Sanie has been hearing him for days, she thinks, once she tunes into his voice. He's been there all along, lost among the creaks and gasps and groans of the old house, indistinguishable from the whisper of a breeze blowing through a window crack, though he's not speaking in a whisper, just softly, like a man gentling a tearful child or waking a lover.
She's alone in the kitchen, sitting at a table covered in waxy material with a green floral pattern, drinking a Diet Pepsi, when she first notices the voice. Like the rest of the house, the country kitchen, its white paint gone the yellow of an old document, is too spacious for what it contains. The twelve-foot ceiling dwarfs the appliances, making them seem like items from a kid's playhouse. A vintage stove and refrigerator that must date from the Forties. The 1940s, probably. Cabinets with glass fronts behind which rest jelly glasses and dishes that once were fine china, but now, their edges chipped, surfaces discolored, wouldn't fetch more than a nickel each in a yard sale. Taped to the refrigerator door is a Cumberland Farm Supplies 1977 calendar open to August, which happens to be the very month Sanie's living in thirty years later. The August illustration is a painting of a red-faced farmer on a red tractor in a freshly tilled field. He's wiping sweat from his brow with a bandana (also red) and his wife, a Playmate in gingham drag, looking artificially cheerful, a condition with which Sanie's all too familiar, is handing him up what appears to be a glass of lemonade. Sanie, who's feeling abandoned--Jackson, her husband, is studying for the bar and there's no one else around--is staring at this picture because it significantly less dismal than the view out the window: under a driving rain, a corn field with last summer's stalks still standing, a demolished barn that's little more than a massive pile of kindling, and a fringe of woods. She's speculating on the farm wife's marriage, the quality of life in Cumberland Farm Supplies' Augustland, comparing her estimation of it to her own, and that's when the voice calls to her, softly, barely audible above the rain drumming on the roof, but distinct:
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