The Alfalfa Men

Submitted into Contest #132 in response to: Write a story about a teenager whose family is moving.... view prompt

1 comment

Fiction Science Fiction

She was kneeling, repairing the damage to the front flower beds when she saw the first one. He was on the far side of the field, to the east of the house, up against the hedge. He was walking slowly across the field, arms straight down by his sides. He was wearing a red cap, but she couldn’t make out much more about him. One of Bill’s crew, no doubt. Bill owned the land that surrounded their house. It had once belonged to them, a small farm where they raised chickens and goats. They sold eggs and goat milk, made cheese and hand lotion and sold the goat manure to the local gardeners. Of course, it was not enough to pay for college for herself and her brother. Her father had sold the land to Bill a few years back and it seemed as if that was the beginning of everything that had gone wrong in their lives. He was talking about selling the place and moving. Although she had been thrilled with the chance to go to college out of state, she regretted the toll giving up the land had on her parents. She turned back to repairing the damage her cat had wrought on this part of the garden. The flower garden was the only part of her mother’s life that seemed to bring her out of herself. Dementia had eroded all self-confidence these past few years, she retreated a little more each day. Working in the garden together she would talk about the meaning each of the different flowers had for wildlife and the power of their fragrance. The only other time she showed a spark of her old self was the anger she directed toward the cat when it did its business in the flower garden. To be honest, she had brought home the cat for her mother from the rescue in Phoenix thinking it would be a good companion when she was back in college. Originally, she had wanted a dog but all that was available at the rescue were pit bulls, chihuahuas or a mix of both. It spoke volumes about the quality and frequency of education of the locals that they would spend their time and money on dog fighting. She had settled on the ragged looking ginger cat that sat serenely in a corner cage while the pit bulls in the surrounding cages banged their heads repeatedly on their enclosures. The old lady at the rescue raised an eye when asked her for the cat, asked her if she was sure she wanted that one. She stuck to her choice and, after getting the usual feeding and inoculations talk, she walked out with the cat in her arms. “Watch out for that one, he can be trouble” the old woman said as she slammed the door closed and flicked the sign to Closed. Creepy old woman, with too many pit bulls in there, she thought. The pit bulls flung themselves with greater force against their cages as she had walked past their cages. But when she had returned home, her mother had stared stony faced at the cat, made no attempt to rub it. For its part, the cat stared back with no hint of warmth in his eye. It will take time she thought. However, time made things progressively worse between her mother and the cat. The cat had a strong preference for the flower bed, either flattening the lush flowers to make a comfortable spot in the sun or digging them up to do his businesses. Her brother pleaded with her to give the cat back, but the truth was she really enjoyed the cat and was already wondering how she would sneak him into her dorm. There, it looked almost back to normal as she propped the last flower back in the ground. As she stood up, she saw a second man walking toward the house. He was halfway across the field from the first one who was now halfway to their house. They were walking across a field of young alfalfa, flattening the young plants under foot. You two won’t be around for long she thought, remembering the hell Bill raised when some of the neighborhood kids had ridden their bikes into the same field and done quite a bit of damage. That’s his problem she thought. Her parents should be back any minute. They went weekly to her mother’s therapy session. It was painful to watch her get in the car to go to the weekly appointment. She knew her mother hated it and honestly no one could see any real improvement. Still, it was her father’s effort to do something. As she got to the door, she saw three more men marching slowly toward the house, around the back. Who are these people? She felt a mild anxiety, they all seemed to all be march right to their house. She wished her parents and brother were home (where was he anyway?). She thought about jumping in her car and driving around for a bit but felt a bit foolish. She walked quickly to the house and locked the door. She went to the front room. Six men were walking through the front gate, slowly, measured strides, arms by their sides. They were all ages, no signs or names on their clothes. She heard the crunch of feet on the back patio. She suddenly remembered the cat. Where was he? She ran from room to room. He was sitting on the back of her father’s armchair looking out the window. As she ran to scoop him up, she heard the first thud, then another, then another on the windowpane where the cat had been sitting. The first men to reach the house were slamming their heads against the stucco and window. She screamed, grabbed the cat and ran upstairs. She placed him on the chair and pushing and pulling got the bed across the room against the door. Her phone! She had it when she was working out front and with a wave of sickness realized it was in the bag with her garden tools. No way she was going back for that now. She looked out the window. A crowd, maybe fifty men, with more walking across the alfalfa field, were crowding around under the window, with the front row banging their heads off the wall. Blood ran down their faces as the leaned in harder and harder against the wall. This can’t be happening, where were her family? Maybe she could get someone’s attention on the road. She struggled to open the window that the heat and mosquitos kept from ever being opened in Phoenix. Then she heard feet on the roof and the same banging. She was so trapped! There was no one on the road, no one she could signal too. She looked around the room for something, anything to defend herself as it was only a matter of time before they got in. The only thing she could think of was the bottle of perfume on the dresser. It took five blows against the side of the bed frame to smash it and she felt the pain as a shard stuck out of her hand. She removed the shard and held the largest piece. She would inflict some damage on this mob before they were done with her. She looked at the cat. She heard slow steps on the stairs. You don’t have to die she thought. I brought this on you when I brought you here. She looked at the mesquite tree outside and made the decision, as the first head slammed into the bedroom door, to try to save him. She yanked on the window and scooped up the cat. He gave her hand a little lick. With a great sob she swung back and then launched him toward the tree. His body twisted through the air and at the last moment he stretched out a paw and locked it to a branch. Just as quickly he swung his body round and the three remaining feet latched on, swung around and off he took along the branch, across the tree and with a flying leap made it to the car and from there, he took off out the gate, dodging the men who continued to arrive at the house. She slammed the window shut and cried. Please go, go far! Silence. She waited. A sliding sound as one after the other men dropped from the roof, down on top of the ones below. They picked themselves up and turned around. Slowly they started to walk away from the house, she heard the feet retreat on the stairs. Crying and exhausted she crawled to look out the window. The ones in the field were walking toward the hedge. She could not see the cat. She collapsed crying, what have I done? She heard a thud against the door and screamed. The voice of her brother.

“Claire, what the hell is going on!” He pushed and finally the door splintered off the hinges.

“Are they gone?” she sobbed

“Who?”. He seemed genuinely clueless.

“The men, the men!” she screamed. “The ones that tried to break in, they had the house surrounded!”

Her brother looked at her, the way he sometimes looked at their mother when she said something out of place or couldn’t remember a simple thing.

“What did you do to your hand?” he asked, quietly.

She looked at the blood streaming down her arm.

“I guess I hurt it when I threw the cat out the window.”

“You threw the cat out of the window? Are you mad?” He ran over to the window. She let out a great sob when she thought of the cat. She rubbed the spot where he had licked her hand.

“We have bigger problems,” her brother said as he looked out of the window. Their parent’s car was driving slowly up the drive, their mother’s face pressed against the window looking at the comprehensively flattened and uprooted plants. Watch that one, he can be trouble.

February 04, 2022 20:50

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1 comment

Ambassador Rose
22:50 Feb 17, 2022

You had me in suspense! Interesting read... sounds like the beginning of a longer work, perhaps. I'm guessing the formatting issues are from the upload. I think the pace is good.


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