An old man and his two young grandchildren go looking for answers in the ruins of an old farmhouse.
Nigel Pierce follows his two grandchildren as they climb the gentle hill to the ruins of his childhood. He could follow this well worn overgrown path with his eyes closed, in a deep fog, in the middle of the night.
His mind creeps back to a lost moment in time when he is forced to do exactly that. His steps slow as he approaches the old stone farm house. He listens intently for the calls and laughter of the two kids.
"Don't go inside the house without me. The boards could be rotted." He calls.
"We won't. We're playing on the swings Gramp."
He hears Simon call from the other side of the house. Simon is twelve, and smart. He will make sure that his nine year old sister Lucy stays safe.
Nigel's mind goes back to the day that his father and Uncle Jerad put up those two swings. He is Lucy's age then. He stands at the bottom and pulls on the loop of rope at the bottom to straighten the wooden seat of each one. His father and uncle straddle the thick branch and tie the two ends of each rope at the top.
"The board's not straight you d***ed twit!"
His father throws a broken branch. Nigel rubs the scar on his cheek. It holds silent testimony to his father's brutality, five stitches worth. He shakes his head to rid his mind's eye of the painful images.
He leans heavily on his cane as his gait makes allowance for the slope of the hill. He works his way slowly around the house, his cane poking around in front, searching for hidden tree roots or other obstacles.
"Look what I have, Gramp!"
Lucy gasps breathlessly as she runs toward her grandfather with a large weathered board in her hand. She stops abruptly near him to catch her wind back. She comes closer and tries to trace the carved letters in the thick oak plank.
"U....N.. D... the next part is all black and icky, like charcoal. It's coming off in my hands."
She continues to trace with her forefinger.
"It says Underwood, Lucy. It used to grace the lintel of the front door. Your great grandfather was from England, where they used to name their houses."
"Really, Gramp? What was it like living here when you were little?"
Simon asks curiously. His grandfather has never talked about his childhood, ever. He won't even answer any questions about it. He hopes that the old gentleman will answer some questions now that they are right at his old home.
Simon thinks about this morning when his grandfather asks him if he wants to go to the old homestead. He remembers his mouth gaping in surprise.
Of course Lucy wants to tag along like she always does.. He doesn't mind his little sister, but he wishes she wouldn't hang around so much. He knows she looks up to him, and learns things from him, but she is still annoying.
Nigel considers Simon's question. What was it like back then? It was awful! He must choose his words carefully. He doesn't want to frighten them, but they need to know the truth, or at least some part of it.
He wants the children to know about their heritage before he passes on. The doctor says five months, tops. His son Ken and daughter in law Linda, know the entire story of course. They will pass it along to the children in time. Nigel pokes around in the grass for a moment until he finds a large rock to sit on.
He seats himself as comfortably as possible, and begins his tale.
"Life then was nothing like it is now. Nothing was automated. We did pretty much everything by hand. We had no plumbing or running water. We had to fetch our drinking water from the well behind the house."
The kids sit cross legged near him, listening intently. They don't ask questions for fear that he will stop if they interrupt him.
"That gully behind the house used to be a running stream. It's all dried up now. Road construction has closed off its' source. It was deep enough in the spring to fish in. The trout weren't big, but they were good eating just the same."
Nigel leans forward a little, both hands fold over the carved knob of the cane. These kids are so young! He wishes he could wait till they are older, but there is no more time for him. He must tell them now while his mind is still sharp, and not clouded over with pain.
He closes his eyes against the onslaught of painful memory. He can actually see in his mind's eye the events leading up to the fire. He will have to be careful now. He doesn't want the children to have nightmares for the rest of their lives, like he has.
He speaks as if the event is happening now, in the present.
"Your great Uncle Edward is in the barn with your great grandfather. There is an argument, I go to break it up, a lantern is knocked over, and the straw catches fire. The dry straw goes up like a roman candle. I get Eddie out, but my father does not survive."
Nigel's voice falters. He can see himself enter the barn. Eight year old Eddie is screaming, and struggling against his father's crushing weight. Eddie is face down in the straw, his pants off. His father is raping him!
Nigel hits his father with the lantern, and pushes him off his brother. His father is instantly set alight. Fiery sparks hit his face as he stumbles out with Eddie in tow. This is how he loses his sight.
Nigel rises from the rock. His tale is told as far as he will ever tell it. He reaches his hand out, and Lucy takes it, to lead him down the hill to where her parents wait in the car.