A fictional short story by Robert M. Roberts
Ivan Borisheski and his young bride, Mildred, immigrated to America from Poland in 1955. After living in the slums of Brooklyn for a few years, they finally scraped up enough savings to move to Wisconsin. They purchased a small hog farm on the outskirts of Sheboygan.
Ivan worked tirelessly over the years and farm life had taken a toll on him. His long, jet black hair became short white stubble, and his hands were cracked and calloused. He rarely left the farm except for needed supplies, which always included a quart of cheap bourbon. Mildred referred to it as “Satan in a bottle.” On the other hand, Mildred had never been to town, and in fact, had never left the house since they moved there. A definite recluse, I guess you would call her.
Ivan came through the door after another hard day of work, and breathed in a whiff of beans and salt pork he had put in the slow cooker that morning. Mildred sat at the kitchen table where she always sat. Ivan dished up the beans, placed a bowl in front of her, and then took his place at the other end of the table and began digging in.
After a few bites, he looked up and told Mildred that Rosey, his prize sow, had gotten her head caught in the fence trying to fetch a stray cob. “She’s a feisty ol’ gal,” he said, as he began to laugh. “Reminds me of you, back in the day.”
Mildred didn’t respond.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” he paused to take another bite of beans. “I think you need one of those makeovers that all the women are getting now days, and maybe a new dress too.” He shoveled in another spoonful of beans. “Now don’t try to thank me. It’s the least I can do,” he added, and lifted up his hand. He retrieved a newspaper from the kitchen counter and placed it in front of her.
“What ya think? Ain’t she a beauty?” he asked. The paper was opened to the obituary section and displayed the picture of a lovely young female with flowing hair around her shoulders. The young woman had recently died and was buried in Clossen Cemetery, just down the road from the farm.
Mildred said nothing. As a matter of fact, she hadn’t uttered a word for decades. On occasion, a shrill high-pitched voice could be heard throughout the house, but it was just Ivan mimicking her after he’d had too much whiskey, and was in the mood for an argument. Of course, that was what led to her demise years ago, but it had been so long that he didn’t even remember what they had argued about.
Mildred just sat and said nothing, her hollowed eye sockets seemed fixated on Ivan’s every word. His calloused bear-like hands had choked the very life out of her years ago. Now, she just sat at the table, day in and day out. The small amount of remaining flesh on her face and hands had dried like leather across her skeleton.
Ivan assured her that removing the young woman’s face that was buried down the road would be no trouble whatsoever. After all, he had butchered so many hogs in his time that he had the skills of a surgeon.
As he reached across the table to finish off her supper, he whispered, “You’ll look stunning, my dear…absolutely stunning!”