Century Farm
By: Dawn DeBraal

Armond Whaley made his living as a farmer eighteen miles outside Hatfield, isolated by the mega-farms surrounding his fourteen hundred and twenty-three acres.

The neighbor's houses and barns were tipped over, burned, and buried. The land cleared, then planted in corn, soybeans, cabbage that filled thousands of acres in irrigated fields.

The land he farmed was his father's and his grandfather's for over one hundred years. A Century Farm designation sign was placed out in front of his house in a ceremony years ago.

The corporation who had purchased all the farms cut down trees, drove their heavy machinery on the County Road, breaking up the blacktop. The county didn't care to fix the road anymore. No one lived out here. Armond was lucky the mail still came six days a week.

His daughters depended on him to provide them with food and shelter. Armond hoped that one of them would have hooked a husband by now. At thirty-eight and thirty-four, the hope of a son-in-law to help him on the farm was waning, let alone having a grandchild to take over.

It was that damn Century Farm designation sign at the end of the driveway that held him to the land. He would not be the Whaley that let the farm go. Olive or Lilith could be the scapegoats.

The house had five bedrooms, four large rooms upstairs, and a small room off the stairway on the first floor. The room, now his office, had a large safe that tested the old wood floor. When his Pa had a stroke and could no longer climb the stairs, they placed a twin bed downstairs in the little room. Old Pa was pretty much stuck there. The girls each had their rooms upstairs, along with Levi, his dead son, he, and his wife Liv had the master bedroom. At one time, someone occupied every bedroom in the old farmhouse.

One by one, they died off. Livia died of a broken heart after Levi hung himself in the barn; she blamed herself for Levi's illness. After his death, Liv couldn't face the ladies in town. Olive and Lilith became recluses, only allowed out to go to church and school. When Liv died, the girls were older, in their late twenties, but ruined socially.

His eldest daughter, Olive, was not a pretty woman, never was. She had protruding teeth and small eyes that flitted back and forth. Lilith was the pretty one but found solace in food and ate her way to obesity. Her personality was charming, and her laugh was musical. She was his "Sugar Plump Fairy," to Olive's stern hairy-mole grimace. Two girls couldn't have looked or acted more differently.

Armond found himself in the middle of nowhere with two aging daughters who had little to no chance of getting married or bearing him grandchildren and a big corporation breathing down his neck, offering him more and more for the farm. They were getting close to his selling point. Every man will sell for the right price.

His crops were healthy, the farm looked orderly, for he was never one to let junk pile up. The house was in good shape, always tidy, the lawn perfectly manicured with orange daylilies blooming near the porch. Everything had to be perfect inside and out; anything even slightly off-kilter drove him wild.

In the early morning, a knock at the front door had Armond facing a pale young man who collapsed on his porch, bleeding profusely. He had been sheering evergreen trees across the way. The machete he used not only whacked off the branch he was shaping but also sliced deeply into his thigh. Armond dragged the young man to the chair, calling his daughter. Lilith came quickly, then ran to get some hot water and soap, tearing the pants leg off the young man, first applying a tourniquet just above the wound to stem the flow of blood. The young man passed out.

Lilith got her sewing kit, using a fishline and a curved needle to stitch up the wound, slowly easing up on the tourniquet. The stitches held.

Their unnamed guest was hauled upstairs to Levi's room and put to bed. The young man was still sleeping when Olive came out of the fields.

Lilith sat next to his bed with a pan of water mopping his head. Olive looked over Lilith's even stitches.

"Nice job! So glad you learned that half hitch knot." Lilith laughed at her sister.

"I thought we should drive him to town, but Pa said no. We could take care of him right here, save him a hospital bill. I gave him some antibiotics, I hope he isn't allergic, but it was necessary, with a dirty blade. Do you think he's up on his tetanus shots?" Olive looked at the man.

"If I know the tree farming business before you can use the machete, you have to show proof of current tetanus vaccination."

"Do you think they will be looking for him?" Lilith had always been scared of Pa and never crossed him. Olive would have insisted Pa drive them to Hatfield to urgent care, and Pa would have listened, but Lilith had no say in anything.

"You should let him sleep. He probably won't wake until morning." Olive led her sister from the room, closing the door behind them. "We'd best get supper going. We can make a little soup for the man in Levi's room." Lilith nodded her head in agreement.

When the young man awoke the following day, he called out. Lilith came in with a chamber pot for him. He stared at her.

"Where am I?"

"You are on the Whaley Farm. You came up the driveway yesterday after you cut yourself and collapsed on the porch. I stitched you up. You were bleeding awful bad." The young man flipped off the cover, pulling up the poultice Lilith had put on his leg, looking at the angry red line of stitches running across his thigh.

"Where's my pants?"

"Sorry, I had to cut them off you. Here are your pants. Lilith handed him the bloody pair of jeans with the leg cut off. He felt the pockets.

"We didn't think we'd make it to Hatfield before you bled out. You must have walked close to a mile before you got to our door." He asked to be excused. Lilith left the room while he relieved himself. She saw the covered thunder jug on the floor, a remnant of Old Pa, when she came back into the room. Lilith could tell the young man was embarrassed.

"Look, my brother, Levi, had some pajama bottoms. We didn't save much else. She pulled open the drawer pulling out some linen pants.

"I'm Lilith, by the way; what's your name?"

"Thomas. Do you have a phone? I need to call someone. I am sure they are wondering what happened to me."

"Yes, we do have a phone; only Pa carries it on him all the time. You will have to wait until he comes back. I am sure he will let you make your calls."

"I had a phone, but it must have fallen out of my pocket when I cut my thigh." She told him to rest. She would bring him some soup in a moment. She discreetly picked up the pot from the floor and left the room.

Armond sat in his office, opened the safe. He fished the stranger's cell phone from his pocket, placing it in the vault, spinning the knob. The Good Lord provided a man for his daughter; Lord knew he could use help. Lilith came by with the chamber pot.

"How's our guest?" Lilith stopped in her tracks.

"He's fine, Daddy, his name is Thomas, and he'd like to use your cell phone to call his family. He's lost his phone."

"I can let him use mine. Has he eaten yet?"

"No. I'm on the way to get him some soup."

"Best go then." Armond walked out the door, closing it behind him. Lilith sighed. Her father had forgotten to bring the phone up to Thomas, but he'd be back later.

Thomas accepted the phone when Armond returned, but the battery was near dead. He thanked Armond for saving his life.

"I understand I was bleeding pretty bad and might not have made it to a local hospital. Thank you for caring for me. I just want to let my people know where I am."

Armond left the room while Thomas opened the old flip phone. He barely knew how to use it, trying to text his brother, the only number he'd memorized, exhausted at having to strike each number one, two, or three times to create his message.

"Bro: I'm okay. Cut leg bad sheering, Recouping at nice farmer's house. I will contact you later." The phone went dead. Frustrated, Thomas lay back down on the bed, dizzy from his effort.

Lilith tucked Thomas in; the poor man was exhausted, sweating. She put her hand on his forehead. He wasn't feverish, but his body was doing some pretty heavy-duty healing. She checked his leg; the stitches were tight and clean, there was no sign of infection. After putting down the fresh chamber pot and a pitcher of water at his bedside, Lilith watched Thomas sleep for a while before leaving him.

Armond met her at the bottom of the stairs.

"Phone?" Lilith handed him the cell. The girls were not allowed to use up his minutes. Armond disappeared into his office, where he plugged in the dead phone. Later he was able to see that Thomas had contacted his brother.

After two days, Thomas was coaxed down the stairs using a cane. Lilith set him up on the front porch with his leg propped up and gave him a nice lunch. She blushed as he heaped praises upon her.

Soon, Thomas moved about the house freely with the cane, eating his dinner with the family at the table. At two weeks, Lilith removed his stitches; soon after, he sneaked into Lilith's bedroom at night.

Armond knew by his daughter's rosy cheeks that Thomas and Lilith were having sex. Olive was jealous of her sister. Armond secretly prayed for a grandchild to be made from their coupling.

It was time to set Thomas free. Armond took the cell phone out of the safe, running over it in the driveway. That afternoon Armond pretended to stoop down and pick it up from the ground coming indoors. He called to Thomas.

"I think I found your phone!" Thomas gleefully took it but was disappointed to see it had been run over, rendering it useless.

When Thomas healed, Armond drove him to the farm where he'd been sheering, leaving him, and asking him not to be a stranger. Thomas shook his hand, limping to the truck, and drove off.

Armond didn't plan that Lilith would run away with Thomas in the middle of the night. His daughter wrote she was never coming back. Olive was even more bitter; her sister found an escape from the farm.

Armond was out on his stand on the opening day of deer hunting season, watching the buck he had his eye on for quite some time. Picking up his gun, he looked in the scope, ready to pull the trigger. He couldn't believe it when he saw an idiot driving a tractor picking corn. Incensed, Armond took the shot anyway. The buck ran off. Instead, the glass in the tractor exploded. Armond woke from his dazed state when he heard the guy screaming. He scrambled down from his stand.

"My God! Someone shot the tractor!" Armond shouted as he helped the young man out of the cab. Both of his eyes were bloodied from the glass shards. "I live around here. Let's get you some doctoring. My daughter's a wonderful nurse." Armond walked the blinded man to the farmhouse shouting for Olive. She helped the man into the house, cleaning up his face, and rinsed his eyes until they were free of glass.

"I can see, but everything is blurry," the man said. Olive told him it was temporary. Her voice was like an angel's.

"Rest, I am here." He felt her slender hand and grabbed her shoulder.

"I'm afraid I am going blind," he said.

"Hush, it's only temporary. The swelling keeps you from moving your eyes around. It's protecting you. I'm here. I won't let anything happen; I promise. We can't move you. It's too dangerous."

Jack became dependent on Olive over the next few days. He didn't move without her guiding him.

Armond stopped on his way to bed one evening; hearing the creaking of bedsprings, he chuckled, smiling to himself. He realized he may get a grandchild yet, and the Century Farm designation would continue.

Days later, Jack woke and realized he could see. Olive was right; his sight returned, and so too, his eagerness to leave the farm.

Jack waited to see what Olive looked like; he pictured her in his mind. She had to be beautiful. Someone with that voice and her thin body excited him so. Olive loved him fiercely with everything she had.

As the morning light filtered into the room, Jack got a good look at Olive. Her body was fair enough, but her face? He saw her small eyes, the hairy mole, and the protruding teeth. There would be no way he would have ever coupled with someone who looked like Olive.

He slid out of bed, blinking, trying to focus. He decided he wouldn't be there when Olive woke. Jack made it downstairs. Finding his shoes, he stole one of Armond's coats and let himself out the door.

His breath came out in white clouds as he trotted along the road. Jack wanted to be long gone before the Whaley's woke up. The sun felt good on his face.

Jack had gone a good mile or so when he found his rhythm, hoping someone passing by would take him into town. In the distance, a vehicle was coming up the road. He stuck out his thumb. His vision still weak, but his hearing wasn't. By the time he realized the vehicle wasn't a car but Armond's pickup, he started to run.

Armond pushed down the accelerator. Jack ran off the road, with Armond taking the ditch after him. The front tire of the pickup came to rest on Jack's chest. Jack was gasping in pain.

"Look what you have gone and made me do. Why didn't you just stay put?" Armond rolled his head back and forth, kneeling near the front tire. Tears rolled down Jack's cheeks as he clutched Armond's arm.

"Help," was all he could get out. Armond patted his hand.

"Poor Jack. You don't know when you got it good. I think you are too far gone for Olive to save you this time, boy. You should have died in the corn picker, but that didn't happen." Jack gasped for air as broken ribs punctured his lung.

Armond waited for Jack to succumb to his injuries. He struggled to get Jack's body into the back of the truck, then drove out into the field and dug the grave. Olive wouldn't know what happened. She would think Jack left on his own accord, which was what happened. He didn't know how he was going to tell Olive that Jack had run away. She'd be heartbroken.

"Breakfast is ready, Daddy, and Jack's gone." Olive looked sad.

"Sit down, Olive; I've got some bad news for you. I saw Jack hitchhiking for town." Olive hung her head and cried.

"There, there, Olive. He'll be back. I mean, Thomas came back for Lilith, right?" Armond bold-faced, lied to his daughter. Olive nodded her head. Several weeks went by, of course; Jack never came back.

Armond dumped a load of wood in the box. He stoked the fire, shutting the door on the woodstove setting the damper just so.

"Daddy, I have something to tell you." Olive came out of the kitchen. Armond could tell she'd been crying. "I think Jack and I made a baby." Armond's face softened. He moved to his daughter, taking her in his arms.

"That's okay, baby girl, let's pray for a boy, a strong, healthy boy." He gave her a quick hug. "Now, what did you make us for breakfast?"

Armond dug into the fried potatoes, bacon and two eggs over hard. He shoveled the food into his mouth not paying attention to Olive who was quite silent.

"I'll take a glass of milk" Armond said coughing a bit. Olive poured him a glass of milk watching astutely. Armond continued with his breakfast when he started to cough again. He couldn't seem to clear his throat. Olive stood by passively, watching him before the idea dawned in him.

"Did you put something in my breakfast?" Olive shook her head no, but Armond knew when his daughter was lying to him.

"I saw you, Daddy. I watched you bury Jack out in the field. You lied to me. You said he was coming back. I had a visitor yesterday, Baldar Realty. They came to me with a great offer. I'm gonna sell this farm."

"Over my dead body." Armond bent over coughing until blood came from his mouth. He stared incredulously at his daughter.

"As you wish." Olive smiled. Armond fell to the floor writhing in pain, and then, it was quiet. Vacant eyes stared at the ceiling while the drool of blood dripped on to the clean tile floor. Olive clucked her tongue. She would not let her child be raised by her father it would be hell on earth.

When it was over, Olive fingered the contract on the table in front of her. Picking up the phone she dialed the realtor.

The End


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