Another character piece I wrote. The title makes good sense once you start in a little bit.
Pa won’t let me work out on the farm. Ever since Maxie fell off the tractor and got himself all scraped up and a few things broken, Pa won’t even let me near the equipment. The only thing I can ever do is collect eggs or milk Bertha and Patsy, but that’s it. If Pa catches me stalling out in the barn, he gives me a stern talking to. Maxie, Paulie, Joe, and Jeff are all older than me. Maxie’s the oldest of a square twenty-three years old now; he fell off the tractor when he was twelve. I was five then. Paulie is twenty-one, Joe is nineteen, and Jeff is eighteen. In case you don’t want to do the math, I’m sixteen.
Unfortunately, my life is about as boring as it can get. I mostly sit around in my room all day and study seeing as Pa only gives me about an hour out in the barn a day. Sometimes I get two if there are young-ins that need a-looking after. I’ve been working hard at my studies so that maybe Pa will realize that I don’t need to spend my whole days cooped up in my bedroom like a chicken in a pen, but so far, he’s taken no such noticing. I tried to talk to Ma about it, but she just said that it’s one for my father. So then I started nicking soup cans and jars of pickles from the pantry to do some weight lifting. Maybe if I prove to Pa that I’m as strong as at least Jeff, he’ll let me go out working. So far, no such luck.
So I sit at my desk and do my work. Sometimes, if it’s the right time of the day, I can see Howie mowing the lawn or bringing the horses in from the yard. I’ll watch him until he’s out of sight, daydream a little, sigh, and then go back to doing my arithmetic or reading A Raisin in the Sun. Some days, I wish that Howie would look up at my bedroom window and smile at me, and on some of those days, I wish so hard, that I could swear he actually does it. I don’t know, I’ve never been able to talk to him about it, and even if I want to, how do you go about approaching someone about a topic like that?
Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you folks don’t have the faintest idea who Howie is. Howie is Jeff’s best friend. Pa hired him back when Maxie first fell of the tractor to do some remedial tasks and help out. The employment just kind of stuck. Howie does all of the strong work that my brothers do now too. I always kind of had a crush on Howie. He’s always been handsome, even when we were little. His blonde hair is styled in what I’d call ‘the shaggy look’; it’s just long enough to dust the top of his eyebrows, but he never lets it cover up his brown eyes. And in the summer, when he’s out in the hot sun all day, the sun bleaches it to give him a sort of glow about him.
A light knock sounds at my door. I turn around to see Ma peeking her head in. “May, I’m going to get some fabric, and Pa and the boys have some stuff that they need to pick up too. Are you going to be okay here alone?” I nod. “Okay, just so you know, Howie may be coming by to work in the yard while we’re gone.” I nod again, and then Ma disappears back into the hallway. I get up from my position at my desk and look at the collage of photos on the back of my bedroom door. One depicts Howie tackling Jeff during a game of football, another is of some of the sunflowers in our garden. I pick my camera up and head downstairs, figuring that with the family gone, it’s a good time to go out and take some photos.
I head over to the refrigerator to get myself a glass of water before I head out, and I hear the screen door slam shut. I turn around to find myself face to face with Howie, who is gingerly nursing one of his hands. “Howie, what’s the matter?” I ask, concerned, sensing that something is wrong. As I he gets closer, I can see the blood on his hand.
“I cut my hand on the chain saw I was taking down to go cut some wood. It’s not deep. It looks worse than it is.”
“Come here,” I instruct him, walking into the half bath adjacent the kitchen and pulling out the first aid kit from underneath the sink. He follows me, watching as I open the kit and search for some gauze and an ace bandage. Then I take out a towel, run it under some warm water, and say, “This will sting a little, but you’ve got to let me clean it.” Howie nods as I take his bleeding hand in mine and put some pressure on the wound with the warm, wet rag. “There,” I say, avoiding his eyes, “and it even looks like it’s pretty much stopped bleeding.”
I drop the towel in the sink and gently place a few squares of gauze over the slice. Pressing them down with as little force as possible, I wrap his hand in an ace bandage. “There, good as new,” I say, finished with playing doctor, and I chance a glance up into Howie’s eyes. I want to look into them and look away at the same time. It’s a bizarre sensation. I can’t help but think how much I want to be with Howie, but then the other half of me butts in and reminds me that Jeff, and not to mention Pa, would have a field day.
“May,” Howie breathes, and I don’t like the way he says it. It gives me this knot in the pit of my stomach, and I suddenly feel all alert like he’s going to say something important, but at the same time, I don’t really want to hear it because I know it’s just going to be bad news. I look away as I let go if his newly wrapped hand and busy myself storing Band-Aids and gauze back in the first aid kit. “May,” he says again. The tranquility in his voice forces me to look back up to his eyes.
“Do you remember the day you went to your cubby in elementary school and there was a daffodil in it?” Howie asks me. I think back. It was a long time ago. I might have only been in the fourth grade, but I remember that day vividly. I asked everyone in school if they had done it, but no one fessed up. It wasn’t either of my best friends, Stacey or Milly, or of course, it wasn’t one (or more) of my brothers. They just told me that leprechauns did it. I nod. “It was me,” he pauses, taking a deep breath. “Remember when you made that necklace out of noodles for my eighth birthday?” I nod again, remembering how hard I worked on it and how proud I was when I gave it to him after we got off of the bus from school. Howie smiles fondly. “I still have it.”
My jaw sags a little bit in shock, and I feel my eyes bulge a little in their sockets. I don’t have time to answer though because I hear the screen door opening and Jeff yelling, “May! I’m back! Where’s Howie?” I glance, semi-frightened, back at Howie and flee into the kitchen where Jeff is feeding our collie Daisy. I’d forgotten she was here; she spends most of her time out in the yard with the horses or in the barn with the cows. “Hey, May, where’d Howie get to? Ma said he’d be stopping over while I went up the road to bring Ms. Maybelle her milk.”
“He’s in the bathroom nursing a cut hand,” I reply quietly. I realize that Jeff’s not really paying any attention to me because he’s just spotted Howie coming out of the bathroom for himself.
“Don’t worry about it, Jeff. It ain’t that bad. I just gone and took the chain saw down to cut some wood, and it slipped a little bit. The cut ain’t deep, and May wrapped it up all nice,” Howie explains giving me a little smile.
I smile down at the ground, blushing. Jeff starts talking to Howie, and it’s then that I know I had better book it out of there before I get in the way of things. That, or before Jeff starts ordering me around like I’m his servant or something. I don’t look back; it’s better to go unnoticed.
Today it’s sunny outside. It’s a cool day in June. I’d guess it’s around seventy degrees out, and the sky is so blue that it looks like I could go swimming in it. The puffy white clouds call me to dance on them, and the sun’s rays almost blind my squinting eyes. I smile despite myself. Why does life have to be so beautiful and so difficult at the same time?
I walk down our long, gravel driveway lined by a canopy of trees. The walk from our house to the road can take up to five minutes depending upon how slow or how fast you walk. Most teenagers hate being at home. I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t feel like it’s a prison sometimes, especially with how Pa keeps me holed up studying all the time, but at least I have the luxury of going for walks and seeing beautiful nature scenery. With how hard everyone works around here, they don’t notice me unless I’m in the way.
I take my time getting down to the road. When I finally get there, I notice the daffodils blooming around the pole that our mailbox sits on. Again, I smile to myself. Gently, I pluck one of the daffodils from the earth. On my walk back to the house, I cradle the daffodil gently in between my fingers. Ma, Pa, and the rest of the boys aren’t home yet, so I go into the barn. Patsy and Bertha “mer” their hellos to me. I give each of them an affectionate pat and check to make sure that they have enough hay.
Then, checking that the coast is clear, I head to the shed where we keep the tractor. The tractor shed is within view of my bedroom window, and every Friday during the summer, fall, and spring, Howie mows the lawn for Pa. In the shed I set the daffodil on the seat of the tractor, and I take out my camera to take a picture of it. I’m going to add the picture to my collage. After I’ve taken the picture, I shut the shed door, sealing the daffodil off from all light, and I go back in the house, hoping I’ll be able to sneak in without Jeff noticing.
I peek my head in the back door, listening for voices or any signs of movement. I hear Jeff say, “I’ve got to go out and feed the goats. Why don’t you start out on the lawn, Howie?” The voices and footsteps get quieter, so I reckon that the boys are heading out the front door. Once the door shuts behind them, I hop into the kitchen and scurry up to my bedroom to sit on the lookout at my window.
Howie goes into the shed. I wait expectantly for a few moments. He comes out, the daffodil in his hands. Howie looks up to my bedroom window, smiling. I smile back. He puts the daffodil in the breast pocket of his shirt and pats it affectionately. One last smile, and he disappears back into the shed to get to his work. As soon as he’s out of sight, I feel my smile turn thin and vacant. Whenever I look into those brown eyes, there will be the sadness of hopeless longing.
I don’t know that there’s exactly a lesson or anything in this particular scene. It’s more addressing the whole “if I like my friend’s sibling or my sibling’s friend” issue that everyone’s seen in some way shape or form. I personally more enjoyed developing the characters and their background in conjunction with the setting, and I hope I painted a lovely picture for you.