The Farmer and the Well

Like I said, here be another short story. This one I submitted to a Screen Writing contest, turning a story into a film. It made it to the semi-finals and that’s that.

So, kick back, drink a coffee, tea, energy drink, whatever and enjoy.

Once again, beware. There is swearing.

The Farmer and the Well

November 1985

-1-

Greg’s foot sank into a muddy depression. The brown yuck oozed over the top of his white laces. Some of it slid into his shoe and he said, “Fuck.” The mud felt cold.

Jared stopped and peered over his shoulder, “What?”

“I got mud on my shoes.”

“Yeah, well, I told you to wear boots.”

“And I ignored you and messed up my Chuck Taylor’s.”

“Yup.”

“I even got the cuffs of my jeans dirty. New jeans too. Acid wash.”

“A real tragedy.”

Jared shouldered the backpack higher and walked ahead, his feet squelching in the mud like kissing noises.

Greg sighed and tugged his foot out of the mud. The grey sky stretched forever. There were no clouds, none that he could see, only a flat expanse of grey. He supposed they must be clouds smoothed out, still as a calm lake. November skies were depressing.

He followed Jared’s back while keeping an eye on the ground. He didn’t want to step into another wet mess and placed his feet carefully. He didn’t know where they were headed and Jared didn’t want to tell him until they got there. He was going with Jared because Jared asked him to and that was enough for him. Jared was his best friend. Greg wanted to press him on it but he knew it’d be pointless. Jared excelled at keeping secrets. He’d get the gold star for secret keeping every time.

Greg said, “Your dad got the harvest done I see.” They were walking through Jared’s farmland where stunted corn stalks jutted from the dark earth like fibrous fingers.

“I got it done. Trevor got too drunk to drive the Harvester this year. Again.”

Jared called his father by his first name. Greg thought it odd at first but got used to it over time. He knew Jared did it for two reasons. One: to annoy the crap out of his father, which it did and two: because Jared hated him and didn’t want to give him any label associated with respect or caring. From the cigarette burns on Jared’s arm, inflicted by Trevor, he could understand why Jared hated him.

“Are you going to tell me what it is we’re doing? We’re almost at the woods.”

“I’ll tell you when we get there.”

A cold breeze slithered into Greg’s coat and down his shirt. He shivered. He should have worn a sweater and a warmer hat like Jared told him to but he’d be damned before he’d admit it. Jared was pulling away from him and he walked faster to catch up. Adverse to physical activity on principle, sweat beaded and trapped coolness against his skin when the wind buffeted at his overweight body.

“Jared. Hold up, man. You’re walking too fast again.” Tall and lean and physically fit from working on the farm from a young age, Jared’s quick pace when distracted left Greg behind within a few strides.

“Shit. Sorry man.” He stopped and waited for Greg to catch up. A black crow flitted from a tree, squawking to the sky.

Greg’s heavy breath hissed through his teeth. A bead of sweat slid from his hairline and trailed down his nose. He wiped it away and another breeze slid down his collar.

“Jesus. How can I be sweating and cold?”

Jared didn’t answer. He stared after the crow. A line appeared in the middle of his eyes. A pinched furrow of skin. Greg recognized it as Jared’s serious expression. He’d seen it many times before. Jared showed up to school with a busted nose and two fingers taped together on his right hand. Greg asked him what happened, although he already knew, didn’t he?

He’d met Trevor, by accident really as Jared always tried to keep Greg from meeting him, his dirty secret, like an embarrassing stain a person tries to cover up with a jacket. Greg had ridden to Jared’s house on his bike. They were supposed to meet at the 7/11 but Jared was late and he rode down long dirt roads looking for Jared’s mailbox to see the last name. He expected they’d run into each other on the road, but they didn’t. It was a long bike ride and Greg didn’t run into another car all the way there. He remembered thinking how isolated Jared was, living way out here. He didn’t know it at the time, but Jared had called his house to cancel and had left a message with Greg’s mom. Greg didn’t call home, instead, he did a normal enough thing and went to see his friend. And although Jared took great pains to avoid Greg going to his house, he didn’t expect the reception he got. Jared had been piling wood outside the house when he pulled up and didn’t even notice Greg until he dropped his bike on the driveway. The metal rattled. Jared glanced at him and a look of pure terror twisted his features. Then Greg met Trevor.

Trevor stood on the porch, a giant of a man. His dark hair was slicked back. He wore a black shirt and dark jeans. One shirt sleeve was rolled up to his shoulder over a pack of cigarettes. The shirt stretched tight over a bulbous stomach which didn’t detract from the heavy shoulders and the strong arms indicating a powerful man. He drew on a cigarette and turned a can of OV beer in his other hand. His nose lay flat on his face. A nose that had been broken many times; a boxer’s nose. Trevor examined Greg from head to toe with a squint and a sneer through the coils of cigarette smoke.

“Who are you, boy?”

His nose sounded clogged when he spoke. Jared moved into view along the side of the house. Out of sight of Trevor and in plain view of Greg. Jared was desperately waving him away. Greg couldn’t leave though. Not without saying something. An adult was speaking to him. He was raised to respond with respect.

“Hello, sir. My name’s Greg. I’m a friend of Jared’s.”

“Jared ain’t got no friends.”

Greg glanced down at his shoes. Trevor flicked the cigarette butt at his feet. Sparks flared as it hit the driveway. He stepped forward and the porch creaked with his steps. He couldn’t see his feet but Greg pictured him wearing black motorcycle boots. He looked like an aging street hood, like what the Matt Dillon character in the movie Outsiders would grow up to be. An angry, drunk asshole.

“You a faggot, boy?”

“Uh, what?”

“You got a dick in your ear? I asked if you were a faggot.”

“No, sir.”

“You and my boy been playing hide the salami?”

“No, sir. Just friends.”

“I said Jared ain’t got no friends. Now, fuck off.”

Greg did indeed fuck off. He couldn’t get on his bike fast enough to get out of there. Jared called him later that night, timid, unsure of what Greg would think of him. With some lame attempts at a joke or two, Greg reassured his friend that yes, they were still friends. He still asked after him when fresh bruise or scrapes marred Jared’s skin. He knew Jared wouldn’t answer, he never did, but he wanted Jared to know he cared. So when he asked Jared how he got the broken nose, he already knew how and marveled at Jared’s resiliency. He couldn’t imagine his dad swearing or responding to anything in anger. It would have blown his mind if his dad ever laid a hand on him. Like, exploding the conception parts of his brain. Instead of answering, Jared just shook his head and wore that serious, pensive expression for the rest of the day. He wore it a lot. Like right now, in the middle of this field.

Greg said, “Lead on, captain a-hole.”

Jared smirked and responded like a good friend would, “Zip it, shit-mouth.”

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