Going to a Farm for a Rest - a Short Story
Morning is here already, I’m awake but groggy, eyes half closed - a late night due to watching movies on TV. Three years and no break from work - I’m worn-out and suffering from burn-out. Wearily I get ready for work.
It’s time I did something about this.
There’s enough savings in the bank to take a holiday - I put in for a month’s leave and have my car serviced. In a week’s time it will become a reality – my application for leave has been approved. I’m hoping I can stay for a few weeks with a couple I know who live on a farm. I get in touch with Carl, he and Sherry are happy to let me stay with them.
It’s a Friday; I get off work early and leave the office behind for a whole month of freedom. Next week Wednesday I will leave for the farm where the air is clean and I can kick back and relax. Carl grows crops and keeps cattle and sheep; he’s laid back and knows that I’m going there to rest and not to work. I’ll help out where I can but really need a break from anything work-related.
Finally I Arrive
I buy a case of good quality red wine to take with, half of which I’ll give to Carl and Sherry. It’s about a four hour journey to Carls Farm; I set off early Wednesday making sure I have some music to listen to. I’m feeling kind of pumped up - full of energy but as the journey continues I settle down and view the countryside as it passes by.
Finally I arrive at the turning and drive up the long, tree-lined driveway to the farmhouse. Predictably I’m greeted by dogs that bark then wag their tails while dancing around me. I’m at the front door but from behind me a voice calls:
“Hey there, you’re just in time for lunch.” - It’s Carl.
“Well hello there, how’s it going?” I reply. “It’s so good to see you!”
“You too man” – we hug, having not seen one another for some time.
“Let’s go inside, Sherry’s preparing some food – let’s get your luggage first though.”
Livestock & All That
Inside it’s cool, Sherry greets me warmly and we all sit down for a meal, I’m starved. Afterwards I’m shown to my room then Carl and I have some coffee on the veranda. The view is superb; it’s trees, flowers, fields and crops - beauty supreme. We talk for ages then walk south to the lake where we throw some vegetable trimmings to the ducks. Beyond the lake is a stream with trees and growth on either side of it.
We saunter back to look at the livestock which are kept not too far from the farmhouse. The cattle are at rest and the sheep are grazing. He has some chickens but they are in a different area. We move on to where the crops grow; rows and rows of mealies (corn) and some vegetables stretch into the distance east of the house. We walk through the mealies examining the plants for any disease. They seem to be healthy but the cobs are only just starting to form. There are carrots and potatoes to one side; we dig up a few to see how far they have grown. In a month or so’s time they’ll be ready for market.
Although Carl has irrigation on his farm he’s hoping for rain. He looks up at the sky, “it’s coming soon he says, I can feel it in my bones.”
“As a farmer you probably get to know these things” I reply.
“I guess so. Let’s head back to the house. Is there anything special you want to do during your stay?” he asks.
“Well I thought I might go for lots of long walks and also do some sketching, otherwise just relax.”
“Okay well just do what you like, we’re gonna have a good time I think.”
Thursday morning I start exploring, I know of a guy who’s a bit mentally challenged who lives with his mother in a rondavel (round hut) about two kilometres west of the farmhouse. He’s sitting in a chair outside; he looks up at me but doesn’t react much.
“Good morning Sam, how are you?” I ask looking intently into his eyes.
He has downs syndrome. He looks at me askew, “Hello, I’m alright thanks” he says without much emotion. “I’m going to make cards” he continues.
“Oh alright, that sounds like fun, is your mother here?
“Inside, she’s inside.”
“I’ll knock then” I say.
His mother Dora comes outside just then. She fetches chairs for us and we catch up on news. The day is starting to warm, a cat comes and jumps onto my lap where it sits for the duration of my visit. They’re living a simple but contented life, they have food and shelter, I just wonder if they don’t get lonely at times.
“Bye, I’ll see you guys again” I say as I leave. I go back to the house to fetch my sketchbook and a bottle of wine and a glass. I head down to the lake and find a spot to sit and sketch. There’s an old rowing boat on the lake which I use as the main focus of my drawing. After a glass or two and some sketches I feel drowsy and return to the house. Its lunch, a rest - then more walking with Carl; this time Sherry comes along as well. A bunch of excitable dogs come with.
Isn’t life good on the farm I think before nodding off to sleep that night, I could do this forever!
A few days pass, I’ve explored the farm extensively, the buildings too. I haven’t had a really long walk yet though, I’m planning to do so the following week. It’s Sunday; at breakfast Sherry gets my attention; “we’re thinking of playing tennis in town this afternoon, Janice a friend of ours is going to join us – would you like to come along too then we can play doubles?” she asks.
“Err, I haven’t played tennis since my school days, I don’t think I’ll be much good” I venture in reply.
“Oh, it’s not Wimbledon or anything, we’re not the greatest of players, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!”
“Oh, okay, I’ll give it my best shot, count me in” I say, somewhat cautiously.
The local tennis club is in the local town not too far from the farm. We meet Janice who, like me is in her thirties. She’s going to be my tennis partner for the afternoon; I’m feeling glad I agreed to come along. The only problem is I can barely play any more - I’ve lost the ability to get the ball over the net most of the time and many of my shots are off course. The apologies pour out of me virtually every time I make a faux par.
Janice just laughs; “don’t take it too seriously, we’re here to enjoy the game, I’m sure you were good at it at school.”
“I was quite good at school, but not any more I’m afraid; my arm feels like it wants to fall off!”
“We’ll stop just now, I’m feeling quite pooped myself.”
“Sherry and I can play forever!” Carl says jokingly.
Eventually we pack it in, I’m relieved – I think I would like to see more of Janice during my stay. I plan to get her phone number from Carl when we get home. Later he tells me they thought Janice and I would make a good match, a couple, that’s why they invited her to tennis.
The only problem is, she lives here and I live hundreds of kilometres away. I’m jumping ahead now, I hardly know her.
I go down to the stream quite often after this and drink more wine and do more sketching. One day Carl says that he and Sherry have to go away for two days, they have to visit a relative. He has a good workman who will run the farm in his absence, I will just be required to take phone calls and keep a general eye on things. I’m thinking I should invite Janice over for the day while they’re away.
Janice will come over the following day to visit. That evening I make my own supper and find a movie to watch amongst their collection of DVD’s. About ten I go to my room to get ready for bed and suddenly the place is plunged into darkness. It’s total blackout, I can’t see a thing. I remember I have a torch but it’s in my suitcase which is in the cupboard. I fumble my way over to the cupboard all the while putting my arms out in front of me to find anything solid. Eventually I find the cupboard, my suitcase, and scratch around in it for my flashlight. I find it and switch on.
Here I am all alone in a remote farmhouse with no lights and don’t know where the candles or kerosene lamps are kept. I think I may have seen some in the pantry now that I think about it. A bit of fear creeps in; what if someone has cut the lights and wants to break in, rob the place and maybe kill me?
No I mustn’t think like that, the dogs are in the outhouse, they should protect me, let me go and look for the candles.
Just then there’s a knock on the front door. Now the fear is really mounting, I can’t think who would be knocking at this time of the night. I freeze and wait. There’s more knocking, this time it’s louder.
A gun, is there a gun in the house? Yes Carl has a few, but they’re kept in a safe which is probably locked and I have no idea where the key is.
Cautiously I make my way to the front door, taking hold of a large wooden stick on the way there. With torch in one hand and stick in the other I call out, “who’s there, who is it?”
“It’s Dora; our lights are also off, it happens sometimes out here!”
“Oh Glory Be! I thought the worst was going to happen, hold on a second, I’ll let you in.”
Dora and Sam stand grinning at the front door, I let them in and they help me to find lamps and candles which we light. We have a warm drink together and later they depart. I get to bed late and don’t sleep too well that night.
She Visits - We Talk for Hours
Next day Janice arrives, we decide to go to the lake; there’s a canoe there that we paddle around in for a while. We sit in one of my favourite spots and talk for hours. On the way back to the house we check up on the livestock and see that the workmen are seeing to their chores. I almost stand in some cow-dung; the flies buzz about us annoyingly.
Carl and Sherry soon return and every other day Janice comes to visit. I only have a week left so one day I decide to proposition her. We’re sitting on the veranda gazing at the amazing view.
“Hey, we kind of get along pretty well, don’t you think” I say to her.
“Yes, we do, why, what’s on your mind?”
“Well I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me, I mean, as a couple?”
“Oh, I can’t… I’m seeing someone.”
“You’re seeing someone?” I say, suddenly feeling numb.
“Yes, we’re going to get engaged soon, I was going to tell you.”
“Engaged… now there’s a thing, but Carl said he thought we’d make a good couple and, we're getting on so well.”
“No, I’m sorry, Carl said I should keep you company, nothing more. I didn’t mean to lead you on, I thought you knew.”
I felt as if a bombshell had been dropped on me, I’d got my hopes up and now this…
I Go Home
It was one of those situations where I felt let down but at the same time I wasn’t going to say much to Carl about it – I just wondered what the heck he had been thinking, maybe he thought I’d be a better match for Janice than her future fiancé. I’m not normally one to try and steal somebody away from their partner. So I just said nothing and decided to leave for home the next day. When I got back I flopped on the bed and slept.
© 2015 David Edward Lynch