James entered the barn and the door creaked as it always did. The high, painful noise shot deep into the roots of his teeth. James oiled the hinge at least once a week. Emily begged him to replace the stupid thing, but he refused. It was one of the few ways he marked the passing of time anymore. If he was up on the rotting ladder, squirting slimy liquid over the rusted hinge, he knew that he had made it through another week.
James knew it would never get better. Some things never do.
The warm, fetid smell of the barn was oppressive to his senses, clogging them up like hair in a drain. The cows stared at him, silent and stoic. Sometimes when he visited the barn to fix the door, they would call to him to empty their udders, full of fresh milk with no young ones to suckle. Their eyes bore into him with baleful, pained expressions, as if he was somehow responsible for their current plight. He felt obligated to relieve them of what discomfort he could, just as a doctor feels obligated to clean the wounds of a dying man; it won’t fix anything, but at least it will make the remaining time more bearable for both of them. The fields weren’t safe for the animals anymore, the war growing closer every day. They were as trapped as he was; cooped up in the decaying barn, with its sieve like walls in winter and its inescapable humidity in summer, with the world falling to pieces around them
They should tear the barn down and be done with it. It was no use to anyone any more.
James stood by the open door, surveying the ruin of his livelihood, when his eyes fell on the tire swing stuck in the back corner, hanging from a frayed rope that ascended up into the moldy rafters. The tire spun lazily, its phantom occupant allowing the wind to push it this way and that.
They really should tear the whole damn barn down. But James couldn’t. Not yet. Not when their son might still come home.
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