The Intruder by Brenda Rose

My battered joints ain’t lied to me yet. For eight days straight I’ve listened to these rusty bones whisper their warning: change is coming.

It’ll come like a fog, creeping through the woods, sliding across the pond on wispy, silent feet, aimed straight for my house. By tonight—tomorrow night at the latest—it’ll be here, sneaking in from all directions, seeping ghostlike through the cracks in the walls, flowing underneath my farmhouse before rising up, vaporous, surfacing through the gouged and stained floor planks. It’ll float in by way of the loose windowsills and soak this place, drenching it with change. Ain’t a thing I can do about it; it’s happened before.

Some might assume my misery is nothin’ more than the arthritis of a decrepit old woman, but I know what I know, and I know that change is coming.

When Uncle J.D. brought his new bride to this house in 1936, the home place was already fifty years old, and I was six, nearly seven. Two weeks before they showed up unannounced on our doorsteps with their purses empty and their tongues wet, flapping with whisky, something mighty painful drifted in and settled in my joints. The newlyweds dragged in a shitload of change and dumped it in our house like wet garbage, stinking up our lives. All the while, I hurt like hell from the inside out. Family and friends claimed it was nothing more than growing pains, but something primitive and hungry chewed on my bones that year.

My mother stripped me of my bedroom and gave it to Uncle J.D. and his wife, yet neither of them ever spit out a single thank-you, damp with appreciation. When mother discovered Uncle J.D.’s hussy stealing cash from her purse and snooping through her personal things, she decided to do some spring cleaning in the middle of November. She banished the drunken couple from our home, but the stench of their lives clung to the walls of my bedroom for a long time. At six years old, I had taken my first bitter taste of change, and it emanated like garlic through my pores.

In the summer of 1967, the creaking hinges and seams of my skeletal body attacked me for a solid week as the July sun seared the thirsty crops of our family farm. On the seventh day of my agony, while pain gnawed at my bones, I rocked back and forth, crying out, begging God to ease my suffering. As I prayed, word arrived from the fields that my father had collapsed, falling on to the hot southern soil of his farmland, dying in the burial ground of his own dead crops. Change had come.

Over the years, the intruder has always given me fair warning of his impending approach by invading my body. And here I am again, waiting for change to whisper in and engulf this house of my father, my grandfather, and my great grandfather. I ache through and through. My bones shiver, my joints, corroded, tied in knots. The intruder will breathe in here soon, like an unwanted prayer, and find me sitting in my father’s chair, rubbing my fevered bones, waiting. It will arrive and depart in silence, leaving nothing behind other than its footprints imbedded across my life. It’s happened before.