1.17.2014 Journal Prompt

Photo by Eric Calonius
Photo by Eric Calonius

January 17, 2014: They said it would be fine.

One Reply to “1.17.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Me and Howie, we pay our dues, always. Farm’s paid up and we don’t owe no one nothing. We has worked hard to get to where we is. Howie done extra shifts at the sawmill some years all to pay for Kitty’s dancing shoes or when she needed a new dress or her first car; and he worked for two years breaking stone at the quarry so as Milt could go to college. And I took in laundry when I was younger, and I made bread and sold it door to door, and jam in summer, and all that on top of keeping the farm going. So when a man comes calling and he says he could maybe make us a penny or two richer, well I wasn’t sure we needed his shiny penny.

    He was dressed in a smart blue suit and his hair all in place, and his handshake was firm enough for a city boy, but his skin was clean and soft like a girl’s, and his nails were neat as a girl’s too. He was all smiles and nodding and leaning across the table like he was a friend. And he said the coffee I served him was the best darned cup of joe this side of the water and he called me ‘ma’am’ and he called Howie ‘sir’.

    He said all we had to do was to sign his piece of paper and they’d drill a few test holes on the far edge of the farm, just where the red flash of cardinals set up their singing in early summer. Howie looked at me and he could see I was for waiting and needing time to think this through. But the young man was in a hurry and he laid a handful of bills on the table just to tip the balance of Howie’s considering.

    Three days later there was drilling machines up by the old wood and making such a noise to frighten the cows in the far field and we didn’t get the full pull of milk from them for a week. And the ground under the house shook, and cups and plates rattled in the cupboards, and pictures grew crooked on the walls. The money was still on the table where the young man had set it down, like it was something we was both afraid of.

    ‘You don’t get something for nothing in this life,’ that’s what Howie was always saying, and it was what we’d lived by all these years, and so taking the money didn’t feel natural, felt too near to stealing.

    If they’d have found the right kind of minerals in the ground we could have been rich and on easy street. That’s what the soft skinned man had said. I wasn’t sure I wanted easy street, not at my age; it didn’t sound godly or good. But in the end it made no nevermind, because they didn’t find nothing. They drove their drilling machines away one morning and they left behind them a scar on the land that would take years to heal and no red cardinals to wonder at for all the summers left to Howie in this life.

    And the water in the pump-well, water that we used for the cows and the chickens, well it was black afterwards, and it smelled of something rotten, and some of our animals got sick and some of them didn’t never recover. The young man in his fancy suit had said it would all be just fine. A few drill holes, that’s all. And he paid us a hundred dollars for just that. The money didn’t even cover the chickens we lost.

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