Remnants of a Simple Life

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Frame your story as an adult recalling the events of their childhood.... view prompt


Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction

John is currently reclining on a stiff modern couch. The apartment walls are bare and there's a sterile scentless scent. He recalls the home he grew up in, the distinct smell of life, and the wooden walls covered with memorabilia, amateur drawings, pictures of cats and dogs. Against the unpainted concrete wall there's a Rothko, depicting the essence of a sunset- stripped of its unnecessary details.

John was only 16 years old when he decided to move into the city. He saw the life of his father, his grandfather and great grandfather. Generations of farmers that only knew how to work with their hands. He saw on the TV the city as it rapidly developed. Metropolitan skyscrapers erected daily, businessmen screaming out numbers, movie stars, starlets and beautiful women, expensive cars, private jets, yachts, etc. He remembered where he grew up, the smell of jasmine that blossomed only at night. His first love, Sarah, a real woman, who walked barefoot through mud. Sarah crossed his mind often. She died tragically only several months after John left, his mother says she was heartbroken and that’s why her heart suddenly dropped.

Before leaving John made sure he saved up enough money, he also taught himself to read by reciting biblical verses. At his first job people were amused by his preacher tone and usage of “thou” and “shalt”. He caught the eye of an executive who gave him a position on the sales team. His “shalt” and “thou” speeches worked particularly well when selling to the farm-people, he’d call in right after the days harvest and exclaim that God has sent him as a messenger, and if they didn't purchase the stock he was selling, there would be famine throughout their town. That family, friends, everyone they loved would go hungry if they refused to obey the word of God. This worked extremely well and the farm-people would empty their pockets and purchase the stock.

Before leaving for the city, John had a talk with his dad. A rough man with skin folds that hung above his eyes. He took him to be a fool as he spoke in only simple sentences.

“Papa, I'm moving to the city.”

“What about the farm?”

“Farm life isn’t for me. I can become a rich man and not have to work with my hands for the rest of my life, like you do.”

John's father was visibly hurt but bit his tongue.

“Well that’s great, son. Good luck.”

John did become rich. After climbing up the corporate ladder, he began his own sales team that focused on selling church events. He knew the farm people inside-out and cashed out on their fear of God and hunger.

John sometimes drove back into the rural area in order to scout new church locations. Disgusted by the simple and drawl life-style. Over the years he'd picked up a city-sharpness, a quick step, he spoke to farm-men in a rush and didn’t listen to a thing they had to say. He passed by his old home to find out his father had passed away and his Mother was now taking care of the farm in her old age.

“Why didn’t you show up for the funeral?”

“I was busy.”

“Too busy for your father's death?”

She didn’t understand. In the city there are people constantly trying to get a leg up. It's like building a deck of cards, all it takes is pulling one out and it'll all come falling down.

He gave his mom a cold hug and sped off in a matte black Mercedes.

The air feels different in the city. It’s crisp, it makes you walk quicker. The ground is firm, solid. It’s a stable support to build a career off of. It’s the necessary foundation to progress in life. At the farm the ground is too mushy, too many hills. You can’t build anything there, only remain subservient to nature's wrath.

John recalls the train ride away from the farm. He’d only seen the city on the TV but he was in awe as the orange sun set over the skyline. Giant geometric towers sprouted from the ground. A city jam packed with action, cars, people, everyone was in a hurry. That day he was supposed to spend the evening with his love, Susan, star gazing in an open field. She wouldn't understand why he was moving to the city so he left unannounced.

John has been married 4 times in his 64 years. He’s now dating a young up and coming actress and funding her passions.

This morning John noticed something different. He looked in the mirror and saw that his eyes were beginning to fold just like his fathers did. The upper eye-lids hung and made it hard to see. He scheduled a consultation with a plastic surgeon to get that fixed.

His father once shared that when he was a young man that he wanted to be an actor. That he would always attend the theater when it came into town, and rehearsed lines while working on the field. It was an immature dream, John's father said, and from that moment he put all his focus into farming, learning what he could from his dad.

It’s a shame he didn’t follow his dreams, he had a beautiful voice. Sometimes during sermons he'd sing a hymn that brought tears to John's mother's eyes.

I wish I could walk outside barefoot and not fear stepping on shards of glass. Walking down through the plush green hill tops, finding the many cows sleeping while standing up. I miss how bright the stars shine back home. In the city it's never dark, neon lights bleed into every corner, illuminating the night.

I wonder what would have happened if I never left, if I stuck to my fathers side. If Susan and I got married, would she still be alive? I have no children and never intended on any either, they seemed like a distraction, but there’s something pleasant about imagining Susan and I in our simple home, with little kids running around, and teaching them how to care for animals, how to prepare the soil, how to love and live off the land.

I remember what they called me when I was still fresh from the farm, "plough horse," A stupid donkey that’s able to get by on pure grit and will. My boss once told me that I wasn’t a smart man but that I had work-ethic, and in this business all you needed to do was put your head down and keep ploughing through.

I saw that man as a father. He invited me to his house up-state, to go shooting, and spend the weekend lounging on his yacht. He introduced me to his daughter, my first wife, Autumn, and when he told her I would one day be a millionaire, she latched on.

I remember being shown a new way of life. Of plastic and idleness, as opposed to the idyllic charm of rural farm life. People didn’t laugh from the bellies but from their throats, they snickered, and made insults behind each other's back. 

When I was fired from my first job the office-floor laughed and rejoiced. “Goodbye farm boy!” “Goodbye plough horse!” I was prepared to go back home, sitting at the train station with my bags. While I waited for my train to arrive, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a sales opening and applied. When I was hired, I came in removing any hint of my background. I spoke swiftly, with a sharp tongue. I quickly examined people as objects and played to their emotions. I had a single goal in mind. That’s what got me to where I am today.

July 13, 2021 22:05

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