person come within fifty miles of his place." Zeke had a point there -- nobody'd ever been over to visit Hubbard's farm, not even the police. Not even when our folks disappeared. They said that nobody'd seen our parents goin' over Old Hubbard's, and our sayin' so was only hearsay. "Inadmissible in a court of law," was how they'd put it. "Jesse says the police are all afraid of him, like everybody else in town. Jesse's probably right about that one, too.
"I 'spose I'd recognize our Pa from here," Jesse concluded. "So I reckon I'll just sit an' wait an' see Pa fer myself afore I do the Old Man in." I was for goin' up an' peeking in the barn -- seein' how Old Hubbard weren't anywhere in sight. But Jess was dead set against it.
"Fifty yards of open space is a mighty long ways to run," he argued, "specially if you're high-tailin' it away from a load of buckshot." He didn't need to convince Zeke an' me of that fact, neither. Old Hubbard 'ud shoot us down, just like he'd done to Blackie, on the pretext that we was stealin' his chick-ens, or a shovel or something‘.
We finally agreed to toss some pebbles in the direction of the barn, to see if anyone inside would poke their head out the door. I, for one, must verily confess that while the idea that Old Hubbard had been keeping our Pa -- and maybe even our Mother -- prisoner in his barn these past seven years sounded feasible enough this morning in our backyard, it was starting to look a mite suspicious bythree thirtyin the afternoon ... particularly from our present vantage point. Jesse was apparently having second thoughts as well -- for by the two-dozenth pebble, or thereabouts, he was ready to call it quits.
"Look!" yelled Zeke, no longer seeing the need to keep ourselves hid. Jesse shushed him, while I did the same to the dogs. "There!" Zeke continued, his voice only slightly lowered, "That's him! That's Pa's head in the barn!"
It was Pa's head, alright. His hair was a little grayer than we remembered, it, but the features were Pa's, sure enough. The three of us agreed, at least, on that. We tried to get his attention by all sorts of discreet means: bird-whistles, waving our hats, tossing more pebbles -- but all to no avail. It was as though he'd not the slightest inkling we were there.
"Well, what can you expect?" Jesse said. "He's been locked up for seven years, an' probably don't expect anyone to be lookin' fer him anymores. An' being locked up in a barn for that long, must take its toll upon your mind as well."
"I don't see Old Man Hubbard anywheres," Zeke observed. "I think we should just get over to the barn an' set Pa free. After that, we can all go an' hunt the Old Man down like the murderin', thievin' varmint that he is."
"Okay," Jesse agreed. "But you an' Joshua keep under cover here, 'til I set Pa free."
"Ma too -- if she's there," I added.
"Ma too," Jesse said. He paused a moment, making a command decision. "I'm goin' in," he said. "Wait here, and don't come in after me unless I calls you. No matter what you think you hear!" And off he went. In seconds, he had crossed the field and was leaning against the wall on the side of the barn where the dutch door was. Zeke and I waited, but we didn't hear a sound.
Having reached the side of the barn without incident, Jesse cupped his hand over his mouth and called out several times toPa. A horse's whinnies were the only reply.
"Why don't he answer?" Zeke asked me, getting more and more frightened by the second. "It's jus' like this mornin' when I looked him in the eye -- an' he jus' stared ahead like I weren't there."
"Maybe he ain't a prisoner at all," I ventured. "Maybe he jus' wanted to get away from us."
"Don't be silly," Zeke told me rather firmly. "If'n Pa ain't answerin', you can be damn sure he's got his reasons. Minutes passed. Lord knows how many of 'em, and still not a solitary peep come from out of the barn.
"Jesse! Jesse! What's goin' on?" Zeke shouted.
No response. Not even the expected "shush" from Jesse. Not even another whinny from the horse. "Hubbard's got him!" Zeke said. "I knew it! I knew that son-of-a-bitch was waitin' there! He's got him, Josh! He's got Jesse!"
"He ain't got no such thing," I said. "Go poke your head into the door of the barn an' have a look-see."
"B-b-b-but Jesse said ..." Zeke stammered.
"T'aint no never mind what Jesse said," I shot back. "He's been in there long enough!"
It didn't take much convincin' for Zeke to acquiesce. He was always pretty easy to convince about one thing or another. Jesse said it come from his bein' the middle child. I would've thought that as the youngest child, I should be the easiest to persuade, but Jesse says that the youngest is spoilt and used to gettin' his way from bein' the baby of the family. Can't say as I liked that explanation much, but Jesse said he read it in a book, so's I can't do much to argue with it. I probably could've convinced Zeke to let me be the one to go, but he was the oldest and had the better weapons and all.
So, after much debating (and hemming and hawing) Zeke tip-toed across the open patch of field, cautiously peered around the side of the barn -- and froze. I heard him call to Jesse for several minutes. Finally he gave up all together, and turned around and come back to me.
"He's just standin' there," Zeke said. "He ain't movin' ... he don't answer ... nothin'. I bet Old Hubbard's holdin' him at gunpoint."
"Hold the dogs," I ordered, handing him their ropes. "I'm goin' in."
"Maybe you oughta take 'em with you for protection," Zeke offered. Zeke was always a little afraid of the dogs --especially George.
"Alright," I told him, "if I whistle three times, you can let 'em loose."
I walked across the field like I was Wyatt Earp walkin' up against the Clantons. At least until I got to the barn itself, that is. No use gettin' Jesse killed if Old Man Hubbard really did have him at gunpoint. Once I got there, I quietly ducked around the corner, and saw Jesse standing there just like Zeke had described. Old Hubbard was nowheres to be seen, so I picked up my step and headed towards him. Just before I made it to the door, Jesse turned and stopped me.
"Don't look in there!" he said. His face was whiter than a clean, new sheet -- like we used to have before we became orphaned. Already the hairs around his ears was turning white; and him just twenty-one! "Don't look in there ... don't ever look in there! No matter what, you understand?" I nodded.
"G'won git yourself home then!" he ordered -- though it was a scared-soundin' kind of order, like he was starin' at a nest of rattlesnakes or something‘.
While I stood there wondering what to do, Jesse turned around toward me again and looked me hard in the face. That is, his face was turned as if he were lookin' at me, but his eyes seemed like they was goin' right through my head. "Git yourself home as fast as you can run. And take Zeke an' the dogs along with you."
"But Jesse," I pleaded, still unsure as to what I ought to do, "we can't leave you here all by yourself. What if Old Man Hubbard catches you?"
"Then either him or me is dead," he stated with a sense of resolution in his voice that I found almost chilling. But somehow his voice was soundin' kinda far away as well. It was like he was in some sort of a trance, or dream or something. "And if the old man gets me an' I don't make it back after'n you, I don't want you comin' here to look for me. Understand?"
"Then what're you waitin' for?" Jesse practically shouted. "Git yourselves outta here. Now!"
"You too, Zeke!" his voice trailed after me, "Git!"
Zeke followed close on my heels. When we reached the edge of the wood, I turned and saw Jesse aiming the shotgun through the open barn-door. He fired twice. Then several minutes later twice again. Then he slowly walked through the open door and disappeared inside the barn. That was the last I ever seen or heard from Jesse.
I never did go looking in the barn -- after all, I'd promised Jesse I wouldn't. An' the truth be known, I were just plain scared. But Zeke did go back. It took him over a year to work up the courage, but he finally went and did it all the same. The minute I saw him, I knowed he'd been there -- cause his hair was going all white like Jesse's was, and he had the same, vacant kind of stare upon his face that Jesse had the last time I see'd him. And when he told me what he'd seen, I knowed he'd lost his mind.
He swore to me that Jesse was in the barn -- but that it weren't Jess at all, but a horse with Jesse's head stuck on it. He said there was a pig with Blackie's head attached to it as well -- and that Old Man Hubbard had probably done the same to Pa and Ma (which would explain why Pa never answered Jesse's calls) only neither of them was any longer there. "Must've been them what Jess was shootin' at," he reckoned. And those were the last words he ever uttered, because once he'd spoken 'em, he never spoke again. From then on in, he'd just sit there, blindly trembling like he had the palsy, or something. He died just two months later; less 'an a week before he reached his eighteenth birthday.
Soon as I turned eighteen, I sold the farm and moved to the city. There weren't much point in stayin' there all by myself ... even if it didn't bring back too many memories, a man can't work a farm all by himself. Maybe Hubbard never did a thing to any of my family -- I don't rightly know, save that he killed Blackie, of course. The face I saw in the barn sure did look like my Pa, but from fifty yards away, so might the face of a hundred other men -- specially to a thirteen-year old boy who misses his parents somethin' fierce Who can say? All that I know is that Zeke's story was too horrible to even think about.
I worked several jobs in department stores, pizzerias, delicatessens and such before getting a job with a construction company, working on the streets and highways. It was hard work, but no harder than working the land on a farm -- 'sides, it paid better than all my other jobs lumped together. A few years later, I found myself a wife; and two years after that, I started finding several kids as well. I took out a mortgage on a little house in the suburbs, and settled down into a more or less typical middleclass life.
But poor Zeke's words were always comin' back to haunt me. It was crazy, sure enough, but in a way it kind of made some sense as well. And the more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make, until it seemed that the odds against its being true were far less staggering than those that were in its favor. For one thing, that head sure looked likePa. For another, it would've explained a lot about Jesse's strange behavior at the barn -- and the four gunshots we'd heard there as well. And the more I learn about the Nazis, the more I come to understand that these men were conducting quite a number of insane experiments on their fellow human beings.
In this light, the idea of grafting human heads onto horses and dog heads onto hogs, doesn't seem that far-fetched at all. A horse that could understand the English language as well as your average adult would certainly be considerably more valuable as a work animal on a farm. So would a pig that could understand, and loyally obey, commands as well as a dog. If a man were evil enough to do it, that is. And Old Man Hubbard was surely that evil. After all, the only alternative would be that he shot my father, mother and brother in cold blood, and buried their bodies somewhere on his farm. No matter how you was to slice it, Old Hubbard was coming out a monster.
But the thing that really bothered me about Zeke's story (and my growing suspicion that it might be true), was my nagging sense of guilt that I should be doing something to help out Jesse. The least I could do was to find out if Jesse really was locked up in that barn. I owed him that much -- and more -- for all the years he spent taking care of me. And if it turned out that he was there, it'd be up to me to shoot him. I figured that would be what he'd have wanted, since if Zeke's story had panned out this far, it would only make sense that those four gunshots were from him doing the same for Ma andPa.
But I never went back. Something inside me wouldn't let me. I guess that I'm a coward in my heart, because I couldn't face the horror of what I might find. I told myself that Zeke's story was insane. Certainly Ezekiel wasn't in his right mind from the moment he'd finished telling his story clear up to the moment of his death near two months later. It was easier to write the whole thing off as madness -- easier, and more comforting. It was more comforting still, to ignore the question of what Zeke saw that caused him to go crazy in the first place.
But the guilt was always there, chipping away at the inside of my head like some record with a skip on it and no one around to give the needle a little tap ...
One day I ran into Smiley Callahan, one of the same Callahan boys that had egged Zeke and me as kids, and we spent the better portion of an evening sitting in the local taproom together, discussing old times and the strange fate that had recently befell itself upon Old Man Hubbard and his barn.
It was nigh on twenty years to the day that I'd left to seek my fortune in the city, that Old Man Hubbard was discovered sitting bolt upright in his bed in an unseemly state of advanced decomposition. By that time it was impossible for the coroner to determine what brought him to this unfortunate state, but seein' as he must've been somewheres around a hundred years old at the time, everybody figured that "natural causes" seemed to be the most likely scenario. The police never said what else they found around his property, but they promptly had his entire estate bulldozed into the ground -- barn included.
The average lifespan of a man is about seventy-five years, give or take; and that of a horse about twenty-five. I can't rightly say what a horse-man's lifespan would come to -- not having any prior examples of such hybrid creatures to look back on -- but if you average the two lifespans out, you're looking at a number in the neighborhood of fifty. Since Jesse would've been going on forty-two at the time, it wasn't inconceivable that he found his peace on the receiving end of a humane policeman's bullet.
Naturally, that thought only served to fan the flames of my burning guilt even higher than before. The thought that I might have let my older brother languish there for close to twenty years was even harder to face than the idea of his having been turned into a quasi-horse. I might go mad myself just thinking about it. Thank God that I've got a family to take care of, or I'd be in a rubber room by now ... or worse.
A man needs to have people depending upon him, to keep him sane, I think. It helps to keep him from thinking about such thoughts as were better left buried. Poor Zeke, was crazy, that's all. It's only natural for a boy to lose his mind when his parents and brother have all disappeared -- an ol' Zeke was still a week shy of eighteen when he passed away. It's a miracle I didn't go mad myself an' follow him ...
Sometimes, in the noonday light, I almost believe that's the truth. But every night, as I lie beside my wife in bed, the image of the old barn wells up in my dreams. And every night I creep up to that barn, and turn the latch that holds the double dutch doors shut. Some nights I even go so far as to open up the doors ... but always wake up before I get a chance to look inside.
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