The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Valentine’s Day / Don’t Mind the Rest pt.1

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Like most writers, I wax poetic about love at times.  I try not to for the most part since it’s soooo overdone, and I ban my students from writing about it for most of the semester in Creative Writing, but it still crops up.  Such is the case here.  I started this story four years ago in the middle of a bike ride.  I was off the saddle for a few minutes, had a tiny journal with me, and started to write about someone walking across the cornfield that ran right next to where I was resting.  It didn’t start as a love story, but became one after I figured out where Timmy was going, and why.  I put the story aside for quite some, but decided last year that I liked it enough to keep at it.  Pretty soon it became practice in plotting a piece of fiction, so I kept at it for practice sake.  I sent it to an anthology about “love on the road,” (take that as you will), but they politely declined.  I know why it didn’t get published, which is why I haven’t sent it out anymore, but it’s good for Valentine’s Day.  ~ Jeff

Don’t Mind the Rest

            The rust-pocked hinges on the barn door creaked as Tim opened it.  Light from his lantern cut into the black spaces inside, illuminating them at an hour so unusual that a few chickens clucked nervously and at least one pig snorted in alarm.  “It’s only me!” Tim called from behind the light.  “Good morning!” He circled around to the chicken coop and past the pig pen.  He worked his way outside to the fenced-in yard behind the barn to show himself to any creatures who might have been sleeping in the cool summer air but who now might be alarmed.  Once he felt calm settle back into the barn, he set to his chores.

He sat the lantern down on a block of wood, and then walked through the awkward shadows to drag a bag of chicken feed from the tack room to the coop.  He scattered the mixture of wheat, barley, and corn in generous portions, clicking all the while to the chickens to bring their awareness to the food.  When they had more than enough kernels to peck at, he primed the pump and filled a pair of buckets with water.  He took it to the pig pen and refreshed their supply, and then dumped more slop into their trough.  The sow watched him through the corner of her eye as she lay on her side with her snoring piglets snuggled to her belly.  Tim bent down to pat her side and scratch her snout.  “Alright, momma.  Be a good pig.  Goodbye now.”  He scratched her for another minute while she quietly grunted.

He refilled one of the buckets with water and was about to leave the barn when an idea came to him.  He went back to the tack room, grabbed a fragment of steel fence post, and dug the jagged tip beneath one of the horseshoes nailed to the wall.  He pressed against the post, and the rusted nail yielded with a sharp squeak.  He grabbed the horseshoe and yanked it.  The nail popped out of the wall and fell on the dirt floor.  He slipped the horseshoe into his back pocket, grabbed the bucket and lantern, and returned to the house.

He spent the next hour moving around the kitchen and dining area in the dim light of the lantern as he prepared to leave for Iowa City.  His first task was to iron the dark jeans and plaid cowboy shirt he would wear.  He bathed and shaved himself with the water from the well, combed his hair, trimmed his fingernails, and splashed on the final drops of Uncle Slim’s cologne.  Finally, he packed the last items that would fit into Slim’s Army duffle, including the horseshoe and an empty Mason jar.

He had packed the duffle tight.  It was anchored by a few other pairs of pants and shirts, his denim jacket, and his union suit.  On top of all that was a bible, a family scrapbook, several journals, a set of spoons in a velvet pouch, and a folded American flag.  At the very top was a small cedar box containing Slim’s service medals and ribbons and an envelope bulging with cash.  Every other practical item in the house and barn had ended up at the Methodist church late yesterday afternoon.  Tim had been able to coax the truck into town one final time and drop off a flatbed and trailer full of things without attracting attention from anybody but Pastor and Mrs. Vollmers.

Tim started to draw the string to cinch the top of the duffle, but stopped.  He reached inside and dug around blindly until he grasped a leather-bound journal.  He pulled it out and removed a folded piece of pink stationery he had tucked between the pages for safe keeping.  He held the stationery between two fingers as he thumbed through the pages, finally settling on his mother’s inscription inside the front cover.  He read it for the hundredth time:

Timothy:  These poems are for you, each brought about in some way by the joy that has been raising you.  When you hold this book, all of my greatest creations will be contained in the space you occupy.  I’m leaving you in the only hands left, and I’m leaving these in the best hands I can imagine—yours!  Love, Mom

He flipped through the other pages of crisp parchment.  All save the last had been marked with black ink in his mother’s compact, high-looping script.  That final page was now marked by a printed stanza in blue ink that he had written especially for Esther:

The Seed, Once Planted

to suckle morning’s dew
pushes its way through
this heartland soil.
How well it knows the toil–
the same as you and me
dreaming to become we.

He had said all he could in the best manner he knew, and if it was the last thing he ever gave Esther, that would be just fine.  There was nothing more he could think to do with the poem, and certainly no more time if he thought of anything else.

He returned the pink stationery to the middle of the journal, confident that it would remain safely pressed there until he had need for it.  He placed the journal back in the duffle, drew the string at the top, and sat the duffle next to the door.  He made one final pass around the house.  He swung the lantern in each tiny, barren room to assure that he had closed all the windows and hadn’t overlooked any stray items.  Once he was certain, he returned to the duffle and hoisted it on his shoulder.  He extinguished the lantern, stepped through the front door, and pulled it closed for the last time.

He set off towards the back of the property and felt more than saw the incline of the land as he walked in the dark.  It took him ten minutes to reach the top of the slope.  Once he reached it, he placed the duffle on the ground between the rows, and fished out the Mason jar.  He took a knee and scooped a quart of soil into the jar, and then screwed the lid back on.  Once it was tight, he put the jar back in the bag.

Still kneeling, he looked to the horizon.  The sun was an hour away, which meant he had an hour and a half before the train to Iowa City arrived.  A few more steps and he’d be in Giles’ fields, which he’d cross, then the Gunderson’s, and then he’d break the city limits and be at the train station.  He’d buy his ticket and be on his way twenty minutes later.  The thought of what he had to do in those final twenty minutes in town was enough to make his heart thump.

He stood, slung the duffle onto his shoulder, and moved his gaze to the farm sleeping below him.  There was no turning back now, and nothing to turn back to.  He had to move on.


Written by seeker70

February 12, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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