The Old Man bought the farm, both literally and figuratively. There were rumors and whisperings that the deal was struck with something other than money and that the possession of these ill-gotten gains was his downfall.
Riley remembered going out to the barn to find his favorite toy—some long-forgotten trinket that went to his race set. Always the early riser, a light fog rested on the wet grass which parted and stirred as he made his way from the house to that old drafty barn. He recalled not wearing shoes and that the most dangerous thing he could probably step on was a pile of poop left behind by King, his grandfather’s senile old mutt. But King had been merciful that morning and the path was clear, the dew from the grass cooling his feet as he made his way.
Something was wrong.
The door to the barn was ajar and from the inside, he heard an almost inaudible whimper. King was a hound from an ancient time, the last of Granddaddy’s hunting dogs. That mongrel was old before Riley was born and in the boy’s five years, he’d never heard King make a sound, outside the release of an occasional fart. That morning, though, he heard the dog pacing and whining inside.
Like a protestor, the wrinkled canine walked and turned back and forth, below something that swung almost like wind chimes, hanging from a rope connected to the overhead rafter. The creaking of wood was the instrumental accompaniment to King’s wounded vocals.
Beneath Granddaddy’s naked body was a pile of steaming crap, stinking up the place. Though it is said a person can’t smell in dreams, Riley swore he couldn’t escape that fetid stench in each consecutive nocturnal vision.
The grotesque sight of the undressed body and stretched neck used to jar him the first few times and he would will himself from the barn, away from King’s whining protests.
No matter his means of escape, be it by aerial or terrestrial flight, the barn sat in the clearing of his mind night after night. He was drawn to it, the soft fog around it muffling sound, but allowing details of faded red paint to be seen. The building would beckon him, the low-hanging clouds forming fingers that drew him in. It promised a toy he would never find.
Black men didn’t commit suicide, he’d been told. Whoever said that had lied.
One night, when he was twelve, the boy refused to run. He figured there was a reason the barn seeped its way into his haunted nocturnes. He had stopped being afraid and just regarded the corpse. The wood above creaked and the rope turned so that Granddaddy faced him, his visage contorted in a mask of surprise and pain. His eyes bulged, hemorrhaged and angry. Riley overlooked the distended belly and milky droplets that had run down the elder’s thigh.
That was the day his grandfather spoke.
The Old Man’s tongue, was a pale pink slug that hung lazily from bloodless lips, lolled and shifted a bit. The corpse, which had been a man he once loved, croaked a single whisper of a word: “Bewarrrrrrrre!”