Good Night, Lucille

She was the last one to ever care about the place.  Her grandpa had cleared the land and her father had worked it. By his side, she made it her work, too, even though her mother warned her she’d grow thick and spotty. When she was a teenager, her sisters lay in a ring on the green living room carpet, looking at the dresses in the Sears catalog.  Lucille sat on the stairs by herself, studying the Almanac.  Image

She turned that soil each season of her life, till her hands were tough and brown and her back always just a little bent.  The years saw the passing of her mother and her father and then two sisters from cancer.  Her other sister, Jean, drove out from Washington in her shiny green sedan now and again, but it seemed she had lost her love of all things country.  She thought the ham was too salty, the bird egg beans too soft.  Sitting in the living room, Jean’s eyes would climb the walls with an air of disbelief.  

“You can hardly keep this place up anymore,” she’d say. “But you never cared about the house as much as the barn. Just like Daddy.”

She loved Jean, but Lucille was never sad to see her go.  The place went back to normal when it was just her and the dogs and the swallows.  Little by little, the house was falling apart, but she was sure it didn’t mind too much.  The farm had taught her to understand rot. 

She loved each turn of the year, knew how the fields smelled when they were ripening.  In the mornings, nothing pleased her more than to stand beside the silver wood corral, stroking her old mare’s nose and mulling over what would get done that day. 

By the time her hair was white, she was working smaller crops, and she let two brothers from El Salvador live in one of the old migrant houses at the edge of the place in turn for helping her with things.  They were nice boys with sweet smiles.  Some nights, she stood on the back porch and could hear guitar music floating over the place.  She’d lean against the post, close her eyes and wonder how it was that a song she’d never heard could seem so much like a forgotten lullaby. 

She passed in the Autumn, on such a night, quite happily sitting on the rusty porch glider, falling in and out of sleep.  It was foggy out, but the strains of the guitar still came across.  A light out at the barn flashed through the grey soup now and again, seeming to wink at her as though the land itself knew and was saying, “Good night, Lucille.”

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