Farmer’s Paradise by Timothy RJ Eveland (One of my very first stories from college)
(A mom, dad, and son are having dinner on a Monday, 2014, somewhere on Vancouver Island)
“Why must we always start dinner with that subject, hey son? Your father says never to disrespect another farmer, tell him honey.”
“Your mother is right, Rupert. Johnson may farm differently than we do but he is still a respected individual in our community.”
“But you saw him this morning, dad, right through the window. We saw him dancing with his dog like a mad man!”
“He wasn’t dancing, son,” said the mother. “He was doing some ritual of some sort. You know right Glenn?”
“Yes Sheryl. It was yoga or tai chi or something.”
“Yeah that’s it; listen to your father, Rupert.”
“But mom, he is not even a farmer. My teacher said that Johnson has a giant garden because he is a veggie junky.”
Glenn stabbed his steak with a fork and said, “His farm only looks like a garden because we live down the road from one of the largest farms on the island!”
“And if you ask me,” said Sheryl, “it’s a delight to a have a beautiful garden beside such an awful farm. When I look out the window it’s a pleasure to see more than just machinery and ugly greenhouses.”
“Why are you guys protecting him all of a sudden?” asked Rupert. “Two weeks ago you guys thought he was a creep!”
“Listen son,” said Glenn, “we may have talked about Johnson at the table before but that’s the reason why we should stop speaking about him.”
“Yes it’s not polite, son.”
“But I remember you said he was crazy, dad.”
“I only said he was crazy because he didn’t take The Dalco Company and Friends’ offer,” said Glenn.
Sheryl quickly wiped her upper lip with a napkin and said, “Yes, what was that offer again, darling? You didn’t get to finish telling us the story.”
“What has gotten over you Sheryl? I thought we had agreed to talk about something else.”
“So we can’t even talk about our neighbours in a good way? Jesus honey, that Bible is changing you,” replied Sheryl with a ghastly tone.
“Yeah, ever since you picked up that Bible, dad, you seem different,” said Rupert.
“The Bible says we shouldn’t speak ill of others,” replied Glenn.
“So then finish telling us this pleasant story, darling, come now; this conversation has turned into a healthy discussion about our neighbour’s welfare.”
“Oh Sheryl, this is the only time I’m telling it. Our friends up the road, The Dalco Company and Friends, as you know, are one of the richest farms on the island. As you probably have noticed, sweetie, their property has been slowly expanding and growing around Johnson’s property ever since we moved here. The Dalcos would have surrounded Johnson’s small property by now if it wasn’t for the lovely Clarkson farm down the road.”
“Yes, I have quite noticed,” announced Sheryl.
“And sweetie,” said Glenn, “you won’t believe this. I’ve talked to Mr. Clarkson at the video store recently; he said he was introduced to one of the Dalco family’s closest friends and has obtained some interesting information.”
“What is it?” asked Sheryl.
“Apparently, the Dalco family, for years, has been offering Johnson millions of dollars for his small farm.”
“And Johnson says ‘no’?” asked Sheryl.
“Yes, he says no! And that’s not even the crazy part,” replied Glenn. “Our kind neighbour, Mr. Clarkson, has offered Johnson even more money than the Dalcos.”
“But that doesn’t make sense, darling. Mr. Clarkson’s farm is smaller than ours. How could he afford it?”
“Mr. Clarkson and his wife had to recently sell that toy store they owned in town; now they are desperate to start something new.”
“Well then, that explains that, Johnson is a fool! I can’t believe he is saying ‘no’ to these people.”
“Like I said Sheryl, it is hard to believe. Mr. Clarkson told me that Johnson is content with keeping his land. Apparently Johnson has already declined the Dalcos over ten times because he has no family and nothing else to live for. But enough about Johnson, tell me how your day…”
“Our property is barely worth millions of dollars. Would you say ‘no’ if they asked us, honey?”
“I don’t know, Sheryl, but I am done speaking about this.”
Glenn sat up from the table and then he threw a napkin onto his plate before he said, “Thanks for dinner Sheryl. It was delicious.”
Glenn walked away swiftly then Rupert laughed and said, “Dad has changed.”
Sheryl smiled, “It’s for the better son, now finish your vegetables.”
Rupert watched his mother as she tidied the table and began to wash the dishes. Every now and then she would look back at him, causing him to stiffen his back and then eat another piece of broccoli. This usually occurred until the vegetables were either eaten or stuffed away somewhere. After Rupert left the table and went up into his room, he sat on a small wooden chair that faced his large window. From there, Rupert could gaze out far into the vast landscapes of his country. Scattered hills with sharp peaks along with mysterious snow covered mountains in the distance created the wide horizon. Tall waving trees revealed the slight movements of large animals along the hillsides. Dark blue bodies of water were shimmering with the sun and sparkling with yellow streaks of light. The sky was like an illuminated marble with swirling colours of purple and gold. And right in plain sight, just across the road, Rupert could see Farmer Johnson pushing his homemade contraption up a field. It was a large wheelbarrow that carried a barrel of water with a sprinkler on top. Johnson could easily push the wheelbarrow along rows of vegetables while a battery powered sprinkler tossed the barrel’s water in all directions. The vegetables got their water while Johnson’s dog, Rex, ran along the edge of Johnson’s property barking at crows and keeping the rats at bay. Rupert laughed slightly and then he heard a floor board creak behind him.
“Knock, knock,” said Glenn from Rupert’s doorway.
Rupert turned around to see his father holding a piece of cake.
“See, there are countless benefits to eating your vegetables,” said Glenn as he handed Rupert the cake.
“Thanks dad.” Rupert started to slowly eat the cake while gazing out the window.
“What are you looking at, son?”
Rupert was silent for a moment. “Dad, do you think Farmer Johnson eats cake?”
Glenn looked out the window and was struck by the beauty of what he saw. “I never realized you had such a good view in here.”
“The clouds usually hide the mountains from view but not today,” replied Rupert.
Glenn looked down the small hill and across the road into Johnson’s field. “What is that thing?” he asked.
“It’s what he uses to water his plants with,” replied Rupert.
Glenn started to laugh. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
“Do you think it’s strange dad?”
“Um, I don’t think it’s strange son, it is creative, in fact; Johnson used to invent stranger things before you were born.”
“But you just said it wasn’t strange?”
“You know what I mean, son. When something is strange it just means that you don’t understand it. Johnson is a creative man and sometimes he does things that people can’t quite understand.”
“I think he is strange,” said Rupert.
Glenn smiled then sat on the bed and faced Rupert with his hands locked. “How would you like to read the Bible with me some time?”
“You mean right now? My teacher said the Bible is too violent for kids.”
“Your teacher seems to say a lot of things. Do you believe everything he says?”
“Shouldn’t I?” replied Rupert.
“There is a difference between facts and opinions my son. I know a lot of people who believe the Bible is meant for children.”
“I still don’t want to read it, dad.”
Glenn looked displeased and then with a wink he said, “That is fine son but don’t think I won’t try to change your mind. Hey, you want to watch a movie tonight?”
“I think I am just going to read, dad.”
Glenn looked surprised. “What are you reading?”
“You won’t like it, dad. It’s not meant for adults.”
“What is it?”
Rupert grabbed a small book from under his pillow then handed it to Glenn.
Glenn studied the book intently. “Are you reading this for school?” “No, I just like it.”
Glenn gave his son a proud look before handing the book back.
“I like the new you,” said Rupert.
Glenn looked down at his feet then sat up from the bed. “It will be tough son, but I think I can stay this way.”
Glenn walked to the door way, faced Rupert and said, “I’ll be watching a movie with your mother in the living room. Come down if you get bored.”
Rupert smiled while Glenn gently left the room. Then in one swift movement, Rupert crawled into bed and picked up his book. As soon as he began to read, he entered a strange world where goblins roamed the country side searching for helpless children to feast on. Hours later, Rupert managed to read until his favourite character was on a dark misty mountain surrounded by a horde of vicious beasts.
“This is a good spot to take a break,” he said. Rupert looked out the window but he only managed to see a dim reflection of himself and then he was suddenly tired. “Is it really past nine?”
Rupert turned off his lamp, gave a relaxing sigh, and then rested his head on a soft pillow while facing the window. Soon his eyes began to slowly adjust to the darkness and then eventually, from across the road, he could see the flickering light emanating from Johnson’s cottage window. Rupert watched Johnson’s window and he seemed to be calmed every time a shadow danced across it. The shadows escalated until the flickering light suddenly disappeared and caused Johnson’s window to become camouflaged with the surrounding darkness. “It’s about that time,” whispered Rupert. Rupert’s eyes adjusted some more as the moon revealed the distant mountains with her divine glow. Rupert whispered, “Beautiful,” as he studied the elegance of the wilderness at night time; then he closed his eyes and was fast asleep.
Downstairs, Glenn and Sheryl’s movie eventually ended. Everyone was asleep but the staircase was illuminated by the moon light drifting in from the living room window, a grandfather clock nearby thumped in rhythm with another high pitched clock that echoed from the kitchen.
Hours passed by and when the clocks rang a quarter past three, all was dark and Rupert was suddenly awoken by the sound of a loud engine. Rupert sat up in his bed when he realized the noises were coming from across the road. He focused his vision on the cold damp window and then peered through it. Movement across the road caught his eye. He leaned closer to the window as he perceived the figure of a large van in Johnson’s drive way. Rupert heard the sound of a car door slamming and then he saw the mysterious van quietly roll away. Rupert kept watching for a while but nothing seemed to happen. He went back into bed and sighed as if he had wanted to see something interesting.
After he rolled onto his back and then looked up at the ceiling, from the corner of his eye he could see something strange. He turned his head and then, to his surprise, he noticed Johnson’s cottage had a glowing aura around it. The sky vibrated with a yellow and orange presence that danced above Johnson’s roof top. Then suddenly, like a dragon swooping up from behind a wall, the tongue of a giant flame sprung up and licked Johnson’s rooftop like a whip. Then as fear ran across Rupert’s skin, he watched as one whole side of Johnson’s cottage quickly became engulfed by monstrous flames. Then, before not even a cougar could have reacted, the fire started to linger all over the rest of the house like mold. Rupert felt his bed shake when the flames suddenly began to roar and snap in the wind like eagles.
Rupert watched as Johnson’s cottage door swung open; Rex squealed like a pig as he dashed outside with his fur on fire. The dog looked like a limping fire ball twirling all over Johnson’s field. Then suddenly, as Rupert covered his eyes from panic, Farmer Johnson’s burnt body started to shuffle and twitch through the cottage door way. Rupert heard screaming and gurgling then he uncovered his eyes for a split second too see that Farmer Johnson had jumped and flailed onto the grass; then Johnson began rolling around, desperately trying to extinguish the flames. Rupert starred as Johnson began to drag his legs across the gravel with one arm and reach towards the moon. As Rupert witnessed the burning flesh, the reflection in his eyes shimmered like dull candles until blue and red lights flashed throughout his room. Rupert watched the firefighters as they began to hose down the burning cottage. Johnson was already shrivelled and completely black when a fireman found his body smoking beside the field.
(Dinner Time, Wednesday, 2014)
“I am telling you guys, I saw a van in Johnson’s driveway! Why won’t you believe me?”
“Rupert, my son, I know you feel bad for Johnson but now is not the time to make up stories. Why didn’t you mention this yesterday?” asked Sheryl.
“I am not making it up! You believe me, right, dad?”
“I just can’t believe that someone would want to burn Johnson alive, son. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Rupert crossed his arms and then seemed to be fairly frustrated.
“I thought you said desert was for after dinner, mom.”
Sheryl put a half eaten cookie back on the desert tray with a sad sigh.
“Can you please pass the pepper, Sheryl,” said Glenn.
The pepper was passed across the table with a dull slowness. The kitchen blinds were closed and the light bulb above them left an artificial tint on everything in the room.
“So I managed to watch a segment about Johnson on the news while I scraped up a lunch today,” said Glenn.
“What did you make? The mess you left on the counter was horrid,” said Sheryl.
“Don’t you care what the news had to say?”
“Why would I care what the news had to say? My sons making up stories and I can almost smell the ashes from here. Those news reporters left tire tracks on our front lawn yesterday for crying out loud!”
“Well, Sheryl, they said it was most likely caused from a candle and they are ending the investigation. After all, we could always see Johnson’s flickering candle by his window.”
“I don’t want to talk about it now, Glenn,” replied Sheryl.
Rupert tried to mix in his vegetables with the gravy so it didn’t taste so strong. Suddenly, the presence of large trucks outside made the cutlery on the table vibrate. Rupert quickly got up to peek through the kitchen blinds. “Wow!” he said.
“What’s going on out there?” asked Sheryl.
Rupert looked back at his mother slowly and then with a shocked look on his face he pulled the blinds open. Sheryl took one look and then she dropped her jaw while slowly trying to get up from her seat. Glenn was in the middle of cutting his steak when he stopped chewing to realize what his eyes were seeing.
“They are already moving in?” asked Sheryl.
“I guess so,” replied Glenn with a shocked look on his face.
The Dalco Company and Friends’ happy looking logo sat on four dirty old farm trucks parked across the road on Johnson’s driveway. Men got out of the trucks and started to shovel the burnt wood and ashes while Mr. Dalco was ordering a few young men to start taking down the fence that separated his property form Johnson’s.
Mr. Clarkson came out of his house on the other side and walked towards Mr. Dalco with his arms crossed. Mr. Dalco waved with a crooked smile then Mr. Clarkson shook his head and seemed disgusted. Mr. Dalco then fingered Mr. Clarkson and they gave each other a cold stare.
Rupert watched the young men start to break down the fence with sledge hammers. “I swear it wasn’t a candle, dad.”