So it seems pretty easy to post things on this blog of mine when it's just ramblings of my life and the thoughts that buzz around in my head. However, I'm really nervous about this specific post, because I'm sharing something that I didn't just write and ramble on about on the spot. In this post, I'm going to share a short story I wrote for my Fiction Writing class.
Fiction Writing is my favorite class this semester. It almost feels like a break from my other classes. All we do is host workshops every class where we go through each classmate's stories and discuss how to improve them. It's pure bliss I tell you! Any ways, this story is a short story known as 'sudden fiction'. Sudden fiction is a very short story where you take a big story and then just make a little segment of it into your story (if that makes sense). Sudden fiction tends to be something that will shock the reader as well. So with that said, here is my sudden fiction story. I got an A on it, so I guess that means it doesn't suck. But that doesn't exactly mean it's wonderful either. . .so I hope you supportive people out there reading this will enjoy it. I got the story idea one afternoon when Brian and I were at his parents' house. We were walking through the grassy pasture and the grasshoppers were hopping about like crazy. There was basically a shower of grasshoppers at our feet. Then I said to Brian, "What's a grasshopper's lifespan?" And with that one question, an idea for a story was formed. So here it is, "Grasshoppers"
The sun lazily creeps behind the rolling hills, ready to tell the earth goodbye for the day. There will still be sunlight for about another hour, and the last hour is the brightest of all. Rays of sun seem to light everything on fire, bringing the land alive with hues of sleepy gold. The days are growing shorter. The temperatures are dropping. Soon, the mornings will greet layers of frost on the ground and soon after that, snow. Benny Driggs pats the last milk cow in line on the hind, thanking her in a way for providing a chance for him to raise his son. Dairy farming does not provide for the most luxurious of living, but that is fine with Benny. He has never been one to want luxurious anyways. Luxury for him is being able to work outside with animals, wake up early to smell the scents of a new day, and go home in the evening to a warm meal.
There once was a time when Lydia made those warm meals. He would walk into the kitchen after taking his work boots off at the door, and quietly walk up behind her, sliding his arms around her petite waist. There once was a time when his arms slid there and Lydia would let out a light laugh of surprise, her smiling eyes as sparkling as the modest diamond on her left hand. Now Benny’s own mother, who lives just across the street, makes the warm meals.
With another day of work done, Benny locks the barn up for the night. As he slides the barn door shut, grasshoppers begin leaping in all directions from the tall grass, alarmed at the screech of the thick wooden door. Benny takes a moment to watch the creatures hop around in a confused dance, shades of tans, greens, and light yellows blending together. He then turns to admire the countryside behind him. The fields are turning brown, growing old and tired. The sky has been a cool grey all afternoon long, but with the setting sun, the clouds now seem to wake up and dance in colors of deep purple and orange, orange like the pumpkins growing plump in the garden. Those pumpkins sit and patiently wait for the time to come when they will be picked and have menacing smiles carved into their thick sides. Sitting and waiting for growth. Sitting and waiting for a time to be set free. Sitting and waiting. It seems to be not only a habit of pumpkins, but of people as well. People will spend their whole lives sitting and waiting.
Benny admires the river that runs close by his farm. The cattails are growing in thick along the riverbeds. They sway a little, almost laughing at Benny as he watches them. Laughing at him as he remembers days of his childhood he spent wandering along the river, fishing. He had been quite the fisherman. He begins wondering why he ever stopped. At that moment, he decides he will pick it up again and start fishing again, and he will teach his boy, Jackson, how to fish too. He is getting old enough.
Jackson will be seven next week. When Jackson was born, Benny had felt so nervous about being a father. He remembers how he clumsily held Jackson’s baby body in his arms for the first time nearly seven years ago. When he looked at Lydia, searching for advice on what to do, she just gave him an exhausted smile, her honey-colored hair in wisps across the hospital bed pillow. Benny had felt so nervous about being a father. Now he couldn’t imagine a life without Jackson in it. Every evening Jackson asks if he can go with to tend to the cows and every evening Benny grants his wish.
Benny trudges away from the barn. “Jackson, the cows are all tended to. Where’d you go, boy? Jackson?”
“Over here, Dad!” Jackson’s head pokes up from the tall grass. His cheeks gleams with perspiration and he seems slightly out of breath. His baseball cap slips down over his eyes, too big for his little seven-year-old head, “I’m over here! I’m trying to catch a grasshopper.”
Benny chuckles and remembers how grand it was to be a young, adventurous boy. Benny strolls slowly over to his boy as he pulls the sleeves of his flannel jacket over his thick, tan arms. Thick from work and tan from sun, that’s how the arms of a farmer are made. Benny playfully tugs Jackson’s baseball cap down further over his eyes and bends into the grass to grab at one of the many grasshoppers weaving their way through the leaves. He catches one in his palm and gently lets his callused fingers close on top of the leaping locust. Benny then turns to his son and lets his fingers spread apart, just slightly, to reveal the strange creature with the long legs. Jackson gasps and smiles up at his father. Benny can’t help but smile too, because he knows that Jackson believes his dad can do or conquer anything. Because being a dad entitles you to be a conqueror of all. If only that were true, Benny thinks to himself.
Jackson carefully takes the grasshopper from his father’s hand but makes the mistake of picking it up from the leg. The grasshopper kicks at the air as a startled Jackson hurriedly wraps his small hands around the creature. He then lets his fingers gingerly pat the grasshopper’s head. His fingernails are caked with mud. Jackson thoughtfully looks at the grasshopper’s alien-like eyes, a million questions buzzing in his young brain. “Dad, what happens to the grasshoppers when it gets too cold outside?”
“Well, my boy, they die. They can’t handle the cold. Their bodies just freeze.”
Jackson’s lower lip plumps out, forming a small frown. “You think if I take this one home and put him in a jar, he’ll make it through the winter?”
“No, son. Grasshoppers never live long anyways. I was once told their lifespan was about three to five months. I guess they don’t need longer than that to accomplish all the things in their lives. They aren’t as stubborn and scared as us humans when it comes to things like living.”
Jackson looks up into his father’s face. His hazel eyes look thoughtful. He then sets the grasshopper in the dirt. It doesn’t move so he scoots at its legs with his fingers, causing it to jump off into the weeds. “If I only had three months to live, I’d do lots of living. Know what I’d do, Dad?”
Benny runs his fingers through his beard and smiles, “What’s that, son?”
“Well, I’d probably start out by telling Mandy I love her. She sits next to me in Mrs. Daniel’s class. She’s got pretty, curly hair and she’s smart too. Sometimes I peek off her in spelling. She always spells the words right,” Benny just smiles and waits for his son to keep going, “Then I’d tell Grandma that she needs to stop bothering me about eating all my vegetables cause if I ain’t gonna live to be a grown man, then eating my vegetables don’t really matter much. She always says they’ll help me grow big and strong but three months isn’t much time to be growing much bigger.” Benny lets out a laugh at this, thinking about how his own mother and Jackson always seem to fight it out over the vegetable situation.
“I would also learn how to milk all the cows. So you wouldn’t have to do it, Dad. Then me and you, we could go climb around in the mountains and do man stuff together.” Green and brown grasshoppers are now gathering around Jackson, as if to hang onto every word he is saying. “Then I’d go to the jail. And I’d tell Mom it’s okay that she’s so sick. I’d tell her I still love her, even though she kind of forgot just how to take care of me,” Jackson is staring down at the ends of his boots now, “Because I know she’s sick and when a person is sick it’s hard to want to take care of other people. And I’d tell her when she gets out of jail that she won’t have to worry ‘bout taking care of me. I’ll take care of her instead.”
Benny reaches out for his boy. He pulls the baseball cap off Jackson’s head and softly plants a kiss on his messy blonde hair. “I love you, son. And your mom loves you too.”
Then Benny slips back into the memories. He remembers the night he walked into the bedroom to see stolen prescription bottles scattered along the nightstand and his wife limp in bed, and he came to the shattered realization that he couldn’t fend for his drug addicted wife any longer. He remembers how she yelled at him in court, and accused him of ruining their family, as shiny handcuffs were placed on her frail wrists. He remembers how Jackson still wakes up crying at night, so the two of them go into the kitchen and drink a glass of milk to calm the both of them down. Then a familiar moo from the barn breaks the silence, and Benny is able to pull himself from the painful memories and mask his feelings once again. Still, he can’t help but think about the grasshoppers as the sun goes down and the world grows dark, and he wonders if life would be much different if he only had three months to live.