Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 120 in October, 2009.
A true account in the life of Walter E. Wright, I
He was an elegant man of Irish-English descent; a prominent lawyer from Chicago with a strapping look and a swift-stepping stride... raising his seven children nestled comfortably in the quiet Village of Riverside, Illinois, in love, affluence, and liberal sway.
Years moved on as they do, and as such, his children grew into their own. The remaining two, ages 10 and 13, were yet under his wing. With a piercing intuitive sense, Walter found a clarity not seen into before. The city had grown tall...with its bustle and buildings lent a shadowy sense, creating a kind of hover all too heavy a strain.
Walter's good fortune in childhood afforded him a buffering from harsh raw realities. Raised on a many-acred estate ~ well away from the populous, muffled in quietude... nature, his religion. This core centre embodied all that he was and yearned to give his family.
At fifty years of age, plans were in place. Through a marriage of logistics and longing, he successfully moved his wife and last two children up north to mid-west Wisconsin. He presented for them a two-hundred acre hobby farm in l974; a place in time ne'er to be replicated. He speckled the farm with horses, prancing lambs, two black angus cows named "Jane" and "54", and bountiful gardens lathered out-stretched and tended to in a newfound northerly joy. The land was replete with wild berries, asparagus and other nourishing goods of the earth. Atop the hill in the centre of out-stretched fields sat a humble little farm house, dotted with other buildings of use to a farmer; a barn, a grain shed and a coop for little hens.
Summer evenings were spent out of doors with the murmuring stars and sparkling sounds of peeper frogs. Music came from portable cubed speakers, libations with cubes keeping refreshments cool, and all else rounded and 'right with the world'. But, much like many a dream realised, when among such strong a light and often at the soul of a saint, a darkness descends, pulling at such with fierce jealousy.
This came in the form of significant dreaming, wherein a dark mare crept one night and sprung upon Walter's slumber. Deeply gone under, he found himself in the small humble bedroom where his wife lay peacefully resting beside him. Propped up by arms, up viewing the scene, initial contentment was his... all things were simply placed and things were few, as was a natural practice for this man and wife. A delicate spray of lavender petals on creme papered walls.. windows were old with wooden sills, cracked paint. Daylight was closing in on her summer green.
What moved Walter to up and walk about was not in question. Stepping outside in summer's long hour, the day was fine but nearing the dusk in this state of dreaming. He ventured a familiar ritual toward the barn. So many a time it had been his enjoyment to see that the three horses and one stubborn small donkey-like pony they named "Highlander" were all well-fed, in comfort and greeted kindly by day's end.
Upon his walking, the man wandered while surveying the wide scope of land... the near spun-golden wheat fields waving gently.
The green firs crowned the acreage with strong majesty.. a sense of inner-peace was deeply felt. Walter had achieved the perfect scenario ~ a family bred in love, instilled with patience, simplicity and compassion, there was no more for the want. This gentle soul was not plagued by desire.
It was here in this pinnacle moment ~ free of any need, there incited a bitter-sweet pang, a poignant sense that nothing more could begotten... that all was both found and, in a sense, lost. A temporal tinge was tapping at the door of eternal.
His steps were audibly heightened now. . . the ground beneath him, less secure. The pace picked up, as did the beat of his heart. Here, an impending of the ominous was felt, and more certain ... the intermingling of sadness and contentment
In swirl.., he stepped on forward to the door of the barn. Upon pulling the latch, the entrance was darker than before... the horses in a more restless state. As he went passing them, observing their disquiet, the fourth stall was empty. Suddenly, all other dimensions fell parallel.
With an uncharacteristic quiver, lifting the latch to open, a whispering of the mind sent the question; "where has the pony gone?" Like many intuitive feelings, the one at this moment held a kind of dread ~ yet, he braved it, now very much in character.
With the door open, the first glance was ghastly, repugnant, visually equal to the violence of stomach upheaval. Nailed on an old wooden post, was the head of Highlander, bleating out the low cry of suffering; a siren of agony, warning and forlorn. Walter's sweetest of brown eyes warmed with deeply imbued compassion, and they bore the pony's anguish. Its head, mounted and bleeding, dripping streams of life into the old dead post. The lips of it's mouth tightened about his large, yellowing teeth, agape in suffering. With a few efforts left to utter, came the sounds of a dying cry in pathos for leaving this beloved earthly life.
The top door was now shut. One could endure the figure no longer! All too ugly a truth, the image - with hand pressed to door, the dreamer’s head deep in despondence. Only here, did a little allowance of light crack open upon a man's most horrific night terror.
Glad was his heart; relieved, too, his spirit ~ the morning was real! This surpassed all. Ah!, and now, the hands on the clock were so heavenly slow, seeming to stop any belief that ever there'd be such a dark happening from which he'd awake. As the morning slipped into the days noon hour, Walter felt the pang of surrender to the truth-teller; the messenger mid-nightly that foretold all could not be good for too long... not in such a great man's time on this earth.
It was within days that disease crept into his body, manifesting itself in most visibly dark forms. His skin began itching; rashes broke out, red, puffy bloating, cracking and bleeding to a point so unsightly, he covered his hands in white cotton. All had worsened hereon; doctors perplexed, experimental medicine made for brittle bones and each day his sadness deepened at the intuitively imminent truth.
Here it was, revisiting this gentle man with so pure a heart, the siren post pony of doom. Walter's dream in night terror form was, indeed, a luckless portent. His suffering went on and increasingly so; encroaching insidiously over months, into years, a total of three.
One singularly raining, cold October night, year 1978, his body surrendered its final breath, and his soul ascended at the tender age of 54 in the 10th month, the 13th day, a Friday.