Stuck in the Mud
It was a beautiful spring day. Overnight the grey heavy clouds of doom turned to hope allowing the sun through, for the first time in 10 days, laying a patch of warmth over the ground. A dozen pigeons swooped and darted in splendid unison and then out of sight through the dangling louvers of the upper loft, on the south side of the barn. Sun glinted off winter’s dirty snow ploughed in under the row of cedars that formed a wind break for the ramp into the hayloft.
“René. You old bone head. What the hell have you done? You’ve got old Betsie buried to ‘er excel in mud. How the hell are you gunna get her out’a that mess?”
René turned slowly sucking one boot at a time out of the deep mud to find his buddy Marv standing there with his hands on his hips, belly sticking out through his red suspenders.
Marv stroked his grey goatee and laughed. “It ain’t easy to get one of them 1355 Cockshutts stuck but then again you got well over five thousand pounds of steal and a lot a mud under them wheels. What year is it, a 70 or 71?
The two men stood there without a word looking at the muddy mess.
“Let me go home and bring my tractor and pull you out of there. You sit in the sun a spell. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I gotta unhitch my bailer so it’ll take me a few minutes. I’ll bring my chains.”
Marv turned on his heels headed off whistling. René settled into a dry grassy patch of sun and pulled some papers from his pocket and started to read.
Contrary to our sisters feelings, my job, with every breath I take, is to love you brother. That is it, just love. It is a hard job, that to some degree, I have resisted. In loving you brother, because you have no one else in your life, I feel it is my role to teach you something even if I have to hit you over the head with a two-by-four. Even if it is going sting like iodine applied to an open wound.
René reached into his pocket for his pen, crossed out a few words, made a couple of scribbles and started to read again.
First let me address the topic of you visiting mother. You have every right to visit. I argued that point with our sisters. As a compromise they would like you to give me notice of when you are planning on going to visit again. It is either that or they will claw your eyes out if they bump into you without any notice. It is only right that you send me a txt saying your day and approximate time of arrival and departure. I will let them know. It will save a lot of strife for everyone – maybe even mother. Mother still doesn’t even know you were in jail let alone what you did. Everyone is afraid that it would kill her if she found out.
René jotted down a couple more notes and put his pen in his pocket, tilted his head into the sun and closed his eyes. Brotherly grief started to melt from his face. His shoulders slumped. Breathing slowed. Before he knew it he was sawing logs on his dead grandfathers farm at the age of sixteen.
“René, you old bone head. You must’a been sound asleep. You didn’t even hear me pulling up.”
René snapped to his feet. “You back already. I must have fallen asleep. I had the weirdest dream that I was chopping wood somewhere and skinning a deer with my brother. The dogs were whining and yelping and licking up the blood as it dripped to the ground. It was so weird. I’ve never skinned a deer in my life, I haven’t see my brother in years.”
Marv, kicked at the muddy ground. “OK, now that you’ve had a bit of a sissy snooze in the warm sun let’s see if we can get this puppy pulled out of your mud pit. This is why I told you to buy a tractor with sixty horsepower and four-wheel drive. You can tell me about your dream some other time.”
With a bit of grunting and groaning, and squishing through clods of mud the two men silently stretched out the long clinking chain and hooked it to both tractors. René mounted his old Betsie ready to steer. Marv climbed up to his John Deer thrown, slipped it into gear and gently let out the clutch. The long chain jumped up from the ground, stiffened and started to vibrate like a bridge cable holding up tons of steel. Marv ever so gently revved his engine. Like a fork being dragged through butter old Betsie started to plough her way through the mud until she was on firm ground. Engines still puffing exhaust, both men climbed down from their purring machines.
“Well that’ll teach you, you old bone head. No more snoozing for you. Time to get back to work.”
René and Marv smiled and shook hands. “Thanks Marv, I owe you big time.”
“Furgit-about-it man. What are neighbours for? Were you working on one of your stories when I drove up. You had a pen and a piece of paper layin’ on your chest. I figured you were doin’ more of your artsy-fartsy writing stuff.”
René patted his pocket with the paper. “No, no it’s not a story exactly. It’s a letter to my senseless brother. I am trying to write a long letter to him but it’s kind of hard.”
Marv calked his head. “I thought that you weren’t speaking to your brother, or hadn’t seen him for years.”
“Well it’s true but because my mom is in the hospital it kind of stirred up some communication. There are a lot of unresolved matters between us all so I decided this was a good time to set things straight before the wheels of communication get stuck in the mud again.
“It’s so hard because, on some levels, he is such a smart guy but in other ways he is so shit stupid. I feel like I have to shake him by his ears to get him thinkin’ in a less selfish way. Well anyway that is not for you to have to listen to. Thanks Marv for comin’ over and dragging Betsie to dry ground.”
“No problem. I gotta get back to milkin’ so see you ‘round.”
René kicked clods of mud off of his boots and fell back into the sun to mull over the letter again.
Brother, it is obvious by your previous email that you still have a lot of learning to do. Your txt with the disgusting selfie of you bawling your eyes out and the one that said: “I just talked with Mom. I told her that I love her, as I always do. She was happy but tired. And now I’m bawling my eyes out. I ruined my life and one more of my reasons to live is dying.” are both proof you are stuck in a deep hole of self-pity. I showed the bawling selfie to a therapist friend that I hang out with. He said yes my interpretation is correct. The underlying, in fact the only reason that you sent the bawling selfie is that you wanted me and anyone that saw it to know that you are in pain. This was a very selfish act. You did not say poor mother. Oh dear is mother in pain? Is mother eating? Should I come to be at her side? How imminent is her passing? Is she doing ok? You made it about you and your pain. We all feel anguish but never do we make it about self. We are all sad, as sad as you but our sadness, our gloom, is about mother and her condition. Sorry for slamming you so hard but yours seems to be about you. Poor me I was sick and felt like I was dying. Poor me I didn’t die. Poor me my only reason for living is going to die.
So that is the tough love. Now for the tough advice. You need to counter balance all of the selfish things that you have done in your life with totally unselfish acts of giving, loving, sharing. You need to do virtually nothing for yourself. You have a lot to pay back to both of your daughters and the family.
You said that you almost died with a stroke and you wish you had? Well get this brother, dying for you is the easy way out. You have already manifested a stroke. You have no right to die before you pay back for your sins that put you in jail. If you die before your daughters have come to forgive you, you should be shot. You need to do so much good with the rest of your life that your daughters will weep at your grave wishing they could be as good a person as you. If you die now you will condemn them to a life of hating you all the way to their graves. Don’t you dare do that to them. That will be the ultimate selfish act.
René slumped back against the fence post and let the sun wash over him. His gold pen spinning in his fingers. He flattened his paper on his lap and continued.
We both came from the same parents brother and as you know I’m not perfect but I hope you take my advice. Go down to city hall and feed the homeless that are camped out on the benches. You might just turn their life around. If there are any crumbs left from feeding the poor go down to the lake and feed the ducks. The old lady down the street from you has a bad set of front steps. Go and fix them for her for free. I know you don’t have a lot of money but someone else will chip in for the wood if you ask. Who knows you might just save her life by making the stairs safe. Give that old computer that you are holding onto to a student so they can get better grades. They could become mayor and spin into doing more good just because of your generosity. Good and bad acts have a habit of spinning into more good or bad acts. You have a lot to undue brother. It is time for you to turn things around instead of just dying just to get from under all the bad you have done. Just think of all the good you can do with the rest of your life.
Your brother René
Dust and gravel spit up from René’s pickup as he came to a stop in front of Marv’s barn. “Marvelous Marvie.” René yelled with a smile. “I’m going in to town to mail that letter I was writing the other day. Do you need anything or do you wanta come with me? It did me a lot of good to write the letter but now I gotta take it to the Post Office before I change my mind.”
“Thanks for the invite but I better stay right here. It looks like it is going to rain again. I gotta load up these fence posts and drop them down to the south corner. If I do it tomorrow after the rain I am afraid I might get stuck in the swale at the end of the lane.” He looked up at the doom filled clouds heading his way.
“I’m not in that much of a hurry. Let’s get these guys loaded before I head off.” René pulled his work gloves from his back pocket and stooped down for a fence post.
The men worked in silence until the job was done.
“You goin’ near the Co/Op. You could pick up ten pounds of wire staples for me.”