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The Last Day

Missy, the girl who takes care of us, saw me looking at John sitting by the window reading the bible.

“Corrie, do you want me to wheel you over?” I nodded and she pushed my chair to the corner and I sat next to John in the early morning sunlight.

He’s reading his bible like he always does. I hate him. He stole my life, and he has the nerve to sit happily and read the bible.

I close my eyes and think of Norway in 1900. My parents loved me. They left me a fortune when they died and I was determined to make a beautiful independent life for myself in America. After school I answered an advertisement asking for teachers in the wild lands of Montana. I remember the boat and the train and the wagon, a long exciting journey. I was so young and strong, so wild and stupid.

I settled into the cozy teacherage behind the school, a two room house with a water pump to pull water into the kitchen sink. I remember my children, all the little ones who learned reading, writing, and arithmetic from me. The school was in a narrow mountain valley that poured down into Flathead Lake.

“Miss Riensdeed, are you rich?” Ruth asked me one morning. After that, the whispers and rumors of my wealth grew like a storm until the night I was kidnapped by John Vermadahl and his brother Carl.

I open my eyes and look at the huge frame of a man in the wheel chair beside me. I clench my jaw and my few remaining teeth dig painfully into my tender gums, my hands shake when I remember.

I hear Walt’s truck in the drive. My handsome son walks through the door.

“Morning Dad. Let me take you to the kitchen while I make your pancakes.”

He acts like he doesn’t even see me. I watch him tenderly guide fork loads of pancake and syrup into John’s mouth. He talks of upcoming rodeos and upcoming Presidential elections. He wheels John to the bathroom and gives him a bath and shaves his face. Walt does this every day.

“I want to sit by the window.” John tells Walt.

“Are you sure you want to get that close, the crazy old bat might stab you again.” Walt says, but complies.

"Bye Dad." A few minutes later I see a puff of white dust glide past the window.

When John dies, my will states that Walt will get everything. The worst thing I could do to Eleanor is to leave her with money, like my parents did to me. John disagrees, his will splits things half and half between our children. We all know that I’ll out live him. He’s not made of the same metal I am.

I survived all of his abuse. I played the cat-and-mouse game with him. I knew he couldn’t hurt me too badly if he ever wanted to get my money, and I knew that if I gave it to him, I wouldn’t last long after that. I’m tired of being angry about that. It's over, and he's harmless now.

I survived being left alone for years in this tar paper shack in the middle of indian-land. I built the kitchen counters to fit my four foot tall body. I built chicken coops to my scale, with John’s over-sized barn always looming over them. I used the little tractor and the old workhorse to pull trailer house sized boulders off the side of the hill to break the harsh prairie wind off the tar paper shack. I raised two small children, alone . . . utterly alone . . . and I went a bit crazy because of this imprisonment, but now. . . I look at him and I’m tired of being angry so tired of being angry. I’m going to let it go.

Then John came back and the cat-and-mouse pressure and abuse came back with him. That’s when I stabbed him. I survived being put in Warm Springs Mental Institution, and put through shock therapy and drug therapy. I still didn’t give him my money. I came out of Warm Springs a different woman; leaner, colder, and numb. I’m too tired to even think about it anymore.

The sun is getting high in the sky. John’s face doesn’t scare me anymore. I’m too tired to think about it anymore. He was evil to me, but hating him takes more energy than I have right now. It’s all ok, now.

I close my eyes and let the sun rest on my face.

I feel more peace than I can ever remember feeling before.

Maybe Corrie’s anger was the stuff holding her here, because as soon as she quit hating John, she died. John died an hour later.

He never got her money.


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