Book of Days: July 28, Mend the Fence

Every night, I walk along the edge of the fields, checking the fences. It was a habit my father instilled in me, dragging me from video games or calls with friends or whatever else I was doing. I can still remember their faces on the monitors, laughing even though they’d usually been kind enough to mute themselves, though most of the time they waited until I was back.

It’s not a short walk, either. It was often half-an-hour or more. Much more, if a fence needed repair. I tried to tell him we should do the walk during the day, or in the morning, but he would just shake his head.

“No good, Kia,” he’d say. “Walk it in the day and the holes would not be here yet. Walk it in the morning, and the things that made them would have been and gone.”

I never liked the implications of that, even though he refused to tell me what made the holes. It seemed to me that if they’d made the holes, they’d already gotten in. It was years before I realized he was trying to keep something from coming back.

We have a few animals on the farm. Mostly chickens and things, but the odd pigs when the time of year is right. It was the chickens I expected he was trying to keep safe. I thought maybe he’d planned to keep whatever came to kill them inside the yard until he could kill it in return. After years of walking the fence, or repairing the holes, I finally noticed the damage we fixed was pushing out, not in, and I wondered why he didn’t want the chickens to come back.

I didn’t see what made the holes, not until my father was buried more than a month and I’d been walking the fence myself. I’d started going earlier and earlier, convincing myself my father had his ways, but I could have mine. Never mind that was the time the fence had always been walked, for as long as my family had owned the farm. Never mind it all.

But that meant I was out on the edges of our land one night, when I heard the sound of snuffling, the bending of metal and the snapping of the links in the chain. I took out my phone, readied the flashlight, and crept up to the source of the sound as quietly as I could. The grass had grown longer than I liked, longer than my father would ever have let it get, and I couldn’t see a thing in the dark. All the same, the wires of the fence shook, and so I flicked on the flashlight and pointed it at the base of the fence.

A shriek of anger and terror and hatred burst from the grass, almost a physical thing. Or maybe there had been a physical thing accompanying the sound. My mind couldn’t grasp the details, not when I’d dropped my phone to cover my ears. When I could hear again, there was nothing in the grass, and though the fence was damaged, the hole wasn’t enough for anything to have gotten through. Whatever had made that noise, whatever was trying to get out, it was still in there, with me.

Since then, I’ve gone at the same time my father went, the same time we have always gone, and I wait for the holes to appear in the fence. I wait until whatever the hell that was has burst out. Then I mend the fence and hope with everything I am, that it cannot break back in.

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by | Jul 28, 2021