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The Last Corn Game: A Short Story by cam

Updated on December 24, 2015
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 175 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

John Deere Corn Picker

Source

Author's Note

This story is very close to the actual events of that day about 45 years ago when I was on the farm. Times have changed and I imagine most farmers are more safety conscious than we were back then....I hope so.

For those who have read my other short stories about my days on the farm with my friends, Rick and Rodney, I have a bit of sad news. I lost track of them after I left home and never talked with them again. Last week I found out that Rick died in 2012 at age 56. He was my best friend during my adolescent and early teen years.

The Last Corn Game

Three boys lay on top of the Yellow grain in the gravity bed wagon and watched the evening sky drain of color. Tom’s Dad was milking the cows and had put him in charge of unloading the last of the corn harvested that day.

Tom and two brothers, Rick and Rodney, were best friends and spent most of their time working and riding their ponies on the farm. They pushed their feet and legs deep into the corn, letting it tug them down a little ways before pulling them out and starting again. It was a game they liked to play as the grain ran out the door at the bottom of the wagon.

Gravity Bed Wagons

Source

Tom’s dad called him to get more ground feed for the cows in the parlor. He and Rick climbed down, leaving ten year old Rodney to keep an eye on the wagon for the few minutes they would be gone. The younger boy continued playing the game with the corn while he waited for his brother and Tom to come back.

“Hey Rodney,” Tom called out when he and Rick returned. “How much corn is left in there?” The two older boys waited for Rodney’s report, but heard nothing. Tom climbed the wagon’s ladder and peered over the edge. Rodney was gone.

“Where’d he run off to?” said Rick.

“Maybe he got hungry and went home to eat supper,” said Tom.

“Or he’s in the barn with the ponies,” said Rick. The two watched the corn flow into a metal box on the ground. An auger inside a forty foot green tube that reminded Tom of a giant praying mantis carried the grain to the top of the bin and dropped it inside.

Grain Auger

Source

The sole of a small work boot appeared in the gap between the wagon’s sloping floor and door. Corn flowed around it like river water around a boulder. Seconds ticked away before Tom and Rick could comprehend what had happened.

“Rodney,” yelled Rick. The boot slipped through the opening, but stopped when a pant leg snagged on the bottom of the door. Rodney’s foot hung inches above the turning auger.

Both boys ran to the wagon. Rodney’s blue jeans ripped, and his leg slid farther out.

“Rodney, no!” yelled Rick. He pushed on his brother’s leg, trying to keep him from sliding more.

“The auger!” cried Tom. I’ll shut the tractor off. You go get my dad!” But Rick held onto Rodney’s foot and leg. “Go!” Tom pushed his friend and Rick stumbled backward. Tears streamed down his face from wide eyes held open by fear. Then he ran.

Grain Auger and Tractor

Source

Tom climbed onto the tractor. Rodney’s leg slid again, and Tom turned the key. He fell to his knees beside the wagon, praying he had been in time. Rodney’s foot rested on top of the idle auger’s blade.

“Open the door!” His father’s words bounced off a wall of mental shock. Tom touched Rodney’s shoe. If I had taken just a second longer….

Rick pulled Tom aside and grabbed the wheel above the door with both hands. He turned it once, twice, again and again until the corn poured out up to his thighs. In the middle of the yellow flood were the flailing arms and legs of Rodney.

Tom’s dad scooped the boy up and laid him on a patch of grass. Corn dust mixed with sweat coated Rodney’s face and turned to a paste in his eyes. He coughed, sneezed and struggled for each breath.

“Rodney, what happened?” Rick knelt before his brother, tears still streaming down his face.

“I let the corn pull me down too far. “The more I kicked, the faster I sank, so I just stopped trying. I was hopin you would get back before I went under.”

“Rick,” said Tom’s Dad, “Go into the milk house and call your parents.” They gave Rodney water to wash the dust out of his mouth and throat and wiped the grime from his eyes, nose and face.

“I know it’s fun to sit on the wagon as it unloads,” said Tom’s dad. “But that was the last time we’ll do it on this farm. This could have turned out so much worse, and I won’t be tempting fate any further.”

A Big Pile of Corn....Grab A Shovel, Everybody

Source

After Rodney had taken a few days to recover, the three boys were camping out in the hayloft. They sat on their sleeping bags in the dark while pigeons cooed in the rafters.

“I just wanna forget it ever happened,” said Rodney.

“Maybe after you pay us back,” said Rick.

“Pay you back?” said Rodney. “For what?”

“We had to shovel up all that corn we dumped on the ground to get you out of the wagon,” said Tom. The smiles on the older boys’ faces were lost on Rodney as he sat in the darkness.

“You’re gonna be real busy around here for a while,” said Rick.

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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Well done Chris! I don't think you're babbling; it's a very exciting thing to be placed in a competition at all, let alone one which has so many entrants. Yes, I remember reading and commenting on that one.

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Ann, nice to hear from you. I just got an email letting me know that one of my short stories took 21st place in the Writer's Digest Short Story competition. I believe you were a beta reader for this story. It was called Working Vacation. Sorry to babble on about it, but this is exciting news for me. I don't know how many were in the competition, but I'm trying to find out. Talk to you later.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Bill, It is always a joy to make a new friend here on HP. I will get over to your profile soon and see what you have been up to. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Popped back to have a look at this one as I haven't been notified of much from you lately. Sadly, I haven't had as much time as I would like to spend on HP, either reading or writing but I'm trying to squeeze a few in. Family and house-buying take all my energies at the moment!

      Hope all's well with you.

      Ann

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I grew up on an Iowa farm, many, many years ago. Still enjoy stories about life on the farm. Thanks for sharing.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Get Rodney's last known address from he funeral home, and write a letter there. If he left a forwarding address(if he had moved since then and it has been less than a year), he might just get the letter. I'd love to see you reunited with your friend.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Shauna, thanks for reading my story. In the past I have tried locating Rick and Rodney, but with no success. After writing this story I tried again and found Ricks obituary. That is where I discovered Rodney was living in Tennessee, although I have no address. I posted a note to him in a three year old guest book connected with the funeral home. Maybe sometime he will see it and get in touch.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Ann, I know what you mean about falling behind here on HP. I took part in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenges which are very time consuming and have not recovered yet. Slowly I'm beginning to publish here again and to read what others are writing.

      I appreciate your words about this story. It was a troubling experience, but also very avoidable. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'll get over to your profile and see what I have missed there.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      What a scary experience! Thank God everything worked out. Boy, talk about learning lessons the hard way!

      Sorry to hear about Rick's death. Have you tried to find the others, Chris?

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Hi Chris! First of all, so sorry to hear about the loss of your old friend; how tragic that he died so young. My condolences.

      Secondly, I apologise for not having caught up with your hubs sooner. Life has taken over and dragged me off in different directions - fewer hubs and fewer reads I'm afraid. However, I'm hoping I can catch up with my favourites at least.

      You convey the suspense and the fear in this one; it must have been really terrifying when you realised what had happened. I like the humour at the end; it diffuses the tension.

      Brilliant!

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Genna, Thanks for reading and for the kind words about my old friend. It is a strange feeling to look back and realize we lost touch so quickly after all we had been through. It is a part of my life I will not forget. As I write these simple stories, things about farm life, which I had forgotten, keep coming back, like two terms in this story, feeding bunk and ground feed. I had forgotten those until I needed the names, then they came back.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Cris, I am so sorry to hear about Rick's passing...and at such a young age. Although the passage of time can lead us down different paths and we may lose touch, we never forget the good friends of our youth. I was on pins and needles reading this compelling story, and was relieved with the happy ending. Corn and grain do sink and one can suffocate or "drown" so to speak if they are not careful.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Thanks Miss Dora, good point. Thanks for reading.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Good story telling with a happy ending. Still in your memory, so remember aborting the danger.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Ruby, I am sorry to hear about that situation. Very sad. Farms are dangerous places for sure. Thanks for reading. Good to see you.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Thank you Larry

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Chris, this happened here not long ago. He was taken to our closest ER but his throat was full of corn they couldn't clear enough to perform CPR. Happy little Rodney survived.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very engaging story. Great read!

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Venkatachari M, Thanks for reading and for your words about my friend.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Much thrilling and exciting story. Glad to see it ended well. But sad to hear about your friend's death in real life.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Eric, good to see you. I couldn't agree more. I could write pages describing situations that threatened my life or serious harm, I imagine you could do the same. I encourage you to contact the old pards. Time has a way of rendering that opportunity impossible.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      It is just amazing that any of us over 50 and living in country made it out of youth alive. Great story. Great in it's truth and marvelous in the happy ending for the time. You make me want to contact some old pards.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      John, nice to see you today. My uncle was in a corn bin, leveling it out and began to sink. My father had to call an emergency crew to get him out. Thanks for reading the story.

      The NYC competition will continue into December. In Challenge one, I had a good scifi story that had some serious technical problems, least of which was a mile long, nearly unbroken dialogue. That is probably what caused me trouble at that point in the competition. The judges liked the concept and ending, but that dialogue part was too much. Challenge two turned out much better. I had to write a ghost story. Out of 30 people in my group, I finished fourth which earned me 12 points. With a finish of only 7 points in Challenge one I would have moved on to Challenge three. This year was better than last and next year will be better than this year.

      The important thing is what I learned in the forums. I learned that my writing has been loaded with what is referred to as passive language. It removes the reader from the immediate action. Words like as, was, began, started and ing endings can indicate passive language. Now I scour my stories after the first draft to find the passive language and make it active. I can sense a change in the pace. Now I have to learn how to smooth out the writing after making this major change.

      I appreciate you asking about the competition. It pulled me out of HP for quite a while, but I believe in the long run, it will make my participation here much better.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Hartford, CT

      Becky, thanks for stopping in today and reading the story. I believe farming is still considered to be the most dangerous occupation. My mother just told me about an experience my father had on the farm that I do not remember. It was so horrifying a situation it nearly makes me angry to know that my father put himself in that situation. Farming is very dangerous, but it is getting better. Thanks for you words about Rick. He was a good friend.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      The scary thing about this Chris, is that it is based on factual events, and I have heard of similar occurrences with much more dire outcomes. Sitting on grain in a silo has been a game for many a farmer's child over the years, but it is a dangerous one. Captivating story as always. Sad to hear of Rick's passing without you having known too. Has the NYC short story contest concluded yet? I'm interested to hear how you went.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      I have heard of tragedies like this happening and not turning out so well. Glad you got back in time to rescue your friend. I am sorry to hear about your friends death. Well written, as usual.

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