The Woefield Poultry Collective (8 page)

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
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She told me she was sorry she didn’t mention it earlier because she thought my uncle had told me, and I said I should goddamn hope so.

I figured with the way things was going, with so many of the farms selling to developers, the land had to be worth a pretty penny. Ten percent of this farm had to be more’n enough for a little place down south. Maybe even a new truck and camper, too. The place sure as shit wasn’t going to make money any other way.

I asked her if she was going to sell.

She patted me on the shoulder and told me no, never. The farm was her legacy. Her heritage, she called it. Then she started talking about how someday, when there’s no oil left, this old rock plantation may be our best hope for survival, and besides, it’s heavily encucumbered because her uncle’d been living off the equity.

I couldn’t follow all of what she said, but it seemed to me that she was saying that if she sold, she might even end up owing money and we had to figure out how to make a go of it.

That took the wind out of my sails.

She nodded and give me another pat and told me that together we could make the place a success and that the chicken house was just the beginning, and the first order of business was for me and Chubnuts to go shopping.

Goddamn it all.

S
ETH

People sometimes assume that people who live in the country can build stuff. It’s not true. Remember I told you about my mom’s adventures in stick furniture? Well, she was the fine woodworker in our family compared to the Prince of Pubs, my old man. He drove a truck for Rickert’s Plumbing Supplies and he couldn’t build a fucking résumé, much less a house, even one for chickens.

Same with his friends. They talked like they could slap additions onto their double-wides any time the mood struck, but it was all bullshit. A few of them had all the tools and never used them. There was the odd one who was competent and the rest of them would make sure that guy was around when they had to repair anything. It’s like all the old skills have fallen away or something. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell Prudence that. It would have ruined her whole life or at least her fantasy about farm life and competent country folk.

Other than the crib board I made in woodworking class, I have built almost nothing. Actually, I did help with the cross for our school’s production of
Jesus Christ Superstar
. I didn’t build the actual cross, which was made out of fancy plywood. The woodworking teacher did that. I just nailed a lot of boards near the base of it so it would stay upright until Jesus needed to carry it around and then pretend to get hung off it. Even doing that tested my skills. But I would have made the cross and the stage and the whole drama room from scratch for the drama teacher if she’d asked. Anyway, I don’t want to get into that.

What I will tell you is that I’d never been in a hardware store before. I know. It’s kind of fucked up. I’m a grown man from a rural area but I just never went before. Blogging about heavy metal and assholish actors doesn’t call for trips to the hardware store. Still, I was pretty sure I knew what it would be like. The place would be teeming with people who’d been there the night of the big production.

Fuck that. I wasn’t going to Home Depot with Earl. I even considered heading home to avoid it, but I looked across the street and saw my mom and Bobby sitting on the porch drinking beer. You know, I’d been at Woefield, basically within eyeshot of my mother, for like three days and she hadn’t even come over to check on me. I know that doesn’t sound very masculine or whatever, especially when combined with a story about how I’ve never been to a hardware store before, but too bad. When she saw me looking over at her and Bobby, my goddamned mother didn’t even
wave
. How fucked is that?

It was so fucked that I decided I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of asking to come home again. I’d tough it out. Do the hardware store thing. Face all those pricks from high school. I knew at least half of them would be working at Home Depot.

To pull it off I’d need a little mellowing agent. The vodka didn’t take effect immediately, so I had another couple of shots. Still, I was barely buzzing when I went out to the truck to wait for Earl. I was not in any way impaired. I just want to make that clear.

Earl didn’t say one word to me on the drive to the store, which is way over on the other side of town. It didn’t bother me. Certain types of manly men, especially old ones, are like that. This girl, at least I think she was a girl, used to write comments on Celebutard. She said she was once part of the craft services team on a Clint Eastwood movie. There’s hardly any gossip about him because his people are pretty loyal. But this girl was lonely or on drugs or something and we started messaging back and forth. She said Clint would go entire days saying only what was necessary. I try to be like that when I’m sober. But when I’m drunk it seems necessary to say a lot of shit, such as how I’m feeling, whether my arm has a twinge, what I ate, what I’d like to drink, whether I took
a shit recently and how weird it is that so many Hollywood people have such enormous heads. It feels completely necessary for me to say all that stuff and more.

This girl said that Clint pretty much only says please, thank you and good. When something’s not good, he just grunts. Well, old Earl may be Clint Eastwood’s long-lost brother or something. He wouldn’t say shit if he stepped in it. At least not to me. But I didn’t take it personally. I just tried to keep up a pleasant commentary.

When we got to Home Depot, which, as you probably know, is just basically a huge white and orange cube surrounded by about twenty acres of parking, the lot was packed. Earl’s a prime candidate for that
Worst Driver
show, and I think he was scared to get hit or whatever, so he drove us way the fuck into some
other
big-box store’s parking lot that was pretty empty because everyone was clogging up the Home Depot.

Earl was still doing his Clint Eastwood impression. I didn’t point out that if he bought more than a box of nails we’d probably die of exposure trying to get it back to the truck. I kept my cool and acted like everything was good. Like I was enjoying my second trip to town in three days.

He headed to the store, walking in front of me. Guy stumps along at a pretty good pace. I mean, considering how wrecked he looks. He motored along, hunched over, leaving that funny wood smoke and old man BO trailing behind him. I didn’t take it the wrong way that he didn’t even wait for me. I just kept walking. Determined to be of service. That’s what I was. I kept having to break into a run in order to catch up with him, which made me feel like an asshole.

Once we got in the store I figured I’d follow him around. Maybe push one of those big orange carts. I would be the steady helper guy. I bet Clint Eastwood is surrounded with steady helper guys, who all spend their free time cowboying on the open range and shit when they aren’t on set. Anyone who recognized me would probably be scared off by Earl’s hostile demeanor and not say anything. In truth, once we got there my worries eased some. Partly it was the drinks I’d had before heading out and partly it was the size of the place. Even if every single
person from my high school worked there, there was a chance we’d never run into each other. After a minute or two, part of me started wondering if maybe some of the other contractor/manager-type guys would look at Earl and envy him for having someone like me on his crew. Someone reliable, a real up-and-comer.

But Earl fucked off down an aisle as soon as we got inside and I got sick of trotting after him. Screw this, I thought. Earl is no Clint Eastwood and I’m not his assistant.

Still, I was fascinated by the whole Home Depot experience. There was an aisle with nothing but brooms and Swiffers and mops. Another aisle with just rakes and shovels. One of drills and another that was just pieces of plywood. The lightbulb section was off the hook. I seriously had no idea how many types of bulb your average homeowner has to choose from. Between the cosmetic lights and the colored lights and the tubes and the weird ones that look like lollipops, I could have spent two hours in there. I was reading a pamphlet about the benefits of compact fluorescents when a clerk came up to me. She was eighteen or nineteen and pretty cute.

She looked like a girl you could talk to, you know, not all made up and hair done et cetera. She had on this semi-Western-looking checked shirt, not the affected kind, but more like maybe she actually rode around on her horse when she wasn’t working at Home Depot. Her body was mostly obscured by the apron, but I liked what I could see. To be completely honest, I’m not exactly a masterful judge of woman flesh, as my personal history probably indicates.

She asked me if I was interested in CFLs.

Normally, I hate it when people use acronyms because they only do it to exclude you and show how smart they are, but I decided to let it go this time.

“Are people
into
CFLs?” I asked. She smiled. Her teeth were covered with those semi-invisible braces. That kind of sealed the deal for me.

“Some are. People who care about global warming and responsible energy use.”

“Oh, those bastards,” I said.

She laughed and pushed up one of the sleeves of her shirt. Her forearm wasn’t tattooed, which was cool. Even in my darkest blackout hour I have never wanted to get a tattoo.

“You want to plug one in? Check the quality of the light?” asked the girl, waving one of the twisty bulbs at me. I realized we were flirting and that it was fucking excellent. I guess the drinks made me just relaxed enough that I could talk to her without being too self-conscious. I had this vision of the two of us holding hands or getting into some light petting behind shower curtains or up in the fencing aisle or some shit. They say the simple and clean-cut girls are the wildest. But I realized she wasn’t being suggestive. She actually wanted to demonstrate the bulb. She screwed it into a small lamp that they had sitting on the shelf for that purpose, and flipped the switch. For a second, nothing happened. Then the light vibrated and a few seconds later it came all the way on.

“Oh. I get it. It’s like a fluorescent tube. Only in a weird shape.”

She nodded and I got the feeling she was checking me out. I was glad I’d worn my Iron Maiden hat because it’s good luck.

“The light that it gives off isn’t too flattering, is it? And it’s kind of funky, the way it starts up all jerky like that. That flicker could give a person a headache,” I said.

The girl’s face fell. She looked so devastated, she might have personally invented CFLs and couldn’t stand to hear them disrespected in any way.

“They’ve made a lot of improvements to the compact fluorescents,” she said, very sincere. “You may be picking up some glare from the overheads.”

The lights in the warehouse ceiling, far, far overhead, were banks of giant fluorescents. Nothing compact about them.

“Do they come in pink? Because that’s really the only type of light you should have in your leisure areas,” I told her. “Makes the skin glow. I saw that on
Colin and Justin’s Home Heist
on HGTV.” I was a flirting animal now.

“I’m sure they do,” she said. “If they don’t have them now, they will. Because pretty soon CFLs may be the only option.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if we all use CFLs, a huge amount of energy will be saved.”

“Yeah, but if we all look like crap and have to throw sheer pink scarves over everything, thereby causing increased risk of fires and other accidents, how much will really be saved? Think of the gas it takes to get all those fire trucks to all the scenes. Plus the oil products required to make all those flame-retardant outfits for the firemen.”

The girl looked at me, confused. Not surprising. Even I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was supposed to be flirting, but I was starting to
argue
with her now. I am truly a dipshit.

“This your department?” I asked, trying to change the subject to something less controversial than CFLs.

“No. Not really. I’m usually in Lamps. The bulb guy is out with a cold.”

“Lazy bastard,” I said and smiled at her. She returned my smile and I’m pretty sure the interest came back into her eyes. I sucked in my gut and shook my head a bit so she could see how long my hair was. I considered taking off my hat so she could see that it wasn’t thinning or retreating. My hair, I mean. It’s like Prudence says, you want to emphasize the positive.

The girl and I were smiling at each other, and I was thinking about asking her out. Not that I had any idea how people date.

Then all at once I realized that it had been a while since I’d seen Earl. A feeling came over me, and I said, “Hey, would you excuse me for a minute? I’ve just got to check on someone. Don’t go anywhere.”

She nodded and I walked across the front of the store, looking down each aisle as I passed it. He was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t in any of the checkouts, either. So I went running outside. I was kind of panting now, because I’d been racing all over the store, which is huge, in this increasingly panicky state, like Harrison Ford in
The Fugitive
, only not really, because I wasn’t being chased, I was chasing.

I found him outside. He’d had an accident.

E
ARL

When he got in the truck he had on a pair of pants so tight it took him three tries to get his leg up into the cab. His T-shirt had a skull on it and the tongues in his big white shoes were hanging out like they belonged on a pair of dying dogs. He finally made her into the truck and right away he started talking this and that and never shutting up. Christ. I don’t know how anyone could stand it. Soon as we got to the store, I buggered off. I figured he wouldn’t stick around when there was work to be done and I was right on that.

I picked up the boards and the sheets of plywood and whatnot. I forgot the list the girl made for me, but I got an okay memory still. Jesus Christ if that wasn’t the first useful thing I done around the old place in a long time. I like to watch the idiot box, same as the next guy, but it felt good to be out and doing something.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
3.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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