She stood on the edge of the cobblestone road staring into the cracked windows, watching a peculiar red bird resting on a sill. With no electricity and no water, she wondered what it would be like to bring this place back to what she always wished it could be. A getaway.

The barn remained in better condition than the house after all these years. The simplicity of wood on wood with iron nails and more wood as the supports proved more resilient than glass and fiber. After her father passed and the farm was only used for cows, half of the barn became storage for items her mother snagged at the flea market and forgot about.

Before Greta moved to this city, she plundered the piles of plastic, metal and fiber. She found one item that she would take with her to the university. An antique Lucky Strike case, wedged under a rusted sewing machine. A couple of years later, when she went to the bar, she would tell people that the case was the only reason that she smoked.

When Karina informed her that their father smoked before he vanished, Greta imagined that their mother bought it to remember him. Karina said that their mother just could not pass up a bargain.

Greta returned to this old house when she felt alone. While both of her parents were presumably dead and the place entirely abandoned, the solitude of the land made her feel that she was still a part of something. The skulls of deceased cows littered the acres upon acres of overgrown pasture.

She told me about the cows once. How she would wish them farewell before the slaughter. How she named every one of them. How she could tell the difference between them, I will never know.

The cows became a lesser concern in her teenage years. The greater flaws of the earth began to intrigue her: politics and persons. Greta recited specific pages of the newspaper aloud in the mornings before school. Her mother found it annoying and often told her that if she didn’t get out more often she would not meet a nice boy and that she would end up alone.

Greta did meet a nice boy in high school. Her dreams of running off to a university in a large city with fresh faces and fresh ideas became even more potent. The nice boy was a passing of the time. A greater audience to extend her voice and repeat her message was the goal at the end. She watched prominent female politicians on television and sickened herself over thoughts of how she could do it better.

At the age of sixteen she wrote speeches that she performed in front of her friends for practice. She filled the abandoned half of the barn with makeshift chairs out of the junk that began to creep up the walls. Her closest friend had an older brother by one grade. This was the nice boy. She snagged his attention with her command of language and slight tinge of understated humor. Her junior year began and so did the two year relationship with the nice boy.

She kept a journal in which she wrote vigorously about politics, her triumphs in school and her frustrations with the nice boy. She noticed that other boys in school noticed her, too. A teacher once told her to watch her wits or the twits might twitch with anger of her attitude and flare. She didn’t understand the statement at the moment but she wrote it down.

The relationship with the nice boy came to an end when she went to college. The boy decided to go to a community college at the same time Greta took flight for the pretigious university in a city three-hundred-and-fifty miles away.

She fell in love with every boy who matched her wits. The competitive nature that she mustered up destroyed every relationship she attempted in her first year at the university.

She returned home for her mother’s funeral in February. She wrote in her journal during the service: If I settle for the likes of others, I cannot have what I truly deserve. And only then she cried.

If at this moment, she would open to that entry in her journal she’d laugh at herself with a putrid disposition and realize that this lone thought might have been the reason why she hasn’t been in a relationship since her mother’s passing.

While she does mingle well with others, her older sister, Karina, remains her best friend. Their view on the old home differ. Karina once said after a few drinks, “Let’s burn the place to the fucking ground.”

Greta chuckled, as she knew that opposing something that came out as a joke would start an ethical argument that she wasn’t in the mood for.

Karina was nearly three years old when their father, Red, vanished. The daughters were told that he passed away but Karina never believed it. The funeral was a closed casket affair. Red’s disappearance had a different impact on her than it did on Greta. Greta was only a couple of months old. Karina had faint memories of the way his hands wrinkled in an obtuse pattern when he read the newspaper in the evening.

Karina now finds comfort in the presence of Greta who, without knowledge, smokes the same brand of cigarette as their lost father. That cigarette case had actually belonged to their father. Her mother gave all of his possessions away and then repurchased the majority of them at the flea market not long after. The case cost her forty dollars – more than anything else in that pile of junk in the barn.

Greta never allows anyone to touch the case.

Benton told me that Red carried his smokes on one side and our patented anesthetic needle on the other. He always opened it with the needle side in the palm of his hand facing away from his targets.

I wish that I could tell Benton that I’m protecting her. But Red was a labeled a defunct contractor for not registering his children with the division on fifty-third.

Her story as Greta Moyer was supposed to end seven months ago.


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