We enter the house and my momma says, “Where’s the heating oil?”
“Right here,” I tell her then hand her the tank.
We walk to my old bedroom and I turn on the bedside lamp.
I put a new bulb in my Ready-Lite. It works again and I’m satisfied. I plug it into the wall socket to charge.
We sit on my old bed and I cut my new flashlight out of the blister packaging. I then install the batteries and turn it on.
My girlfriend and I are amazed by the brightness.
“I really appreciate this gift you gave me,” I tell her, placing it in my pants pocket.
“It’s the least I could do. You’ve bought me a gift.” She says, pointing to her Baby G watch.
“But I still promise to pay you back.”
“I know you will and I am so looking forward to it!” She tells me with a sweet kiss.
My momma walks into the room and says, “So y’all have been screwing even though y’all aren’t married. How long has this been going on?”
“We don’t have to answer that.”
“Either answer me or find somewhere else to stay until the evacuation order is lifted.”
My mom then looks at my girlfriend and continues, “How long have you been committing this serious sin?”
My girlfriend breaks down and answers, “Since this past Christmas Eve. I had fallen so much in love with him and I’m still in love with him, but we had just learned on the news that a world war was about to break out. I was so afraid that he would be drafted and killed in combat without us fully knowing each other. I just wanted to seal my love for him.”
I look at my girlfriend and say, “You don’t have to explain to her or feel guilty about it.”
My mom looks at me angrily then says, “Oh, shut your mouth. You’re going to have a lot to answer for because of the way you charmed this young girl. I don’t know where you learned to do such a thing.”
My girlfriend then says, “He didn’t charm me at all. Yes, he does write those love stories and I find it very attractive, but I wanted him before I knew he wrote such beautiful things. I just thought he was so cute, so I started talking to him. At first, he was hesitant because of our age difference, but eventually, he fully accepted me. No one else wanted me because of my glandular problem but he loves me in spite of it, just like I love him in spite of his Autism.” My girlfriend pauses, then continue, “Any other time I tried to talk to someone of the opposite sex, they would make cow and pig noises, because of my weight. I’ve been dealing with that ever since I was eleven or twelve. When I told your son he was cute, I then asked him if he thought I was cute also or was I too fat and his response was that I was beautiful and not to let anyone else tell me otherwise. If he would have rejected me, I very well might have ended my life. He didn’t reject me though. In fact, he treats me better than I ever dared to dream. No one else was ever so kind to me, so I couldn’t help falling in love with him.”
I then look at my momma and say, “Remember how at one point I had written some stories and all the girls were impressed but their boyfriends were jealous, so they began to spread false rumors about me? I was just reminded of that today in the hardware store. It ruined my reputation hence another reason why I got out of this one horse town as soon as I was able. I’m immensely glad I moved to the city too because I met her and she brings so much joy to my life. All of the suffering I endured prior to meeting her was worth it.”
“You’re lucky those boys didn’t beat you up. Maybe they should have because then you would have learned not to write such sinful literature. All those stories do is cause their readers to have unrealistic expectations of their partners.”
My girlfriend then says, “He reads those stories to me all the time and I don’t have any unrealistic expectations of him, in fact, they usually make me want to love him more. My dad is going to help him get published hopefully soon and he will never have to work at his grocery job again. He is so miserable there, but he keeps the job so he can take care of me.”
My momma sternly says, “Work is supposed to be miserable to remind us that we are sinners in a fallen world. If you enjoy your work, chances or you’ll pay for it in the afterlife. Speaking of work, both of you will do chores while y’all are here to burn off all of that sinful energy. Y’all want to have the pleasures of a married couple, then y’all should have the responsibility of a married couple too.”
She looks at me and then continues, “Go help your daddy in the fields.”
She then looks at my girlfriend and says, “You will help me cook and clean.”
My girlfriend and I look at each other in distress.
My momma then says, “Go on, get to work.”
My girlfriend and I attempt to kiss each other, but my momma says, “Uh-uh, none of that.”
I sulk, then walk out the room, down the hall and out the back door.
I walk through the fields looking for my dad.
It’s cold and damp so I walk to the barn. I enter and turn my new flashlight on.
Suddenly, I hear my dad’s voice, “Wow that flashlight sure is bright for being so small. Where did you get it?”
“My girlfriend bought it for me at the hardware store.”
“That was awful nice of her.”
My dad pauses, then continue, “You’re very lucky to have her, so do everything in your power to keep her.”
“Believe me, I will. I love her so much.”
“She obviously loves you too! It’s as if our prayers have been answered.”
“Y’all have been praying that I find someone.”
“Both me and your momma.”
“Well, then why is she so angry at me?”
“She just doesn’t like to see you all grown up, that is all.”
“You’re probably going to get an earful from several folks in town about my girlfriend and I fornicating.”
“Who are they to judge? How many of them have committed the much worse sin of adultery? We’re all sinners, that’s why Christ went to the Cross, to begin with. I’ve told you that all your life. Now if you did fornicate with this girl and you do indeed love her, then, y’all must get married as soon as possible.”
“Believe me I would if I could afford a decent ring.”
“At least your heart is in the right place, just think of how many young men your age would screw a girl and then leave her the next day.”
“I would never dream of doing that to her. I want her by my side forever!”
“She’s a keeper, that’s for sure. And she bought you that flashlight, I think it is at least as bright as the screw top lantern I keep in here.”
“You still have that old lantern?”
“It’s in here somewhere. I remember you used to come in here to play with it when you were small. I told you to not turn on the main bulb because it runs down the battery quickly, but you could turn the red signal light on.”
My dad reaches into the dark corner of the barn, retrieves the old lantern and hands it to me.
“I always wanted to do some research about this lantern online, but there was no model number written on it that I could remember.”
“I think it is an Energizer 231, or something like that, but I’m not sure. A new battery costs more than the lantern itself these days. So what brings you here?”
“Momma insists that I do chores and she told me to help you with whatever you’re doing.”
“Well the soybean planting is coming up next month, so I’m trying to get all of my equipment in good working order.”
“So what would you want me to do to help you?”
“Well, I have to change the oil and fluids in my tractor and I could always use a hand with that. First of all, go to the breaker panel and turn the lights on.”
“I’m on it.”
I turn the barn lights on, then ask my dad, “Are they still on the shelving unit I made in shop class?”
“They sure are, of course, it might not be as organized as it was when you lived here.”
“I guess that’s one of my more beneficial quirks.”
“You call it a quirk, but I find it useful. I also always appreciated how you were like a walking talking encyclopedia.”
“Well there is one quirk that I have been trying my best not to do and that is yelling at selfish drivers. It takes every ounce of strength in me not to do it though.”
“Oh, I remember how mad you used to get when you were behind the wheel and someone didn’t drive right. What’s made you change?”
“The desire to not use coarse language in front of my girlfriend; I’ve never uttered a single curse word in her presence and I hope to God that I never will.
“You’ve come a long way, because I always knew when the computer was giving trouble, by hearing you curse.”
“Well, when I was trying to write stories or read online articles and the computer would crash at the worst possible time.”
“Yes or if you were listening to the radio during a thunderstorm.”
“Momma would say that the more I would curse the more God would make the lightning flash.”
“I didn’t agree with her saying that and I was always worried that she would turn you off to God.”
“For years I was turned off to Him until I realized how much of a sinner I truly was and how He loved me in spite of it and the great lengths He went to in order to save me. It’s basically what you’ve taught me all these years.”
“Well I’d like to think I did something right, now come on, let’s get those fluids changed. I need that gallon jug of transmission and hydraulic fluid and every quart bottle of the 20 weight oil on the shelf.”
I retrieve the fluid and oil.
My dad then says, “Now go get two five gallon buckets, one to put the spent transmission and hydraulic fluid and the other to put the spent oil.”
“It’s illegal to dump these,” I tell him.
“I don’t dump them. I save them and I use them to coat all of my tools to keep them from rusting. It’s cheaper than buying all those fancy lubricants.”
“Wow, I never thought to do that.”
“It’s an old trick of the farming trade.”
My dad opens up the access points on his tractor then drains the oils and fluids into the buckets.
Afterwards, he pours the new oil and fluids into the tractor then puts new filters on.
He starts up the tractor and says, “Purrs like a kitten, she does.”
“That was quick. I’m sure momma won’t let me off this easy, so what else can I do to help you?”
“You can organize the whole barn like you did when you were a little boy. It’s gotten in disarray since you moved out.”
“My Autism never seemed to bother you.”
“Well, that’s because your momma and I tried to have kids for years, but couldn’t. Then finally she was in her late thirties and I was almost fifty, but I produced you and she carried you to term and we were glad to have you. I read that a man’s seed changes as he gets older and it can cause his offspring to have some issues, but I always thought you were an awesome kid and looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just hope you’ll give me some grandchildren soon and I don’t care whether they are Autistic or not.”
“That means you’re now in your early seventies. Why don’t you retire?”
“I’m waiting for your momma to turn sixty-five, then I won’t have to pay so much for her health insurance because Medicare will kick in. Then we can sell the farm and buy a condominium in the city-yeah right your momma wouldn’t stand for it. ” He pauses, then continues, “Anyways, organize this barn really well and by the time your done supper should be on the table, or dinner as you city people refer to it.”
I get to work. The barn has definitely become unorganized since I moved out, but I can put a fix to that.
I begin by hanging all of the tools in their proper places, on the nails, I hammered into the wall as a child.
Then I organize the fertilizer chemicals not only by alphabet but elemental and molecular values. I also put them neatly in rows.
After that, I take the gasoline and diesel cans, consolidate them and place them near the vent.
I see several cutting blades and realize they are dull, so I take a file and sharpen them.
I look at my watch which indicates that it is 5:45 in the evening. The sun is almost set.
I tighten all of the loose screws on the barn’s doors and walls and finally the breaker panel.
I stack the bags of seeds neatly, then shut off the lights and lock the barn door.
By the light of my flashlight, my dad and I walk back to the house.
We walk in to find my momma and my girlfriend both putting supper on the table.
We are having seared chicken breasts, scalloped potatoes, and steamed green beans.
We sit down to eat, when suddenly both my phone and my girlfriend’s phone display a message of the evacuation order being lifted.
Minutes later, my phone rings.
It’s my workplace number, so I go into my old bedroom and take the call.
“Hello,” I answer.
The assistant store director is on the other end and says, “Okay your time off is over now, the evacuation has been lifted. Come back to work PDQ.”
“I’m out of town, I had no place to go when the train was derailed.”
“Then you have twenty-four hours from the end of this phone call to report back to work. If you don’t, your butt will be terminated.”
“Yes, sir,” I humbly reply.
I walk back into the dining room, to which my mom says, “Don’t people know not to call at dinner time?”
“That was my job calling. I have to be back there in twenty-four hours, so we have to leave as soon as we are finished eating. I have a five-hour drive ahead of me and I’ll also need to be rested up.”
“Translation you want to go back home and screw your girlfriend,” My mom says.
“Honey, for the last time, don’t be so hard on him. He’s very lucky to have her.”
“And I am just as lucky to have him!” My girlfriend speaks up.
“Fine do whatever you want.” My momma says with irritation.
We finish eating, then collect my things and leave.
My dad sees us out and says, “She’ll eventually come around, especially if y’all get married which, I think, y’all need to strongly consider.”
My girlfriend and I look at each other and nod, then I open the passenger door for her.
I then get in on the driver’s side, start my car and we head back to the city.