What Winter Took Away

A robin landed on the roof, gripping the decades-old lumber that formed the peak of the barn.  A frigid breeze bit at the bird’s legs.  White paint chipped away under the robin’s feet and fluttered down toward the ground, landing in the hard-packed dirt below.  A gray sky back-dropped the robin who surveyed the barnyard, like a sentinel on watch.

A slumping stack of baled barley from the previous summer sat under a simple lean-to to the side of the barn.  An iris here and there poked through the dirt at the edges of the barn, where they popped up every spring, nothing more than green shoots struggling to reach toward the oft-absent sun over the past month.  The edges of their green leaves curled. They were yellowed and frostbit from enduring harsh overnight freezes that had lingered into the early spring time, a spring that hadn’t quite arrived yet, although the calendar showed it had.

The outer walls of the barn were a faded and chipped pink; the original coat of vibrant red paint had long since decayed.  The white trim hardly held as well, the sunbaked boards naked and exposed.

The door creaked open and its large brass hinges whined.  The waning daylight flooded into the empty barn, void of pigs, sheep, cows, horses, or even mice.  It was quiet.  A light breeze whistled gently through the holes in the roof and walls.

The dried straw crunched under pressure, and dust billowed from under any boot that walked along the dirt floor of the barn.  Above, the hayloft was in shambles, no longer safe for storage of hay or for human passage, any amount of weight sure to overmatch the strength of the rotted planks that were arranged across the rafters.  A hole in the floor above told the story of the last person who had braved the hayloft.

The horse stables were empty.  Dried manure lay in the stalls along with matted, years-old straw.  An old salt-lick hung off the back of one of the stall doors; hard, desiccated, and crusted over.

The water troughs lay bone dry.

Outside, a light snow started to silently blanket the countryside.  The leafless skeleton of a cherry tree, yet to show any blossoms, stood rigid at the corner of the barn.  The robin looked down at it from its perch.  Seeing nothing to scavenge, the robin surveyed the barnyard one last time and took off, heading elsewhere, looking for nature to offer him something that winter hadn’t taken away.

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