It had only taken two years for his wife to leave him.
She’d grown sick of the small town, the smell of shit on his boots, and the fact that Ethan was just angry all the time. He could not blame her for wanting to leave, but he also did not follow her or try to make her stay.
Somewhere along the line, Ethan had started drinking in the mornings.
No one was around, so no one ever noticed. Booze made the work easier, or so he thought, but the truth was it just made it easier for him to ignore all the farm work he’d been putting off.
It started when the first cow died. Ethan left it in the field for weeks rotting in the summer sun, and it would’ve stayed there had the neighbors not complained about the smell. As the turkey buzzards began to crowd the fields, his mother complained to him as well, finally paying some local college kids to scrape the rotting carcass off the ground.
Ethan kept drinking and ignored the world around him, fantasies of going back to Chicago and his wife drifting through the haze inside his head. He knew he’d never go, but the idea allowed him to believe he had a plan.
Five more cows would die within the next year, and each time Ethan would ignore their bodies until the neighbors brought the law out to talk to him. In the end, he would hire someone to do the work and he would continue with his drinking, and the farm continued to limp along like a horse that had just thrown a shoe.
Eventually, Ethan and his mother stopped talking altogether. She grew tired of the arguments and disappointed in the son she raised, so they took to haunting opposite sides of the house. She lost herself in mourning her dead husband and wore her sorrows like an old dressing gown.
The morning Ethan found her hung from a rafter in the hay barn, he realized that he hadn’t known his mother at all.
For the first few days, Ethan ignored the barn entirely, telling himself he needed to find the note she was sure to have left. He searched her room and the rest of the house but found nothing.
An envelope of money under her mattress distracted Ethan for a few more days, as he finally had the means to drink like he’d always wanted to. Three days later and staggering drunk, he had finally worked up the nerve to walk into the barn.
The smell and the fact that she was covered in her own excrement convinced Ethan it would be best to leave her hanging for a spell, at least until he’d hosed her down. It took about an hour, but once he’d cleaned her up, Ethan decided to go back into the house and grab some fresh clothes for her, so she’d be dressed when he cut her down and called the authorities.
The feeling of control Ethan felt as he picked out her dress and slipped on her panties was nothing short of electric. After he’d finished dressing her, he went back to the house to get his mother’s makeup kit and spent the afternoon combing her hair as well.
One week later, it was the smell which once again prompted the neighbors to summon the police.
Their visits to the farm were becoming fairly routine by this point, but no one was prepared for the sight of Ethan drunk and doing a slow waltz with his mother’s rotting corpse, still dangling from the rafters.
For the first time in years, Ethan looked like a man contented. In his mind, he was back home in Chicago, his old life finally restored. In reality, however, he’d finally lost everything but his farm and its herd of starving cattle.
The trees were filled with turkey buzzards, and only they seemed to know how this was all going to end.