A City’s Plight
In a city that could be your very own and just may have been, there was romance. This story isn’t about any lifelong love affair or summer fling. Henry Adams and Greta Mason Adams are still very much in love, though they no longer exist in our physical world.
His father mined coal, his father’s father was his father’s super at the mine, and his father’s father’s father broke ground on what was to be the coal mine. His family lived miserly; though they always had warm meals, and Henry with his older and younger siblings, had plenty of neighborhood children to make friends with. Their lives were grim and isolated, but they always had each other and made many friends over the years.
Great and Henry met at a very young age and became best friends. She was as smart as a whip, and he was as strong as an ox. They played in the streets until dusk and would even steal away into the night sometimes. That was until her parents died in a flood. With no remaining family Greta was woefully adopted by the Adams’. They really couldn’t afford to feed another mouth, but she was such a close friend of Henry’s that they had to make it work. And they did.
It wasn’t long before Henry traded throwing rocks and teasing Greta about childhood mythical contagious diseases for kissing episodes behind the oil rig and embracing intimately beneath the moon. It was always a secret. What would the townspeople think if they saw the two hugging and kissing? They had become siblings, but Henry and Greta were completely inseparable. Their own family rendered suspicion and as teenagers the secret couple moved out together.
Henry took his place at the mine and Greta assisted when needed at the Church. They were barely getting by; especially with a newborn just a few weeks old; of which was delivered by Henry, who had years before, watched the birthing of his younger sister and brothers. But the baby wasn’t well and required medical attention. They knew that they would be chastised for having a child when finally the community would discover their forbidden love affair, but they had no choice.
The same doctor that treated their father’s smallpox, and witnessed the deaths of their cousin and grandparents, refused to treat their newborn, and it soon perished.
Henry and Greta became reclusive, seeking the somber solace of near co-hermitude. Henry’s namesake kept his job secure at the mine. Greta was reduced to spending her days in a cold, meager, lonely household that reminded her every day that the outside world was cruel and unforgiving.
After an impeccable record of never missing a day of work from the commencement of his employment, Henry was truant. The other miners began to rattle a cage or two, wondering of the whereabouts of Henry, though they had a slight disdain and indifference to his existence. 3 or 4 days had passed, since they had recalled seeing him. On the 5th day, Henry’s foreman set afoot to the Adams residence on the very fringe of town. It simply was unlike his resilient coworker to miss a day, let alone 5, and as a foreman that had been granted his livelihood by his family, his obligation ran deep.
All questions were answered when he reached the house. A putrid smell wafted about the small Adams’ cottage, driving the foreman to lift a hand to his face as he approached a windowsill. The shutters were drawn tightly, and the man called out to Henry without a response. The foreman couldn’t make out even the slightest sound as hard as he listened. He took a step further and went inside to investigate. When he opened the door, a caustic stench overwhelmed unlike any other that he had experienced. It burned his throat when he took a breath, forcing him to find a handkerchief from his pocket to cover this face with.
The motionless sight before him was ghastly. There lay both Henry and Greta. Henry clutching Greta’s mostly decomposed cadaver.
They were truly inseparable. In a vote, the townspeople chose to give the Adams couple a proper burial rather than simply burning their house without regard. Though, no church cared to bury the incestuous couple. The city was at odds with the church in the decision, but obliged because of their sins against the church.
Henry’s body was taken to the North end of town, where the sprawling city plunged into an abyss of forest. Greta’s remains were delivered to the South end of town near the cotton fields and open farmlands where she was placed in an anonymous grave.
Years passed by, and oddly, the cotton harvest had gone on a gradual depletion, year over year. Many of the livestock began to sicken and die long before their time to slaughter. In the North, trees shed their leaves out of season, never to regrow them. No longer did birds nest, or were deer spotted raising their doe in the fauna. The townspeople grew worrisome about the depletion of their local resources. Nobody could pinpoint the cause of both occurrences, all the while the land was melting away before everyone’s eyes. The thought of how the earth’s sickness would proceed were frightening. The walls seemed to be closing in as the Northern and Southern poisoned land were slowly moving to meet in the center of town. But the foreman, he knew all along. With the dying trees and starving farmland, he knew his protests could finally have a voice after years of being silenced.
The foreman presented his case before the city councilmen, and out of desperation, a great majority voted in his favor.
The body of Henry Adams was exhumed and relocated to the South end of the city, side by side with Greta’s resting place. In that place was once a prosperous farm, but as it stood on the day of Henry’s second burial, a wasteland of barren soil was as far as the townspeople could see.
No ceremony was held, but the day after the burial, the foreman returned to the grave to pay his final respects to the Adams. What he witnessed that day surprised him as much as his discovery of the deceased couple, and softened him to his core. Sprouting from each of the graves was a single yellow flowered dandelion.