When they got to the Goodmans’ abandoned farmyard, they saw that a fire had damaged the old place over the winter. Tim speculated the destruction of the abandoned farm had probably been caused by lightning.   The big barn was half-burnt, and the little loaf-shaped house was partially caved in. It was sad to see all those wonderful memories scarred and broken: all the great meals and legendary tales they had shared there.

They drove the road straight between the crushed Twinkie and the privy and then crossed the Goodmans’ upper field. Tim punched the Gremlin through one last section of roller-coaster mud holes and woods, quietly skirted Carl and Jillian’s turnoff, and wove between the wildflowers that led right up to their front door.

They were home.

Kate and baby got out first, and then Tim and Attie climbed out through her door. They all stretched and looked around at the view for a moment, and then walked over to the stair head, where one flight led down to the basement and the other went up. It was exciting. Baby Brew was about to meet his “real” bedroom for the very first time.

“Don’t fall down the steps,” Tim cautioned Attie. The three-year-old froze and clutched her mommy’s pant leg.

Then they waited, as Tim unfastened the padlock on the basement door, pulled the latch string down, and stepped inside.

He went up the interior stairs and came around to unlock the big east door to the great room. Once the portcullis was wide-open, Kate and Attie climbed the steps and walked into their grand lodge.

The big room smelled chilly but not moldy. And it looked intact. Everything looked exactly the way they’d left it. They’d been gone the better part of two years, and still the house was sound and ready for them to move home. “Excellent!” Kate laid Brew on the couch and started rolling up the window quilts, one by one.

Attie, glad to be out of the car and finally able to move, jumped into each magic square of sunshine that appeared as her mother removed the window coverings. It had been a long winter, and the ravenous room happily opened itself up to the sudden flood of sunshine.

“Hey, Kate, look at this!” Tim was calling from down the hall. “I guess we did have visitors, after all!”

Curious, Kate followed his voice around the corner, where she found him staring at the back door. The top half of the door - where six window panes had been - now had a big piece of cardboard nailed over it. Tucked under one edge of the cardboard was a note written on what looked like a page torn from her bedside tablet.

Feb. 14, 1982
Hello. We were skiing and got caught in a blizzard. Sorry we had to break your windows to get in. Hope this pays for the glass. Your house saved our lives. Thank you.

The couple had signed their names, and when Tim took down the note, a $20 bill fluttered to the floor.

“Hmm,” Tim said.

“Well, well,” Kate echoed his surprise.

“They’re lucky this place was here,” Tim said.

“You’re not kidding,” Kate agreed. “These window panes will be a hassle for you to replace, but it feels good to know that our house being here saved two lives.”

Kate was trying to picture the visit.

“I wonder what they  thought once they were inside.”

Tim, busy considering the task of re-glazing the windows, said, “They were probably relieved.”

“No, I mean, artistically. When they saw the beams and the tile work under the stove and everything, did they appreciate how beautiful this house really is?” Kate clarified.

“I don’t know, but I am sure they were relieved,” Tim said again. Then he smiled at her. “They probably wondered how we got the ridgepole up there.”

“Yeah, I still wonder that, too,” Kate chuckled.

Tim went back to the great room and opened the wood stove door to build a fire. Inside, he found three broken fire bricks. “They must have burned coal in this thing,” Tim said. “It got too hot and some of the bricks cracked.”

“That’s too bad. I hope it still works,” Kate lamented.

“It looks like it’ll be okay,” Tim said. He lit a fire and watched carefully until he was sure, and then he pronounced it safe. The best thing about this day was that they were home again, and everything was right where they’d left it, and nearly intact. It would still take a couple of days to warm the house up, but Lordy, it was good to be home!