23. května 2008 12:00 Lidovky.cz > Zprávy > Redakce

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The Farm
Jan Hornát

The waiting seemed endless...It left him alone to his miserable thoughts…and sitting on a cold steel bench at a derelict bus stop somewhere in north Vermont only made it worse. He was trembling...trembling like Chinese porcelain that his mother kept in the cupboard underneath the staircase. Every time someone walked up or down the staircase, Carmichael heard the gentle clacking of the cup against its saucer. And that is where his thoughts lingered-back to his childhood days. Back then, he could look up at the stars and the warm, late night summer breeze would enter his unusually sensitive nostrils and fill his body with earthly delight which ran through his trachea, lungs, stomach and his veins. Every time he experienced this joy, he felt as if his blood had turned to milk, for all existence seemed so smooth and soft...and as the milk circulated through his veins, eventually it reached the heart which churned the milk into butter and cream. With cream in his veins, time had stopped and life seemed infinite, slow and wonderful. But now those days were over...and Carmichael was afraid that his life was never going to be the same again...
His father died and left him a farm in northern Maine. He died peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack four nights ago. Carmichael had just attended the funeral in Reading, Pennsylvania and was making his way home-to the farm. He was the only one who knew his father’s secret dream: His father’s name was Wallace Stevens...he was the namesake of the great American poet and even though Carmichael’s father never met the poet, he believed that he was in some way related to him, since they both had the same name...to seal this proximity of blood, he wished to be buried in the poet’s birthplace.
The long black funeral car pulling down the old dirt road, carrying his father, formed a realistic image in Carmichael’s head...this image was even more realistic than the actual bus that was just approaching the bus stop. He felt an unfamiliar pressure on the inside of his skull...it felt as if his head were to crack open and his brains were to run out on the sidewalk...he couldn’t concentrate on anything else but on the loss of his only living relative and soul mate.
The bus finally arrived. It was the only thing that could distract his mind from the silence...the only thing that could pull him away from the vicious grasp of his thoughts...but only for a couple of seconds. The Greyhound bus stopped with a high screeching sound and the door opened. Carmichael grabbed his bag and walked slowly towards the door. Walking up the steps, he searched his pockets for loose change and handed it over to the driver. With a simple phrase„keep the change“, Carmichael wandered off into the back of the bus and sat down without looking in the face of anyone on the bus. The door closed, the old bus let out a beastly growl and headed for the main road. This was all from the awaited distraction...after trying to concentrate on the gentle chatter of his fellow travelers, he sank back into his thoughts…
A four hour long bus drive and then a fifty minute walk down the old dirt road to the farm was a major burden on Carmichael’s mental stability...knowing that he was going to be the only inhabitant of a forsaken farm drove him mad…an overwhelming anxiety filled his guts the closer he got to the farm.

He was there, standing on the front porch of the house, facing the door. He didn’t dare to look to the left where his father’s old rocking chair stood. He opened his worn-out leather bag and searched for the keys...his hands were trembling and he couldn’t fit the key into the rusted lock... maybe he would have been happier if he never opened the door, but before he realized it, the door was open and he started to choke. The scent of the house punched him straight in the nose and reminded him of his father. He entered. All was quiet and peaceful. Carmichael headed straight for the bookcase and picked up a book his father read every Sunday evening. It was a poetry collection by Wallace Stevens-Harmonium, first edition from 1923 but looked as though it has never been touched...he read the„Emperor of Ice-Cream“and had to close it because it reminded him of the nights when his father started the engine of his John Deere tractor and took him for a „nightride“. Together they would circle the blue fields colored by the moon under the starry sky…he picked up another book-D.H. Lawrence’s The Rocking-horse winner, a book his mother used to read to him, but which he never really liked because he always felt that the boy winning all the money was insane and imagining him on the rocking-horse sent shivers down his spine…
When Carmichael was 11 years old, his mother gave birth to a baby girl. It was always her dream to have a girl and she was so impatient that the girl was born two months earlier. Unfortunately, she was born with a mental illness-cerebral palsy. Carmichael’s mother couldn’t get on with the fact that she was going to be the mother of a„retarded child“...she never breast-fed her and began secretly drinking. After three months, the baby died of complications caused by the premature birth and the illness. The mother became more and more caged in her own world, until one morning when Carmichael’s father found her dead on the kitchen floor...she overdosed herself with Valium and on top of it she drank a bottle of gin. She was a very slim and little woman, thus appealing very vulnerable...such a blend of drugs and alcohol stopped her heart forever.
Reaching puberty and being affected by the loss of his mother, Carmichael’s epilepsy started emerging. The most horrific scenes were going on in his head during the epileptic attacks...his head was bursting, his stomach was reduced to the size of a tangerine, and his whole body was shivering whilst his head was covered in sweat…his father usually found him sitting on the floor in cramps and gave him his obligatory pills to relieve the strain. Carmichael started hating the farm…he hated the sound of the tractor, he hated the smell of his mother’s closet, he hated the silence of the night, he hated the vast uninhabited land, he hated everything since he thought that the farm was the origin of his epilepsy…he started dreaming of leaving…leaving forever, but he couldn’t because of his father…but now his dream could be fulfilled...his father wasn’t alive anymore…
Carmichael just stood there, looking at the vertically stacked books. Every book title added a reminiscence into his mind…every title reminded him of his father or his mother. The memories were gathering and piling up in his head…they were colliding together and forming one great thought…the room was getting darker and darker just like Carmichael’s conscience. He started feeling an unbearable pressure in his head, his stomach and his lungs…this feeling was worse than his epileptic attacks…it was worse than anything he had ever imagined. Carmichael felt as if he couldn’t control his mind nor his actions. He wanted to scream…a strange idea invaded his brain…he ran out of the house and climbed up on the roof. The stars shone brightly and the moon cast a ghostly light upon his tense face. Standing on top of the roof, gazing across the farmland, holding tight to the antenna he started screaming his lungs out…he was screaming so hard that he started tasting blood in his mouth, but he couldn’t stop. The last scream was the most powerful scream, Carmichael put all the force he had into this scream…but no force was left for his legs which collapsed under his weight…he rolled down the roof and fell on the roof of the porch-which fortunately slowed his fall…from there he fell down on the hard grass...

Even before his lavender bruises turned to yellow, he left the farm for the city…a new wave of happiness overran his body everyday…he found a job and rented an apartment…however all the commotion of the city and a lack of human contact had a negative influence on his epilepsy…he suffered more epileptic attacks in one year than he had in his entire life…he started taking more and more pills to ease the attacks, but it was desperate…no help…no one to help him…at last he started using Valium which kept him away from the suffering for some time…but on the 27th day of January, the housekeeper found Carmichael lying dead on the floor. The official cause of the death pronounced by the police was “overdosed by tranquilizing drugs”…but it was suicide – Carmichael Stevens left a note on the table saying: “Dreams are traps-let death be finale of seem”.