01-23-2012 10:29 AM
The sun beat down on our small Kentucky farm, forcing a damp, putrid sweat to ooze out from my pores. I pushed the golden mop of my hair out of my eyes, squinting up at the sky, galled by the sudden heat-wave. The past few days have been rainy, which has been a big help for us, and the appearance of the ranch. We’ve been trying to sell the place for a few months now, and only a handful of people have taken a look at it, and they hadn’t returned to make any sort of offer yet. The moisture helps spiff it up a bit, and it keeps the flowers in bloom, and greens the grass up nice. I don’t know if it’ll spark up some more interest in the place, but I’d sure like to see some more buyers come by and take a tour.
I still wasn’t sure how I felt about selling the ranch, after all, it’s the only home I’ve ever known. I was raised here, and I’d sure like to have the land for some more time. But dad’s impatient about moving, and getting us somewhere else to live, somewhere with a nice view and some working electricity. I don’t really mind it much, I’ve always been the kind of guy who’s preferred candles and lanterns instead of all the artificial light most people go for. Dad’s not big on man-made stuff, he thinks it evil, but he says if he had to have anything he’d take a spot of electricity over the rest of the junk the world uses. He’s been listening to some preacher man talk about staying separate from the world, and not relying on their own way of living. I believe in God, and I try my best to be a good man, but I think avoiding civilization is unnecessary. You’re never gonna run far enough to lose sight of it, after all.
After momma died I think dad went a little crazy. She had some sort of cancer and it was too late by the time the doctors figured it out. She died in her bed nice and peaceful though, and I’m at least happy about that. But I don’t think dad really recovered from it, he still sits on the porch some nights and stares out at nothing. I think maybe he thinks it was his fault she died, and that’s why he acts so crazy about things, like cutting off from the world. Maybe he thinks that by doing that he has control over something, not like he had control over her. I miss her a lot, and I stay up some nights in my bed and think about her, but I don’t think separating from everyone else is the way to get better.
Sometimes I wish momma was still here with us. She was a nice woman, fair too, and she only did what she thought was right. On Sunday mornings she would make pancakes for us and while dad read the paper we would eat and talk about things. School, and the farm, and stuff like that. When I watched her go I was happy to see she still had a smile on her face, and she told me to keep my grades up in school and to never quit. I’ve never been a great student or anything, I’m not stupid, I just would rather spend time on the ranch then in the house doing homework and English assignments. I’m not too good with English.
Dad hates school, he thinks it’s evil too, but momma told him to shut his mouth when he tried to say so, and told him to let me live my own life. Now that she’s gone, I think he hates it more, but he lets me go because momma would have wanted it. It only takes about seven hours to get on the bus and then get dropped off at the house again, and dad usually spends those hours listening to the preacher man on the radio. The radio is another thing that he keeps from the world, I guess because it’s where the preacher man talks from, and he can’t go see him so he has it for that reason. I don’t rightly know, and it doesn’t matter much to me anyway.
He does tell me when I go to school to ignore the people there and just finish my work and talk to the teachers when I need to. That’s okay cause most of the people there ignore me, or say things behind my back, or make fun of me sometimes. I try not to let it get to me, as I know they’re young and stupid, and they probably just do because the friends they have do it. I’m pretty big for a man of seventeen, but once they knew I wasn’t gonna do anything to stop them they decided to do it some more. I tend to just ignore them too and mind my own business.
My science teacher, Mrs. Adams, was the only thing I liked about school. I’d always been good at science, and she would tell me how good a job I’d done in class, or on an assignment. Her class was the one I looked most forward too, and I never felt pressured to hand papers in when they were due. I got them done when they needed to be done, because I wanted to make her proud. I liked seeing people smile and be happy because of me, or something I did. It makes me feel good, and it makes me happy too. I liked pleasing people.
I didn’t really like pleasing girls. They were mean and loud, and they didn’t notice me at all. The ones at my school were like that, and they didn’t care. They’d be in the library with me, when I was studying, and they’d laugh or giggle and distract me from what it was I was doing. They were talking about boys or clothes or some silly thing they thought up, and it was annoying to me. Girls were annoying, not something I liked, not like Mrs. Adams. I don’t know why other boys like them, they don’t seem interesting or nothing.
There’s been talk in the school about a prom night. Everyone seems excited about it. Not me, I’ve never been to one, and I don’t think I wanna go to this one. People are already asking each other out, and the lockers are buzzing with conversations. I try to ignore them, but its hard sometimes, because I get curious. Its outside of the usual school activities and conversations I usually hear. I don’t really see the point in going to a dance, eating food, and drinking punch. Sounds boring to me. I’d rather stay home at the ranch and tend to the animals, make sure they’re okay.
Two boys approached me at school yesterday and asked about whether I like punch or not. I said I’d never tried it. they said they planned on spiking it, and I told them I didn’t understand what they meant. They laughed and walked off to class, punching each other’s shoulder like some boys do. I felt stupid, but then I remembered everything I had to do the next morning and forgot what they’d said. I guess it wasn’t that important.
I clear my thoughts and wiped the sweat from my forehead, focusing on the work at hand. With hot weather like this, the pigs would be lazy, taking long naps outside. Their mud-pit would be dry. I tossed a bucketful of water into the dirt, using a shovel to mix it around and create a thick, smelly sludge. The pigs raced into it, rolling around and splattering my shirt and pants. I filled their trough with food, and washed off the mire before I fed the hens.
One of our roosters is called Lenny. Each morning, at seven o clock precisely, I open the gate and step inside the henhouse, making sure I have my heavy duty combat boots laced tight. When I scatter the seed for the birds, I hear him run towards me and peck at my feet with his beak. I would probably kick him out of the way if I only thought that he would live through the stress, and unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of promise there. If you don’t have strong boots he’ll cut your feet to shreds. I was taken to the emergency room and given nine stitches when I wore only sneakers inside the henhouse. I would not make that mistake again.
I always save the stable for last, as I feel the most joy there, and I enjoy seeing the horses delight when I bring them breakfast and sugar cubes. Dad hated when I did that, he said it made them spoiled brats, but horses have always been my favorite animal and I’ve always had a soft spot for them. I threw a couple in with the hay in the morning, just to give them an extra treat.
We have a stallion, pure black with only a few splotches of white on his back. We call him Bruce, because that’s a tough and stubborn name, and that’s the personality he’s decided to adopt. He’s pretty old, and I don’t imagine he has much time left. I try and make him comfortable, as best I can, and give him space when he needs it. As far as I can tell, he likes me, as he hasn’t attempted to kill me yet. He’s generally nice when you treat him right, and only acts out when he has a cold or has an injury.
We also have a mare, chestnut brown, with a long flowing mane and a bushy tail that she likes to swish around when she’s content. We call her Wynng, because when you ride her you don’t feel a lot of roughness, it’s smooth, and she flies over the ground. I trust her with my life, as you have to do when you ride a horse, and I put complete faith in her ability to protect the rider. I take her out on full moons and trot her up into the pasture and fields. I’ll bring a few snacks for her, so she doesn’t get hungry, and I can stare at the stars for hours before heading back to the stables for bed.
I brush my hand up her side, putting one hand on her mane so I can run my fingers through it and clean out the barbs and thorns. I grab a comb from the wall and begin to clean her, waiting until I see the streaky shine of a well groomed coat before I move on. I whisper in her ear to calm her, and to assure her that it’s me. She knows my voice, and she responds to me. Dad can’t get her to react, she treats him like a stranger. I’m the only one who can get close and feed her and brush her, and keep her in good shape. I start talking to her, carrying on a one-sided conversation.
“Hey girl, how you doing today?”
I notice she’s gotten bigger, probably having eaten some of Bruce’s grain. Her stomach was round and swollen from gorging herself. I scratched her behind the ear affectionately.
“How do you get your hair so dirty, Wynng, it’s like you wanna give me more work.”
She snorts softly, and raises her head haughtily, as if to say it wasn’t her fault. I found a dead horse fly caught and tangled in her rump. I flicked it away, rubbing her croup gently to soothe the area where a small bump had sprouted.
“I bet you’re restless. We have to get you some exercise. There’s a full moon three days from now. Maybe we can ride…”
“Alex! Get in the house, it’s time for school!”
The door slammed shut behind him, as dad went back inside the house. I could hear the bang even from this distance, several hundred feet away. I grumbled to Wynng about checking on her later, and ran off towards the cottage.
When I got there, dad had already set the table. A pitcher of orange juice sat just on the edge, precariously close to falling over. I didn’t fancy cleaning up the glass, and hearing dad yell at me, telling me it was my fault, so I poured myself a glass and put it in the center of table. Dad divided the eggs evenly onto two plates, using a metal spatula to scrape it out of the steaming skillet, and put two strips of burnt bacon to keep it company. He slammed it down on the table, glaring at me as he shoved a piece of meat in his mouth. After he finished chewing, he tossed the rest of it into the garbage, spitting fragments of bacon at me.
“Don’t you have school today?”
I shook my head. “No dad, it’s Saturday. School’s only on the weekdays.”
“I know that, you think I’m stupid? Of course I know it’s Saturday! I was asking because I was wondering where you’ve been. Up at the stable I’m guessing, feeding that damned horse of yours. You spend too much time with it. You gotta focus on your priorities. Everything else comes first, I don’t care if it goes into cardiac arrest. Take care of your other responsibilities, homework, make breakfast, then feed the thing. You got it?”
I nodded, shifting the food around on my plate. It was best to not answer him when he was in this kind of mood. He could get violent, push you around, maybe throw a punch. I didn’t want to explain to the principal why I had a black eye for the third time this month. Dad dumped the rest of his food down the disposal, without running water so it sounded like he was grinding metal. I did the same. I didn’t have much appetite, probably because I knew he had more to say.
“And another thing. I found that copy of Shakespeare you were hiding in your closet. I don’t want you reading it, you hear me?”
“But dad, that’s my English...”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you reading any worldly crap. Going to that school of yours is enough. And if you plan on going to college, I want it to be a community college, one of the ones nearby. I wanna see you at home, so I can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re doing what I tell you. Okay?”
02-11-2012 01:10 AM
I found this to be a very promising beginning. I felt invested in the character and found him to be relatable (if he was a girl, I would have said that it was my clone).
The only thing I would question is the details on the farm animals. I was with you through the pigs and Lenny, but when we got to the horses, I started to loose interest. If it's important to the story/character, I understand why it was mentioned, but I think it may be too much information, that can seem unnecessary, for the start of the story. That could maybe be fleshed out throughout the story. Just a thought. On my way to reading part 2.