I was recently given a small pile of legos and told I had 5 minutes to build whatever I wanted. I started building and wound up demolishing everything I started. Then, with 30 seconds to go, I built a small (and rather disappointing) windmill. (Thank you, deep Dutch roots.)
I was then informed that I was to write a story featuring the creation I had made, so here it is, very creatively named, I might add.
Espen and Claudios were their names, the two men who built me. They toiled in the heat and dirt, slowly building me from the ground up with strong, think boards, finishing with four giant wooden blades that held yards of canvas as sails. They painted me a deep turquoise blue, the color of the river that flows freely behind me. At first they used me to pump water out of the brown tangled swampland that lay out miles before me. The large, lofty sails captured the wind and for a year, day and night, I pumped the soggy swamp water into the meandering river
The land dried out and I was converted into a mill. Espen and Claudios began to plow the fertile land and sow grains into the freshly turned soil. I milled grain for years, powered only by Mother Nature’s heavenly breath.
Soon the children came along, Vincent and Arabella are their names. Vincent was a tall, blonde, energetic child with a wide smile and cratered dimples. He was the son of Espen and Camille, and lived just two miles north along the river. Arabella was a small girl, always clad in a sun dress and her golden hair in braids. She could wander for hours in the emerald grasslands surrounding the fields. Often she’d come to my doors with wild flowers forming a halo in her hair. By the age of 5 Vincent and Arabella were stitched together at the hip. They would walk along the river from school, crossing the bridge their fathers erected across the river. They would sit on my steps and throw pebbles into the gravel road and use sharpened sticks to etch pictures and tic-tac-toe boards while they waited for their fathers to finish the day’s work.
Many birthdays, holidays, and picnics were held in the grasses around my foundation near the river bank. They were large, exciting celebrations with many guests. The parties would last late into the night, ending with fireworks that arched into the sky, bursting overhead with a chest-rattling thunder.
I watched the families grow as I grew older.
Espen and Claudios grew to be old men. They kept me up nicely, repairing shattered windows and splintered boards after storms, repainting me in my famous turquoise, and frequently patching and replacing my sails so I could continue to run the mill.
Vincent and Arabella grew into stunning young adults, and, seeing their fathers growing old and too frail for the stresses of daily labor, took over the operation of the mill and fields. Never had the grains grown taller or with more seed. The two had a gift for growing things together; their love for one another was no exception. They were married on the green rolling grasses of the riverbank where they’d spent endless hours playing and laughing in their childhood. As the years went by, Vincent and Arabella had children of their own.
They had built their own home just a stone’s throw down the road from their childhood homes. They continued to mill grains to send down the river into town. They sewed and harvested crop after crop, their sweat becoming part of the land.
Vincent and Arabella grew old over the years. Their own children had taken over the milling operations and general upkeep of my sturdy frame.
Every day, Vincent and Arabella would walk the two-mile stretch of path from their home , hand in hand, just to sit on my steps and watch the sun raise and set over the fields of growing grains they have trusted me to watch over every day for over eighty years.
The children married and, family by family, they moved away until the last child had gone, leaving me standing over the barren, rough fields. Vincent and Arabella stopped walking down to sit on my steps every day. I no longer milled grains. The only daily visitor I had was a small brown turtle who lived under a log at the muddy riverbank. Vincent would walk down the path alone sometimes, re-living stories of his childhood and courtship with Arabella.
One day I realized that he had not made the journey down to sit on my steps for over a month. I worried that the worst things had happened to he and Arabella but I continued watching over the fields that had now been taken over with brown prairie grasses. My paint started to crack and chip in the heat of the summer sun, my bare wood now exposed to the wind and rain. Slowly I began to rot and my foundation began to crack and crumble. Small animals moved in and began raising their families in the dusty, cobweb-covered mill. I had lost all hope that I’d ever watch over growing fields again.
One day, driving down the road that was now overtaken with weeds and prairie flowers, a car arrived. It pulled up right to the steps and slowly, Arabella stepped out of the back seat and into the summer sun. She was old now, her back bent in the curve of old age. She used a cane to steady her weak legs and slowly climbed the stairs. She looked up, and I could see tears glistening in the corners of her eyes.
Soon, more cars slowly crept down the dusty path. The front car was long and black. It stopped and six men in pressed black suits solemnly walked to the rear of the car. I recognized two to be Vincent and Arabella’s sons.
I watched as they slowly pulled a long shiny box out of the rear of the car. I realized what had happened.
Vincent was dead.
Arabella was openly crying now, long silver paths cutting down her cheeks, highlighted by the morning sunlight. The men carried the box over to a hole, freshly dug this morning, and placed in inside. Other mourners gathered around, sharing their parting words as the hole was filled in.
Most of the cars had made their way back up the overgrown road, but Arabella continued to sit on my steps, looking out over the dead fields where she had toiled in the sun for so long with Vincent by her side.
Painfully, she stood and walked back to the car. She took one final look over the dead fields, at my rotting wood, at the peaceful river flowing in the background. She ducked her head into the car and it drove off.
That was the last time anyone came down the path. I continue to stand, watching guard over the dead fields and listening as the wind blows through my rotting boards.