Runner-Up | Rural Teen Writing Contest
Looking out the window I see the faint light of the sun cresting the horizon. The lush green fields are ever so slightly kissed by the colorful mix of the morning sunrise. My father is already up and about feeding the animals out in the distance. I get up to do my morning routine and go help him on the farm a bit, until I head into town.
I live in a small town where cars dominate the roads but it isn’t uncommon to see a horse hitched outside a shop every once in a while. Everything is within walking distance in town and everyone seems to know each other by name. Often I ́ll be greeted by old ladies as I exit the market and we ́ll engage in a short-winded conversation about how much I’ve grown.
Today however, is a special day. Today is the day before the week-long town festival. Everyone always seems to enjoy the festival, it’s a chance to engage in the company of others in a social and more relaxed atmosphere, rather than the monotony of everyday work and the serious tone of early adult life. Almost everybody in town is at the festival every night of the week, so of course, it is important to make a good impression. However, as important as the festival is, I need to get to work.
I drive to my job, a small diner in the middle of town, and start my shift like I do every morning. Put on my apron and stand behind the register taking orders for breakfast. People are pretty happy in this town – we don’t have much trouble, nobody has ever tried to rob the bank, we ́ve only had 3 home break-ins in the 4 generations that this town has been here. Everybody is always really nice and friendly. At lunch, midway through my shift, a girl walks through the door with a few of her friends. Beauty seems to emanate from her, the sun is just high enough to give her a golden glow, her blonde hair blows with the doors closing behind her. She is like a single red rose in a field of dandelions. Despite her rather small build she shines in a way that makes the others seem dull in comparison.
I shake the dumbfounded look off my face before she approaches me and take her order. We grew up together in the same school, and graduated the same year. When I was around six years-old, her family moved into the house one down from ours. This didn’t mean much; she was still half a mile away, and there never seemed to be a good time to talk to her and really tell her how I felt. She was, however, a good friend and we made conversation pretty easily.
She comes up and we greet each other by name, she has a smile that is contagious and makes you feel both excited and nervous. “The usual?” I ask politely.
“You know me too well,” she says softly. Her voice is like music. I can’t help but smile. I turn to make their drinks but don’t say much after that for fear that I’ll somehow mess up and embarrass myself.
They go sit down at a table together and start talking and laughing with each other. A big part of me wants to ask her to go with me to the festival so that we could have a chance to interact – share an experience together – and maybe grow a little closer rather than just stay friends. As I’m thinking about the best way to ask and weighing my options, my manager walks up behind me and softly whispers “You’re staring again.”
I look away quickly and give my manager a short nod with an embarrassed smile.
“It’s okay, I was in love once too.” he says as one of the waiters takes the girls drinks over to them. I excuse myself to the bathroom before my manager can tell me a 15 minute long story about some woman he knew 30 years ago. I didn’t have to use the bathroom but I had to think. Was I going to ask her out, even with all of her friends there? No, too risky, but she seems nice enough around me, maybe she wants me to ask her. I’ve never seen her with a boyfriend in all the years I’d known her, maybe she’s flirting with me? No can’t be. She is this nice around everyone, even Hank.
Hank was the town’s most unpleasant man, he seemed to hate teens and young adults; however he seemed to have a soft spot for her. Maybe she isn’t into me, maybe she is, I mean she comes to see me in the shop every morning for breakfast but we never really talk past that. Okay. Maybe I should just go talk to her. I hype myself up in the mirror and prepare myself to go ask her to the festival.
When I get out and come back to my register I notice that she and her friends are gone. I go to clean their table and find a small $10 tip and a note on a napkin, thanking me and wishing me a good day. She was nice like that, always caring for others, always a smile on her face. It seemed that way for a lot of people around here. I didn’t know if I was relieved or disappointed but, with a grin on my face, I finished up my shift for the day. The whole day I couldn’t seem to get her out of my head. It seems that more recently I ́ve been focusing on her, that she’s started taking up a lot more of my thoughts.
After my shift was over, I headed to the store to get a few nice clothes that I could wear to the festival. I did want to take her with me to the festival but as comfortable as she made me, she terrified me all the same. I already had some nice jeans and a few t-shirts – what I really needed were some flannels, so I picked some up along with a pack of gum and headed home.
Once I got there my father was finishing up for the day so I got out of my work uniform and went to help him a little before supper. Mom was inside making her famous salmon and rice. We finished up in the field and went inside to clean up before eating and sat around the table just as food was finishing up.
My mom was a sweet, loving lady. She always wanted to help people no matter what it was, if she could help them in any way she could. She taught me this at a very young age and has been bringing me up in that way ever since. I didn’t understand at first why helping others was so important, but Mom taught me to think about myself in their position and think about how much I would want help, so I would always try to help others if a situation arose.
My dad was very similar in this way, but he was always very busy. Hardly had time to help others, and barely had the time to help himself. He wanted us to live comfortably and happily, but nearly worked himself to death in the process, so I would always do my best when it came to helping him with his work. Despite the humble nature of our home there always seemed to be something to do around the property, whenever times got tough or I went through some kind of trouble I would always find something to keep myself busy with to get my mind off of whatever it was.
Around the dinner table my mom started a small conversation, “Are you excited for the festival?” she inquired.
“I ́m not really sure, I-.”
“Are you going to ask that girl out?” The question seemed to be planned since we sat down to eat.
After a short pause I responded, “I’m not sure about that either.” Mom smiled as my face went red and I slouched back into my chair.
My dad chimed in “She’s pretty cute, I think you two might have a lot of fun. Why not ask her out?”
“Can we just switch topics?” I asked impulsively, “How are the crops looking?”
“Pretty good so far this year, no critters save for that pesky raccoon that keeps getting into the east side of the field.” We had a single raccoon that always seemed to get to the same part of the field every year. Sure we had other animals or bugs throughout the span of the farm, but it seemed this one raccoon (or maybe a family of them) specifically targeted that one part of the field, and no matter how many traps or barriers we put up, we could never seem to catch the thing. I mean, we’ve sent dogs on this thing and my dad even stayed up all night one night to try to shoot it but clear up until the morning there was no sign of the thing. Then later that next day, we noticed a small group of plants gnawed and eaten and when we approached we heard the raccoon run away. Dad was way too tired to chase him. “That darn thing has cost this family a fortune over the years. I’ll see to it that it dies long before I do.”
We finished up dinner and I went to wash up and do some light reading before bed. I loved my room because I had a window that perfectly captured the sun setting over the horizon each night. Then if I was awake during the night I could look out and see the beautiful stars overhead. Not living in a big city meant no light pollution and the stars are magnificent.
Sometimes if it was a weekend and we could afford to sleep-in a couple hours, I would drive a few miles out of town to one of my favorite places. There was this spring that flowed to a small waterfall, only around 8 feet tall, that fell into a pond. This small oasis was surrounded by a light forest. Fireflies were always around, and the clearing of trees around the spring was perfect to gaze into the night sky. The moon and stars reflected off of the water and the soft grass next to the pond was perfect to lay on.
I would come here on occasion when I was feeling down or was just not tired enough to sleep. Tonight was a good night to go out as tomorrow was Saturday, and I didn’t have much to do. I got in my Ford pick-up truck and drove out to the clearing. I had brought a blanket and a pillow to lay on. As I drove up to the clearing, I turned off my truck’s lights and got out to go to my spot, but as I approached I noticed a figure sitting there. At first I was a little scared, being dark and in the middle of the woods and all, but I was more curious than anything. I approached and it became clear in the moonlight who it was. She seemed sad, and had her head buried in her hands.
“Rosie?” I asked softly, “Are you alright?” She looked up from her lap briefly and tears ran down her face before she buried her head against her legs again.
“Hi, Matthew.” She replied softly.
I sat down next to her and gently placed a hand on her back to comfort her. I could tell something was wrong but we were not close enough for her to share it with me. She laid her head on my shoulder and quietly wept until we fell asleep.
Kevin Evilsizer is a senior at Franklin Central High school in Indiana.
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