Epitaph

every once in a while you just gotta take the thought and run with it …..
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Patrick stared into the crevice beside his feet, panting heavily.  As he regained his composure he slowly raised his dark eyes to look at Michael, who was still clutching the older man’s hand.  “You… you saved my life.”

Michael dropped his death grip.  “Yeah?  Well, we all make mistakes.”

Patrick gave a dry laugh.  “The question is, why?”

The younger man shrugged as he turned and walked toward more stable ground.  “Temporary lapse of sanity, I guess.  But how bout we move away from the edge before the aftershocks start?”

The two slowly made their way up the gentle slope towards the ranch house at the top of the hill.  Patrick glanced at the building before his gaze moved to the barn.  “You know, Michael, I don’t know that I would have done the same for you.”  He paused and tilted his head as he studied the older structure.  “I think the barn has had it.”

Michael adjusted his stride to head for the barn.  “Yeah, I’d say she’s seen better days.  Doubt if anything can be done but tear her down and start over.”  He grabbed at the top of a long blade of wheat grass, plucking it from the dry ground.  “And, for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have expected you to help me out if I had been the one falling.”  He snapped the stalk near the base and tossed the end to the side.  He examined the remaining stem before sipping it between his teeth.

Patrick watched the scene with thinly veiled amusement.  He had watched the younger man chew blades of grass for as long as he could remember, and never understood.  “So you think I’d let you die?”

“No question about it.  You haven’t liked me since the day I arrived, though I have no idea why.  The old man has always favored you, it’s not like I was ever any threat to your position.  You chop more wood, you’re a better rider, you’re faster, smarter…”  Michael’s voice trailed off as they crested the hill.

“Drop the act.  It’s been a competition since the day you showed up.  He’s been watchin’ you, waiting to see if you would take over.  I’ve had to be better, had to be stronger, had to be the better rider.”  Patrick stopped as they reached the doorway to the barn.  One door had already come loose, the other hung by a single hinge.  He walked to the main post on the leeward side.  “Not much holding this old beast upright.”

“Dare say you’re right.”  Michael walked into the barn slowly, his eyes raking over the rafters.  “Shame to see her go; can’t remember a time it wasn’t here.  Can you?”

“Nope.  It’s always been here that I can remember.  Are you sure you should be in there?”

Michael glanced back at the man still standing at the opening.  “Don’t tell me you’re starting to worry about me?”  He crouched low as an aftershock hit, causing the barn to sway slightly.  He exhaled heavily and shook his head.  “Definitely needs to come down.”

Standing at the doorway, Patrick smiled.  “I do believe you’re right.”  He gave a strong kick to the corner beam, grinning more as it cracked.

Michael spun around.  “What are you doing?”

Patrick stared at the younger man.  “Ending the competition.”  He gave another kick and jumped back as the barn gave a tearing groan, then crashed to the ground, crushing Michael beneath its weight.

Patrick watched the dust float above the debris before turning for the house.  “You know, little brother, you never were too bright.”

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