The Summer of '62; Episode 22

A Light In The Barn 

Sammy and Don were clearly uncomfortable.
They all lied down and soon fell asleep.
Rich wasn't sure how long he was asleep before needing to urinate. Quietly he lifted the flap of the tent and instead of taking advantage of the invitation extended by Mr. Tuttle to use the bathroom inside he walked the extra few steps and went into the woods.
On the way back to the tent he looked into the sky wondering if the displeasure of God had been incurred by what might appear to be his blasphemous reasoning and words.
No longer sleepy, Rich walked out to the road and saw something peculiar. It was a light coming from inside a barn on Chet Winters’ land.
It was a small barn that stood a quarter of a mile from Sammy’s home. It was about twenty-five yards off the road and about fifty yards from the interstate highway.
It was after eleven because the Gables Restaurant near the interstate was closed.
Rich moved closer with a bit of caution.
Chet Winters’ pick-up tuck was visible from a dim light inside the barn. The truck was backed the doors.
Rich ducked low and moved closer He moved around the outside wall of the barn to the back. He peeked through the crack in the doors. Rich saw that Chet had several floor planks pulled up and was digging into the ground beneath the floor. His shovel struck something solid. Chet shoveled carefully until an approximate five foot by two foot hole exposed two planks that looked like the top of a wooden box. He shoveled furiously around the sides of the hole. His breathing was heavy and he gasped deeply for air. He fell back on the side of the hole and sat down exhausted. Sweat poured from his red face. He unloosened his shirt and hoisted himself to his feet using the shovel.
Rich opened the door and slowly walked toward Chet.
Chet stood as stiff as one of the floor planks and his eyes opened widely. He gasp and stumbled backwards. “What in god’s name are you doing here?”
I saw the light,” Rich said. “I’m camping-out at Tuttle’s.”
Is anybody with you?” Chet asked.
No,” Rich said. “Sammy and Don are back at the tent asleep. “I got up to take a leak.”
You should go,” Chet said. “None of this is your business.”
Settle down, Mr. Winters,” Rich said. “It looks like you’re about to have a heart attack.”
His expression was almost scornful, but quickly changed to fear. “Nobody must know about this.” He held his hand nervously to his mouth. “I’ve exposed you to something dreadful that I can’t begin to explain or expect anybody to believe.”
Is that a coffin?” Rich said looking into the knee deep hole.
No it’s a box,” Chet said and quickly changed his mind. “Right, it’s a coffin.”
Rich stared at the hole and stood motionless as Chet stared heavenward for some sort of divine intervention.
Who’s in it?” Rich asked slowly just above a whisper.
It’s a long story,” Chet said. “But believe me, I did not kill the person in there.”
Mr. Winters,” Rich said, “even if you did it had to be for a reason.”
Can you help me?” Chet asked. “Can I trust you?”
What do you want me to do?” Rich asked.
We got to move this,” Chet said.
Where to?” Rich asked.
I don’t know,” Chet said.
I got an idea,” Rich said.
Where?” Chet said.
The meadow,” Rich said. “Sugar Creek runs through it. To the West of the creek is a rise full of rocks. Nobody goes up there except sheep and with all the rocks and bumps in the ground a grave wouldn‘t be noticed.”
Chet thought for a moment and said, “You don’t have to get involved. You can walk out of here and forget what you’ve seen or walk out of here and report everything.”
Let’s get busy,” Rich said grabbing the shovel and began digging around the coffin.
The coffin was carefully lifted from the hole and slid onto the bed of the truck. They tossed the dirt back in the hole and replaced the planks. The ride to the meadow was quiet. The truck was parked in the meadow beside the state highway bridge to conceal it from traffic. They each carried an end of the coffin with the shovel on its top. They walked across the meadow like two grave robbers until arriving at the rise. Chet sat on a rock breathing hard. Rich dug a hole until it was about half way up his thigh. Chet grabbed the shovel and dug till it was to his waste.
That’s deep enough,” Chet said.
Let’s get it in there,” Rich said.
I’ve got to get something first,” Chet said. He used the shovel to pry a plank from the top of the coffin. He held the lantern close to the opening.
Rich was mortified at what lay in the coffin. It was a clothed skeleton partially covered with decayed skin. Chet reached inside and retrieved a mason jar that had an envelope inside. He stood over the coffin and looked at what was exposed and sniffed as if crying but soon got to the task and replaced the plank and beat the nails down with the back of the shovel. They placed the coffin in the grave, covered it with dirt, and replaced the sod and rocks.
They walked hunch-back to the truck and drove back to the barn.
Do you want to hear the story?” Chet asked.
Only if you want to tell it,” Rich said.

Here’s the story,” Chet said as he turned off the motor.