Beyond Those Trees
There’s a haunting stretch of land just beyond those trees. It’s haunting to me, but not necessarily haunted. I’ve never seen a ghost come across the open field, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. The locals call this ground hallowed; sacred in nature. I don’t know what to call it, but it leaves me feeling unsettled.
My father used to tell a story about that land. It had all the trademarks of a good bedtime story and it always ended with the good guy on top. (He usually got the girl, too, but I never cared about that part when I was growing up.) It was a simple story of good and evil, one that a child could comprehend with ease.
The way he told it, a businessman was trying to buy the land all around a poor town in the midwest. He worked for some big corporation back east and would show up hootin’ and hollerin’ to get the locals to sell their property for cheap. My father would throw in some manifest destiny metaphors mixed with horses and guns. He’d go on about moments of pain when a loved one was lost to further the cause. It was just about the same story line as every western you’ve ever read, except my father told me it happened there in that open field. At the end of the story, the businessman stopped coming around and it was learned that he died under mysterious circumstances. At least, that’s how my dad would tell it.
It always bugged me - how the man mysteriously died. Not much of a climax, really. I remember complaining about it from time to time, but my father never did tell me the end. Maybe he was trying to protect my youthful innocence or to harbor the family from what had happened. But I was always curious. The details seemed too rich to be some work of fiction.
When my father passed, his will provided some clues, as did the county archives. Names and connections in old newsprint wove a tale that began hitting close to home. The bedtime story was in fact our story. The businessman’s mysterious ending was noted in the local paper, first as a missing person and then as a cold case. Never was my father implicated, arrested or tried. And never was a body found.
There’s a haunting stretch of land just beyond those trees. It’s haunting to me, but it’s not necessarily haunted. Your grandfather killed the businessman in that open field, then buried him somewhere close to the trees. The locals call this ground hallowed; sacred because what he did protected the whole town from the inevitable push to conform. I don’t know what to call it, son. But I’ll be damned if anyone ever tries to take this land from me like they did him.
My father never finished telling the bedtime story. I reckon he knew it wasn’t quite over yet.