The Woefield Poultry Collective (5 page)

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
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“It’s been a pretty tough day,” he said. “No sense making it worse with salad.”

Then he went upstairs, shut his door and I didn’t see him again for the rest of the night. I decided to wait to share with him the To Do list for the party the next day.

S
ETH

Yeah, so the whole thing was surreal. I mean, the way she said yes. No girl, especially no decent-looking girl, had said yes to me about anything in about ten years. I’m not trying to be creepy or anything. But you can see where I was coming from. I didn’t get out much and I was just trying to make a point to my mother and then all of a sudden this fairly hot, dark-haired girl with cool rubber boots was saying I could move in with her basically for free.

Sheer fucking surprise is probably what got me through the move, which was a full on shit show because I had to bring my stuff over one thing at a time. My mom wouldn’t let me use any of her craft boxes and she already gave all the garbage bags to Bobby for his move.

Anyway, so I went back and forth about eight hundred times and no one offered to help. Not my mom, who was watching a
She’s Crafty
marathon, or the old grumpy bastard who lives on the property with the girl, but not, thank fuck, in the same house. The girl’s the only one I didn’t blame for not helping. She was working the whole time I was moving. Scrubbing up a storm. She’s pretty goddamned active and she has that cool name: Prudence. She’s from New York, which is pretty cool in itself.

Normally, I’d have hit the sauce pretty good to deal with the stranger danger factor, but I was too exhausted from all the walking and carrying. I kept feeling grateful that I didn’t have any
collections
of things like beer steins or Transformers or whatever. Something like that would be a bitch to move. I did have numerous books, movies and CDs, but I
left a lot of them at home. Books are heavy as hell, so I just brought my favorites, like the Ringworld series and the biographies of Mötley Crüe and Hendrix. The essentials. Maybe Bobby will learn to read from the books I left behind.

I even slept okay that first night, which was strange since I’d only ever slept away from home like a few times. There was the time when I was ten or so and Aunt Elsie tried to take me camping. We only made it half a night because she got a digestive upset. Christ, for an adult man I sure don’t have much life experience.

Things went to full hell five the next day, though. First of all, the girl, Prudence, knocked on my door at six-thirty.
In the morning
.

It was like waking up on another planet or at least a part of the planet far away from where I’d always lived. All that sunshine blazing in. Prudence had told me the day before that she was washing the curtains. At home, I used Sabbath flags to black out my windows so I could see my computer screen better. I was used to living in total darkness, almost. Waking up in the new place made me feel sort of like a mushroom that someone just yanked out of a log.

I got out of bed in my underpants and a Floyd concert T-shirt, which I’d ordered off the Internet because I don’t go to concerts. I looked around for something to cover myself. I don’t own a bathrobe, so I wrapped one of the Sabbath flags around me. I took them from home because that prick Bobby doesn’t deserve to look at them.

When I opened the door Prudence was basically beaming at me, bright as the sun outside.

“Good morning,” she said. “I may have forgotten to mention that we’re having an event here today.”

I was hoping I didn’t have any boogers in my eyes, but didn’t want to feel around to check. “Event?” I said.

“A strawberry social,” she said. “A memorial for my late uncle.”

“Good luck with that,” I said. Because seriously. The fuck? Strawberry social? Did I somehow move onto the set of the remake of
Little House on the Prairie?
I bet they didn’t even have strawberry socials back when that shit was originally being filmed.

“I’m going to need quite a bit of help today with cooking and shopping. So as soon as you’ve showered, we’ll get some breakfast into you and off we go!”

I couldn’t even react. I never really thought about the work aspect of the room and board arrangement. I guess I thought maybe I’d, I don’t know, take the garbage out here and there. Hang pictures. Maybe do a few dishes. But this crazy bitch wanted me to slave for her. This was bullshit, even if she was hot.

She handed me a towel. “See you downstairs in fifteen minutes. I made coconut and orange juice pancakes.”

Then she turned and zipped down the stairs. Who the fuck moves like that at the crack of dawn?

Here’s another thing. I don’t shower every day or even every two days. I’m a once a week man. I was being coerced into showering before my time. But I did it and then went downstairs, which was also blazing with harsh sunlight and full of food smell. It was nice in a way, but it also kind of gave me sensory overload. My mom doesn’t cook, especially breakfast. The only time our house smells like anything other than microwave dinners is when she does mulled apple cider at Christmas, but since she always gets a little hammered and forgets it, it starts to stink like apple moonshine after about four hours.

I ate a pancake and liked it, even though I normally never eat before one or two o’clock in the afternoon. Then Prudence started laying this
list
on me. After about item two, I realized that I was going to have to cart all my shit back across the road pronto. No way I was going to the grocery store and running around town doing errands. Fuck that noise.

“And I’m going to need strawberries,” she said. “Not the kind from California. Local berries.”

She turned to Earl, the old guy, who was gulping down pancakes like a starving dog, swallowing pieces so big you could practically see them going down his throat. “Earl, can you lend Seth the truck to go shopping?”

“It’s my truck,” said Earl.

“Doesn’t the farm have a vehicle?”

“Old man took the insurance off the Buick after he drove it into a tree last winter.”

“I see,” said Prudence. “But I’m sure you’re willing to lend your truck to Seth so he can get groceries for the party.”

“I don’t drive,” I told her.

They both stared at me.

“Just not a driving man,” I said and hoped that would be the end of it. “Maybe Earl should go to the store.”

“Nope,” he said, biting another pancake in half. “Too much goddamn traffic on the road on Saturdays.”

“Is there a bike here?” asked Prudence.

And I was like, Why would she want to know that? Turns out she wanted me to ride a bike to the fucking store.

Earl started telling her how there was some busted relic out back, but he was going to have to pump up the tires before I could take it out.

That’s when I excused myself and headed for home. It was time to call a halt to this absurd shit.

I found my mom and Bobby in her bed. They weren’t sleeping. They each had a coffee mug and a couple of Eggo waffles on a tray on their lap. My mom made the trays out of kits she bought at Michaels. She’s crackled the shit out of them so they look like they’re covered in diseased rhino skins. Seeing Bobby and my mom like that made me feel even more like the world had turned upside down. I move and suddenly everyone starts having healthy breakfasts.

“I have to come home,” I said.

“You are home,” said my mom.

“I mean I need to move back in. Things aren’t right over there.”

Bobby just stared at me. There was already crumbs in his mustache and it was barely seven in the morning.

“They want me to ride a bike into town. And help with a party.”

“That sounds nice,” said my mother, like she’d ridden the Tour de France four times herself and went to parties nightly.

“A strawberry social,” I said. “I can’t be attending something like
that. I’m the author of Raging Metal, heaviest blog on the web.”

She didn’t say anything.

“I tried moving. It didn’t work out. I’ll be moving back in now.”

“There’s no room,” she said. Bobby nodded.

I walked down the hallway to my room. There was about one foot of floor space left that wasn’t covered in boxes and garbage bags. Bobby had moved enough shit in there to equip a fleet of real, full-sized Apache helicopters.

“Fuck sakes!” I screamed. “Where am I supposed to go?”

In response, my mom just turned up the volume on the bedroom TV.

E
ARL

When Chubnuts came over to where I was working on the little shed, Bertie walked up to him and he started backing up and bellering and going on about how she was coming for him. I told him she just wanted to say hello and he tried to pretend like he knew that.

Then he asked if I would give him a ride into town so he wouldn’t have to ride the bike. And I told him, hell no. I had things to do.

He said, Fine, and reached into his pants and pulled out one of them little phones, so small you could drop it down a drain. He hit a button or two and pretty soon he was saying, What do you mean, busy? There must be more than one cab in Cedar. Then he swore and closed the lid on the phone. He better hope he don’t ever need a cab again. Old Mrs. Larson answers the phones for Cedar Cabs and she’s a woman who can hang onto a grudge. Jacquie Peters, hairdresser over at the mini-mall, insulted Mrs. Larson one time by asking if there was anything that could be done about the BO smell in the backseat. Mrs. Larson never forgave her. When Jacquie called for a car one afternoon when she went into labor at home and her husband was working in the oil patch in Fort McMurray, Mrs. Larson told her she could have the kid on the walk into town as far as she was concerned.

I pointed over to where the bike was leaning up against the porch. Front tire was flat but I showed him where the pump was. I told him that the milk crates wired onto the front and back would let him carry quite a bit of stuff.

He said, Yeah, thanks, and, By the way, how long do you think it would take me to ride to the Liquor Depot?

I said I thought he was trying to get to the grocery store. He said since he was going out he might as well make a few stops.

Like hell, is what I thought. Then I told him he was looking at ten minutes in a car, forty on a bike. Maybe an hour on the bike he had.

His face under that hat of his was pale as dough when he put his leg over the bike. Said he hadn’t been on one since he was a kid. Still looked like a goddamn kid, far as I could see. Acted like one, too.

He was none too steady on his way out. I thought he might take a tumble when he hit that first pothole on the way down the driveway but he made it. I figured a little exercise wouldn’t hurt him. He was awful young to be that flabby. Not a bad-looking kid, though, if you cleaned him up and got him to look you in the eye.

Must have been two hours before he came back. Jimmy Samuels, from over at the reserve, pulled in and I wondered why he was coming to visit. Then Chubnuts got out the passenger side of Jimmy’s pickup carrying a bunch of shopping bags. He reached into the back of the truck and grabbed two cases of beer. He said something to Jimmy and then dragged himself and his bags to the house.

Jimmy called out after him, Hey man, you want your bike?

He’s a nice kid, that Jimmy. Works at the hatchery. I used to see him sometimes when I’d take the old man fishing up there. They’d get to bullshitting about hockey.

Chubnuts didn’t even turn around. He just waved a hand, like he didn’t care. Wasn’t even his bike and he was ready to throw it away, which is typical of his generation.

I went over and Jimmy helped me get the bike out of the back. Both the tires were flat as boobs in the
National Geographic
magazine.

Jimmy said he found Chubnuts sitting outside the Co-op like he’d give up on life.

I said he was just too lazy to walk.

Jimmy laughed and said it was a pretty far ride, especially with flat tires, and I said it would do Chubnuts good. Jimmy said he always
thought Seth moved away after what happened at the school play. I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, so I never said nothing. Doesn’t pay to ask questions about things that is none of your business. That’s my experience. Everyone’s entitled to their private selves.

Jimmy laughed again and said, Take care, Earl. Then he drove off.

I headed back to my cabin to get cleaned up for the party.

P
RUDENCE

Our energy affects the things we create. I suspect that some of the trouble I had with the food for the social was a direct result of the conversation I had with the woman at the bank right before I started cooking. She was a nice person and professional, but her comments about our financial situation took me by surprise.

I hadn’t been aware that it was possible to inherit a negative asset. I realized that the farm’s financial picture wasn’t rosy. The bills my uncle had allowed to stack up were evidence of that. But the situation was much, much more dire than I initially thought.

We owed some taxes and had to pay back a home equity line of credit and there were mortgage payments. All of these things were seriously overdue. I decided not to get discouraged. A farm is nothing but limitless potential, waiting to be uncovered. If I was lucky, opportunities might even present themselves at the strawberry social. With that in mind, I decided it was best to focus on making food rather than fixing finances until after the party. I was so intent on scraping designs into the skins of the cucumbers that I barely even noticed when Seth returned.

When he put the bags down on the counter, I went over to look inside. He’d purchased two strawberry shortcakes. Obviously, they would be full of corn syrup and petroleum by-products, but my uncle’s kitchen was not equipped for baking yet so that was fine. Home baking would come later. The cakes were in good shape, which was amazing considering that he’d driven them home on a bike. A quick survey of
the bags and their contents revealed that he’d gotten everything else on my list.

Before I could thank him, he disappeared. I guess he wanted to get cleaned up before the guests arrived. A glance at the brass-trimmed, sun-shaped clock hanging on the kitchen wall told me I’d better hurry. I looked around the kitchen and living room. At least the house was clean. Old farmhouses are often eccentrically appointed, so the cheap furnishings and out-of-date colors could be excused. There were several problem areas, however, such as the large ragged-edged holes that had been cut into the drywall in the living room and kitchen for unspecified and mysterious reasons. The fridge made a strange squealing noise at five-minute intervals.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
7.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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