Blazing, Roasting Corn
Duncan Anderton drove up the drive feeling uneasy. His screen had simply instructed him "Go to your parent’s house ASAP". Police message.
The night was palpably darker than usual. Heavy cloud cover stopped any moonlight cleaving through to the ground. It had made the journey from the Governor's house difficult. He had chosen to drive himself back. He did not know why. He wished he had not; his eyes were near watering with the strain of peering through the gloom.
As he approached the house he saw red pulses of light.
Two policemen stood by the house carrying little notebooks, talking to each other earnestly. They looked up as the Mayor's car approached.
Duncan brought the car to an abrupt halt. The door hissed open. The sheriff, Martin Shaw approached Duncan with urgency, his face was ashen.
“Duncan," he said" I'm afraid I..." Duncan pushed past him.
“Duncan, don't go in there. Duncan please...! "Martin shouted.
Martin chased after Duncan as he ran into the house. The light inside was tenebrous. Duncan ran into the living room. His mother's beside lamp was on and a book was cast open on the floor.
His mother sat in her favorite chair. In the light he could see her face wore a scared look, immobile and cadaverous grey. A lone fly was crawling around his mother's lip, feeding on little scraps of food around the edges.
Duncan gazed at his mother. He felt his bladder give way and his trousers becoming wet. Martin came up and put his hand onto his shoulder.
“I'm very sorry Duncan."
Duncan went over to his mother and stroked her long gray hair, putting the parting back where it had always been. He felt his eyes brimming with tears. He started sobbing. He knelt down next to his mother.
“How?" he stammered, a lone tear falling between the wrinkles around her eyes.
Martin put his hand on Duncan's shoulder. They had known each other for a long time, but comfort made little difference now.
“We don't know yet. We are waiting for the coroner to arrive but we think she died naturally in her sleep, not long ago."
Duncan looked at the book she'd been reading. A history of knitting.
“She always used to knit you know, out there on the veranda, she used to watch the sun go down," Duncan spluttered.
“Duncan, I think you had better come outside, we need to have the place checked over."
Duncan placed a little kiss on his mother's cheek and Martin led him outside.
“When did she die?"
“We don't know."
Duncan sat down on the edge of the veranda relieved to sip some bourbon which Martin offered him.
“How has my father taken it?"
Martin had been dreading this question. It could not have been put more poignantly. Martin had been rehearsing how he would tell Duncan the news. But like all these things when it came to the moment of telling it did not quite work out.
“Where is he?" shouted Duncan.
Duncan looked up. He could see the barn door was open and there was light coming from inside.
“Martin! For God's sake what's happened? "
“He's dead, Duncan. He was dead when we arrived, in the barn."
Duncan cupped his face in his hands. He felt numb suddenly, like Martin was telling him the news of someone else's death.
“Do you want us to take you home?" "No, I want to see my father."
“Duncan, I don't think it’s a good idea."
“I said I want to see my father! OK 1 got it? Take me to him."
“If that's what you want, Duncan. But I think you ought to prepare yourself for a shock."
Duncan walked over to the barn deliberately. The light from the entrance spread out over the red brown soil. He stood at the entrance. There was always a certain smell in here. Musty wood, straw, oil and machinery smells all mixed into one. Duncan looked up at the old red tractor; the one he'd had been on many a time when he was a kid. His father was slumped gently turning at the end of a long rope suspended above it; his belt was twisted around his neck, like a coiled snake.
The beam creaked and the wind whistled and ruffled around in the roof. The horses were munching fodder straw in their stalls and shuffling their feet, swishing at the flies with their tails. The flies oscillated between horses’ arses and his father's face, uncertain as to which provided the bigger feast.
Duncan looked at his father's wretched body. The old, soiled trousers that he was so fond of, lay idly around his naked feet, crumpled and unkempt. Little grey hairs protruded from the top of his faded red check shirt. The expression on his father's face was one of fear and contempt. His eyes seemed to be still alive even though his soul had vacated his body. His body twisted around to face Duncan. His father's eyes were looking at him, trying it seemed, to tell him something. A muscle in his father's arm twitched.
Next to the tractor his shoes and socks had been carefully arranged, a sock poking out of each shoe. His handkerchief was lain out in a full square next to it.
Duncan's teeth started to chatter involuntarily, rattling resonantly in his skull. He was cold and his whole body started to quiver. His stomach ached.
"There's a note," said a voice behind him.
Duncan walked over to the tractor underneath his father. He looked upwards then at the engine panel, he could see some feint etching.
“Duncan Be," it said; it looked like there was the start of another letter but he could not discern what the next letter said.
Duncan turned around slowly and walked out of the barn he thought he was going to be sick but he wasn't.
Duncan walked certainly over to his car.
“Duncan would you like us to take you home? I really think you ought to go home, we'll send a medic over to your house."
The door of his car hissed open as he approached." Duncan," shouted Martin.
“Duncan, come on..."
Duncan span round waving a gun in the air. Not an ordinary gun, the type that fry you.
Martin and the other three officers took an involuntary step back.
“No, I don't want to go home," he said without emotion. "If you follow me I'll fry you. Don't fuck around with me I fuckin' mean it!" he bellowed, his eyes cold and resolute his grip on the gun no longer trembling but steady.
They looked at each other, immobile.
He walked backwards slowly and deliberately into a cornfield and with a rustle was gone.
The sheriff turned to his colleagues after a safe period.
“I want him followed. You, take the entrance to the drive it's the only way out of here. He's in shock, there's no knowing what he's going to do. He's an old friend of mine, so no shooting, right? Don't just stand there, fuckin' move."
“Hey look sheriff!"Martin looked in the direction where his colleague’s finger was pointing. In the field into which Duncan had just disappeared they could see the start of a fire, which growing bigger as they watched.