Well, not really. It was dark, but it was calm. Unlike me. I was scared shitless. I wouldn’t admit it, but I was pumping adrenaline and wondering if we were all going to live through this.
Dad was carrying the double-barrelled shotgun, my new boyfriend was in the middle, and I brought up the rear with a flashlight.
This is a true story.
It all started with the old barn on our farm. It was a creaky, drafty structure with missing boards and broken windows. There were still some bales in the hayloft, and as kids, we often played up there. We knew enough to avoid the rotten spots in the floor, and it was a private place where we could spend the afternoon with our Barbie dolls, or, more frequently in my case, shooting at bales with a bow and arrows.
It was great, except for the turds.
Big turds. Man-sized turds lying in the straw over in one corner. And there were flattened-down areas in the straw. We’d fluffed it up the last time we played there. We knew we hadn’t flattened it.
Sometimes when we played in the lower part of the barn, the loft creaked overhead with the rhythm of stealthy footsteps.
We never talked about it. Sometimes we stayed out of sheer bravado, hovering wide-eyed near the door for a quick escape if necessary. Sometimes we tacitly decided to play elsewhere. I never mentioned this to our parents because I refused to admit I was scared.
I’d always thought my nervousness around the barn was childhood foolishness until I brought my new boyfriend home from university years later.
It was a moonless night in October. The trees were bare skeletons and the yard was shrouded in the profound darkness and silence of a secluded prairie farm. Inside the farmhouse, it was warm and bright. I don’t remember how it came about, but Dad rose and loaded the shotgun.
We had a plan.
We would sneak up on the barn. Dad would be ready with the shotgun, my boyfriend would fling the barn door open, and I would flip the switch to turn on the three remaining light bulbs in the cavernous lower level.
We crept across the yard. Took up our silent positions outside the barn.
Dad gave the nod, swinging the shotgun up like the deadly trap-shooter he was. The door flew open with a bang. The lights flashed on…
And nothing was there.
I trembled my way back to the house, and the conversation remained subdued for the rest of the evening. My boyfriend showed a certain reluctance to visit after that.
I felt validated to think Dad shared my suspicions about the barn, but I don’t know whether he actually expected to have to use the shotgun, or if it was just a convenient way to keep an upstart boyfriend in line.
I never asked him. And he never told.