Between her painting and observing small town life, Genevieve was enjoying her life on the farm, but found it strange that there was so much space between everything in Texas. She went all over the house, which was five or six times larger than any home she ever lived in before, looking for her husband before venturing outside.
“Kelly my dear,” Genevieve called out in a singsong voice, as she walked around the corner of the barn. “Husband of mine, you know you can’t hide from me forever.”
“I am up here dear,” Kelly said, peering out from the hayloft door above her. “Come join me.”
“Wait a moment, I will be right up,” Genevieve said. She entered the barn through a smaller people door cut into the large barn door, which was kept closed most of the time.
Walking across the barn floor to the ladder, Genevieve noted that the horses’ stalls were empty, and were filled with a layer of fresh straw after they were cleaned that morning. All the horses and the cows were out in their respective pastures, enjoying the sweet grass that flourished in abundance after the last rains. With the animals gone, with the exception of a few sleepy cats, the barn was very peaceful with beams of sunlight piercing the gloom from a few chinks in the exterior planking.
Once at the ladder, Genevieve ran her hands over the bare wood, polished by the hands of generations of the Post Family, and took a firm grip on the rungs. Hand over hand she climbed, mindless of her crisp shirtdress, enjoying the stretching of her tense muscles, which had already relaxed somewhat in the quiet of the barn. Clambering onto the hayloft floor with her husband’s helping hand, Genevieve looked around and said, “Well this looks very cozy!”
“You know my secret now. I read the Penrod and Sam books too many times when I was a boy,” Kelly said, making a sweeping gesture toward the makeshift den. He had arranged hay bales to make a rough easy chair and ottoman, and covered it with army-surplus blankets, he found bundled in the attic a few weeks before. Two wooden Coco-Cola crates served as tables on each side of the chair. The remains of Kelly’s lunch, which Eileen packed for him, sat on one table. Near to the chair, wooden milk crates were stacked to make a bookcase, where Kelly placed a number of books, notebooks, pens, and paper.
“So that is where your old typewriter went to,” his wife exclaimed. “It looks like you have been raiding the attic too. How did you ever get all this stuff up here?”
“Oh, come over here and look at this,” he said, leading her over to what appeared to be a primitive dumb waiter, constructed of the same rough-hewed wood as the barn. “I think it was made for lowering down hay bales, but I am not sure. I just toss the bales down, down to the barn floor myself.”
“Maybe they used to store things up here that couldn’t be tossed,” his wife remarked, admiring the craftsmanship of the lift.
“Guess you think I am silly, setting all this up, when I will just have to take it down when the hay comes in, not to mention that I have a perfectly good office in the house,” Kelly said, sheepishly.
“No, my dear, I am quite impressed,” she said, smiling at her husband. “I think it is wonderful that you found a way to work quietly when the house can be so crazy with a baby, a daily woman, and Bennie always making themselves known. Besides, I don’t think that you will have to break it down when the hay comes. Just have the men stack the hay higher near the walls, and you will have plenty of room to keep this area. Maybe I will try to come up here and paint sometime when you are on the lecture circuit again. How did you ever get the idea to come up here?”
“Well, a few weeks ago when your sister, Madeleine, came to visit, I was at a point in developing my new lecture on self-motivation, where I needed solitude to concentrate, and your sister’s voice was cutting into my thought process, so I was compelled to find a quiet place to be able to walk back and forth and deliver my lecture to an imaginary audience. Of course, up here my audience wasn’t imaginary,” he said motioning toward several relaxed barn cats, who were fluidly adorning the surrounding hay bales. “They make quite a good audience, being so appreciative that they have brought me numerous mice to thank me.” A nearby calico blinked her eyes slowly and emitted a full “Merrow” in apparent agreement with Kelly. “So I kept finding myself coming back and adding a few things, until …,” his voice trailed off as he gestured to his den.
“Speaking of a more beloved relative …,” Genevieve started to say, lowering herself into the surprisingly comfortable hay chair.
“Oh, please do,” Kelly said, happy for a change of subject, as he sat down a single bale of hay, facing his wife with rapt attention.
“I just got a call from your mother. She is very excited. Excited in a good way. She won’t tell me what she is so excited about, but she wants us to come over to her house for dinner tonight, with your Uncle Darrell. She said it must be tonight because she is going to be going to Dallas tomorrow to visit some of her old friends, from her University of Texas days. She spoke to Eileen and got her to agree to stay late and look after the baby, so we can’t use little Alexis as an excuse this time.”
Kelly grabbed his head with both hands, and swayed in feigned agony, much to the consternation of his cat fans, who took the opportunity to evaporate in the time-honored tradition of cats.
“Oh, cut it out, things are not that bad. We just go over, have dinner, and I will be so aggravated with your uncle, I will come home and finish a whole canvas, which the critics will say is packed with emotion. You will retreat to one of your lairs and write copiously about how people shouldn’t act when at social occasions, and how to deal with people who do act wrongly socially. Face it, your last several self improvement books wouldn’t have sold so well, if the readers didn’t have at least one Darrell in their lives,” she said amused.
“Darrell Milstead my Muse? What a thought!” he exclaimed, taking his wife in his arms and showing her another use for hay … and solitude.