by Danielle Campbell

Rodney

 

As far as the eye could see, everything was green. The trees, the hills, and even the sky appeared to contain a green tint. Thunder rumbled in the far distance; but this was rural Ohio. People around here don’t even bat an eye at these summer storms. Birds sang their merry melodies, and the neighbor’s dog barked excitedly through its fence when it saw me leave my house. Summer appeared just as fast as the snow fell last winter. One day it wasn’t there, and the next day it was.

I walked down the cobblestone pathway in which connected our house to the guest house. My husband Rodney transformed a section of the guest house into his workshop. He was a very focused man; often staying there deep into the night until his latest project was complete. After his Ma and Pa passed, we renovated their old farmhouse and made it our own.

We began by replacing the decrepit pieces of furniture with Rodney’s homemade tables, chairs, stools, and bed frames. We tore down the yellowing flowered wallpaper of the kitchen and painted the walls a welcoming burnt orange.

The first time I met Rodney was at an art festival downtown. It had been a long, sweltering summer day and the overall turnout of the festival had been dramatically less than that of the previous years. I normally sold about 15 of my paintings, and that day I had only sold six. Just when I was packing up for the day, I felt a hand lightly touch my shoulder. Alarmed, I jumped and turned around. I saw a tall, lean man standing before me with sandy blond hair and huge green eyes. He introduced himself as Rodney Reddick, owner of the Reddick Lumber Shop just on the west side of town. His crooked smile was warm and friendly, and he offered to help me load my pick-up truck.

As he loaded my old truck with my dozens of original paintings, he paused and admired each one as he lifted it. “I love how you captured the woman’s feelings in this one,” he’d note. Or he’d say, “My, oh, my. Those trees must’ve taken hours and hours to perfect.” I was simply in awe that this random man had enough kindness in his heart to care about my passion.

I thanked him and had turned to climb up into the driver’s seat when he gently but firmly grabbed the inside of my elbow and stopped me. “I’m sorry, ma’am. But a man just can’t go home without knowing the name of a kind belle like yourself.”

I smiled shyly and looked into his mesmerizing green eyes. “My name is Cherilynn. Cherilynn Alcott.”

He took my right hand and kissed the top of it softly. He looked into my eyes and I swear he had touched my soul. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Miss Cherilynn Alcott.” And with that I climbed into my truck and drove off.

I entered the guest house and headed to the left where his workshop is located. I walked through the doorway and saw Rodney sawing a large piece of wood into even sections. He noticed me standing there and stood up straight, grunted exhaustedly, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He explained to me that these would be shelves for a bookcase he was making. I nodded, intently watching his worn and tough hands work diligently. I asked him what he wanted for lunch and he decided on grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh berries.

I returned back to the kitchen and began preparing lunch. I hummed a tune my mother used to sing and swayed back and forth while I waited for the grilled cheese sandwiches to finish cooking.

I had dated here and there, but nothing substantial or very serious. My Ma would pressure me all the time to find someone to settle down with and start a family with. My Ma believed in the perfect wife: the one who cooks, cleans, and raises the kids. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never convince her that I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom. I wanted a college education and a REAL job.

Ma was upset the day I left for college. I wasn’t allowed to move back home during the summers. Luckily, Pa gave me money to keep myself alive until I found a job. I was going to a small university to earn a teaching degree. Nothing made me happier than teaching children how to express themselves in the form of art.

Those four years were the best years of my life. Every day after class I’d return to my room and paint. I loved to paint people. I placed them in an outdoor setting that reflected the mood of the person. For instance, a sad woman was walking down a road soaking wet with a broken umbrella. An angry man was shown yelling during a lightning storm. Or, a young couple was found frolicking in a sunflower patch. My professors were always pleased with my work, and I often sold pieces for considerable amounts of money.

My thoughts were interrupted when I heard a scream from the guest house. I dropped the plate I was holding and ran from the kitchen. I heard my favorite piece of china smash hard onto the cold tile floor, smashing into hundreds of fragments.

It was as if the sky was getting angry. The green hued sky now had prevalent black clouds in which seemed to make the atmosphere hard to breathe in. The neighbor’s dog howled to the hidden sun, and the birds ceased from singing their merry melodies. The windmill at the end of our sprawling property began to spin faster, and the cool air pierced through my clothes. My hair blew in every direction, and I found myself struggling to run down the cobblestone path to our guest house.

“Rodney! Rodney, honey, I’m coming!” No matter how loud I yelled, I felt as if I could barely hear myself. I finally reached the front door of the guest house, and it took every ounce of strength my 130 pound frame could manage to pull the door open. The wind was screaming, and the thunder was cracking lightning bolts like whips in the sky. I made it inside just in time. I turned around in the doorway and saw golfball-sized hail falling from the sky by the truckload. Suddenly all the glass windows in the front of the guest house blew out and shot glass at me like bullets; each one cutting my skin with the intensity of a million knives. I was fortunately able to hide my face, but my arms and neck grew hot and wet. I put a hand to my neck, and when I drew it back it was crimson red. I could feel fire running through the veins in my arms, and the loud banging of the hail upon the roof was deafening.

There was an explosion. Not literally, but it sounded like it. And it felt like it. A gust of wind hit the front of the guest house and sent the front door flying at me. It came off the hinges and hit me at about 70 miles per hour. It pinned me against the opposite wall, and I felt my breath taken from me. My lungs couldn’t fully inflate and deflate, and my head was pounding. I knew it would be a concussion; I had one before. In the midst of it all, the roof was caving above me, and ice-cold rain dumped over me, sending an extreme chill through my body. I wasn’t strong enough to lift the debris off of myself. I was frustrated and disoriented. All I could think of to do was cry. I had never been so scared and helpless in my entire thirty-one years of life.

Then it hit me. The whole reason why I’d come to the guest house in the first place.

Rodney.

I looked to my right, the direction of his workshop. The ceiling had completely fallen in that area of the house, and the power suddenly went out. I had no idea how long I’d been pinned against the wall in absolute shock, but I figured it was several minutes. Each second felt like eternity.

I focused my eyes on a mass of debris, hoping, praying that he was going to be OK. At first glance, all that I recognized was a vintage ceramic lamp with a floral shade, the rafters, chunks of drywall, and various articles of furniture. The wind died down, and the rain was beginning to decrease. I was adamant about scrutinizing the mound, but I was still restricted by the rubble. Breathing was even challenging because I could feel my ribs breaking more and more with each inhale. I could not take the prohibiting force any longer. I wiggled my hands over so they were able to push forward. I then put one foot on the wall behind me. With one brute shove, I was able to make enough space to scramble out.

I climbed over a chunk of our fallen roof, cutting my hands and knees on the exposed nails. I was careful not to bend too much, knowing my ribs were barely connected together anymore. I reached normal flooring, and I felt so accomplished that I could’ve kissed the tile. I then turned and lurked ever so carefully towards the mound, cautioning each and every step.

I approached the pile, and slowly started moving aside fragments of various materials. The lamp was cracked, the shade ripped, Rodney’s stools were split in half, tables were missing legs, and there was glass everywhere.

Then a shimmer caught my eye. A gold band. Rodney’s wedding ring.

I reached for the hand. It was worn and tough, yet very cold and clammy. At that moment, I knew. I knew that there’d be no more laughter, no more woodworking, and no more birds singing their merry melodies. My nights would be silent, and his saws would never be touched again.

There was no more Rodney.

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