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Authors: Michael Bunker

Pennsylvania Omnibus

BOOK: Pennsylvania Omnibus
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Pennsylvania
The
Complete Novel

 

 

 

 

by
Michael Bunker

 

 

 

 

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA
The Complete Novel

 

© Copyright 2014 by Michael Bunker

 

All rights reserved.  No portion of this book may be
reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in reviews, without the
written permission of the author.

 

ISBN: 978-1497502758

 

First
Edition

 

 

Cover Design by Jason Gurley

http://www.jasongurley.com

 

Editing by David Gatewood

http://lonetrout.com

 

Interior Illustrations by Ben Adams

http://www.benjadams.com

 

Formatting by Stewart Stonger

http://design.nourishingdays.com

 

 

For information on Michael Bunker or to read his
blog, visit: 
http://www.michaelbunker.com

 

To contact Michael Bunker, please write to:

 

M. Bunker

1251 CR 132

Santa Anna, Texas 76878

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
To
everyone who dares to start anew.
Table of
Contents

 

 

 

Knot 1:
Pennsylvania

Knot 2:
Non-electric Boogaloo

Knot 3: All Quiet
in the Amish Zone

Knot 4: Thou
Shalt Not

Knot 5: The
Peaceful Kind

 

 

 

 

 

 
(1
Old
Pennsylvania

“Explain it to me again, brother. 
How do you get from here to there?”

 

Jed pushed his forehead into Zoe’s flank to make certain
that she didn’t kick.  She didn’t do it often, but she’d nailed him before and
he wasn’t anxious for a repeat of that performance.  He exhaled in mock
annoyance at his little brother’s questions, but the truth was that he loved
talking about the journey.  He just pretended to hate it.  Talking about it
made it seem more real, but somehow less imminent in a way that he wasn’t sure
he understood completely.  He’d explained the whole pilgrimage and the
colonization process to Amos a hundred times, at least, but Amos wasn’t going
to stop talking about it until his older brother was gone.

“An airbus picks me up there,” he pointed up the long,
winding drive, “and we fly to the Columbia checkpoint.  From there, I board an
English airbus that takes me to the Speedwell Galactic Transport station out in
the desert in far West Texas.  From there, all the pilgrims will board a ship
bound for New Pennsylvania.” 

“You’re really going, Jed?”

“I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t.  I’ve already
paid for my ticket, all except the monitoring.  Nothing has happened that would
change my mind, so I’m going.”

Jed finished stripping out the final teat, and the last
squirts of milk buzzed into the bucket, which was now almost overflowing.  “Our
people have been pioneering for a thousand years or more.  When our ancestors
came here to Pennsylvania, they came on fearsome and incredible ships,
traveling in ways that were strange to them at the time.”

“I felt sure you’d change your mind; just sure of it,”
Amos said.

Amos was fourteen, fully four years younger, spry and
witty, and he was not old enough yet to go through the initiation and
orientation process that was administered to anyone interested in pioneering in
New Pennsylvania.

Jed finished wiping down Zoe’s udder with warm water mixed
with a light and mild soap, and then he stood, hanging the milking stool on the
post with practiced dexterity.

“Once we get on our way…” He paused.  This was the hard
part to explain.  “You see, Amos, New Pennsylvania is very, very far
away—outside of our galaxy—in a place with another sun altogether.  Anyway,
once we board the ship, the passengers go to sleep in these things called
‘pods,’ and, according to the paperwork, we’ll sleep for nine full years. 
But—and this is the tricky thing—when we wake up, we won’t have aged any at
all.”

Amos had heard this explanation from his older brother
many times before, but he still whistled at the thought.

“And it will be that nine years will have passed according
to the ship’s time.  But all in all, to the passenger, it will feel like a
journey of just a few hours!”

“I don’t understand it, Jed,” Amos said, screwing up his
mouth and shaking his head.  “I don’t know why the elders have approved of
it.”

“What else can we do, little brother?  Where can we go? 
We’re running out of land here, and no one can afford to buy any more.  The
government is pushing us out.  It’s always been this way.  The elders approved
of this migration for the same reasons that many centuries ago they approved of
our migration from Europe to here.  Without it, we’ll be erased as a people. 
It’s already happening, Amos.  Almost everyone we know works in town in the
factories.  Our population is exploding, and our way of life is dying out.  But
this isn’t the first time this has happened.”

“No?”

“No.  It’s happened many times way far back in history,
but it happened during Grandfather’s time too, when the wars came, and the
population of the English dwindled, and after that, we had room to spread out
more.”

Amos shrugged and his shoulders dropped.  “Right.  And
this time, there is nowhere to go.  But why must you go all the way to another
planet
?  And why must Mother and Father never hear from you ever
again?”

“When our people left Germany, Holland, and France to come
to Pennsylvania, do you think they kept in touch with the old places after
that?  They didn’t rush home for weddings or funerals, Amos.  It was too far
away, and the travel was too expensive and too dangerous.  There were no
phones, and letters were expensive.  Our people were never much for those forms
of communication anyway.”

Jed looked at his brother and slapped him on the back. 
“Once I leave for New Pennsylvania, I’ll be in a place where it’s
impossible
to communicate back to here.  The ships that take us there,
they never come back.  It’s a one-way voyage because those machines travel
millions and millions of miles while we just sleep away there in the pods.” 
Jed looked at his brother and smiled.  “Don’t be sad, little brother.  It will
only be a few years before you can come too.  In fact, if the Lord wills it,
when you start on your own journey, you’ll already be on your way by rocket
ship before I even get there!  Hopefully I’ll have a place set up for us by the
time you arrive, and we’ll work the farm together.”

Amos shuffled his feet, his eyes down and his voice
lowered, almost in a mumble.  “Why can’t Mother and Father join us?  Why don’t
we all—everyone in the community—travel together at the same time?”

While they talked, Jed poured the milk into a
stainless-steel vat, closed the lid, then unhooked Zoe from the tether that
kept her in the milking stall.  He backed her out and then walked with her out
of the barn and into the southwest paddock.  Amos followed with his hands
thrust deeply into the pockets of his black broadfall pants.

“You know the answers to those questions, Amos.  They want
young people.  Eighteen to twenty-five only.  They need people to work the
land, and the pioneers who go will need every advantage they can get.  It’s
going to be tough starting out.  The new colony cannot yet afford to take care
of the elderly and the infirm.  Besides, Mother and Father don’t want to go. 
This has always been their home, and though they support us going when it’s our
time, they agree with the elders: only those who are needed should go.”

Jed unhooked the lead from Zoe’s halter and she walked
only a few steps away before she started grazing on the lush grass.  He folded
up her lead and stuck it in his front pocket, and as he continued trying to
soothe and placate his troubled brother, the two walked across the paddock.

“Eighteen to twenty-five is the perfect age, anyway.  The
younger children can work the farms here, and those who emigrate are the ones
who would be just starting to look for their own land and new farms.  Well,
there aren’t many farms to find any more, so pioneering is the new thing.  But
it’s not new.  Like I said before, our people have been doing it since the
beginning.  There’s nothing really new in this at all.”

Amos looked up as he followed his brother to the pump near
the paddock fence.  Jed pumped the handle, and when the cool, clear water came
bursting forth, Amos scrubbed the milk pail under it until it was spotless. 
The grass grew thick and lush around their feet, and the water that splashed
over it formed into glassy droplets on the blades and made the grass
glisten.

“What if something bad happens to the ship along the way? 
What if it crashes or you die?”

“What if we were both struck by lightning right here in
this field?  Everyone dies, Amos.  Zoe might’ve kicked either one of us in the
head just now, and it would be over—just like that.” He snapped his fingers.

“Well, I think taking a spaceship to another galaxy is a
little more dangerous than milking Zoe, brother.”

“Maybe, but we wouldn’t be here milking Zoe if our
ancestors hadn’t braved the voyage to a new world.  They came to escape
religious bigotry and persecution, and to find new lands to farm.  That’s the
same reason I’m going to New Pennsylvania.”

“Are you all ready to go?”

“I am.  They don’t let you take much, so I don’t have to
pack.  Basically you get there with what you’re wearing and not much more. 
They expect me to buy everything new when I arrive.  That’s why I’ve been
saving money.”

“And you won’t change your mind?”

“I will not.”

“Okay, brother.  Then I’ll come after you.  Four more
years and I’ll be old enough.  Besides, I’d like to see Matthias again.  It’s
been a year since he emigrated.  It’s funny to think that he’s been gone a year
and he’s not even there yet.  It’ll be nice to see him again.”

Jed smiled and popped his brother’s hat up, then pushed it
back down on his head.  “Well, we’d better go eat.  The airbus will be here in
an hour.”

 

****

 

It was hard to say goodbye to his mother and father.  They
both masked their emotions as much as they could and smiled a lot, but he knew
his mother wanted to cry because her eyes were damp and sparkled when the light
hit them just right.  Abraham Troyer, his father, shook his hand firmly, and
then they all prayed together before Jed walked up the long drive to where the
airbus would pick him up.

As he walked up, he thought about the journey, and what
might lie before him.  Jed couldn’t help but think about the Plain People who
had first come to America to farm and tame the wilds of this Pennsylvania. 
When he reached the last bend in the drive, he turned slowly to look back at
the farm, and his boots crunched the gravel as he rotated.  A soft spring gust
blew up through the paddock and past the split-rail fence, and it jostled the
felt brim of his hat.  The breeze carried the fragrance of foxglove and
touch-me-not growing wild just outside the fence of the paddock, and the
mingled scents—of the wildflowers, of soil, of horse manure and moist
grass—framed for his memory the smell of home.

He froze for a moment when he saw the barn.  That
beautiful old barn.  It had been the center of his life for most of his
eighteen years.  It was made of heavy stone two-thirds of the way up its height
and then solid beams the rest of the way.  The barn was more than two centuries
old, and Jed knew that unless something bad happened to it, it would be
standing there two hundred years hence.  This Amish barn was constructed back
when people built things with the future in mind.  Back when people—even the
English—thought about the generations to come, and built with the intention of
blessing them.  There was permanence to the Troyers’ old barn.  In Jed’s mind
it stood like a covenant between the ancestors and their progeny.  In its Old
World style it declared to the temporary society and impermanent culture around
it that there had once been another way to live.  Strangers in buses liked to
tour these country roads just to see the old farms and barns and the Plain
People going about their work in the fields.  This old barn was definitely a
favorite for the tourists due to its classical Amish design, but the structure
did have one blemish.

He saw it up there near the top, on the window in the
gabled end.  The bottom-right pane of glass that wasn’t there.  Jed had broken
it accidentally with his slingshot four years ago.  He’d been about Amos’s age
when it happened, and his father had ordered him to “fix it.”  So he’d fixed
it, all right.  What did a fourteen-year-old child know about fixing a
window?

He’d found a coffee can—red with white printing, the
old-timey kind—and had cut the can until he could stomp it flat.  Measuring it
out perfectly, he’d carefully snipped the can with metal shears until it fit
where the glass pane had been; and now, there it was still, four years later. 
He’d expected his father to complain about it and to order a new pane of glass
for the window, but for some reason the old patriarch thought that the whole
thing was terribly funny.  He laughed every time he looked up and saw it.  He’d
slap Jed on the shoulder and say, “Well, boy, your coffee can is staring down
on us!”

He turned to finish his walk to the airbus stop.  Maybe
that coffee-can windowpane is part of the covenant too, he thought.  Maybe in a
hundred years, that coffee can will still be staring down from the height of
the barn as a way of telling the world that it can change all it wants to, but,
down deep, the people who live in this place will never change.

 

 

 

 
(2
Departure

The airbus picked him up right on
time.  Leaving his family was tough, but he’d been raised to be practical, and
was not as sentimental as other people he’d heard about…
as the
English
.  He loved his parents very much, and he couldn’t yet imagine or
fully grasp that he would never see them again, but they all believed in
heaven, and Jed’s father had told him that the same God who ran the earth also
ran every other planet too, so he did have hope that they’d all meet again
someday.

Amos would be following on behind him… he hoped.  Jed
worried that perhaps his little brother had been spoiled a little too much;
that he might be overly emotional and unable to see the greater good in
emigration and colonization.  The younger boy wasn’t as learned in the nuances
and eccentricities of Amish history as his older brother.  Amos couldn’t
imagine a sailing ship, but then, neither could any of the Plain People who’d
fled Europe for the New World.  Their hesitancy to embrace technology did not
mean that they would avoid it to their own detriment.  The forefathers boarded
great ships that, to them, were every bit as odd and scary as this airbus, and
they had crossed the seas to start anew in a wild and untamed land.  There was
nothing new under the sun.

The airbus flew smoothly and silently, and even the
buffeting of the wind against the cabin was silenced by a system that emitted a
type of white noise that altogether contradicted and eliminated the sounds of
air travel.  That was one thing that Jed appreciated about the airbus: the
quiet of it.  He’d only flown a few times before, and the silence of flight
made it somewhat magical and surreal to him—a lot different than riding into
New Holland being pulled in the buckboard by Reba and Jesse.

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