Storm’s Coming

An entry for Flash Fiction Friday

http://www.flashfictionfriday.com/2012/09/21/f3-cycle-97-crossroads/

“Storm’s coming,” Jebediah remarked, leaning on railing of the front porch.

“What makes you say that?” asked his elder brother Jonathan. He sat nearly motionless in his rocking chair, and if not for the response he just gave one could have thought him asleep.

Jebediah turned back at the older man incredulously. “You going blind now?”

Jonathan began rocking in his chair. “I see as well as I did yesterday.”

“Alright then, look at them clouds.”

“I see them.”

“Alright, now what do they look like?”

“Look rather large and gray to me.”

“Ya think they look like storm clouds, maybe?”

“I suppose they do, yes.”

“Then how,” Jebediah suddenly proclaimed, walking back to where his brother sat, “can you ask me ‘what makes you say that?’ when you got all that right there in front of your eyes that see as good as they did yesterday?”

Jonathan stopped rocking and scratched at his face for a moment. When it looked like his brother was starting to lose patience, he finally replied, “Suppose you were out working in the fields, like you usually are. I myself am nowhere you can see. Now where do you suppose I am?”

Jebediah quickly responded, “Probably out working somewhere else.”

“Alright then, that’s reasonable, because I usually am. Now say you didn’t see me all day long, even when you came in to eat, or to get some water, or to feed the animals. Then where do you suppose I am?”

“Probably doing something in town, then.”

“I’m not sleeping the day away in my room or nothing, right?”

“Well you ain’t sick, so why would you be. Since I was a little kid I never seen you rest more than one day a week.”

“Alright then. Now suppose at the end of the day, you see someone walking towards you. He’s got my hat on, and he’s carrying my gun. Who is it?”

This time Jebediah didn’t answer right away. “Is this some kind of trick question?”

“Just answer it. If you see a man at a distance with my hat and my gun, who are you going to think it is?”

“Well, I’m going to think it’s you, aren’t I?”

“That’s reasonable, yes, but suppose when the man gets closer, you see he doesn’t look like me at all. Now what?”

“Now I run to get my gun.”

“Why?”

“Because some stranger is coming after me with your gun!”

“But you thought it was me.”

“I did, but I was wrong.”

“Do you think, then, that’s just a bit presumptuous to just say there’s a storm coming, just because there’s some clouds that look like storm cloud?”

“Yeah, but, these clouds are a whole lot closer than the guy in your hat.”

“Maybe, but all too often people get tripped up because they think they see something coming when in fact it is something else entirely.” Jonathan stood up, arching his back and stretching his arms in front of him. “I mean, look at this field, for instance. In a few weeks it should be ready for harvest. Hell of a crop we’re expecting this year too,  enough to pay off the bank and then some. But it would be foolish of us to take it for granted. If I go out and buy a new tractor today on that assumption, what is going to happen if your “storm clouds” rip up half the field? What happens if parasites or rot sets in and eats it all up? Or what if it just ain’t as big as we thought it was? Well we’d be out of luck, stuck with a new tractor we can’t afford and with nothing leftover to pay the bank with. We could have made it thought this without too much trouble, but I had to up and buy a tractor, all because I was damn certain that everything would be just fine.”

“See Jeb, the simple fact of the matter is we never really know for sure what is going to happen until it does. We can guess and make plans and look at what’s happened before, and if we’re smart about it a lot of times we can get a pretty good idea of how things are going to turn out, but there are always the freak accidents, acts of God, whatever you want to call them, that come along and remind us just how much we don’t know about the future. And most of the time it ain’t a big deal. Like if Cousin Buford says he’s coming down for a visit and I think it’ll take him three days but it takes him four, that’s no big loss. I’ve no investment in his arrival, and it really don’t make a difference when he comes. He could come right now and it wouldn’t much matter. But once you stake your time, or your money, or your reputation, or, hell, your life on something, then you better make damn sure you know exactly what it is you are talking about. To look at Buford again, say he comes down to visit, and then later the Sheriff comes by and says he’s wanted for a murder, and then you go and say “oh my honor Buford would never do something like that” but then it turns out he did the deed, well then you look just as guilty as he does and they might just lock you up next to him. But even if they don’t, everyone will know what your honor is worth now.”

“Now I tell you these things because you’re a smart boy, but you don’t remember it very often. You got caught up in doing whatever it was you felt like doing, with whoever it was you wanted to be around, and either you thought it was all going to be just fine in the end, or you weren’t even thinking about how it would end up at all. Now I like you, I do, and I appreciate having you here with me, but don’t tell me that coming back here and working the family farm was what you were dreaming of. Or was it?”

Jebediah’s eyes turned downward as he replied, “I guess not.”

“Now there’s nothing wrong with working on a farm, else I wouldn’t be here, but there’s a difference between what’s good and what’s good for you. Now we didn’t always get along, you and I, but I’m still your brother and I paid enough attention to know that this isn’t the life you wanted. When you got big you left, and it wasn’t just because because Pa was an old cuss and Ma, God rest her soul, wasn’t around to keep things calm around here. You had bigger dreams than this place, and you were bold enough to go after then as soon as were able. The problem was, you didn’t think long enough about how to go about it the right way, and when everything fell apart in a way that you never guessed it would, you came back asking if you could stay here a while. That was two years ago. So here’s my question for you: how much longer are you going stay here letting life happen to you on accident?”

Jonathan let the question linger for a moment before sitting down again. Jebediah said nothing, and when it became clear to him that Jonathan was done speaking, he went back to his spot on the railing and stared back out at the clouds. Already he could see that they were starting to clear up, the afternoon Sun poking through as they faded. Eventually it would set, but not for several hours more.

“Sky looks like it’s clearing up,” Jebediah finally said.

“That it does, Jeb, that it does.”

6 Responses to Storm’s Coming

  1. Pingback: F3 – Cycle 97 – Crossroads: The Stories | Flash Fiction Friday

  2. Mike Young says:

    Nice teaching moment from Jonathan. He did seem to lecture at times, and I was waiting for Jeb to interrupt the flow for me, but maybe that’s their style.

    • AJBulldis says:

      Yeah, in retrospect a little break in the lecture might have helped this piece feel more natural, though at the time of writing I pictured Jeb being kind of in awe and a little embarrassed.

  3. Lewis Peters says:

    For different reasons both brothers definitely need to get out more! Well written.

  4. Joyce Juzwik says:

    Interesting how simply life’s lessons can be taught. Great character piece. Well done.

  5. Interesting use of voice here… sets a good tone for the hierarchy of their relationship. I would echo Joyce’s comments… this is a good character piece.

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