Dreams of the Past
by John Andreula
edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
A dream can be repetitive and monotonous.
Sometimes the same dream may occur night, after night, after night.
Oftentimes dreams like these involve repetitive, menial tasks, like standing in front of a copy machine watching the flashing lights of the scanner passing from left to right, over and over and over again…
Some time ago there was a iron miner. The miner had two sons; Ty, and E.J., the elder of the two.
To say the miner worked a considerable amount would be a considerable understatement of how much he actually labored. His working hours had him leaving before sunrise everyday, often keeping him at the mine until supper or later.
The miner had a propensity for acquiring debt. The only thing that matched his ability to accrue debt was his insatiable thirst for alcohol. The more money he came to owe, the more he would drink to push his cares away.
The miner wasn’t a violent drunk. Imbibing was just his preferred method of numbing the world and his responsibilities. It was both a way to detach himself from his world’s harsh realities, as well as being his chosen form of decompression after long shifts of toil, sweat, & soot.
Luckily for his sons, the alcohol never made him abusive to the boys. Unfortunately, his mounting interest payments on his loans, along with his alcohol consumption habits, didn’t make him very pleasant to be around much of the time.
This was felt utmost by the boys’ mother, the miner’s wife. On many nights she would have to abide his complaints and attitude, but to her even this wasn’t as bad as what she felt she was missing out on with such a loser for a husband. Despite the long hours the miner worked, the family didn’t have money for extras or luxuries such as dining out, fine clothing, or vacation trips. The miner’s wife felt these were her due.
When E.J. and Ty were quite young, the impoverished miner’s wife spent many nights yelling at her husband. She frequently and vehemently reminded him how much of a loser he was. She informed him time and again that they were never going to have the proper means she deserved and expected.
Doors got slammed regularly. This would often be followed by more raised voices shouting back and forth across the small house. E.J. and Ty would stay in their shared bedroom, the older holding and comforting the younger until the noises ceased and sleep could finally come.
At the end of an evening of these familiar circumstances, the front door slammed with more heft and impact than usual. Most nights when the front door slammed and the boys’ mother stormed off into the night, the next morning would follow with her home asleep in bed, or up early, preparing the boys’ breakfast and lunches for their day.
This night had a different feel. At least that’s how E.J. remembered it. Their cramped home seemed more silent than the boy had been accustomed to. Whether his memory painted a different picture than the night’s actual events, this night and the following morning were indeed distinctive.
The empty silence that was felt throughout the modest dwelling that evening would be repeated the following morning as well, and for much of the next couple years. When the boys’ mother left that night, she never returned.
The miner’s wife had finally had enough. She was through with her life of poverty and their shared, pitiful, empty future. She was finished with being expected to do everything for the boys. It truly wasn’t their fault, but life isn’t fair most of the time. They never saw or heard from her again.
What happened to the miner’s wife out in the world is unknown and irrelevant, but the boys’ mother did leave behind one valuable possession: her beloved draft horse, Charity. The miner never cared for or about the horse. To him, it just was. He never held any emotional attachment to the animal whatsoever.
After his wife had been gone for a few weeks the man had decided she wouldn’t be returning. As it were, despite all his working hours, the miner continued to stay broke. The mare had always cost loads of money to feed and care for. That was money he no longer saw fit to spend on her.
The miner concluded he would sell the horse. Charity was a strong and well-behaved mare. She would probably fetch quite a sum from some local farmer or rancher.
One rare sober evening the man informed the boys of his plan to part with the mare. E.J. and Ty expressed their extreme displeasure at the idea. They were well-aware how much their mother had cared for the horse. They did not wish to disappoint her upon her expected eventual return. The boys lacked the man’s realism towards the situation. They had not quite comprehended or accepted that their mother wouldn’t be returning.
The boys fought with their father. E.J. yelled in anger while Ty cried in hysterics. That horse was all they had left of their mother now, besides their memories. They would not accept their father’s plan.
Despite the continual animosity and resentment between the man and his wife over the years, the children never caused him trouble. They didn’t argue or tussle much. The miner was well aware that his sons were good boys.
The man knew it was his fault that his wife had left them, so he eventually agreed to keeping the horse. Somewhere deep inside the miner had hoped to make up for his lack of physical and emotional presence through yet another financial sabotage of his family.
Like most of his prior poor financial decisions, he came to this conclusion before thoroughly considering his options. How would he make enough money to continue owning the horse? Horses cost an abundant amount of money to own. That was money he didn’t have, and he never seemed to have an easy time coming by more.
He didn’t want to disappoint his boys further, so he determined to figure out some way to make owning Charity work. When she was still around, his wife had worked at a local restaurant waiting tables and tending bar to afford her own luxuries. These included her clothing, jewelry, and most especially her horse. This wasn’t an option for him. Working more wouldn’t work. His current load had his body and his mind long past healthy capacity. The man’s income was all already spoken for in terms of bills, food, and out-standing debt. He would have to find another way.
Through a coworker at the mine, the miner heard about a local farmer on the outskirts of the town that leased horses to pull hay and carts, and work the land. The miner contacted the farmer and the two planned to meet. The horse would need to be inspected and terms of the lease would have to be agreed upon.
The miner figured he could negotiate a rate that would cover the horse’s normal expenses and even put a couple extra dollars in the his pocket. Unfortunately for him, this wouldn’t be the case. The farmer was a shrewd businessman. He understood money and horses far better than the uneducated miner.
Had the poor man truly understood the actual costs of owning and feeding a horse, he would have immediately recognized that the amount the farmer and he had agreed upon would barely cover his base ownership costs. There would be no extra income, and he would struggle tremendously if the horse took ill, or needed any surprise maintenance he wasn’t planning for.
Still, the man was satisfied with his deal. Being able to keep the horse and please his boys felt like a victory. After such a long run of poor decisions and bad news, he finally felt like he was doing something right by his family and himself.
The miner told his boys the news that very evening. They were ecstatic with the knowledge that they would be keeping their mother’s beloved horse.
The following day the man set out earlier than usual to deliver Charity to the farmer. The boys rode on the brown mare’s back. E.J. held the reigns in his hands, with his arms around his younger brother. The three walked the horse down the quiet dirt county roads, under the dark sky before the sunrise. Finally they approached the farmer’s property just outside of their sleeping mining town.
The group reached the farmer’s house just as the sky was turning orange and pink. It was a beautiful sky that felt ominous of many better memories to come.
Once down the gravel driveway, the miner walked up to the wooden porch, leaving his boys and the horse behind him. The man climbed the three gray steps and proceeded to knock on the door frame to the right of the red door.
A thick grizzled man wearing overalls and a trucker’s hat came to the door and pulled the curtains back to see who was there. He looked at the miner in his jacket and hat, and then down to the horse with the two young boys mounted on her saddle. His expression didn’t change. He let the curtains back down and opened the door.
The two men shook hands and spoke for a bit. The miner’s boys waited patiently, quietly. Their eyes scanned the vast farm property. A young boy and girl came to the window of the farmhouse, just to the side of the front door where the two men conversed. The girl knocked on the glass in an attempt to get the miner’s sons’ attention.
The boys looked up at the sound of the rapping on the glass. Eight pairs of eyes met. E.J. and Ty smiled at the kids at the window. The boy at the window scrunched up his face, and then proceeded to stick his tongue out at them.
The little girl laughed. The two boys hesitated for a moment, but then began chuckling as well. Finally, the boy at the window transformed his frown to a large smile. Then the girl and the boy left the window and headed in the direction of the front door.
The farmer’s kids ran past their father’s leg, down to the horse and boys at the end of the walkway. The little girl put her hand out for Charity to smell, before petting her nose gently. The farmer paused in mid-sentence. He sighed, and then went back to his discussion with the miner.
The farmer’s kids greeted the boys on the horse with hey’s. E.J. climbed down Charity’s side before helping his brother down as well. All four introduced themselves in turn. The girl immediately suggested that they all play chase.
The four children commenced running around the grass lawn in between the house and barn. They laughed and hooted at one another. Instantly hitting it off, they had all become friends.
The miner and the farmer concluded their discussion and shook hands once more. The farmer then called to his kids, “James & Ginny, come inside and get ready for school.”
He turned to face the miner, “They haven’t had many friends since their ma passed on…” he trailed off for a moment, lost in thought, and then proceeded, “It’s nice to see them smiling again. Listen, Gene, please bring the boys by anytime. They’re welcome here to play whenever it suits them. I reckon it will be best to have them kids laughing again, me being so tied up with the farm all the time.”
The miner nodded his head, “Alright.” He hollered out to the boys, “Let’s get you two off to school as well.” The boys knew that meant E.J. would see to Ty while the man went off to the mine for the day.
The boys returned that afternoon after school to play with their new friends . And so they did many, many more afternoons, and Saturdays and Sundays as well, after that.
Dreams of the Past is part of an ongoing fiction epic called The Dreamer.
Look out for Part 2 of Dreams of the Past, due out next week.
John Andreula is a writer and dreamer residing in the foothills of Colorado.
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