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Wood Grain

Estimated reading time โ€” 6 minutes

We had found the dresser at a yard sale, beaten and broken, but it was an artifact of the 1920s and my husband insisted we bring it home and fix it up. I thought nothing of this aside from the fact to be noted that the dresser was not for sale – it had practically been forced upon us at the mentioning of our interest when the words left my husband’s lips that day, “How much do you want for this?” Pretty shortly after the previous owner was frantically helping us load the goliath into our van and stammered a hasty, “Thank you!” as he turned and retreated back to his yard sale stand. We found this a bit odd, but we weren’t completely taken by the incident. He was just a strange young man.

My husband furiously set to work and had completed a beautiful restoration of our new bedroom object in less than a week’s time, working especially quickly on the weekend and luring me into the garage, blindfolded as usual, and taking the cloth off of my eyes to present its glorious new body to me. It curved in all the right places, its wood was now clean, pristine, and shiny, and the new handles on its drawers fit lovely. I gave him a kiss and told him there was nothing that he wasn’t able to fix up, and he blushed and said, “Aw, maw” and laughed. That night he was more than excited to enlist in my help for getting it upstairs to our bedroom, where we placed it almost right next to our bed. It looked perfect, we could see as we stood in the doorway and took in the new freshness that it brought to our room. Just perfect.

That night before I closed my eyes to go to sleep and switched off my light, I lay my head down next to my husband’s on our pillow and met his snoring face, giving him one last kiss on the tip of his nose as I usually did. I was about to close my eyes when I squinted and realized there was a shape in the wood grain on the side of the dresser. I almost let out a slight chuckle at myself but it was unmistakable, there was a shape of a footprint stamped into the wood. I hadn’t noticed it before but now it was clear as day. I shrugged it off as nothing, closed my eyes, and fell into a deep and wonderful slumber.

I was awoken in the morning by a bloodcurdling scream. It was the first of its kind that I had heard since an incident that took place when I was a little girl, where my brother had fallen out of a tree out in the front yard and dislocated his shoulder. He had called out in such agony that I thought he had been near death, but our parents assured me that he was going to be fine. This bloodcurdling scream woke me to life and my eyes darted back and forth across the room until I met eyes with my husband, who was now lurched forward in pain and horror. I flung myself out of my bed and ran to his side where my arms embraced him and I asked him what was going on, and he motioned to his foot with tears in his eyes. There was a huge nail sticking out of the wooden floorboards in which I had never seen before, and it was completely through his foot.

We spent the day in the hospital and his foot was wrapped as to keep the puncture wound from infection. He was told to keep off of it for a few days and allow it to heal as best as possible, which was near-impossible because after retirement my husband had taken on opening up his own saw sharpening service and so he always had constant customers coming in and dropping off their items for him to care for. He sadly accepted the news and said he would make some calls that afternoon to ‘let people down and give them the news.’ I just nestled my hands into his hair and told him it wouldn’t be long before he was back on his feet.

That first night home after his incident, we fell asleep in bed together but I was woken abruptly by an oncoming thunderstorm in the middle of the night. My eyes opened directly over my husband’s shoulder to notice the wood grain on the side of the dresser for the second time now. Where the shape of the foot had been marked in the grain, there now appeared to be a different shape – that of a tooth. I assumed that my eyes were playing tricks on me and I fell back to sleep with not a worry in my mind.

The next day I was tending to my husband frequently. In between doing wash and dishes and other house chores, I made him meals and rubbed his ‘good’ foot and brought him the newspaper when prompted. He really appreciated it. I cooked him up a fantastic lunch – chicken Alfredo and cooked spinach, one of his favorites. I placed the tray in his lap and turned the television to one of his favorite shows and he thanked me as I walked into the bathroom to start scrubbing the toilets as the next chore.

His loud yells could have been heard across the entire neighborhood. My heart was in a complete flutter as I bolted out of the bathroom and down the hall which seemed even longer than it really was in such a panicked situation. “John! John!” I called out, and burst through the bedroom door, to find a mess of blood in his lap and his tray laying scattered on the floor, a mess of food everywhere. Now, given, John was getting older, but he was still in great shape. He was 55 with the mind of a 30-year-old, something we joked about often. He was still holding the fork in his hand but he was now glaring down at himself and raised his eyes to me to show me his mouth. There, in his other hand, were three teeth. They had all fallen out of the very front of his mouth. “I’ve NEVER lost a tooth in my age,” he murmured, shaking his head. “I need to go to the dentist, Paula.” He was shaking and he sat the teeth next to his bed on that dresser. That same dresser.

I had trouble getting through the rest of the day. John asked around evening-time if I could escort him downstairs and onto the front porch where he sat frequently and watched the sunset. He asked if I wanted to sit with him but I just smiled and told him, “No, you need to enjoy the rest of your day in solitude, you’ve been having a lot of bad luck and I have things to take care of in the house.” He insisted that I take a break for once but there was work to be done. When I left him out there I worked quickly, running up the steps to the bedroom and over to the dresser. There was no insignificant designs in the wood grain and I checked it up and down for any unordinary signs but there was nothing ‘off’ about this dresser from what I was seeing. I had so many questions but the point being, it made me incredibly uneasy. And so I dismantled it with a hammer. And I didn’t stop beating it apart until it was in so many pieces that there would be an incredible mess to clean up.

When John called upon me to take him back upstairs for bed, I did so, but on the way up I stopped him, lips trembling a bit for affect. “John, there was an accident with the dresser.”

He scratched his head and let out a short chuckle, asking, “What do you mean? What could have possibly happened?”

I told him a beautifully-crafted, long drawn-out story of how a bat had entered through the window when I was cleaning the bedroom, and so I grabbed the hammer off of the shelf and beat it to the ground, but first smashing the dresser to smithereens. He didn’t question me, though he gave me a few looks and one of them was the fact that this story had made him quite sad and uneasy. He had worked great lengths on the dresser and did not want this to be the truth, but sadly this is how it had to go.

When we made it to the bedroom, he asked to see it and so I whipped the door open – and let out a huge gasp. There was the dresser, perfectly assembled next to our bed, once again. He burst into laughter and turned to me and said, “Why would you play a joke like that on me?! I really fancy our dresser, Paula.” And then I took him to bed, and I one-overed the dresser once more before I changed into my pajamas and hopped into bed with him.

I never wanted to worry my John; since we had been teenagers getting married at 19 years old, he had been my entire life. I had plenty questions about this dresser but I refused to allow him to see me get distraught over such a thing. We fell asleep talking about something in-depth but to this day I don’t remember the conversation. It was important at the time and to this day I wish that I could remember it because it was the last conversation I ever had with my John. As he talked and I peered over his shoulder, I could make out a new shape that night somewhere within the depths of the wood grain. It was a heart. I knew that the next day he would be having a heart attack, the first and last one of its kind to hit him. And this became true.

Credit To – Maggie Louise

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