The Woefield Poultry Collective (7 page)

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
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I’m really looking forward to spending time on an actual farm. Prudence’s farm doesn’t seem to have anything on it other than the house, which is sort of old-fashioned, and a cabin way over at the end of the property and a sheep. Other than that it’s just grass and some big rocks and a few bits of fence that are falling down. That means that anything is possible there! All the other kids in Poultry Club live on farms. Most of them take it for granted. If I lived on a farm, I’d be grateful every day.

S
ETH

Understandably, she had a few questions after the party. She wanted to know how often I drink and whether it’s problem for me. She wasn’t a bitch about it. It was more like she was curious. She sort of reminded me of her uncle and that time I mentioned when he asked if I needed a ride. Still, the fact that she had to ask made me feel like a prick.

I just had to take the edge off after I got forced into the public eye so abruptly like that. Also, there was the bike riding. I had to deal with the trauma of that shit somehow. So I bought a couple cases of beer and two bottles of Seagram’s Five Star, and I had a few drinks before going downstairs.

I know my personality changes when I get loaded. That’s actually the point. The personality I’ve got naturally is not your all-occasions variety. But I’m nowhere near as bad as my old man. He was a total Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, whichever one was a total ass licker, when he drank, which was basically two to four nights a week. He never got violent or anything. Lucky for him or my mom would have killed him in his sleep. But he was always trying to make cutting remarks, which he wasn’t smart enough to pull off, and was severely emotionally incontinent, laughing and crying, neither of which looked good on him.

Anyway, so I explained to Prudence that I’ve been in like seclusion for a while and the party was a shock to my system. And she asked how long and I said, a while. She asked why and I told her no special reason. I told her that I wouldn’t get drunk again. So yes, I lied to her.

She was pretty cool about it and I thought maybe that would be the
right time to ask her about whether she was going to get an Internet hookup. There was no ADSL, so to get online I had to go and sit on the porch to catch unsecured wireless. But the signal was weak and I kept getting knocked off and I hated trying to update in public. Blogging should be a private activity, not that different from taking a crap.

Being at the farm I’d missed some good stuff, too. Like Angelina nearly started an international incident by trying to adopt triplets from North Korea, and Axl Rose tried to beat the shit out of another elderly fashion designer, only this one was a woman. I forget who. Coco Chanel? Is she still alive? Also, one of the contestants from Bret Michaels’
Rock of Love
got busted with more rock on her than Pablo Escobar and the Smoking Gun got hold of her mug shot and she looked so rough that you could see how much special effects makeup they do on TV.

I didn’t get to blog any of it. In one sense, it was okay because I don’t have as many readers as some of the other sites. Not to say I don’t have any, but most of mine are creepy, to be perfectly honest. I’m always glad not to hear from them.

So I was going to ask Prudence about getting a high-speed connection on wireless when she unleashed this fucking To Do list on me that was as long as the Dead Sea Scrolls, if they were long. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and I wasn’t as hungover as I sometimes get, maybe because I was in a new environment. And I wasn’t crawling all over with shame bugs, which sometimes happens. We were drinking Prudence’s coffee, which was some New York type of powerhouse brew. Totally quality stuff, nearly took the top off my head. I was feeling okay. Human among the humans and all that. Then she turned this pad of paper around and showed it to me. It said “To Do List” and it was about seventy-five pages and three thousand items long. There was substantial shit on there, too. Like “plant crops” and “fix roof” and “build barn” and “put in composting toilet.”

“Jesus,” I said. “You gonna call in the National Guard to help you with that?”

She laughed. “You’re it, Seth. You and me and Earl. Together we’re going to whip this place into shape.”

I didn’t say anything, thinking I didn’t want to be the one to go ruining her dreams all over the place. She’d figure out soon enough that it was hopeless.

“We are facing some financial issues. But in the meantime, we have to move forward. Today, I’d like to plan our approach for this growing season. I know it’s April, and a bit late, but we have to make the most of the time we have. I’d like to have something to take to the farmers’ market as soon as possible.”

Next thing I knew, I was following her around the property with a notepad, pencil and camera.

In some not too noticeable ways, I’m a reasonably confident guy. Sure, I’m not into socializing and dating and whatnot, but I do write a couple of blogs. I form opinions and I write about them. I can decide between Old Style and Blue. That said, I’m a waffler of the highest order compared to Prudence. The girl is the fucking George C. Scott of decision making.

We walked every inch of the thirty acres of Woefield Farm and she made plans. Fierce plans. Raised beds here. Raspberry bushes there. Hay, pond, barn. She had me drawing diagrams and making notes.

Where I saw the least productive scrub farm in existence, she saw nothing but possibilities.

When she was snapping pictures, I tried to lighten things up by tossing out a few witty suggestions, like where to put the meth lab, pay parking lot or rock quarry, but she ignored me.

“The first bank payment is due next month,” she said. “What’s the best way to get money by then?” She was basically talking to herself. Obviously she wasn’t asking me.

She kept bending down to feel the dirt, and I could tell from the way she did it she didn’t know what the fuck she was supposed to be feeling when she touched it. She’d pick up a big dried-out clod and it would immediately crumble to dust in her hands.

“Hmmm,” she’d say.

We’d walk a little farther and she’d bend down to pick up a rock the size of a cantaloupe.

“Mmmm,” she’d say. Or she’d mutter something about turnips.

Goddamn Prudence is batshit, but in a nice way. If I was her, I’d have had the place on the market ten minutes after I first laid eyes on it. I mean, seriously. If not the first day, then definitely after she met her neighbors at that strawberry social. Those fuckers even made me feel normal. But she just smiled and chatted and acted like they were the most interesting people she’d ever talked to. She seems to like giving people the benefit of the doubt.

She was just starting to tell me about how grass was the key to productivity when this kid walked around the side of the house and came toward us.

She was a grim-looking child. Maybe grim is too harsh. Serious is better. She had on this fishing-slash-sun hat deal made out of canvas and it had pictures of chickens on it. I would have said she was dressed like a boy, but most young dudes wear more stylish threads. Her little face was all blank and unimpressed, like a Baptist minister running into the local whore at the bank.

“Hello?” said Prudence.

“My name is Sara Spratt. My mom said you said I could keep my chickens here.”

“Oh, right. Your mom told me that you need to move your birds,” said Prudence.

The kid nodded. Her jeans were too big and she was using binder twine as a belt, which I thought was a nice touch. She stared from me to Prudence.

“We’re just planning new crops,” Prudence said.

Nothing. The kid was Clint Eastwood in one of his less expressive roles.

“I’m open to the idea,” said Prudence. “But at the moment we don’t have anywhere to put them.”

“I brought coop plans,” said the kid and shrugged a little backpack off her shoulders, opened it, pulled out a small folder and handed it to Prudence. The cardboard cover was decorated with a magazine cutout of an enormous chicken. A piece of white paper glued to the front
bore the hand-lettered words “Jr. Poultry Fancier’s Club” and the girl’s name, Sara Spratt. Each letter was a different color and outlined with glued-on sparkles.

She was seriously the coolest kid I’d ever seen. You could tell she really and truly did not give a fuck. I respect that.

“That’s some chicken,” I said.

“It’s a rooster,” she said, not easily swayed by compliments.

“Sorry.”

“The plans for the coop are in there. I drew them up myself. I won for my division.”

“You mean, you want us to build the chicken house?” asked Prudence.

“You designed it yourself?” I said. “Holy shit.”

She ignored me and spoke to Prudence. “My mom will pay. She said to tell you that.”

Prudence flipped through the plans for the chicken house. “This doesn’t look too bad,” she said. “I’m sure between Seth and Earl we can accommodate you.”

I couldn’t let that slide. The kid was cool but I didn’t want to set up expectations.

“Building isn’t really my thing. I’m more cerebral or whatever.”

Prudence looked over at the old man’s cabin. Smoke rose from the chimney and twisted up into the blue sky. “I’m sure Earl will be happy to teach you, Seth.” She looked back at the plans. “I read somewhere that chicken manure is excellent fertilizer.”

I mentioned the risk of avian flu, but they both ignored me.

Prudence’s face broke into one of those big, sunny smiles of hers. “We’d be happy to host your chickens,” she said.

“Okay,” said the kid. Not bothering with a thank-you or anything. She picked up her pack, shouldered it and turned to go, leaving Prudence holding the plans for the chicken house.

“When are you planning to come back? With your chickens?” Prudence called after her.

“My dad said they have to be gone by the weekend,” said the kid.

Prudence waved at her but she didn’t look back.

E
ARL

The old man was a strange bugger. No doubt about that. One day he’d be reading some big book with small letters and the next he’d be deep in a soap opera. A goddamn pigmada, is what I think they call that kind of person who you can’t figure out.

He used to say, Earl, everyone’s family life has drama. I bet even you’ve got drama in your family life.

I’d just nod. Since we weren’t hardly doing no farming, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and get along. I let him listen when I played my banjo and he seemed to like that.

But he was right about the drama. Us Clementes had no shortage of that. I got reminded of it that morning when I turned on the country music channel. They were replaying some big country music award night. Giving out a prize for best bluegrass outfit. Before I could shut her off, there he was, big as you please. My brother Merle. All dressed up in a nice suit.

The woman giving the award had the big hair and boobs to match. She was wrapped up tighter than a Polish sausage in a red dress with shiny stuff on it. She was saying how she was just thrilled to be in the presence of a living legend.

Living legend, she said again, like once wasn’t enough. It’s what they call him now.

Merle ducked his head, real modest under that big gray hat.

I got one of them burning sensations in my chest. Thought it might be a heart attack. Then I thought no way am I going to let the goddamn
reaper come for me while I’m watching Merle get a prize from a big-chested lady in a red dress.

Right then the girl came walking into my cabin without hardly knocking.

She got a look at the TV and said, Oh boy, it’s Merle Clemente, like that’s so exciting. Sweet Christ. That was all I needed. I used the clicker to shut the damn thing off before she could start asking questions. I wasn’t fast enough.

You a bluegrass fan, she wanted to know.

I gave her a stare to let her know to mind her own business. I figured the sooner she quit yammering, the sooner I could get myself a handful of Tums.

Then she started saying how she loves bluegrass and something about some eco fairs and coffee houses over there in New York City. She said she’s into Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe, like I’m supposed to be impressed.

I don’t say nothing. Some types of people get like this about bluegrass. Her uncle sure did. He’d sit and listen all day if I’d keep playing. Then the girl got to yammering on about how she always wanted to see some big festival in Colorado.

I was wishing she’d get done talking. Forty-odd years on and the sight of my brother still felt like a railway spike to my goddamn chest.

She cleared her throat and apologized for busting in on me and told me she had what she called an exciting opportunity.

Then she told me about the goddamn chickens.

Far as I was concerned, that was the last straw. The old man, he was bad enough. Didn’t know a goddamn thing about farming but at least he give up pretty quick and settled into watching TV and reading and let me do the same. This girl, she was a whole other story. She had that ambition you hear about.

Truth be told, I was too damn tired to think about trying to re-create the settler days on this old piece of land. I had some money put away. The old man used to pay me before he run low on cash, and I made money doing odd jobs for people. I didn’t keep my money in the bank.
Christ no, I’m not that stupid. I had her tucked away safe. So I told the girl I was done and would be leaving as soon as I got organized.

Well, you’d of thought I’d told her I was going to cut off her right arm and take it with me when I went. The words wasn’t barely out of my mouth before she started wailing and carrying on.

It was Oh, Earl, this and Won’t you reconsider, that. Up starts the goddamn waterworks again.

I told her how there was nothing here for me and that was the goddamn truth.

That’s when she told me I was in the will.

That stopped me short, I’ll tell you.

Uncle Harold has given you a place to live in perpetuity, she says.

I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, who the hell would, and I told her so.

So she told me it means forever. She said I had a place to live for free as long as I stayed on the farm, and then she said I was on title for ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of the old place or any income it generates.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
12.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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