A Conversation In The Dark This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   by T. P., Rochester, MNFor years John had heard his parents talk about leaving the farm. The topic always came up at the beginning of the growing season, with the water. John found the timing ironic; most farmers had their hardships in the winter months. Few farmers had done well in recent seasons. The sharp fangs of the Great Depression had sunk deep into nearly every industry; agriculture felt the pain before the skin broke. There wasn't much reason to believe the financial situation of the country was going to turn around in the near future, and certainly not soon enough for John's family.

John's father's voice carried from the kitchen, "I can make more at the quarry than I could scratch out of this place at its best. We could live with your sister and Joe until we find a place we can afford."

John listened in the dark, at the top of the stairs. As he tried to make out the words of the soft voice of his mother, John thought about what his father had said about living with his only aunt and uncle. The thought was appealing. They had a large brick house in a nice neighborhood in Wabasha. Joe ran his own general store on Main Street and always wore nice clothes. Kate could cook like no one John knew and always made him feel welcome when he visited.

The idea of living with Kate and Joe's kids, however, was not as appealing. All three were younger and he considered them brats. Al, the eldest, was a fat kid of nine who liked rough-housing, which was fun for a while, but Al never gave up and this got annoying. Sam, the middle kid, was just stupid. At seven, Aunt Kate still spoon fed him because he couldn't hold silverware himself. Babied her entire life, Suzy, the youngest, didn't do much for herself, either. She was arrogant and constantly whining.

"I can't watch my sweat and blood wash down that damned river with these floods anymore. This place is a hopeless cause. Besides, we've bought seed on credit the last two years and we can't do it again." John's father's voice imposed on his thoughts, louder than before.

"You'll have to take the job at the quarry then and we'll move into town with you. It's not up to us anymore." This was the gentle voice of John's mother; he could hear sobs between her words. John felt a lump grow in his throat as he listened and began to feel sick to his stomach.

"It wasn't up to us when we cleared this land ten years ago. It wasn't up to us the last three seasons when the fields washed out. It wasn't up to us when we made it with a few decent harvests. And it still isn't up to us this spring. I don't want to move any more than you, but it isn't up to us." It was John's father's voice again, this time gentler and not as loud.

John started to tiptoe back to his room. Making sure to step over the floorboards that creaked, he moved around as quietly as a mouse. This skill came from nights and nights of conversations he was supposed to be sleeping through. Tomorrow this skill would be of no use, however. Since they were moving to a new house with new floorboards that creaked.

John had tears in his eyes when he put his head on the pillow. We have made it before; why can't we do it this time? John thought as he laid there. He wasn't tired; he wished he was. At night, in the dark, things seemed so bad. Morning always seemed better. He wanted to sleep now and hoped things would be better with the light. He couldn't make the dreams come though. He laid awake for a long time; long after he saw the kitchen light go out and heard his parents go to bed. He wondered what life would be like not living on the farm. He couldn't imagine it, he had lived on this farm his entire life.

No more chores, what could replace them? He had thought of his chores around the farm as a burden; now he wished he could hold onto them. He had always envied the kids who lived in town. Now he wanted to stay where he was.

Although the sick feeling in his stomach had faded, the lump was still in his throat and his head hurt now with these thoughts. The sheets were soft against his skin, and the quilt was warm against the night air. John's eyelids began to feel heavy and his thoughts became less conscious. Soon he was asleep. Dreams came as he waited for the light. He hoped it would make things better in the morning.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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