“They’re out there,” he told me. “Fields and fields of them. As far as the eye can see.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. He pointed to the horizon, and I looked, but all I could see was the wilted stalks of wheat, the result of the weeks of the neglect the farm had suffered ever since Jimmy’s dad died. I remembered just a few weeks ago, all Jimmy had seemed to care about was the farm. He would water the crops, till the soil, and take care of the pests. I’m sure there were a thousand other things Jimmy did that I didn’t know about but, hey, I’m no farmer.
Ever since his dad’s death, though, it was like Jimmy was different. He’d been surrounded by his family and friends these past few weeks, but none of them had cared enough to stick around long after the funeral. So, there I was, one of Jimmy’s oldest friends, and there I had been for two weeks. I tried to make sure Jimmy took care of at least himself. I knew the farm was a lost cause after a few days of staying with him. I know they say that grief takes many forms, but I couldn’t help but to worry about what was happening to Jimmy. He started talking to himself, mentioning things that I couldn’t see.
Jimmy and I continued wandering through the fields while I reminisced about our younger days. We would wander around the fields, climb the sparse trees that lined the edges of the farm and look and laugh at the cows, pigs, and chickens. Suddenly, Jimmy’s eyes seemed to gloss over, and I could almost see the thoughts leave him. He turned his head and stared out at the cliff and instinctively, I mimicked him. I saw the clear blue water and the cloudless, pristine sky. It had always been a perfect view, but I had only grown to appreciate it after I’d moved away from my rural hometown.
Then, as if he’d been struck by a cattle prod, Jimmy took off running into the field. “C’mon Joseph!” he said. “Let’s go catch ‘em!” reluctantly, I chased after him, following him on this wild goose chase. As we weaved through the wilted wheat, hordes of disturbed locusts shot into the sky like stray bullets flying every direction and ricocheting off each other. I wondered if the locusts were the “they” Jimmy was talking about? Either way, Jimmy didn’t stop running. In fact, he seemed to be running faster, as if whatever he was chasing was getting away. Jimmy, wearing his bright blue overalls, seemed to get further and further away from me as I struggled to keep up. Soon Jimmy was gone. And I was out of breath, unable to tell my legs to push forward, to keep chasing him. I should’ve known better. I’d been chasing Jimmy my whole life and could never seem to catch him, though a few other people had.
I took a deep breath and pulled myself together. “Jimmy!” I yelled. “Jimmy! Where are you?” No answer. Something deep in my gut began to turn. “Jimmy!” I proclaimed to an empty sky. Still no answer. I began to run once more. Quickly, I found myself on the edge of a cliff, the cliff that overlooked Teardrop Lake. The most horrific of thoughts crossed my mind. No. This accident doesn’t just happen. It couldn’t be real.
Calm. That’s what I needed. Calm. It was probably me just fearing the worst. Jimmy knew the place. This can’t have happened. To calm my nerves, I slowly looked over the edge, hoping to see only the jagged rocks below that led to the clear blue water. But below I saw my most horrible nightmare made real. There lay Jimmy, mangled and broken like a rag doll forgotten by an angry child. Jimmy’s blood was splattered across the rocks and dyed the water a horrific shade of pink.
Tears began to stream down my face. How could I have let this happen? I should have stopped him. I forced my eyes open for the briefest of moments and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a note, slightly crumpled and strewn near the edge of the cliff. I opened it as tears slowly dripped on the few words scrawled on the thick brown paper. It simply said: “Joseph, thank you for loving me.” My biggest regret is never telling him that I did love him. I do feel better, though, knowing that he knew.
“Alright, Joseph,” the detective said, “are you sure this is what you’d like to report as your sworn statement for the events that took place one week ago?”
“Yes, it’s the truth. That’s what happened,” Joseph responded.
The officer shook his head in acceptance and headed toward the door of the interrogation room.
“One last thing, Joseph … what happened to that note you say Jimmy left?”
“Well, you see, detective, in my haste to call for help, I’m sure I must’ve lost it.”
Story originally appeared in OUT FRONT Magazine; August 2021. Find it here https://www.outfrontmagazine.com/ofm-lit-for-jimmy/