FoundlingReview

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            She’s a wanderer. A drifter. Boarding buses that ride down back roads, camouflaged by fields and woods. Getting off where the road ends. Where her life begins again.

She keeps her bangs long and rough, a black curtain to peer through. A place to see before being seen. She parts her thick strands to watch fields go by—long rows of stalks that cover the countryside. Bright green corn ears bursting blond silk.

When the bus stops she finds her backpack, held closed by rusted diaper pins. Trapping the scraps of her twenty-eight-year-old life. She steps off the bus and pulls a sheet from her pocket. Finds the address. The one she got from the last farm, the last family. She looks down the road and spots the farmhouse. The bright red roof growing out of the corn. A still spot amongst the rustle. She crumples the sheet up hard in one palm and shoves it back into her pocket. Starts down the road.

 

          He is there in the morning. The farmer’s son—sixteen, seventeen. He wears bib overalls, a long-faded blue that’s almost white. His hands are large and rough and he’s holding a glass of water, fingers wrapped around till they join his thumb. He gulps and the hairs on his neck pulse like heartbeats. He stops when he sees her. Puts the glass down.

Hi. You new?

She nods, shakes her hair in place. Grabs an apron off the hook. Ties the thin cotton strings behind her back and steps away, quickly, when he leans to shut the door.

Working the kitchen?

She takes his glass from the counter, rinses it in the sink.

Yes.

I’m in the fields.

Her back is still to him—shoulders high. Neck tight. She sets the glass on the rack to dry. He tries again.

See you ‘round.

She watches him cross the yard to the barn. Feels a tiny flutter deep down in her stomach. Tries to wipe it away, absently, with the corner of her apron. 

 

           She sees him next through the grille of the chicken coop, where she scoops under warm feathers for the eggs she’ll need at lunch. He is walking between the corn, pulling strands of silk. She holds her breath and ducks, afraid to be seen. Clutches an egg so hard it breaks, spills a mucous-y yellow down her wrist. She wonders if he’s had enough to drink. If he’s too warm in the summer sun. But he turns back to the fields and she climbs out the door.

 

            The table sits in the shade of the farmhouse. The mismatched chairs stay out all year, in rain and heat. Their cracked backs and peeling legs a testament to their endurance. A reminder of their place here among the sunburned farmhands and rusty tractors. The tough and broken kitchen staff that come and go.

He steps out of the kitchen after lunch, mouth pressed against his sleeve. There is water in the fields but he prefers it here—in the cool of the kitchen. She peeks from behind her hair to see him gathering forks and spoons. Butter knives. Everything licked clean by hungry mouths.

Mind if I help?

She shakes her head. Hides in her hair. He follows her up one side of the table, towards the fields. She retreats down the other. For a moment she thinks this is a dance—attraction, repulsion. His step forward prompting her step back.

My parents aren’t back till next week…

She bumps her hip at the edge of the table and the plates fall. The dance stops. He rushes to help her and she gasps. Turns toward the kitchen and shuts the door.

 

            They’re gathered back at the table for dinner. Twenty-three farmhands. A tableful of old denim and muddy boots. She puts the last of the bowls on the table—potatoes and beets. Baskets of bread rolls. A stew made from scraps she found in the fridge.

She finds her way to the chair closest to the kitchen—the one she can get up from quickest. Twirls a lock between her fingers as someone says grace, mouths words she doesn’t know. They grab at bowls with an amen still on their lips, pass plates heaped with food. And she watches, one leg under the table, one poised to run. She watches and sees him looking back. The setting sun surrounds his dark hair like a halo.

That was great!

He’s standing next to her chair, glass raised. The others look at him and smile. She wonders what he’s said. If he’s spoken about her. She wonders if it’s too early to clean up the plates. To get away.

You’re a great cook.  

He brushes his hair from his eyes and smiles. She looks up through thin, sweaty bangs and tries to smile back. Runs back into the kitchen. Somewhere in the last light of the sunset he follows.

I wanted to say thank you.

He’s at the sink now. Leaning against it. He reaches for her but she pulls away.

What are you running from?

She looks at the floor. Waits.

No one.

He shakes his head and wipes his hair back.

Sure looks like you’re running away.

She looks at him now. Looks and sees his dark eyes, the lost lock of hair. She reaches out and pushes it behind his ear, gently.

But she can’t tell him. She can’t say that his hair is the same. Like hers. Dark and long and straight. Like her son’s. She can’t tell him that she’s not running away. That she’s running towards it, towards her boy. Running for years and years.

She turns her back to him and opens the fridge. Pulls out bowls of fruit. Cobbler. He tries to help but she moves around him. Piles bowls on a tray. Adjusts them so they won’t fall, so they don’t break. So the farmer won’t fire her just yet. So she’ll have enough money to move on. To keep running.

I don’t understand.

But she does. From the moment she saw him. The same, but different. Someone’s boy, but not her own. She knew by the way he stood—proud and sure and settled—that he could not be hers. That her own son would know her, would fit like the last piece of puzzle. Would feel like home.

Because they share the same hair, she and her boy. The same hair and the same father. And when their father gave him away—sent him out to the fields to become a farmer’s son—she knew she would find him. That one day she’d walk between the rows to find her tall stalk of a boy there.

She looks the boy in the eyes. This boy with black hair like her own—locks that tug at her heart. Break it. The wrong farmer’s son.

Excuse me, please.

She picks up the tray and heads for the door. The table is silent when she comes out, then the conversations start up again. The sun finally sets behind the corn and disappears. The porch light turns on and lights her hair from behind. Then he steps out into the shadows, head down, and finds his seat at the table.

         

Tina Wayland is a freelance copywriter, part-time fiction writer and 24/7 Mommy to a smart wee kid. You can find her copywriting info and a list of published fiction at tinawaylandcopywriter.com.




 


For some reason, I've been writing a lot about farms. I've never even lived near one, let alone on one, yet I find myself drawn to writing about farmers and fields and the colours of vegetables. The smells of barns. There's something compelling about people who put down roots in a place where they work to dig roots up, year after year. The Farmer's Son is about a mother pulling up her roots to find the harvest that was given away. Maybe next time I'll write about the ocean.




 





  


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