I took to writing stories about a little over a year ago for something to do while recovering from a broken foot. I've had about thirty published here and there. They have appeared in Romance Magazine, Heater, The Flash Fiction Press, The Fable Online, Frontier Tales, Clever Magazine, The Zodiac Review, Fear of Monkeys, Abbreviate Journal, and The Texas Writer's Journal Quarterly. (I think that's all of them.)
By B. Craig Grafton
My brother Brian was sixteen and me, Ruthie, I was ten at the time when all this happened. We were farm kids. Our cousins, Jimmy age twelve and Mindy also age ten, were city kids. It all began with and ended with a phone call from my mother’s sister.
“Kids Aunt Barbara is on the line. They’re coming down from Chicago to visit Grandma and us this weekend,” shouted our mother. “She says that they’ll be staying in town, visit Grandma at the nursing home on Saturday and be out to see us on Sunday.” Aunt Barbara and her family came to visit once a year. This was always a big deal to our mother but not to me or my brother. “Well aren’t you kids excited about seeing your cousins again?” asked our mother as she hung up the phone expecting a likewise excited bubbly perky response from us. Instead all she got was eye rolling. “Well?” she insisted.
“Oh we're excited alright,” lied my brother while trying to hold back an emerging smile. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he started thinking up new ways to play tricks on Jimmy again.
“Now Brian you are going to behave yourself this time!” ordered Mother. “I don’t want any more trouble from you like last time. Promise me that you’ll be good this time Brian.”
“Yes Mother. I’ll be good. I promise,” replied my brother with solemn face and with fingers crossed behind his back. I knew that he would play some more tricks on poor little gullible Jimmy because Jimmy always so easily fell for them.
“But I never did anything,”
“So see that you don’t do anything again.”
“Yes Mother I promise.”
Well Sunday rolled around and Aunt Barbara and family came out for their annual visit. While the adults sat in the wicker chairs on the big wrap around screened in front porch of the old farm house, drinking lemonade, jawing, and catching up on all the family and neighborhood gossip, Brian led us kids out into the barnyard, chomping at the bit to humiliate Jimmy again.
“Jimmy let me show you our new baby calf,” politely volunteered my brother as we walked over to the cattle pen. I had a pretty good idea what he was up to and so did Jimmy because he immediately shouted out, “Oh no you’re not getting me to touch that wire again. I’m not falling for that this time.”
Last time he was here Brian tricked Jimmy into touching the electric wire that went around the inside of cattle lot fence to keep the cattle from rubbing against and eventually destroying the fence. Jimmy was naive enough to touch it after Brian told him it was only a telephone line to the barn and if you put your ear against it you could hear the conversation.
“The current is off Jimmy. Look I’m touching it,” coaxed Brian, his right hand grasping the wire firmly, his fingers circling completely around it. Unbeknownst to poor JImmy, Brian was holding a stick in his left hand behind his back with which he used to push the electric wire against the wooden fence post thus effectively grounding the current. “It’s safe go ahead and try it,” he taunted. “We’ve shut off the electricity. Look I’m touching it. You chicken or something.”
Now no kid wants to be called chicken, especially a twelve year old boy. So Jimmy cautiously, tentatively stuck forth and withdrew his hand a couple of times over the wire before he finally got up the nerve to inevitably grasp it like Brian had done. And just as he did so Brian lifted the stick from the wire causing the circuit to become complete and shocking the bejeesus out of his cousin. “City kids,” my brother spit out while trying to catch his breath between laughs.
Jimmy began running around screaming at my brother, shaking his hand violently like somehow this would shake the electricity from it. He dared not hit my brother in retaliation as he was much smaller than him and the payback for hitting him would be far worse than any electric shock. Eventually he calmed down and bore his pain and shame in dignified silence. Best he could that is.
I wanted to tell at my brother shame on him and to leave poor Jimmy alone but I didn’t have the courage to do so. Instead hoping that if I ignored all this and changed the subject it would go away, I turned to Mindy and said, “See that baby calf over there. Isn’t he just adorable?”
Mindy spotted the calf and her eyes lit up, her jaw dropped open and she grinned from ear to ear. “Ah,” she cooed, “He’s so cute can we go in and pet him?”
“I don’t think so,” I responded knowing that it would be dangerous going in there and upsetting the mother.
“Why not?” asked Mindy, clueless as to the workings of the farm animal world, as she continued to ooh and aah over the baby calf. “Why can’t I pet him?” she whined. “He’s so cute. Don’t you just want to go in there and hug him the heck out of him? I want him for a pet. Ask your mom if I can take him home with me will you? Please, please, please,” she begged.
“No I will not.” I snarled back and gave her a mean look. I was starting now to get a little ticked off at my cousin’s insistent nagging, oohing and aahing and her ignorance. I guess that it never occurred to her that this animal would grow up.
Well by this time Jimmy had calmed down enough that my brother lamely apologized to him, but under false pretenses of course. Trying to divert his attention, he made the following peace offering: “Say Jimmy why don’t I go to the house and get us some chocolate cookies my mom baked today to make it up to you. Okay? How about it, No hard feelings huh?”
Okay nodded Jimmy somewhat reluctantly, still massaging his hand.
“Meet me at the picnic table in the back yard. I’ll be right back with some.”
Of course my brother was about to play another trick. I knew that because I watched him reach under the fence when Jimmy’s back was turned and pick up two small dried cow patties that were of course the color of chocolate and just the size of cookies and stuff them in his overalls. Not wanting to be there when he played this dirty trick, I again turned to Mindy to make my escape and said, “You want to go see the newborn baby kittens in the barn? They’re cute too.” Mindy’s eyes again lit up as she bobbed her head up and down yes a number of times. So off we ran.
There in the corner, in the matted down straw, curled momma cat nursing her two day old kittens of many colors. Upon spying them the first words out of Mind’s mouth were of course, “They’re so cute. Can I have one? Please. Please. Feel how soft and fluffy they are,” she said picking one up and cuddling it next to her cheek. “Don’t ya just love them.” She gave it a little kiss and began drooling likewise over the rest of them. “I’m going to ask my mom, not yours, if I can have one.” Then with clenched jaw stuck out she proclaimed, “She’ll say I can. I know she will.”
This poor ignorant city kid once again had no idea that these baby kittens were too young to leave their mother. But I kept my mouth shut. I couldn’t tell her anything while she was so enraptured. By now her constant fawning over and petting of them was really driving me crazy. It went on and on and on and only stopped when we heard the puking and gagging sounds of her brother, the cause of which I knew. We found him with his head stuck under the pump, pumping the handle as fast as he could and taking in and spitting out water, trying to rinse out the taste of his ‘chocolate cookie’ from his mouth. Brian was bent over next to him laughing, as they say, his guts out.
I knew what my brother hand done but Mindy stood there nonplussed so I explained to her that Brian had taken two dried out cow pies, told Jimmy that they were cookies, broke off a piece off one and pretended to be eating it and tricked her brother into taking a bite of the other one. Mindy wasn’t paying attention and didn’t hear a word I said. She could have cared less about the fate of her brother. She was fixated on the baby kittens.
“I’m going back to the kittens now,” she announced. “You coming?”
I didn’t want to. I knew that she would keep bugging me for one. So I said, “Don’t you want to see the baby chicks first?” Maybe this would distract her. Perhaps she wouldn’t want a chicken. Little did I know that would not be the case.
“Are they cute too?”
“Okay let’s go,” she shouted as she lit out for the chicken coop before I could say another word. There was momma hen fussing and clucking over her brood of a dozen or so baby chicks, all white fluffy little cotton balls scurrying across the chicken coop floor pecking here and there, running around literally like chickens with their heads cut off. Immediately Mindy got down on her knees and picked one up, nuzzling it to her cheek, and was about to speak when I cut her off. “No you can’t have one.” She gave me a dirty look and screamed, “Quit being so mean to me.”
I wasn’t going to let her take any of our animals. She wouldn’t know how to take care of them. First a calf, that was just plain ridiculous, next a kitten who was too little to leave its mother, now a baby chick. That was just plain silly. I knew that she would neglect any animal she would get and it would eventually die and I just couldn’t bear the thought of that.
She scowled at me and through gritted teeth defiantly again proclaimed, “I’m going to ask my mom. She’ll let me have one. I know she will. You can’t stop me. Just you just wait and see.”
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. At that point I was thoroughly disgusted with her and all her nonsense and my facial expressions and the tone of my voice made that quite clear. I was about to tell her off, when my brother, who had been watching us all this time, absent Jimmy, picked up on my frustration and came to my rescue.
“Don’t you want to go pet our new turkey Mindy? He likes being petted,” asked Brian setting the trap. I knew what he was up to and this time I wholeheartedly approved, the promise to my mother notwithstanding.
“Sure,” she said as she set free the baby chick that she had been manhandling and followed Brian across the barnyard to our tom turkey, named Tom obviously. We called him Terrible Tom but Mindy didn’t need to know that.
“Go up and pet him Mindy. He likes to be petted,” assured my brother.
There was Terrible Tom all puffed up, his tail feathers all fan tailed out, strutting and drumming in front of and for the benefit of his harem of three hens. Mindy was a little taller than Tom but Tom in his puffed up mode appeared overall bigger than her. She reached out her hand to pet him and Tom pecked it before she knew what happened, just like I knew he would. Mindy froze. She looked over to us for help but to no avail as we pretended not to notice her. Tom fiercely held his ground and MIndy was too scared to move. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t expect an animal to treat her like that. Then after what seemed like forever, slowly, cautiously, she began to back up and inch away from him. For each step Mindy took backwards, Tom took one step forward towards her. Finally she panicked and turned her back to the big bird and took off running in circles as fast as her stubby little legs could carry her not knowing where to go as Terrible Tom kept after her in hot pursuit.
“Run up on top of the picnic table Mindy. He can’t get you up there,” hollered my brother.
So she ran to the picnic table thinking that she would be safe on top of it. But a turkey is a bird and birds can fly and Tom flew right up on the table and went right after her. My brother and myself bent over in laughter as she ran down the other side and barely managed to make it to the safety of our front porch and her mother.
There was her mother who had witnessed the whole incident. Aunt Barbara took the shaken Mindy to her bosom trying to calm her down all the while glaring at us two non repentant culprits still enjoying our conniption fits.
Mindy looked up at her mother soulfully, tears in her eyes, figuring that now was the right time was right to ask for a pet. “Momma can I have a,”
But before Mindy could get it out Aunt Barbara, knowing what was coming, firmly said, “No!” That was the end of that conversation. “Go get your brother. It’s time to go.” she growled in disgust. Jimmy was nowhere in sight having decided that it was in his best interests to lay low and hide out from Brian.
“Yes Mother I’ll go get him,” came the weak reply as Mindy went back outside, but not before first checking to see that the coast was clear. It was. Tom had left to find his women.
Well after what seemed like an eternity Mindy returned with her brother. Our city relatives said their miffed goodbyes and left. Thus ended our day with the city kids. Or so I thought.
That evening Mother got a call from Aunt Barbara. “Oh. I see. Yes I understand. Forget about it Sis these things happen with kids. Don’t worry about it. Yes I’m sure she’s sorry.” These were snippets of answers that my mother gave to her sister over the phone.
“What was that all about?” I asked after she hung up.
“Well it seems that Mindy took some of the baby chicks with her when when she left today.”
“Is she bringing them back?” I immediately blurted out.
“No sweetie she’s not.”
“Well Mindy didn’t know what she was doing and stuffed the babies in her jean pockets. They all suffocated and died.”
Upon hearing that I burst into tears sobbing uncontrollably. Mother came over, put her arm around me and gave me a hug, and tried to comfort me best she could with reassuring words, but all to no avail.
The words of my brother helped somewhat though, as he muttered under his breath, “Damn city kids.”