The Long Road Home

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
this is a story i am working on for my english class. i would love it if i got some feedback. thank you and enjoy!

Submitted: December 10, 2015

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Submitted: December 10, 2015

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The barn. Old, decaying, messy, losing life. The barn has always been Caitlyn’s favorite place. No matter how hectic her life seemed or if something were wrong she could always find peace from sitting in the old barn’s loft. In the loft were some square bales. They were old too, beginning to rot and probably held mouse families. Caitlyn didn’t care, this was her place and it always would be. From the loft, you can see the green, luscious fields of alfalfa. You can see the neighbor’s horses and cattle roaming the pasture without a care in the world, like everything was all right. But it’s not. Caitlyn’s dad is a big guy and he loses his temper pretty easily. He’s not an alcoholic if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s just an angry old guy. Two weeks ago, her dad bought steel posts, but forgot the clips. He sent his wife, Barbara, to the store to get some. When she returned and gave them to her he became furious, screaming at her, calling her names, accusing her of things that everyone knew wasn’t possible. She got the wrong clips and he would not let this one slide. Caitlyn heard the screaming and knew better than to intervene. She sat in the loft and prayed that he wouldn’t hurt her mama. Her mom is small, petite, can barely lift a square bale but she does have a mighty voice. She can put anyone in their place by saying a few words. Her dad knows this upfront.

Caitlyn sat there on the bale, clutching her dog, Penny, crying into her shoulder and pleading that everything would be all right. Her dog whimpers and she looks down at her. Penny has her ears back and her eyes are full of comfort. Penny has always known when something was wrong and most of the time, Caitlyn found herself opening up more to a dog than a person. Caitlyn hears the screen door slam shut and she immediately looks out the loft window. She sees her dad and she knows what he’s going to do. By the way he’s walking she can tell he’s fuming, she can almost see the steam coming out of his ears. His fists are clenched and he reaches into his old 1985 Chevrolet pickup to get his shotgun. Mama has these prized chickens, wins more than $200 every year at the county fair. Her mama absolutely adores them, she probably loves them more than Caitlyn. Her dad stalks off to the chicken coop as he’s loading the gun. He walks in and Caitlyn closes her eyes and holds onto Penny waiting to hear a gunshot.

Three. Three gunshots went off and each one she jumped. She likes to shoot but she hates the sound of gunfire. She sees her dad walk slowly back to the pickup and put the gun back. He leans his head against the pickup and she hears something. Is he crying? This big giant of a man crying? It’s not possible, he’s too… rough. This man could eat nails and not cry. He could punch a concrete wall as hard as he can and not feel anything. She sat there confused, watching his shoulders heave, knowing he was definitely crying. She continued to hold her dog, not wanting to let go as if her dog could protect her from everything. Her dad pushes himself off the pickup and slowly walks to the house. At that moment, her mom stepped onto the porch. She held in a breath preparing for something bad to happen. Instead, she hugged him. How could she forgive him that easily? He yells at her as loud as he can and then shoots three of her chickens. How? Is she that naïve? Caitlyn watched in disbelief as they hugged. Her dad kissed her and then walked back to the pickup and climbed in. It roared to life and he backed up and took off down the driveway in a cloud of dust, getting farther and farther away.

After sometime, Caitlyn climbed down from the loft and slowly made her way back to the house. She could smell the pumpkin pie from the porch. As she entered the kitchen, she noticed something different, the way her mom was standing, so still seemed so off.

“Hey I’m back,” Caitlyn said.

“Oh, hey Sweetie. I didn’t hear you come in.” Caitlyn noticed she seemed tense, like she was preparing for something to happen.

“What was Dad so pissed about?” she asked. She already knew the answer but she wanted to hear it from her.

“Oh you know, got the wrong kind of clips. An innocent mistake,” she said with a forced laugh at the end. Caitlyn just nodded, she knew there was more to the story but she didn’t want to press. While looking at her mom, she noticed something. She could see that there was a purple/blue bruise on her upper arm. She gulped and looked away, trying to hide her anger and fear.

“What is it?” Barbara asked. Caitlyn pointed to her own upper arm where the bruise was on her mom’s arm. Barbara looked down and she paled. She must not have noticed it because she turned away and cleared her throat.

“It’s not from your father if that’s what you’re thinking. I was in the coop earlier and when I turned around I was too fast and ran into the shelf.” She said, not making eye contact with Caitlyn.

“Okay,” Caitlyn said as she turned around and headed for the pasture.

The pasture is yellow. Instead of green luscious grass there are yellow weeds. The horse can’t complain but when Caitlyn watches him he never really eats. He just kind of nibbles here and there and Caitlyn persuaded her dad to put a hay bale in the pasture so he has some flavor. Occasionally she gives him grain. Out of all their animals they have, he is Caitlyn’s favorite. She loves to ride in the early morning when the sun is coming up and it’s a little bitter outside. During the day when it’s warmer Caitlyn goes to the arena to get more training done. He’s kind of an old guy but he still gets the job done.

The pasture isn’t much but she still loves to come out here and just lie down. Caitlyn likes to look up at the sky and see the blue with some yellow on the sides. Sometimes Penny will lie beside her but usually she’s running around investigating rabbit holes and doing doggy things. Her horse finds it strange that she sits so still so he comes up and nuzzles her for a bit then walks up. Caitlyn likes to watch him walk away and watch his tail swish with each step, she finds it relaxing.

Dad should be home by now. It’s nearly dark and he’s usually home before then. As Caitlyn walks back to the barn she thinks about where he went. He could have went to the neighbors but depending on how fast he was driving she doubts it. He could have gone to the dairy to get some work done but she also doubts that since it’s late. Those are her only options, he doesn’t really hang out with people. He goes to the dairy or he’s working on something at home. When Caitlyn gets to the barn she usually goes to the loft but she decides otherwise. Instead, Caitlyn goes to the old horse stalls where they keep the old Ford pickup. It hasn’t started in twenty years and dad has no motivation to throw it out or fix it so it just sits here and rusts. She likes to sit on the seat and look out. Penny sits on the floorboards, she gets in trouble if she sits on the seat in the other pickup and Caitlyn has tried to get her up here but she probably thinks she’s going to get in trouble. When it’s cold she likes to lie on Caitlyn’s feet.

The pickup door outside shuts and Caitlyn hurries to get out of the pickup. She runs over to the barn door and carefully peeks around the corner. She sees her dad walking to the door with grocery bags in hand.

“Caitlyn! I need help with the groceries” he calls out. Caitlyn walks slowly to the pickup and grabs three grocery bags.

“Those go in the fridge” he says, grabbing two more bags.

“Okay” she says, not looking at him and walking fast to the house.

“Caitlyn.” He says coldly. Caitlyn stops and turns around to face him.

“Remember what I said? When I speak to you, you look me in the eye, not at the damn ground.” He says a bit angrily. He must have noticed Caitlyn’s frightened expression because his face softens and he furrowed his eyebrows. Caitlyn nods while looking at him and then turns around. As she walks to the house she thinks about how quickly that could have went bad. As she enters the house she sees her mom putting groceries away. Caitlyn walks to the counter to set the bags down then opens the fridge. She puts away milk, eggs, hotdogs, fruit, bottled water, and some cheese in the fridge. She throws the bags away and walks back to the pickup to get more. As she steps onto the porch, she becomes mortified by what she sees.

There on the ground, Penny lies motionless. Caitlyn stops dead in her tracks and gasps.

“What did you do?!” she screams at her dad.

“I’ve noticed you’ve been hiding in the loft with her and you need to stop hanging out with animals and start hanging out with people!” her father shouts.

“No! I hate people! They lie, the hurt you, they stab you in the back. I don’t want to hang out with people, I want to hang out with Penny! You knew she was my dog. She was my friend. You took that away from me! I hate you!” Caitlyn shouts and turns around fast. She starts to run to the old barn to escape. She will never forgive him for this. She makes it to the loft ladder and starts to climb. She can hardly see with tears in her eyes but makes it to the top. She knows her father will be after her and she gets an idea. She breaks the ladder off of its nails and it falls to the ground. Now he can’t get her. She can stay up there for as long as she wants and look out the window and look at her poor baby lying on the ground..

“Caitlyn come down here. Right, now!” her father shouts. He’s been yelling at her for half an hour and by now she’s tuned out the world. She can’t do anything. She can’t move, can’t think, and can’t breathe. She keeps staring at her dog. It’s getting dark soon and it gets cold at night. She has a few rug sacks up here and they’re big enough to cover her body so she should be fine. Early in the summer she found a lantern and brought matches up here but always forgot to try to light it. Now, she finally has a reason. Caitlyn thinks about Penny. About how they used to take naps together in the straw, how Caitlyn used to read to Penny, as if she could understand her. She also thinks about when they first brought her home. No bigger than a large rock, Penny was as energetic as ever. She couldn’t figure out how to run quite yet but she loved to. She scurried about and tried to chase you, it was the cutest thing ever! When Penny was a few months old, Caitlyn brought her down to the small creek that runs south of the farm. Penny was scared of water but after a while she didn’t want to leave. Every day after school Caitlyn brought Penny down there for an hour and played in the creek. Thinking about this, she became sad. She and Penny haven’t been down there in a few months and she regrets it. She regrets how she forgot to bring Penny down there, regrets not making more memories.

It’s been two hours and her father has gone. She wants to go the house but she’s scared. She knows it’s way too late to try and apologize to her dad. Caitlyn reaches for the matches and the lantern. She pulls out a match and runs it alongside the box. The flame comes to life and she carefully places it inside the lantern to light it. Soon, the lantern is lit and she can see ahead a few feet. She can also feel it get slightly warmer. Caitlyn decides that the best thing to do is try and sleep.

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.  Caitlyn wakes up to a strange noise. Slightly blinded from the light, she can’t make out what it is. Cough. Cough. Is that… smoke? It is. The lantern… she forgot to blow it out before she went to sleep. Oh no. Caitlyn immediately sits up. She looks around the barn and the whole thing is engulfed in flames. She runs around the barn loft and curses herself. The only way down is out the window or down the ladder and being her stupid self, she broke the ladder. She runs to window and looks and the drop. It’s at least a sixteen foot drop. If she jumped right, the worst she would get hurt is maybe a few sore spots and bruises. But it she jumps wrong, she could break something and if she lands on her head it would be the end. Caitlyn decides she has to jump out the window. She backs up a few feet and takes a few breaths. One. Two. Three!

Caitlyn ran towards the window and with a leap, jumps out the window. Thud. She lands on her sides and feels and immediate pain in her shoulder. She checks herself over thoroughly. No broken bones. She made it, she actually made it! It was very cold outside. She looked around but couldn’t see much. She thought to herself, why isn’t Mom and Dad up? Wouldn’t they have seen the flames or smelled the smoke? All these thoughts ran through her head as she sat on the ground watching the old barn crumble to pieces.

“Mom! Dad! Wake up! The barn’s on fire!” she kept screaming but got no answer. Finally, she decided to go to the house since they can’t hear her. She ran to their bedroom and opened the door. There, inside the bedroom, were both her parents sound asleep.

“Mom! Dad! Get up!” she shouted. Her mother stirred and turned over to face her.

“What?” she asked groggily.

“The barn’s on fire! Get up!’ she shouted once more. Her mother got up and ran to the window. She then quickly turned around and shook her father.

“Get up John! The barn’s on fire!” her mother shouted. John rose and quickly ran to the window to look at the barn. He stood there for a few seconds before grabbing the landline phone. He called 911 and reported a fire at their address. Within ten minutes the fire department along with the county sheriff and a few policemen were in their front yard. The fire department quickly began to try and put out the flame but everyone knew it was too late. Caitlyn, Barbara, and John all stood on the porch watching the fire department try their best. Caitlyn couldn’t help but cry as she watched her favorite barn burn down and she also thought about Penny. Now, she only had one place to hide if she needed to and it wasn’t the best place in the world. If her father came after her again like he had the day before, she wouldn’t be safe.

After forty five minutes of watching the fire slowly die out, it was completely done. There was nothing left of the barn except burnt barn wood and a little bit of the pickup frame. After the firemen left and they were interviewed by the police, all three of them walked around the rubble to completely look at the damage. Nothing could be salvaged. The best bet would be to clean it up and throw all the wood in a dump or burn it. Caitlyn was walking on the far right side, hardly paying attention to the rubble when something caught her eye. She lifted a board and sitting right there, with only slight burns, was the lantern. Caitlyn picked it up and carefully felt the metal, as if it would disintegrate. Caitlyn stares at the lantern for a little while longer until she heard her mother call for her.

“Caitlyn, let’s go inside” she said. Caitlyn slowly turned around and walked over to her mother. John must have already went inside because he was nowhere to be seen. She and her mother walked together to the house as Caitlyn held onto the lantern.

“What is that, dear?” her mother asked.

“It’s a lantern I found earlier this summer that I brought up to the loft” she said, almost tearing up. The thought of no longer going up to the loft with Penny hit a soft spot in her heart. She bit her lip to try not to cry. Her mother must have noticed because she put a gentle arm around her shoulders. 


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