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The white-haired man trudged up the steps of the mill, noting as he went the old stone treads worn down by millions of footsteps across three centuries of use. At the top of the steps, he pushed the heavy oak door and the rusty hinges screeched in protest. He stepped over the heavy timber threshold into the quiet, breathing in the history and drinking in the memories.
Silent for more than fifty years, the old mill had gone to rack and ruin, mirroring the life of the man now standing within its thick stone walls. Heart heavy with loneliness and aching with regret, the man reflected on the time he last stood in the flour mill. A boy just ten years of age, he had watched and listened as his father and grandfather argued. The details of the disagreement were long forgotten, but the outcome was brutal. Never again did the boy see his grandfather. And never again did the millstone turn – their departure marked the end of the flour mill.
The memories continued as the man recalled spurning his own father after a heated argument, driving a wedge between them that became a yawning chasm. A tear rolled down his cheek as he yearned for the chance to say goodbye but knew that death had already robbed him of the opportunity.
Then the most painful memory of all gushed forth – the conflict within his own family. For ten long years, he’d not seen his wife, his son nor his grandchildren; had not felt the comfort of a sweet embrace, the brush of a gentle kiss or the warmth of a family’s laughter. Three generations of cursed McLachlan men had repeated the same mistakes from father to son.
McLachlan stepped out to examine the water wheel, frozen in time, immovable for fifty long years. The ravages of age, bitter cold and rushing water had done their worst. With broken paddles and seized gears, the water wheel was the very embodiment of McLachlan’s own stubborn and intractable character.
The flooding memories overran the man as he stared transfixed at the motionless water wheel. It was time to break the cycle. If the water wheel could once more run free, then perhaps so too could he.
The white-haired man rolled up his sleeves, collected his toolbox and got to work.