Chickenshit – Crisis #2 Laid Back Farm Life

Crisis #2 Laid Back Farm Life

January 18, 2013

I know Bill said a bunch of other stuff, but I didn’t hear a bit of it. I thought maybe Dad would leave me a token item, a children’s book he used to read to me, or a hat or something. I just assumed he had an apprentice or someone else to give the farm to. I never once indicated any interest in farming, his or anyone else’s. I wouldn’t even have the first idea on where to start. Mom was keen to point out that Dad didn’t start out life as a farmer, he had to figure it all out from books, advice, and trial and error – “lots of error,” she emphasized.

They met when he was in his late forties and Mom was in her mid-twenties, and they decided to drop out of the rat race and homestead out in Idaho. Dad loved the science of farming and took to it right away, having left his job because he’d been promoted from repairing office copiers into what was essentially a sales job. He always had a computer job of some sort, but they still needed some reliable income, so Mom returned to Nursing as a floater at the hospital in Emmett. She eventually was hired by a pharmacy clinic in Boise, and by the time I was four, my parents barely saw each other. Mom and I moved in with her mom for a couple of years until she got a much better job as an OB-GYN nurse in Sacramento, where I went to school 2nd grade through 12th. With no mouths but his own to feed, my dad could make enough to just get by, so he kept pushing on.

Clearly I’m going to sell the farm, but how? I begged Mom to stay and help me figure out what to do. After she stopped laughing and wiped away a few tears, she said she wouldn’t touch this adventure with a ten-foot pole. So she wished me the best of luck and left. Note to self: Find a sketchy nursing home to threaten Mom with.

A couple of days ago, I went into Bill’s office and signed some papers, and he tried to explain some things about water rights and other services. I guess I’ll deal with those as they become important. He said he would have the deed to me in a number of days and assured me that there weren’t any liens, something I hadn’t even thought of. I have an appointment to go out to the farm with Bill and meet Dad’s hired hand, the other person listed in the will and the reason the place was still in such great shape. Apparently, my dad worked out some arrangement with him, where he does work on the farm and splits money on meat sales and produce. He can keep working the farm as long as needed, so I have a little bit of breathing room. Thank god or whoever for that.

January 19, 2013

His name is Elliot, the hired hand. He is about six foot two with dull red, moppy hair. He’s between 35 and 50, it’s nearly impossible to tell because his face is covered in stubble and he mainly just says “yep” “nope” and something I cannot decipher just yet. He works like a dog, though. Bill says Elliot will stay on and can do everything on the farm except pay bills and shop. For the last three months (Dad has been in and out of care that long), a neighbor has been picking up the items at a local co-op about once every two weeks and Bill had set up to have an invoice sent to him directly. She agreed to keep doing that for another month, but she is going to see her granddaughter in Tempe in March. If I am here, I will have to take it over and talk to Bill about accessing the savings Dad left for running the farm. I think I could handle that much, but I might have the place sold by then.

I asked Elliot if he wanted to buy the place, just in case there was an easy button on this situation. Elliot took off his hat and scratched his head. He grinned nervously and said something I interpreted as follows: “Yep, sure, no, but I got the place down the road and gotta take care o’, uh, my mother. I told Danny, too. Wish I coulda hepped ya out but nope, gotta keep Momma there, until I can’t. Happy to keep workin’, though. Alright then.” I let that ricochet around a bit and finally took it to mean he would have liked to have the place, but he had to stay where he was, taking care of his mother. I guess maybe my dad offered it to him first. I didn’t want to push him, not knowing the particulars of why he couldn’t have made a place for her here or managed both properties. But at least he agreed to stay on as long as possible. He lives about a mile away and walks over every morning. Maybe he has DUI’s or something?

We walked around the main areas of the place, and I met the dogs, chickens, goats, and a cow. The inside of the house was much cleaner than I expected it to be, but it needs a lot of repairs. I guess Dad spent all his energy on the animals and ran out of interest, time, or money when it came to the house. Bill says I would need to have a crew come in and work on it before I put it up for sale, but the main thing is to maintain the farm. He seemed to think a lot of the set up. Bill has a lot of respect for my Dad. They have been friends for a long time, since before I was born. He has been open and easy to talk to, but he did arch his eyebrow at one point and say, “It would be a crime to let this place run down. I know you and your dad weren’t always on good terms, but he loved this place, and besides, it’s worth more to you in good shape than in bad. Don’t worry about the small details.” And then he advised me to let Elliot teach me some things and then make my own judgment calls. “You let me know if you need anything. I mean, anything,” he said. He looked me straight in the eyes until I agreed. I thanked him for all his help.

After he left, I looked around and saw Elliot giving hay to the goats. It was getting windy and cold and I didn’t have the energy to interact with him again, so I went back in the house and, not ready to get into personal items of my Dad’s, I started straightening and cleaning the living room and kitchen area. I thought I would have some flashbacks to my childhood or something, but I didn’t. It might as well have been a stranger’s house for all the emotional connection I had to it.

Dad didn’t have many cleaning supplies, so I mixed a vinegar and water solution, a life hack I have used since college. Soon the whole house smelled like a jar of sauerkraut. I went to open a window to air the room out and had to prize it open with a butter knife. There was a nice accumulation of bugs in the track, and finding no vacuum cleaner, I wiped them into a towel, then wet the towel down with the vinegar solution to wipe out the stray bug parts. The window screen had a hole in it, so I grabbed some tape from Dad’s desk and covered the hole, and since the tape wasn’t sticking well, I tried to pull the screen out to tape the other side. It wouldn’t budge, so I went around behind the house, climbed over a stack of tires, and taped the back side of the hole. When I climbed back over the tires, one of the dogs finally noticed me and let out a monstrous growl, so I lost my balance and fell. It was not that big of a deal, but when I got up, I yelled at the dog to hush and decided to kick the offending tire, thereby finding out the tire was filled with concrete. CONCRETE! Who fills a tire with concrete? My turn to growl.

I hobbled my way back around the house and finished up the kitchen, at least the counters and floors. I opened a cabinet door, fully expecting a possum to jump out. None did, but there were layers of dust and unidentifiable lumps there, so I decided deep cleaning could wait for another day and gingerly closed the door. I shoved the vinegar and spray bottle under the sink and stood the dustpan and broom back in the corner where it belonged.

I took a kitchen chair over to the front window, sat down, and stared out over the driveway. There was a fake water well, the kind you see in front of old people’s homes, crammed with fake flowers, sitting in the middle of the turnabout. It was a little out of place, since my dad was not very sentimental. My car, an alien green Kia (I named her Yoshi) looked out of place, too, offset by the gravel, the swaying elm trees, and the flock of goats in the field behind it. It seemed ready and eager to zip into the crowded parking lot of my apartment building back in Seattle and chirp my arrival home to Ton-ton, my girlfriend. Well, I guess I mean my last apartment building and my ex-girlfriend.

“Sorry, girl, that’s not going to happen,” I sighed.

Sitting there in my dad’s rustic farmhouse, I could still smell dim sum from Happy Tai’s that I used to pick up every Saturday evening for our binge watching night. I cried a little, thinking about the two of us, curled up on the couch, making out and watching zombies or criminals or something else trying to destroy the world. And the whole time, she was plotting to destroy our little world. Her impending visa deadline propelled her to marry a guy she barely knew just to stay in the US. Never mind that she could get an extension. Never mind that we could get married, even though we probably weren’t ready, and that maybe that would make a difference in her being allowed to stay. Also, how could she think I would be okay with her going back and forth between the two of us? Didn’t she know me at all?

When I hopped in the Kia, I cranked up the radio, which was shuffling Vampire Weekend’s Oxford Comma, a song I used to sing ironically whenever I went to my freshman English class, and closed my eyes to shut out the pressure that was building.

I opened my eyes and saw a little grey chicken bobbing back and forth outside the coop gate in front of me. I scanned the farm, but Elliot was nowhere in sight. I know that sometimes chickens get attacked by dogs or wild animals, so I was pretty sure it needed to get back in the coop. Not having a clue how to catch it, I got out and started talking to it. “Here, chick, chick, chick.” It looked like it was about to have a heart attack before I even got ten feet from it. I bent over and started to grab it, but it flew straight up, exploded, and then reassembled into a chicken about five feet away. I repeated this a couple more times until it ran behind a shed and got trapped in the corner. I slid sideways in between the shed and a barbed wired fence, grabbed at the chicken and, finding only one leg to hold onto, tried to back out and not rip the chicken or my clothes or my body parts on the barbed wired. I succeed to some degree, only ripping my shirt and getting a scratch on my lower back. When I got out in the open the chicken, who looked woozy and had gone limp, worried me, so I tried to turn her over. She squawked like I was tearing her apart and jumped free. I almost cried but went back to the car to cradle my head in my hands for a while instead. The scratch on my back didn’t bleed, but it did burn a little.

It was starting to get too dark to see, when the bird reappeared at the gate, pacing back and forth like it was waiting for a doorman. I decided to oblige and try one more time. I waited until it was on the end of its pace, slipped up, and opened the gate. It eyed me suspiciously but quickly scooted into the coop. Voila! Bird in coop in only 45 minutes.

To recoup (re-coop, get it), I spent the better part of the afternoon cleaning a small kitchen and wrangling one bird, stubbing one toe, getting one scratch (still burning, by the way), and ripping a hole in my shirt. If farming is always this easy, just shoot me now.

Chickenshit: Or How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong

Crisis #1 


January 5, 2013 

 

Buckets of water. Carrying them back and forth, for whatever reason. That’s really all I remember from my time on the farm. My mom and my dad split up when I was four, and she and I went to live with my grandmother in Boise for a couple of years before moving to Sacramento. My dad remained on the farm, and I saw him only a few times over my childhood. He came to Sacramento twice that I can recall, and after that, it was monthly phone calls that turned into birthday phone calls.  

At twenty-three, I sit by his bedside at Freedom Plaza Respite Care as he prattles on about goat intestinal conditions and chicken mites. I don’t know why he wants to tell me all this, but it’s important, so I let him rant. He is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and could go on forever like this. Or it could be over tomorrow. He started asking for me, so someone tracked me down. Even though he hasn’t recognized me since my second visit and he sometimes calls me Shelly, I am glad to at least get the time to say goodbye and to keep him from being alone. I wish I felt something more. 

 

January 7, 2013 

 

Dad has stopped ranting and is quiet for long stretches, staring into space, sleeping a lot of the time. I held his hand for an hour and read to him from The Hobbit, one of his favorite books, as I remember. The nurse said that she is familiar with this stage and there may be few semi-lucid moments left. She said there aren’t any guarantees and we should call anybody who wants to say goodbye sooner rather than later. I left a message with Mom. She’s sure Dad doesn’t care about her presence but she wants to be there for me, so she has a ticket on standby.  

A couple of Dad’s friends came by today and told me how much my he cared about me. They told me how I was his “bucket brigade” when I was little, carrying water in buckets almost as big as I was out to the garden and to the chickens. One of them said Dad always told a story about how when anyone called me Billie the Kid, I would turn beet red and steam would shoot out of my ears. “And if looks could kill, we’d ‘a all been a goner,” he quoted. So Dad nicknamed me Outlaw on the spot, which seemed to appease me. I could hear Dad on our last phone call at Thanksgiving. “Hey, there, Outlaw,” he said, sounding every bit like Sam Elliot, “what’re ya up to on this fine morning?” I was barely awake and only half listened to him on speaker phone while I made my breakfast.  I wonder if he wanted to tell me how bad things were. I wish I had paid attention. 

Honestly, though, I wouldn’t have been shocked if they’d said they didn’t know Daniel Hatcher even had a daughter. I assumed he didn’t talk about me much, and I teared up, hearing their stories. 

 

January 8, 2013 

 

One moment of eye-to-eye contact. It is impossible to know if he knows who I am. He could only mutter under his breath, and I can’t understand what he is saying. Mom is on her way, thank Goddess. Today was a hard day. 

 

January 9, 2013 

 

Mom and I sat on either side of Dad and held one of his hands. “Dan?” she said, like she was asking him if he needed a pillow, “Billie and I are here. We love you and want you to know you can be at peace, now.” 

How did she always know what to say? It was all I could do not to start blubbering on the spot, but I could actually see his body start to relax and his breathing grow easier.  

When she went to talk to the nurse, I finally spoke the words I needed to say to him. “Dad, I always wanted you in my life more and blamed you for not being there, but maybe I should have gone looking for you. It’s not like I didn’t know where to find you. I don’t blame you anymore. I love you.” 

 

January 10, 2013 

 

The respite nurse called to let us know that Dad passed away during the night. Mom is taking care of the funeral arrangements. I am so relieved because that is far above my pay grade. 

 

January 14, 2013 

 

I am exhausted. The last few days have been nerve-wracking. I have been staying at my friend Olivia’s house in Boise’s North End, and my mom is sleeping on the pullout couch with me for a few days. She arrived the day before my dad passed, and even though most of my dad’s final decisions had already been covered, it was still a lot to work through. I have to keep pushing macabre thoughts from my mind. I keep seeing these flashes of my dad in a Tim Burton-style filter, the way Burton blends love and sadness, creepiness and humor. It’s distracting. 

We had the funeral service tonight at a small church near the farm. The people were a bit backward but seemed to think a lot of my dad. Tomorrow, we are taking his cremated remains back to the farm to bury them.   

Mom will have to leave day after tomorrow. I guess I should start figuring out what my next step is, I can’t stay with Olivia forever. My life in Seattle is kinda screwed up, so do I move here to Boise or go back to Seattle and start over? I have no clue. 

 

January 15, 2013 

 

Life can sure throw you a curve ball sometimes.  

We drove up to the farm to bury Dad’s ashes under his favorite tree. The place is in an unincorporated area called Milepost, and the farm was nothing like the wild, weedy mess that I thought it would be. There are twenty acres, with over half of it covered with pasture and hay, but the area close to the house was extremely organized and set up for subsistence. I say that like I know something about it, which I don’t, except the chickens and goats fertilize the crops, the crops feed the animals, and the crops and animals both fed my dad. 

I was really starting to find a sense of peace about things after Mom and I placed the box of ashes into the hole someone had already dug up for us and we covered the box. The weather was clear and we could hear a small creek that ran through the woods. Mom told me a couple of stories I had never heard about Dad about our short time here on the farm. We sat on a ragged bench next to Dad’s tree, she said, “It’s strange being back here with you. You know, farm life is just not for me, but we did have some good times, here. One summer, we set up a fire pit, right here, actually, and we’d roast corn and have s’mores until you fell asleep and he’d carry you to bed.” She looked up towards the snow-tipped mountains wistfully. “Remember, your dad would play guitar and we’d sing those corny folk songs?” 

We walked back up the driveway and found another vehicle parked beside mine. It was dad’s lawyer/friend, Bill Conliff. I was surprised but yet not surprised when my mom gave Bill a huge hug and said how glad she was to see him. She ruffled his hair and smooched him on the cheek, in her gentle way, like he was her long-lost brother. He reddened a little but took it with a smile. He apologized for bringing up business, but he had heard she was leaving in the morning. “I’m so sorry I was gone this week. My wife’s mother passed on Wednesday, and we just got back last night. My clerk got you everything you needed?” 

“He did,” she said. 

“Dan and I talked about a year ago to square up all his plans. I think it took a while, but he did finally forgive me for leaving and going off to college. I know you plan to be gone before the formal reading tomorrow. I wanted to see you, and I brought these over.” Bill handed my mom a small stack of books tied up with string.  

“These are his journals from when you were together. He wanted me to give them to you personally.” He shrugged. “There may be some things you want from the house, I don’t know.”  

“I don’t think so, sweetie. I left that life behind me, but I will definitely read these.” She held up the journals and brushed his arm with them. 

“I’m not good at these feeling things,” he said, choking up a little, “but you know you and he were my family when I really needed one.” 

“Sweetie, you were like the little brother I never had. I mean my brother’s a little shit, God love him. But you know how much you mean to me and to Dan.” She bit her lip and pointed her head towards me.  

As I stood there wondering exactly what she meant, Bill snapped back to the matter at hand. He reached in his coat pocket, pulled out the biggest carabiner I have ever seen with about a million keys on it, and handed it to me. “Here you go, you’re the new owner. I think this one goes to the house. ” He leaned over and held one up between two fingers. “Maybe you can figure out what the rest of them are for; I don’t remember him ever locking anything. There’ll be a little paperwork tomorrow, and I can transfer the deed. Property taxes and utilities have been covered for the year, but there’ll be some other expenses. You may need to sell some hay or some animals to cover you until you figure out what you want to do here, or you can sell the place, although the market’s pretty soft right now.”  

“Wh-whah?” I stuttered, and my head began to swim. 

Mom raised both her eyebrows and doubled over in a huge belly laugh. She stood up and looked skyward. “Dan?!  You are still a piece of work!”

Introducing My New Short Fiction Piece

Hello, everyone!

To answer my last posed question, my partner and I, along with our son, sat out in the garden, next to the chicken coops and watched the eclipse. We had 1 minute, 46 seconds of totality, and I wish it could last forever. As the light diminished, the temperature dropped, and a gentle shade fell across the melon patch, we three sat in amazement, experiencing a phenomenal event together. I took some photos with my phone, more to remind me of the day than to represent anything. Several images of the corona and crescent shapes scattered across the ground have appeared online that make my camera’s images look like crayon drawings. The shadows seen falling on our garden could be from any sunset, the goats peeking out of the barn could be any morning, although on that day it was at the wrong time. But every time I look at MY photos, I will go back to that experience of blazing sun giving way to cool shade, returning to blazing sun, all within the matter of a few minutes. I will remember the three of sitting there with those ridiculous glasses plastered to our faces saying “Ohhh” in unison as totality gave way. What a beautiful moment to share! Sorry for being sappy.

To celebrate the release of my first novel, Lookout Butte, on Amazon and Kindle, I am kicking off a short fiction piece called Chickenshit: Or How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong. I will share it today in a separate post.

The story begins with our hero, Billie Hatcher, an urban recent college grad, coming back to a home she left when she was only four, to a father she barely knows. He is dying. Her life in Seattle is in shambles and she is not just at a crossroads in her life, but a ten lane interchange with merge lanes, tolls, and roundabouts. Life is complicated; it doesn’t lob one ball at you at a time. Billie is facing a lot of curve balls she is just not prepared for. I hope you like it.

I appreciate your interest in my blog. I see where a bunch of you have signed up to follow my blog, but I noticed there were no comments. I went in and checked the settings and found the comment function was turned off. I think it is fixed now, so please send your comments. Sorry, my lack of IT skills is a stumbling block. Maybe that will be a plot point I will use in the future.

Until next time.

What Do Lesbians Do During An Eclipse?

At Flying M in Nampa, after a brief frenzied run through Boise. Rush hour looked like there was may be some Eclipse traffic added.

I am very excited about meeting people tomorrow at Ontario Saturday Market to share and sign copies of Lookout Butte . I have special laminated bookmarks and eclipse stickers for those who buy my book.  So far, I have gotten great feedback and look forward to hearing more.

Here is the link to the preview on Amazon.com. If it does not work for some reason, just cut and paste it into your browser.

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B074D8BFHP&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_sk5LzbJ3EF7XG

Steph and I sell used books at the market and just picked up about 80-100 books, including cookbooks and some novels I personally recommend. The Ontario Market is open special hours tomorrow, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Sunday.

In the upcoming volume, Kat and Alex are working through their next rite of passage, and then the next, and then the next. So much is going on in this part of their relationship, they will need at least one great moment of serenity. If you are looking for uncomplicated characters and plots, Alex and Kat are not the couple to follow. I do wish I could go float the river with them, though.

Welcome Readers!

Right off the bat, I want to let you know that I appreciate you letting me share my stories with you, and I hope to hear a lot of questions and remarks. I will label topics here so you can skip if you get bored. Being my first post, it will be a little lengthier.

P.S. I hope you pick up on my sometimes ironic tone right way, or things could be a little awkward.

Purpose of Blog (i.e. why you would even want to read it)

I will occasionally post passages from Lookout Butte and the upcoming second novel as I am writing it. I would love to have more interaction with readers. I welcome input, but understand, posts attacking other readers or myself will be deleted. My characters are flawed individuals, and I am a flawed writer. I own it, so just no front-stabbing, please. Back-stabbing… we’ll see.

In just a few days, I will soon start posting weekly segments of my short fiction piece called Chickenshit: Or How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong. Starting with Crisis #1, Billie Hatcher’s sheer ineptitude will make you want to shake your head and wonder how people like her get by in this world. Her girlfriend, Ton-ton, has done an unforgiveable thing, her career path is getting fucked with, and now, her father’s death could rearrange all of Billie’s plans. At 22, she is ill-prepared for making decisions that could affect the rest of her life, the lives of other people, and the future of a small farm in Southern Idaho.

Me, Rambling on About Writing

I have been a writer for thirty-something years in the way that many of you may be an avid swimmer or dog walker (or maybe a writer, too), with an occasional article being published here or there. I am constantly drawn to it, but I have told myself that practicality, fear of failure, fear of success, and other commitments were adequate reasons to avoid writing. The process of writing Lookout Butte has confirmed a creative drive in me that I can no longer push down and ignore. Much like the liberation I felt when coming out, having done this and survived, I cannot go back to pretending this side of my life does not matter. It matters a great deal to me, and I hope the characters and stories I present have some impact, if only to entertain a reader who is looking for LGBTQ characters who live real lives, feel real pain, and don’t always die in some horribly salacious manner. (This has happened in so many books and movies, up to the movie I watched two days ago.)

Plugging Ways to Buy My Book

Lookout Butte is now available on Kindle and Amazon (Matchbook allows you to add the ebook for .99). The paperback is also for sale on CreateSpace, and I get a larger return on each book sold from them.  I keep some copies on hand, in case you prefer buying the book in person and/or having me sign it. Please come to one of my events or contact me directly if you would like a copy from me.

 

Where I’ll Be

My partner and I have a used books/farm booth at the Ontario (Oregon) Saturday Market most weekends, and my first book signing will be there this Saturday, August 19th, from 10 a.m. to sometime after 5 p.m. If the music’s good and we’re not exhausted, we might stay later. I will post any upcoming events or signings here and on Facebook.

I would not say Ontario is the height of diversity, but I haven’t encountered any negativity here since we started our booth a few weeks ago. In some ways, the lack of diversity makes me want to participate here even more than in more urban areas (another reason I would like to see you there). That, and it is the community where my family lives and I want to support it.

I have a signing in the works for Boise, possibly next month.

 

Me and Lucy