The Sorrow of Chestnut’s

May 14, 2008
By Sarah Hagy, Medford, OR

“His story is too sad.”
The man was trapped. Caught between the length of time and the pain of memory. He saw her everywhere. Waving from across the street, dancing around the corner, and smiling behind his shoulder just out of the corner of his eye. It hurt to remember her, but it hurt more to try to forget her. The emptiness was overwhelming and there was no escape from a life without reason. His body stubbornly lived on, but his soul had abandoned this excuse for life long ago. He was nothing but a ghost of remembrance.

Derek Stratner was not always sad. He remembered that once happiness reverberated through every fiber of his being, once and it seemed so long ago. She was his sun, his necessity to live, and his reason to embrace life. They were married and she with child. He could remember that day that started as a blessing and ended with a curse.

He could specifically remember the wind. It was indecisive, unsure, bumbling, and he was exactly the same. “That is what love can do to you,” he thought back. “It can caress you and lull you into a haven of idiot foolishness until one day tragedy strikes unexpectedly and random. Then love runs in tears and without reason escaping from danger in the grasp of the wind.” He was at a loss. Return to the house and face chance or wander the streets questioning the responsibility of a father. He returned into a wash of firelight with a stench of blood and sweat. Her face was glistening in the dim glow and he prayed to any god that would listen that they leave this angel without wings. So that she may not fly away from him and return to heaven.

It was a long labor, too long for the husband, too long for the wife, and way too long for the baby. The bleeding would not stop. The child was backward and the devil was at play. The sky darkened and the ground was drenched with god’s tears. Then after hours of dazed looks and wandering eyes, her mind captured a drifting thought and carefully examined it. Her pupils darkened and she whispered in one quick breath, “name her Chestnut,” she then muttered a quick explanation, “it will give her the strength that your job has brought us.” Suddenly she deliberately cast around for Derek and upon finding him clasped his hand with trembling fingers and requested hesitantly, “an… and give the world a fighting chance… I will be waiting for you.” Her neck slouched against the pillow and her eyes unfocused while the grimace of pain washed away and was replaced by a far off expression of farewell mingled with a satisfied expression of peace.

Grief choked the house as a mangled scream of terror and defiance leapt from Derek’s throat. Dashing out into the storm he ran red eyed and rash from the house that used to be home. He spun a corner and came to an abrupt stop. Cursing God he turned and plodded back. Each step soaked with oaths and tears. There was still the child, no he corrected himself, there was still Chestnut.

He held her in his lap and he saw his wife smiling back at him. He dried her damp curls and he saw his wife nodding in reassurance. He hugged her close shielding her from the evils of the world and happily the ghost vanished. Now there was only one person left in his world. There was one little person with big sparkling eyes and small moist fingertips. There was one pert mouth curled up at the tips and smiling up at him. There was one being who had the ability to make him whole. He sat up all night cradling her body and soothing his tears. He survived the hours by counting her heartbeats and breathing in the same rhythm. Then in the twilight hour when good and evil are given the same chance, good failed. Her heart stopped and for a moment so did his. Her breath failed to warm his fingertips and his breath stuck in his throat. His little angel sprouted wings like her mother and died in his arms. In one day his heart had been broken twice and there was no one left to save him.

Now here he was, he had returned to being a street vender and served roasted chestnuts to people who could still enjoy them. The heated aroma swirled up and around him singeing bare skin and warming his broken heart, easing the pain that time would not relieve. He faced the world and waited for it to heal him. He turned to the heavens and waited for them to strike him. He turned to God and asked him why. There was or is no answer. And so as the sorry tale goes he saved up all of his funds and bought a smooth crisp Colt Revolver. He went back to the house that was not whole and put an end to it all. Death was instantaneous and inescapable as was the sorrow of Chestnut’s.

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