American Gothic
by: Amanda J.

It was a warm summer day in May. Pa had just gotten back from plowing the field, feeling tired and hungry. He finished just in time to find Ma cooking supper in their little wooden house out on the farm. “Smells great!” Pa smiled in her direction as he made his way to the little washbowl in the corner of the house. The room was filled with the smell of chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, green beans, and sweet rolls, all arranged on the little table set for two. But the best smell came from the oven: blueberry pie, made with the fresh blueberries Ma had picked that morning.


As they sat down to supper, Ma turned to Pa with a look of wonder on her face. “The preacher stopped by while you were out plowin’ the field. He asked if we were planning on attending Sunday church.”


Pa sat up, clenching his fist. “No!” He tried to sound calm, but he couldn‘t contain his anger. “We’re not goin’ as long as he’s there!”


Ma stood up and shouted, “It’s been over ten years. Can’t you forgive?”


“Not after what he’s done!” Pa got up from the table and stormed out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.


A few hours later, after he had calmed down, Pa came back inside. Ma was sitting in her chair by the fireplace with her sewing kit, and she had fallen asleep. Pa didn’t want to disturb her, because she looked so peaceful. He went on to bed. Pa tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, but he just couldn’t sleep. He kept remembering that day, the day his whole life came crashing down, the day he’ll never forget.


It was a freezing, cold day, right in the middle of winter. Ma went to get the baby. She found him breathing heavy and coughing more than usual. She knew something was wrong with him, but she didn’t know what to do. He had never been sick before. She called Pa in. “Maybe we should call for the doctor.”


Dr. Jones was a great doctor. He had been there for every patient. He never gave up. He rarely lost anybody. He was polite, kind, and he loved every one of his patients. He was the man Ma and Pa trusted with their lives.


Pa looked down at his baby. He decided to go get Dr. Jones. He rode up to the doctor’s office, to find that Dr. Jones was out of town and wouldn’t be back until the next day. Pa left a message for the doctor to come to see his baby as soon as he got back. When Pa got home, he and Ma just sat by the baby, waiting.


Early the next morning, Dr. Jones was on his way to see the baby, but the weather was terrible. The rain came down harder than ever, making it almost impossible to see the road. The wind howled, and the rain started to turn to ice. The horses couldn’t go any further. Dr. Jones had to stop and wait. By the time he made it to the house, it was too late. The baby had gotten worse over night, and his little body just couldn’t handle it. Ma and Pa stood over him, crying.


Pa sat up, breathing hard, as if he had just had a bad dream, which he had. He replayed that night over and over until he finally fell asleep.


Morning came, and Ma woke up to the sound of pots and pans clanging and the smell of bacon, eggs, and toast. Pa was making breakfast. “It’s not great, but it’s the best I know how.” Pa set a plate on the table and turned his attention back to the stove. Ma just sat there, silently, looking at the food he had prepared.


It was about noon when Ma came to Pa. “You need to talk Dr. Jones.”


“I know, but I can’t get past what happened.” Pa turned away.


Ma stood back. “He tried his hardest. There was nothing else he could have done. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”


Pa looked at Ma, tears in his eyes. “But that was my little boy.”


Ma reached out. “I know how you feel. I feel the same. But he got too sick and with it being winter, he just didn’t have a chance.” Ma looked at Pa, tears in her eyes. Yet she seemed so calm and forgiving of what happened. “We need to go back to church, spend time with our friends.”


Later that day, Pa was standing by the big oak tree up on the top of the hill. He was staring at the river at the bottom of the hill. He watched how it flowed so gently, so peacefully. He watched as the deer came to get a drink, and how calm and quiet they were. He thought about how peaceful nature itself was. He knew Ma was right. He knew he had to let it go someday. He looked up to the sky. It had been so long since he last prayed, he was beginning to think he wouldn’t be able to talk to God. But he had to. “Lord, I know I’ve been wrong. Please give me the strength and courage to accept my life just the way it is. Give me peace in knowing you will always be there. Help me to forgive, as you have forgiven. Amen.” He felt the cool breeze on his face. He was starting to feel as if a heavy weight had been lifted. He felt peace.


Sunday morning arrived quickly. The birds chirped out a sound of joy. The day was a bit windy, but warm. The sun was shining bright in the morning sky. It was a beautiful day. Ma was up cooking breakfast, and Pa was getting his church clothes out. He hadn’t worn them in what seemed like forever. Ma was wearing her blue dress with the lace collar.


After breakfast, they got in their carriage, heading for church. They slipped into the back of the church just after it started. Ma was listening intently to the words of the preacher.


Pa was looking around the room at people he hadn’t seen in years. Thinking about how much they’ve changed, some had more children, some older. All were so happy. His attention turned back to the service.


After service, everyone went outside, where they just stood around talking and laughing, just enjoying each other’s company. “So glad you two could make it.” Ma and Pa turned around to see Miss Sarah. She had been their friend for years. “We’ve really missed you. Beginning to think you’d never come back.” She chuckled.


Ma smiled “Well, we’re glad we came.”


Miss Sarah hugged them both “Well, I must be going. Got a lot of work that needs to be done.”


“Bye, now.” Ma turned to Pa, who seemed happy again. He hadn’t looked this happy in years. “Preacher said something about a painter who’s trying to earn some money to get back home. I’ve always wanted a portrait of us.” She looked at Pa with wishing eyes.


“Ok,” Pa agreed.


Ma smiled. “We’ll need to be back here at eleven tomorrow morning.” They talked to a few more people, and then headed back home. “I didn’t see Dr. Jones, but his wife said they were getting their picture done tomorrow.” Ma brought up the conversation so nicely, looking at Pa for a response.


Pa grinned. “I promise. I’ll talk to him.”


The next day, Ma and Pa made it to the church at ten-thirty. Pa spotted Dr. Jones right away. Ma nudged Pa. He knew what she meant by it, too. He walked over to Dr. Jones. “Hello.” He sounded almost scared.


“Well, hi there,” replied Dr. Jones. “Heard you were getting your picture painted.” He was a good man. He always knew Pa would come around.


Pa looked down at the ground as he started to say, “I’m sorry about everything I’ve said and done.”


Dr. Jones interrupted. “You’re forgiven. I’m sorry too.” Pa felt so relieved. How could Dr. Jones be so understanding? Ma walked over to Pa.


“It’s our turn.” She smiled.


They walked over to the front on the church where the young artist was painting.


“Just stand right there. This will only take an hour or two,” said the man painting the portrait. Pa stood there thinking about what had just happened: how he had been so unforgiving, blaming what had happened on the doctor. He watched the children play in the field, thinking how he would have loved to be watching his son run around. He turned to focus on the painting. Ma looked at Pa and realized just what he was thinking about. She’d been thinking about it, too. They both just stood there, blank faces, as the man painted away.