The Old Granary

published in The Vignette Review, Spring 2017

It was a humid June morning in Ohio. The children were wearing paper animal masks I had brought them from Berkeley. They took turns barking at each other, then screaming, then shoving. Their parents, my cousins, strained to hold themselves back from interfering with a paper mask street fight. But Dad started flapping his arms slowly. The children suddenly lined up behind him in baby duck form. They fell into a serpentine rhythm and made their way around the pond, ringed with cattails. My cousins relaxed and laughed at the parade from underneath the shade of the shelter house.

I heard a roar from behind us as the lane was reduced to a dust cloud. A yellow school bus drove in, stopping next to the Concord grape vines that made a fence for the garden. Uncle Ed waited with Grandma for the bus doors to open. Grandma was wearing her best sleeveless dress, squinting into the late morning sun. She had spent her entire life here, “born in the kitchen,” she’d say. She was just like the dogwoods in her front yard: whole, flowering, long legs and rough edges.

A pack of middle school students slumped off the bus. As they stood in slumped rows staring at their shoes, Uncle Ed explained the farm tour rules. I slipped into the group, eager to hear a new version of the cellar explosion or the tractor race story.

Lunch came and Grandma rang the old dinner bell. We made our way to the garden for food and a quick Euchre game. As the students lined up for burgers and hotdogs, I noticed two walking towards the old granary. I followed them. I made it through the incense cedars as they started throwing rocks at the windows of the granary.

“Hey!” I yelled. I then postured, as if in front of an invisible lectern. “Hey guys, so this building,” gesturing toward the granary, “represents a lot for my family.” They stared, annoyed. “In a lot of ways, it’s my grandmother….” and in mid-sentence, they dropped the rocks and started walking back to lunch. They walked passed me, smirking.

As I waited for them to leave, I stood dwarfed in the shadow of the granary: its weather-worn doors, paint peeling proudly, deliberately leaning, filled with the memory of wheat, rife with secrets, a gnarled beauty.

On the way to the airport the next day, I noticed a new vegetable stand by the Miller’s Greenhouse. Dad slowed the truck to a crawl.
“Been here a couple a years,” he said.
In the cut out of the stand was a vegetable display with five similar shaped vegetables in rainbow order. Red, orange, yellow and green were bell peppers, but blue and purple? Maybe the blue was a darker sort of beet. The purple, a petite eggplant?

What were they? I couldn’t remember.