The station wagon bounced down a dusty road toward the farm house, and Phoebe, who had just turned fifteen felt the pit of her stomach coil, and tighten with dread. Gazing out the window she locked eyes on a bored looking cow slowly chewing a mangled knot of grass. Phoebe wondered in that moment if even the cows were more depressed in Bismarck.
Her step-father, “The Glenner”, had been too cheap to fly her back home to Oregon from a summer camp in Minnesota, and had arranged for their local minister, Cru Hayward, to pick her up along with his daughter, Lizzie. Phoebe’s sun burned skin ached as she pealed it off the sticky back seat. The air conditioner had broken down in Fargo, and the eight of them were all squeezed in like a pack of cranky sardines.
Phoebe was going to be spending the rest of her hellish summer with complete strangers in Bismarck, North Dakota on a wheat farm complete with cows, chickens, and one grey mare along with Lizzie’s six cousins.
The car door swung open, and a large man wearing blood stained overalls with extremely bushy eye brows lunged toward them, “Why I wrecken’ it’s been goin’ on five years, Cru! Bout’ time you come home with the kids to work the farm.” He took an oily handkerchief out of his back pocket, and wiped the dripping sweat from his brows; appearing out of breath at the same time. Phoebe took note of how “Bushy Brows” had replaced the word “work” instead of “visit”, and suddenly felt as though a chicken feather was caught in the back of her throat. Cru Hayward looked stiff, and managed to put out his hand to shake Vern’s, but instead was pulled in tightly, and given a bear hug smudging the wet chicken blood on Vern’s overalls directly onto his brothers white Oxford shirt.
As Phoebe entered the farm-house a variety of scents wafted through the steamy air. Lizzie’s Aunt Doodie was nervously leaning over the kitchen sink peeling a large stack of potatoes so high they were beginning to topple off the counter one after another. An extremely obese cat sat by her feet pushing them across the floor with as little energy possible. Standing on a small foot stool in front of an old-fashioned *** belly stove stood, Trina, a small child around the age of five who was busy feeding a dog the size of a small pony. She appeared to be in her own unsupervised world; busily shoving strips of steaming barbecued chicken from a platter into its wet slobbery mouth, and then licking her fingers.
Phoebe glanced into the nearby living room, and noticed the walls were decorated with handmade plaques quoting scriptures from the Bible along with various cheap prints of Jesus; like the kind you’d buy at a church fair. Small miniature figurines decorated the home throughout. An open bible lay on the arm chair of a tattered recliner. Feeling self-conscious, and out of place, Phoebe tried to hide in one corner as she watched Lizzie hugging her Aunt Doodie’s belly wearing a hand-made sweat shirt with “Elvis” on the front. Gospel music was playing loudly from the living room. Phoebe mumbled under her breath, "Where's the donation jar?” Aunt Doodie’s eyes narrowed when she looked at Phoebe, “Did you say something, Dear? What’s your name?” Phoebe managed to croak out her name, and say she was just talking to herself.” Aunt Doodie gave her a wry smile, “Why you’ll have plenty of time to talk to yourself tomorrow in the wheat fields when we get you up to work at 4 a.m., Missy.” Her snarled lips faded, and she continued talking to Lizzie smiling big, “Now where were we, Lizzie darling?”
Phoebe already hated it there. It had been less than five minutes since she arrived. She began to think if she had a money left in her suit cases to take a bus home. She frantically dug in her front jeans pocket, and pulled out a piece of lint, and a dime.
Lizzie’s cousin’s all stumbled into the kitchen wearing clothing that looked as though it had passed through several millenniums of “Goodwill Store’s” in the 1970’s. Their straw hats hung low over their eyes, and Lizzie could tell they were ******. Lizzie’s cousins had all been stamped out by the same cookie cutter mold like twins. Their ages ranged from seventeen to thirteen, to age five. Trina the youngest being no doubt an accident. Marty, the oldest at seventeen, wearing a ripped Metallica shirt was the first to speak, “Lizzie look at you! Why you all but growed up on us. I bet you’s the most popular girl in school with that pretty face of yours”. Marty was handsome in a Emelio Estevez actor kind of way. Phoebe couldn’t help but lick his beautifully sculpted arms, and chest with her eyes; but when he caught her staring she quickly looked down at her shoes. She felt her face burning with embarrassment.
Aunt Doodie turned around swiftly on her bare heal with a large milk pail in her hands. "I'll be back girls. I'm out to the barn to milk the cow for supper. Don't break anything."
Twila was sixteen with black eye liner under her eyes, and red lipstick. She suddenly leapt onto Lizzie from behind, and covered her eyes while wrapping her large chicken fried steak fed legs around her. Her hair was curly, and extremely frizzy like it had not seen a comb in it for several years. Twila whispered, “Hey Lizzie, who’s your dweebie friend? Don’t look like she can smile much. Maybe our cat got her tongue. She looks like one of those uptight city girls!” Lizzie couldn’t hold onto Twila any longer, and tried to drop her down gently. A loud “thud” bounced the floors as she fell. The inside of a nearby china closet rattled as she hit the floor forcing a glass plate to fall, and break. “Ahh ****! That’s mama’s favorite platter.” Twila looked straight into Phoebe’s eyes, “We’ll just have to blame it on you, Phoebe. You just keep your mouth shut about it!” Ignoring that Twila had just accused her of breaking a platter Phoebe heard Lizzie mumble, “Oh, this here is my friend from home. We both went to summer camp in Minnesota together, and we’re her ride back home to Oregon.” Phoebe at this point was already imagining a large pig shaped nose on Twila's face; and not the kind that was cute. Twila glared, “Looks like you in lots of trouble now city girl”, and walked away with her cousins leaving her to stand alone in the decorated gospel room near the kitchen.
Phoebe wondered if she landed in some kind of Twilight Zone episode that had not been written yet. She decided to go for a walk all alone on the wheat farm until someone called after her for supper. Phoebe was lonely but she was lonely at home with her mom, and step-father too. They always left her to fend for herself, and her mother rarely spoke to her. Phoebe felt as though it was like living with two ghosts you can hear; but can't see. Besides, she had decided that this summer would be spent working on her writing. She had always wanted to be an author, after all, she had always noticed everything.
Her thought was broken when she heard someone say, “That sister Twila of mine is mean as a snake. Don’t pay no attention to her. To this day I feel like I must have been adopted. Hi, my name’s Shawna.” Shawna had a beautiful face, and was tall for her age. She stood about 5’8 with long blond hair making her look almost like a mermaid with her fair complexion. “My twin sister, Shaylynn, went into town to rent a movie for us all to watch tonight. We ain’t got internet. I think she said “Back To The Future” was finally available, or maybe it was “Jurassic Park”. Have you met Joel yet? He’s about your age. He’s always hanging around the bowling alley with them local boys. Don't know what they even have to say to one n' other. It's not like anything ever happens in this town.” Shawna seemed like the nicest out of all of Lizzie’s cousins as she reached out to give her a hug. Phoebe smiled politely saying, "If you don't mind I think I'm going to go for a walk. I think I need some air" while waving a quick goodbye.
When she returned from her walk she opened her journal to page one, and this is when it all began to get very interesting.
My Summer In Bismarck & Other Quirky Observations
by, Phoebe Snow
August 7th, 2015
The horizon seems to encircle this entire small farm as if someone drew with an orange crayon around it like a child would on paper, or perhaps with white chalk on the sidewalk. Everywhere I look it seems flat; and at night the moon hangs so low in the sky with the brightest stars next to it than I think I've ever seen in my fifteen years of life. Lizzie's Aunt, and Uncle, and all her cousins talk funny too. It's like they stretch out their "o's" when they speak. Kind of like hearing a bike tire that's going flat with a pin hole in it. It seems forever for it to finally run out of air; and sometimes you just want it over with as fast as possible. That's how they talk. I'm always finishing their sentences in my head ten minutes ago. These people seem so foreign, and yet I know them like a story.
Journal entry: August 16th, 2015
Marty has come into my room. He is standing in the doorway with his chest pushed out. He is seventeen, and I am fifteen. I know what he wants by the gleam in his eyes. I won't give it to him.
I got up from my bed, and closed the door on his feet. Silently. I left the scent of coconut oil on my body drift toward him. An invitation; but not yet.
This story is copyrighted and stored in author base. All material subject to Copyright Infringement laws
Section 512(c)(3) of the U.S. Copyright
WGA - copyright 2015
Act, 17 U.S.C. S512(c)(3), Krisselle S. Cosgrove November 27th, 2015
This is the start of a novel. Thank goodness for starts.