Of Old Barns And Empty Streets
Like the one they found Claudia in the night she ran away. We knew where to look. The children. This was our tongue and groove, hand hewn, dusty dirt floor playground. The “web” we knew, was a design delicately strung across the corner, home to the big green wolf, or the black and yellow striped guy. Claudia was more scared to go home to that drunken abusive witch who adopted her, than she was of any spider, bat, or little gray field mouse. The rain fell.
We told her to run. Some nights you could hear the screams of the wretched witch half way home, and down a hill. Her parents adopted two, Claudia and Thaddeus, before finally rearing one of their own. The adopted ones were tortured, the other treated princely, that’s why we told her to run. But she had no place to run to…except one of those old neighborhood barns.
Those barns were our wonderland. We were Admiral Perry, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Lewis and Clark, all wrapped in one. This was Timbuctoo, this was the North Pole, this was the haunted castle, or the lost dutchman’s mine, it didn’t matter to us. The only “post” we “liked” was attached to a beam, that held up a piece of American history. They smelled of lime, of hay, or the scent of weathered wood from days long past. At the ground beneath our feet, the soil darkened from the blood of big red machines; once they tilled natures pennies from the earth; now an empty space for a neglected girl, and the echo of America’s farmers forever lost to progress.
It didn’t take long to find Claudia. The children knew where to look. In those days nobody ever asked why she ran. We knew. Eventually she grew up and moved away from the monster. Eventually the neighborhood grew up, and one by one the old barns were torn down, replaced by houses or commercial development. Tiny pieces of American history ripped from their moorings, to make way for shawdy soulless testaments to greed and excess.
Progress is a lie. It’s a lie that parents tell children, that governments tell citizens, it’s a lie that people tell each other because they can’t tell them the truth. The truth is too ugly. The truth is, most Americans want more stuff, not because they need it, they don’t need it, they want it so other people will want what they have–so they can feed their sensitive ego’s and feel special.
Claudia never felt special. The children don’t need to play outside anymore.