“Roof Top Farmer” by Luke Urban

2022 Honorable Mention | Rural Teen Writing Contest

Rain pellted against a glass window. “Another storm?” I mumbled. This meant another day wasted instead of working on rotating our crops and animals. 

How that works is, one season, we have the crops planted in an area and lets say chickens in another. The next season, they are flip-flopped so that the chicken’s droppings act as fertilizer and the chickens have new land to walk on. We’ve been needing to do this but its been raining for the past week.

I sat on the window sill looking out of it to only see water hitting the glass. The rain is pelting the metal roofing we have causing a loud roar. My dad walks in with a stern look on his face. He’s a rather tall man with dirty carpentry pants on and a blue plaid button up. He has a black cap on that covered most of his hair and a big burly mustache that he is proud of with bushy eyebrows to complement.

He leans on the door and shoves his hands into his pockets. Still with a stern look he says, “If this keeps going on, we’re not going to have enough money to pay off the ground floor”.

I just looked at him with disappointment. We were rooftop farmers. The Earth became so populated that there was no more rural land on the ground. To fix this, mankind came up with an idea to make levels of infrastructure. The city and the vast majority of people were on the ground level. Everyone on level one were farmers because thats were the sun would shine. Every 20 miles laid a dome that would open up for the people that wanted to get a cool breeze of air even though mankind had perfected that down below.

We chose to be up here, it was expensive, but we can’t do city life. Its too much for us. Up here looks like it once did in America so long ago. There are trees up here and even “wild” animals. They are all harmless and are controlled on how much they are allowed to breed per year but are sill considered wild. There are also roads that lead into small country towns. The only signs of existence of the city below are the domes that were previously mentioned and the massive exhaust pipes that would blow hot, city air into the sky. Luckily, we have mitigated pollution to a tee.

There is still some pollution but hardly any anymore. There are also the intake pipes that would suck in fresh air for the city. Down below, there is also something called the Projected Earth Sky System or the P.E.S.S. for short. It would project the sky throughout the day to all of the city dwellers so they don’t feel like they’re in a cave. All of this technology was developed quick which means that there haven’t been many technological advancements in recent times, so we were stuck with early 21st century technology.

My dad left and I was left to watch the rain outside my window get worse. I later decided that I had enough and turned on the T.V. in my room. I turned on the Ground Level News just to see what was going on. More stories of murders and robberies, it’s almost never anything optimistic. I change the channel to the weather forecast for the second level. Here is where I can at least sometimes feel optimism and I did. It should stop raining some time today. We may not be evicted after all.

I turn the T.V. off and get off my bed. I hop to the floor and walk out the door my dad was leaning on a couple minutes ago. As I go down the halls, I can’t help but to glance at the family photos. I stop at a particular picture. The picture showed my dad kneeling down to help a very young me plant a flower. My mom was taking the photo at the time. My dad wore a tan overall and had on a light blue t-shirt. He still had his mustache (although much smaller) and still had his bushy eyebrows. I wore a red polo with blue stripes and blue jeans. I was 5 then.

Now, I’m a lot taller. I look a lot like my dad but he says I act a lot like Mom. I don’t think so but he insists on it. As I dwell in these thoughts, my dad says “It’s starting to clear up. I don’t want you starting on the farm until tomorrow. I know you wanna get right to it but it’s far too wet out for any productivity.”

I nod. “Alright, Dad”. I can smell my dad cooking something. It smells like porkchops. Assuming that’s right, there are also baked beans and corn. I wander into the kitchen and sit sideways on a chair. “When do you think Mom will get a holiday from work?”

“I can’t tell,” my dad said without looking away from the food. “She says that it will be soon but we also really need the extra money for times like this”.

He’s right. The ground floor ask a lot from us here and in return we get the luxury of no busy streets. No weird-looking people. No weird social interactions. No artificial lights and weather. “Dinner’s done,” my dad calmly stated. “Go clean up real quick”.

“Alright” I exhale. I walk to our very basic bathroom that is just painted blue. It’s small but big enough to just fit a toilet, a shower, and a sink. I lather the soap on my hands and rinse. Instead of drying them, I just wipe them on my pants and go eat. We sit at a round wooden table with one chair empty for mom. Me and dad just sit there in silence. We’re not really much of the talking type, thats what Mom’s for.

After dinner, I head off to bed. The house gets really dark at night to save electricity which, in turn, saves money. I stumble into my room and put on some sweatpants. I get into bed and stare at the ceiling thinking about what needs to be done for tomorrow. I don’t get through the entire process without closing my eyes.

Bzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzz.

“Shut up,” I whisper to the alarm clock. I hop out of bed and put on some overalls and a t-shirt. Today’s going to be fun. I look out the window and see the land. Brown goo covers quite a bit of it but no standing water. The land’s quite pretty. We only have 15 acres overall with a tree line that surrounds our house to act as our border. In the far back is a nice little creek that helps supply our crops and animals with water. We have a few cows, a dozen chickens, and 2 pigs all separated and strategically placed for the next season. Today’s the day the chickens get moved so we can start the planting as soon as possible.

As I look at the chickens, I remember that they need food. With this in mind, I start grabbing everything that I will need for the store. My wallet, keys, and phone are the necessities. As I walk out the door, I shout “I’m heading to the market for chicken feed”. I shut the door behind me and get into my old truck. It says “Tacoma” on the tailgate and the Toyota symbol is very much still there. The truck is green and has scratches here and there and rust under the door. I get into the truck. The seats are ripped, the floor mats are still there and decently clean. The interior is tan with a black accent. I push a button to start the vehicle and I am welcomed by a purr from the engine.

I sit there and imagine what it must have looked like in 2020 when it was first manufactured. It must’ve looked stunning. I’m on dirt roads on my way to the market. I have my elbow out the window and can feel the warmth of the sun. The skies are blue with clouds spaced out. The grass looks very green and the trees look lush with leaves. I see figures up on the road and I slow down. The dust catches up to me and I can’t see anything, so I stop. Amidst the dust I can see 3 people standing and looking down on a person laying down. I get out and see what’s going on.

“…get up from the ground city girl”

“Get away from me!”

“She’s a feisty one”. The dust clears up and I see 2 teenage boys and a teenage girl standing in front of a smaller girl thats around the same age. The two boys both are wearing plaid button ups and blue jeans. The one on the furthest right has an orange plaid while the one in the middle is wearing a blue one. Orange Shirt has curly brown hair and was taller than Blonde, Blue Shirt. The girl standing has black hair with a grey t-shirt and jorts (Shorts made of denim). Little Blue Shirt started grabbing her arm.

“Hey!” They all turned and looked at me. I should feel intimidated especially since they outnumber me but I don’t. “Get away from her if you know what’s good for ya”. They all started to walk towards me. I feel the passenger floor board and feel a handle. I pull out a large knife and they start to falter.

“He’s not worth it, let’s get outta here”.

“Yea yea”.

As I see them hit the horizon, I go see the girl who is now sitting up. “I had it, they weren’t going to do anything to me” the girl on the ground, who had a bruise on her eye, said.

“Sure looked like it” I snickered. I reach out my arm, “Drew Attingburg at your service”.

“Sandra Dewberry”.

“Nice to meet ya ma’am”. She’s now on her feet. She had brown hair and dark clothes. She also had sneakers on. That’s a little odd.

“Why were they pickin’ on ya?” I asked.

“Well, I’m new here and they don’t like the fact that I’m from the city”.

That rarely happens that only happens when…

“I can trust you right?” she says.

“I believe you can, I did just save you” “Well, I’m new here because my father got tired of the city and paparazzi. He did, after all, create the P.E.S.S. and would be very glad if he heard someone such as yourself saved his daughter”.

Really? Her? Here? This is crazy, her dad could save my family from going back down. We would never have to worry again. “Well, I would be more than happy to meet him”.

Luke Urban is an early graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indiana. He is currently training in the Air Force.

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