General Fiction posted December 6, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
A tragic end for Charlie

Charlie And The Power

by prettybluebirds

The last time I saw Charlie we were sitting in lawn chairs under the lovely old Maple trees in his yard. It was a warm late spring day; a soft breeze rustled the leaves overhead. Birds warbled and chirped in the trees and shrubbery around us. Across the field a tractor could be seen, the roar of the engine muted by distance.

Charlie was my brother-in-law, and my husband had brought our field sprayer over to put weed control on Charlie's corn for him. My husband was out working in the field and Charlie's wife, Donna, was visiting her oldest daughter; so the two of us were left to keep each other company. Charlie was eighty-three at the time. He was bald, a bit on the portly side, wearing bib overalls, and a baseball cap. Heavy rubber barn boots encased his size thirteen feet.

"I wish it could go on forever," Charlie said.

I came out of my half-asleep daze and said, "I beg your pardon, what did you say?"

"I wish life could go on forever. All my life I have farmed this land and raised cattle for a living. I hauled livestock for other folks and did butchering to earn extra money for my family.

'Uh, oh,' another long-winded old man story,' I thought. I noticed the land smelled of spring, here and there, green shoots poked up through last year's dead grass. A great day for a nap.

Charlie went on to say, "Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change a thing about my life. I love this farm, my wife, and my children. It's just that when I was a young man I always wanted to find out things, watch things, follow the track of the sun across the sky and see what was beyond the furthest horizon. Why didn't I go?"

I shifted into a better position in my lawn chair. It looked like Charlie was in story telling mode so I might as well get as comfortable as possible.Besides, it was beginning to sound interesting. A robin landed on the edge of the lawn and started cursing us for being in his territory.

"I'll tell you why I didn't go," Charlie continued. "A man loses something of himself when he leaves the land he was born on. It's like a small death that marks a turning point in his life. I knew if I left I might never return and my ancestor's ghosts would haunt me forever. Besides, the land has a kind of power that holds onto a person."

"Power, what do you mean by that?" Charlie's cat, Zeke, landed on my stomach with a breath jarring thump. The cat yawned and gave me a look that said, "Okay lady, you're going to hear it now."

"Power is what you feel around you. Part of the rocks, trees, plants, and animals," Charlie said. It fills the soil as well as the sky. You need only to listen, and allow yourself to feel and see. When the sunrise or sunset is streaked with orange and bright red, I think that's all part of it. Ir exists everywhere--all around us. Power is here, and it isn't. Can you see it? Touch it? No. It's here, and it isn't. A smokey look veiled Charlie's eyes.

I looked at Charlie in astonishment; he seemed so strange. I would never have guessed the old guy could make such a speech. To the best of my knowledge, Charlie had never gone to church or had any spiritual inclinations.

Charlie was starting to get drowsy, but he still had more to say. "Then there is the matter of love. Love does funny thing to people--men and women alike. I didn't always get along with my old man, but when it came right down to it, I did love him and Ma. I couldn't abandon them in their old age. And of course, there is my wife, Donna, and my four kids who have an anchor on my soul. Love can bind a man more securely than any chain. I can't honestly say that Donna and I didn't have any disagreements; she left me once because of my drinking and running around. That was a bad move on my part, but we worked it out over time. There were always some not so good years, but the good outweighed the bad. Like I said before, I wish life could keep going on, but nothing lasts forever and my time is close to done." Charlie closed his eyes, and before I could think of an answer, he was snoring like a freight train.

I sat there thinking about the things Charlie had said. In the brush across the road, finches chirped; part of the power? I drifted into sleep, Zeke purring on my lap.

An hour later the spraying was done, and my husband hooked the sprayer to the truck for the trip home. Charlie and my husband had talked for a while before we left and I noticed Charlie seemed to be his normal cheerful self; that strange look was no longer in his eyes. I looked back as we drove out the driveway and saw Charlie leaning on his cane and waving to us.The sun had slanted to the west, and shadows stretched long in the evening coolness. The last ray of sunshine struck Charlie giving him an eerie glow. It was the last time I saw him.

Two weeks later, we received a hysterical call from Charlie's youngest daughter, Nancy. I watched my husband turn white as she told him the terrible news.

"Dad took the tractor out to brush-hog some grass along the road," Nancy said through her tears. Mother didn't want him to, but you know how stubborn Dad is. On the way back home he got too close to the bank and rolled the tractor over the edge. Dad is dead."

We went to Charlie's funeral of course. He was in a closed casket as his body was too crushed to show. I have often wondered if Charlie didn't have a premonition of his coming death while we sat there talking. Who knows? He did make me more aware of the world around me, and of course, The Power.

Charlie writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story that begins with the line: The last time I saw Charlie ... (continue the sentence and story)


This story is mostly fiction. My husband's brother did roll a tractor over a bank and kill himself. He was 85 at the time. This conversation never happened and my husband's brother was not named Charlie. Just a story I wrote for the contest.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Lilibug6 at

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