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"Bring 'em Back"
© 2013 by Wayne Faust
All rights reserved
© 2013 by Wayne Faust
Lena yust vasn’t da same after Ragnar died. All she did vas mope and mope. I couldn’t even get ‘er to milk da cow. She loved milkin’ dat cow. Oh sure, it vas kinda bleak outside, vit’ da vind howlin’ down outa da iron range and da skies gray as gunmetal. And it vas cold enough to freeze your piss before it hit da ground. It vas a icy valk down to da barn dontcha know. But Lena had fifty vinters in Minnesota and dis vun vas no vorse den any udder.
No, it vasn’t da vinter. It vas Ragnar dyin’. He vas our only child. And da vay he died, I tell ya’, I vas havin’ trouble gettin’ over it myself. I told da boy not to go near dat Yacobs log splitter. I told ‘im and told ‘im. “Da safety is busted,” I says. “It’s liable to kick like a mule.”
But Ragnar didn’t listen. I didn’t used to listen much better ven I vas eighteen. He vanted to split up dat dead oak tree. “Tink of all da hardwood ve could get from it, Pa,” he says.
But I still told ‘im no. I guess I shoulda told ‘im a few more times.
I vas out in da barn fixin’ da tractor ven I heard Lena screamin’ like da air raid siren in town. I come runnin’ and found Ragnar caught in between da two sides of dat log splitter, squashed like a bug. He vas mostly gone by da time I got out der, but he had enough left in ‘im to look up at me and say, “I’m sorry, Pa,” in a kind of gurglin’ voice. It tore up my insides almost as bad as dat log splitter tore up poor Ragnar. But den he vas gone and I had no more son.
Da first ting I had to do vas take care o’ Lena so der vasn’t time for me to stand around and feel bad. I left Ragnar in da log splitter and took Lena in da house. I set her down in da kitchen and viped her forehead vit’ a rag. Den I give her some vhiskey, as much as I could get down ‘er. Den I got her up to bed. Before she conked out she looked up at me and says, “Ve’re all alone again, Ole.” Dat tore me up some more.
But it vas time to go back out to Ragnar. I didn’t tink much o’ dat idea but der vas no vun else.
I got da two parts o’ da log splitter separated. Ragnar looked kinda like a butchered up deer, only a lot vorse ‘cause it vas Ragnar. I ain’t never cried since I vas a kid but I almost cried den. Vhat vas I supposed to do vit’ him? Ve don’t believe in funerals in town. Ve take care of our own vay out here. All da family gets buried on da farm. But da ground under da snow vas frozen hard as da oak logs dat Ragnar had been tryin’ to split. So I stuffed Ragnar in a old burlap sack and put ‘im in da shed. It vas like carryin’ a bag o’ bloody pig bones.
I shouldn’t o’ told Lena vhere I put Ragnar but she voulda found ‘im anyhow. So for da next two veeks she vent out to da shed every day and opened up dat sack. Ragnar vas frozen stiff but you could still see da red splotches in da ice from all dat blood. It vas not a pretty sight, I tell ya’.
Den came da vorst part. Vun day after dinner, ven Lena vas done vit’ her usual cryin’ and carryin’ on, she gets real calm. Den she looks me in da eye and it gives me da creepin’ heebie yeebies. “Bring ‘im back, Ole,” she says.
I nearly choke on my beer. “No, Lena, I can’t do a ting like dat,” I says.
“Bring ‘im back!”
I ain’t never heard Lena’s voice sound like dat before. It vas like tunder.
Lena knew about da legends from da Old Country. And she knew about da lodge I vas in vit’ Lars and Einar and Fred and all da rest. But I never figured she knew how far ve had taken tings. Or at least how far ve had been tryin’ to take tings.
“I can’t do it,” I says. “It ain’t right. Yust ‘cause you can do somethin’ doesn’t mean ya should.”
“Do it,” she tells me, her bloodshot eyes pinnin’ me to da couch like a fly on a pin.
I know dat a man is sposed to vear da pants in da family. I used to try and vear ‘em alright. But I never could say no to Lena ven she vanted sometin’ bad enough. And she vanted dis more den anyting in her whole life.
So I told her yes.
I dug da old book outa its hidin’ place in da cellar. It’s da only book I got dat’s in da ancient, lost language dey used to speak vay up nort in da Old Country vhere da icy vinds blow forever. Me and da boys at da lodge been practicin’ stuff in dat language for years but it still don’t come easy. ‘Specially da charm I vas plannin’ to do now. No vun had done dat vun for a long, long time. But I opened dat huge book and blew off da dust. Ven I got to da part in da book I vas lookin’ for I had ta practice for a long time down der in da cellar. Dos ancient sounds don’t come easy off da lips, dontcha know. But I kept on tryin’.
Den I vent out to da shed.
Ven I told you before dat Lena gimme da creepin’ heebie yeebies ven she told me vhat she vanted me to do, it vas nuttin’ compared to da heebie yeebies I got ven I held dat lantern high and started chantin’. Dat vas spooky enough, vit all da shadows playin’ around da shed and my vords makin’ frost in da air. But ven I saw dat sack startin’ to squirm like der vas a bunch o’ snakes in ‘er, I yust about ran out and slammed da door behind me. But I had promised Lena. So I yust kept on chantin’. Der vas a sound from inside da sack like icicles poppin’. Den da top of dat sack opened and a bloody, frozen hand stuck out vit’ a couple fingers missin’. Dat vas yust too much for me, I tell ya’. I dropped da lantern and vent runnin’ into da house, leavin’ da shed door open behind me. I shouldn’t o’ done dat.
Lena vas vaitin’ for me in da kitchen. I figured she vas sleepin’ but I shoulda known she was keepin’ an eye on me ever since I promised her dat awful ting. She raised her eyebrows ven I valked in but I vas shakin’ so bad dat I yust plopped down in a chair. Dat’s ven ve heard a rustlin’ noise outside, like snow blowin’ around. Den somethin’ started scrapin’ against da door.
“Don’t open da door, Lena,” I vhispered.
But it didn’t do no good. It vouldn’t o’ done no good if I had shouted.
Lena opened da door.
Vhat I saw den vas enough to make my blood run as cold as Ragnar in da shed for two veeks. He vas standin’ outside in da snow, all crooked and bent, like a rag doll dat vas splattered vit’ red paint. None o’ his body parts lined up right. I couldn’t figure how he coulda been standin’ der in da first place. But his face vas okay. His face vas Ragnar. And he vas grinnin’ at Lena like a maniac. “Bakiiiiiiida för fömiddaggggggg,” Ragnar says.
At least I tink dat’s vhat he said. He vas drawin’ out all da syllables of da ancient language and who knows how dey really used to pronounce dat stuff anyhow. And I had no idea vhat it meant. His voice didn’t sound like Ragnar. It vas muffled, like it vas comin’ from under da snow someplace.
I started vishin’ I had locked dat shed door tight.
But Lena didn’t care about any o’ dat. All she kept sayin’ vas, “Ragnar! Ragnar!” Before I could stop ‘er she put ‘er arms around her boy. Or at least vhat used to be her boy. She pulled Ragnar into da kitchen and spun ‘im around. Den she spun ‘im around some more. It vas like dey vas dancin’. I heard mushy sounds venever Ragnar moved ‘cause he vas unfreezin’ in dat varm kitchen. Blood started drippin’ on Lena’s housedress but she didn’t pay dat no mind. All she knew vas she had her Ragnar back. Ven she started kissin’ his face and neck I put my head in my hands and yust moaned.
Der’s vun ting I’ve learned in 55 years. Ven somethin’s not right, ya’ gotta fix it. And der vas only vun vay to fix dis. I stood up and grabbed Ragnar and Lena togedder. Den I pushed ‘em outside. I vas hopin’ Lena vould let go but she didn’t.
Out in da barnyard dey kept on spinnin’ round and round. “Let go, Lena!” I hollered, over and over. But it didn’t do no good. Lena had her Ragnar back and she vasn’t never gonna let go again. Finally, I stuck out my foot and tripped ‘em yust to get ‘em to stop dat horrible dance. But ven dey hit da ground dey started rollin’ around in da snow like a vindup toy on its side. I tried to pull Lena avay from Ragnar but it vas like she vas part of him by now. And maybe she vas. Her eyes vas crazy. And by den I vas crazy myself. Dis had to be stopped.
So I grabbed da axe.
Ven I vacked down da first time I vas yust tryin’ for Ragnar’s head. But I guess my aim vas bad ‘cause I vas shakin’ even vorse by now. Da axe hit Lena instead o’ Ragnar and her head split vide open. And dat vas da end of dat. As soon as Lena stopped twitchin’, Ragnar pulled avay from his Ma. And den he tried to get up. I vasn’t gonna let dat happen I tell ya’. So I hit Ragnar too. In da head, yust like Lena. It sent ‘im back down and he died again.
Yust before Ragnar died for da second time, he made a sort of growling noise. His voice still sounded like it was comin’ from under da snow. It vas horrible I tell ya’. But vhat’s one more horrible ting ven der’s already been so many?
So pretty soon der vas two burlap sacks in da shed. And dis time I locked da door tight.
So now it’s been two veeks since dat horrible day. And all I can tink about is how lonely it is around here on da farm. Powerful lonely. Crazy lonely. It’s still vinter. It’s gonna be vinter for anudder couple o’ months at least. Da old farmhouse never seemed so big before. Or so cold.
Like Lena used to do, I been goin’ out to da shed every day. I open dos two burlap sacks and yust stare. Ragnar looks even vorse den he did before, especially vit’ his head split open. And Lena don’t look much better.
But dat don’t matter none ‘cause I’m lonely.
Yeah, I know it vas horrible ven I brought Ragnar back da first time. Especially dat voice from under da snow. But I been tinkin’. Maybe dat voice is da voice of my ancestors, comin’ back after all dos’ years. All dos centuries. Dey knew stuff in da Old Country in dos’ days. Stuff nobody knows no more. It might be good to know some o’ dat stuff again. Don’t da boys at da lodge tink so?
But dat ain’t da main reason I’m gonna do dis. Nope. I guess old Ole yust ain’t used to bein’ by his self.
So I’m gonna bring ‘em back.
Bot’ of dem.
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