The Burden

January 30, 2018
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“What a change came into my life the day I met Ann. I can still remember that day just as though it were yesterday.”


I woke up just like any other day.


“Hey Sawyer! Go get some water from the creek off the back end of the property,” my Maw hollered at me.
“Yessum!” I always responded that way because Maw preferred it like that. When I messed up, she would lick me, and you’d never think it, but that woman sure could lay a wallop on you that’d leave your face stinging real bad.


So, I took up our big jug and thought to myself, Momma wouldn’t be too mad if I took a little bit extra time fetching the water. I decided to sneak my fishing pole past her. Maybe I could pull up the big old catfish that lived in our stream. I’d seen him a time or two, and I wanted to catch him real bad. I would sometimes ask Pa if he wanted to go fishing with me, but he’d say he’s too busy. Pa would always tell me stuff like that.


I was walking up to the stream whistling a little tune and my plan was seemingly pretty alright. The stream was on the other side of the cornfield. It was also tucked away in a little forest, so I wasn’t all too worried about getting caught. I dipped the large plastic container under the clear water. I wanted to do that first, so if I heard Maw yelling I could run back home.


While I was knee deep in the stream filling up the jug, I got a big ole grin. I saw just about the fattest crawdad I’d ever seen. I knew that’d catch the catfish for sure. I slowly stalked my prey. Inching my hand through the water, I came up to my bait. I darted through the last few inches and snatched it. I was so excited to use my bait that I went straight to the shore and grabbed my new pole. I couldn’t tell you how many fish I caught on my old one, but Maw and Pa got me a new one for my birthday.


“After all these years, I still remember the big shiny hook they got me along with the pole.”


I tossed in the hook with the crawdad wiggling around on the end. I let the bait sink to the bottom, and then I just had to wait for something to come up and snag it. I knew this was the spot to try and catch the monster. So, I sat down and looked around to pass the time. I looked up the stream. Not too far away, there was a bend in the stream. That marked our property line. I’d sometimes go passed that because I’d never seen another person around, so I wasn’t too worried about being caught. I turned the other way and gazed downstream. My jaw just dropped wide open. You’d never believe what I saw. There, floating down the stream, was our water jug. I must’ve just let it go when I saw the big crayfish. Just then, the pole in my hand bent 90 degrees, and I felt the monster on the other end.


So there I was, caught in the middle of my duty and desires. This could be my only chance to ever wrestle this elusive catfish up onto the shore. The only time I could see how big it really is and hold it my hands. If I go for the jug, I will also lose my brand new hook. On the other hand, if I let the jug float away, my mom would be so mad. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the punishment. My dad would probably just be disappointed. I always found facing his disappointment was the worst.


Like a flash, I saw a young girl dart into the water and snatch up my jug. She called over to me, “Is this yours?”


“Yeah! Thanks a million. You surely saved me from a royal lickin’ when I would have gotten...” The fish pulled hard as my attention completely shifted to the task of reeling in the fighting fish. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her slowly meander her way over to me. One turn of the reel at a time, I slowly got the catfish just in front of me. Startled, I notice the mystery girl is also very near. I reached into the water and pulled out the gnarly looking monster.


“Here’s your jug. I see you caught Old Tim. That’s what I like to call him. He is a good fighter. Good job reeling him in.”


I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t a bit ashamed. Some girl has caught this fish before I have. With a bit of a pout, I thanked her for saving my jug. I tossed the fish back in the water and cleaned up my pole and starting moseying away with the full jug. I knew Maw would be unhappy with me taking so long. I thought back to one of her manner lessons. They always came after I messed up big time.


She would say, “Be nice even when you’re grumpy,” and “always ask a new person their name.”


So, I turned around and said “What is your name?”


Her frowning face turned back into a smile, “Ann.”

“It took a while for me to get over my juvenile shame, but soon enough I went back to the stream and found Ann. Over time, we became best friends. We played, grew, changed, yet never stopped adventuring.”


When high school came around, things with Ann were amazing. We were together all the time we had to spare. Hiking, fishing, and exploring was great. The new adventuring came about in us thinking about the future. Ann was an ambitious fella. I remember when we would lie under the stars and just talk all night.


“Sawyer, how far away do you think those stars are?” Ann, soothed by the cadence of my heartbeat and wave of my breathing, whispered.


“Well, shucks Ann, I have ever thought about that,” I replied just holding her close to my chest, running my fingers through her curly, chestnut hair. A long stillness followed.


“What are we going to do, Sawyer?” the concern and sadness was clear in her voice.


“Let’s just not think about that right now, Babe. We have right now. You know what I want.” I tried to ease out of this conversation with minimal distress for the both of us.


Sitting up Ann looked me in the eyes. “You have been the greatest part of my life for so long Sawyer, but I will be going away in only two weeks. I know you wish you could come with, but we both know that isn’t going to happen. There is nothing I want more than to be with you, but I can’t pretend that’s going to happen.”
“Ann, I can’t leave. My dad can’t take care of the farm all alone. It has always been rough, but he really needs me to be here now. I can’t let my family down now. Forever they have taken care of me and loved me. Now it is my turn to step in. I envy your freedom, Ann.”


“I wish you could see that your parent’s truly want your happiness. Don’t let me lose you forever,” Ann earnestly requested.

I stroll down our long gravel driveway whistling an excited tune. I open up the box like I do everyday with fingers crossed. I peek in and find exactly what I have been hoping for. The return address in the upper left is what gives me the hope to continue the soul-crushing captivity of the farm.


Dear Sawyer,
   Life is still great here in the city. My husband got a new job, and he is
happier now. My bakery has been steady, and it is a joy to go into work every
day. The children are so smart and never cease to amaze me. I really hope you are
doing well with your dad’s passing. I say a prayer for you every day.


Love,
Ann






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