*Disclaimer: I wrote this a couple years ago and it still needs a lot of work, but I just wanted to share it anyways.
Birds sang up in the trees above as Gavin dipped his feet into the small pond next to his ranch. The sun slowly made its way to the horizon, as the sky changed from blue to an array of orange, pink, and purple. His straw hat covered half his face, only to show the thin line on his lips. Gavin sighed then stood up; it was time to head back. Life has been hard ever since his mother died. Now it was just him, his ailing father and the ranch help. Owls hooted, and wolves howled in the distance of the forest. His ranch is only about two acres, with three horses, twelve chickens, eight goats; two ponies, seventeen cows, and four pigs.
“Johnnie!” I call the stable boy. He was tending to the cows in the field. Once he heard my voice, his feet ran towards me.
“Has father gone back inside?” That old man never liked the indoors.
“Yes, I convinced him to go inside to rest for a while. But, we’ll see how long that lasts.” We chuckle and I continue to trudge along the trail home. The sturdy three story house stands tall and proud. Upon entering the messy home, I take off my dirt ridden boots and gloves. My toes thank me for the relief.
“Father I’m back!” Walking up the creaky stairs, I take a left. With the door open, I can see my sixty-five year old father sprawled on the bed, snoring loudly. I shake my head and retreat to the room across from his. Unlike the rest of the house, this room was neat and organized. Though, there wasn’t much in there except for a bed, a desk, and two worn out dressers. I plop onto the bed, and immediately fall asleep.
“Mr. Johnston, would you like me to start with the dishes?” A sweet voice travels up to my ears. Interested, I get out of bed and tip toe downstairs.
“That would be great Elsie,” Father says. She has on a pink apron around a light blue dress. Her dark skin glistened in the sweltering heat that the house sometimes failed to keep out. Hair tied in a tight bun, she turns to survey the area and I catch a glimpse of her face.
Oh, I know her! She lives by Broadside road, not too far from here. But why is she in my house, asking to start with the dishes?
Quickly, before Father sees, I rush to the bathroom to tidy myself up. I grimace at the reflection in the mirror; sunburned skin, red eyes, and dirty clothing.
No, this won’t do.
After a good hard scrubbing, I come out smelling and looking, like a real gentleman.
“Ah, here comes my son now!” Elsie dries her hands on a clean towel and smiles at me.
“Elsie Alexis Meissner, I know,” I cut her off grinning. She nervously shakes my hand. “Your middle name serves you well; you are known as the Town’s Helper.”
“Yes well, I guess you could say I was born for this. I realized that people appreciate you more when you show them the kindness of your heart,” she giggles.
What a beautiful sound.
“I didn’t know you asked her to come up here dad,” I say focusing on my dad. He puts his hat on and slips on his gloves.
“Yes well, this place is an absolute mess as you know. I figured after this, she could help out in the field. It’s easier to maintain a clean home than a messy one.” With that, my father and I leave the premises, straight to the stables. The smell of horses and manure went into my nose. I wrinkle it in disgust.
“Johnnie, Jedidiah, Jettson!” The three scrawny brothers approach us with hay all over them.
“Jettson, I want you to go check on the chickens and bring back some eggs, Johnnie, go let the cows out, and Jedidiah, do something about that smell,” I order. With a “yes sir” they leave to do their duties. Father and I go to the pig’s stable nearby to see them up and oinking. Their fat pink bodies hobbled around, waiting for food.
I grab the bowl of acorns, fruit, and herbs; opening the gate to feed the pigs. They made way for me and I dumped the contents into their feeding pens.
“Here’s the water.” My dad gives me two silver buckets filled with water. I pour them into a separate bowl and quickly get out. The stampede of pigs went straight for the food, and you do not want to be in the way. We spend a couple of hours tending to the corn field and then fixing up the stables and what not.
“Dad, let’s take a break,” I say. We sit under the big oak tree, sweating like crazy.
“Would y’all like some lemonade?” Elsie comes out from behind the tree holding a tray with two glasses of lemonade and sandwiches.
“You are a lifesaver,” my father says. I take a sip of the drink.
“Well I’ll be darned; this is literally the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted!” I exclaim and she giggles again.
“Thank you, I finished up most of the house, but it won’t take me-”
“Oh no you don’t; go home and rest. Come back tomorrow to finish up,” I say.
“You really have a knack for cutting people off, don’t cha?” She puts her hand on her hip.
“I guess I might.” I watch as Elsie goes back inside while my dad chuckles beside me.
“Don’t tell me you have a little crush on Elsie.”
“I do not!” I protest. He shakes his head.
“Son, I haven’t seen you this excited since you asked that Jennifer gal out to senior prom, five years ago. She’s a good girl, with the right kind of mind, real smart too.” I can’t believe he’s saying this right now.
“I don’t think she’s very interested dad.”
“Oh hush boy! Of course she is! Did you see the way she looks at ya?” He winks at me while standing up. “I’m going inside; let one of the boys help you finish up.” I pat him on the back and he walks to the house.
I don’t know what I would do without that old man.
I take another sip of the refreshing drink and lay my head against the tree. An hour later I drag my tired body to the house. Finally everything is done, and fixed. When I open the door, my jaw almost falls out of place. I can actually see the brown wood floors. The furniture has been dusted, the boxes of old clothes are gone, and lights aren’t flickering anymore! Elsie comes out of the kitchen, holding the cracked green broom. She hums a tune, and I close the door.
“Oh hi, I promise I’ll get going, just had to finish sweeping up.” I am amazed at the work she’s done. No wonder people in town call her an angel.
“I commend your work, this is really good,” I say. She looks at her feet and smiles. “Here I will finish up, you deserve a break.”
“Oh, it won’t take more than minute. Honestly it’s fine.” She says smiling. I feel my blood rushing as she glances up.
“Oh, um, okay then.”
*Photo by Jake Givens from Unsplash.com