Author's note: Summer has a way of bringing changes, doesn't it?
First GlimpseMomma wrung her hands as I packed my things. I had the suitcase Momma and Dad had used on their honeymoon, not much and worn out, but it could hold all of my few possessions. I wish we weren't poor. I wish Dad wasn't dead. Then I wouldn't have to go. But we were poor. And Dad was dead. Stupid reality. I carefully folded my jeans and old t shirts. Then, when Momma wasn't looking, I slipped in my favorite picture: Me, 10 years old, Momma pregnant with Syd, and Dad with his hands around all of us. Then I tucked in neatly Dad's old Bible. It had been his father's. I zipped my package of belongings carefully and drug them out to Milly's car. I was Knott County bound.
Jason hung out with me in the backseat, informing me on his aunt. She lived in Pippa Passes, he said. Her name was Katlyn Barnett,.She was in her 40s, had pale brown hair, on the verge of turning grey, had chesnut eyes with a gold ring around the pupil, wore grey glasses with biofocials, and usually wore an old t shirt with a tattered skirt. Her farm was huge. This put a feeling of dread... and excitement... over me. Could I be any help at all on such a large farm? I clutched the Bible in my suitcase and gulped.
Finally, after what seemed almost hours of driving (only about 45 minutes, but, still) we pulled upon a little run down farmhouse and a huge weathered black barn with a couple of boards missing, and beside that, a wooden hen house. That would probably be some of my first jobs: repairing the barn and house. Also, if you squinted, you could see fields of corn and wheat behind the barn and a pond aside from everything. On the porch, sitting in a rocker, was what I believed to be Jason's relative; exactly the way Jason described her, not a detail wrong. In addition to Jason's rightness, her farm was huge; exactly as big as I expected.
The first time I met Mrs. Barnett I could tell this summer was going to be different than any other; I just couldn't tell how.
"Mildred! It's so good to see you!" Mrs. Barnett exclaimed, throwing her arms around her.
"I've missed you, Katlyn," Milly said to her husband's sister.
"You haven't changed a bit, Mildred," continued Mrs. Barnett. While Milly and Mrs. Barnett had their litttle reunion, Jason started showing me around the farm. We went over to the pond and stuck our feet into the refreshing, cold water. After a while, we heard a call in the distance.
"Jason! Come on! It's time to leave!" shouted Milly. I guessed that was a call for me, too. Mrs. Barnett and I watched Milly and Jason pull out of the driveway. When they were completely out of sight, Mrs. Barnett turned to me.
"Go ahead and put your stuff up in the guest bedroom, Seth, then come into the kitchen. I want to talk to you," Mrs. Barnett almost whispered, then turned and went back inside the house.
The guest bedroom was easy to find. There was only two bedrooms in the whole house. I could easily tell that Mrs. Barnett's bedroom was the one with pictures of her family in it. I wondered where the husband in the picture was.
I sat my suitcase on the twin bed. The quilt looked hand-sewn. The pillows were fluffed to perfection. There was only three other pieces of furniture; a dresser, nightstand, and a drawer, all walnut. The closet was pretty compact, but still big enough for my simple belongings. I kept my clothes in my suitcase, placed the Bible on the bed, and, last.... our family picture on the nightstand, then hurried off to the kitchen.
Mrs. Barnett was in her house slippers and an old cotton gown, for it was six o clock, and I knew she probably went to bed early. The kitchen was rather simple, like the rest of the house. On the far corner stood a lonely old stove, and beside it a couple of walnut cabnets (mental note: Mrs. Barnett like walnut) and a simple sink. The wallpaper had hen designs on it. It kind of reminded me of our kitchen.
I sat down at the walnut kitchen table and Mrs. Barnett turned dead serious.
"I bet you've already wondered where my husband is," she sternly looked me in the eye. I nodded my head.
"Well, he died a couple of years ago as a result of a murder," she spoke with bitterness in her tone,"And left me widowed to take care of our daughter and farm. Our daughter is now in college, which left me alone, needing someone to help me take care of this big farm," then she guestured toward me," which leads us to this moment." A moment of silence passed by. I hate those. They are so awkward.
"So, son, every morning you will wake at dawn and milk Clarabell, the cow in the barn. Then you will gather the eggs from the hens in the hen house, feed them, and take the eggs in here for breakfast, then take the remaining ones down in the cellar to be sold at the farmer's market. After you eat breakfast, you will take the scraps out and feed them to the pigs. Then you will ride horseback to the fields, and tend to the crops. Then ride horseback back to the barn, and take the three horses and cow out to graze in the pastures, then report back to the kitchen for lunch," she finally finished. I could tell Mrs. Barnett was a strictly buisness type person.
"Some of the extra chores you could do is take the weed-eater around the pond, mow the front yard, clean the barn, and so on. But you have to wait to do those in the afternoon after l you complete the chores you are required to do to pay your room and board here. After all the work you are going to do that day is finished, come back to the kitchen for supper. Any questions?" asked Mrs. Barnett. I solemnly shook my head no.
"Great, you start tommorrow. But, right now, help me get supper ready,'' ordered Mrs. Barnett. Then I thought to myself, "What in God's creation did I get myself into?" I really had no idea.
I heard a faint whisper in the dark.
"Seth, Seth, get up," I heard a voice whisper.
"Seth, someone is in the house, I know they are," Mrs. Barnett whispered to me. I immeadiately opened my eyes.
"Where?" I yawned.
"The front room," Mrs. Barnett was tore all to pieces. She handed me a gun and I tiptoed into the front room. I looked left. Nothing. I looked right. Nothing. I looked straight ahead. Still nothing.
"Seth! He's getting out of the kitchen door!" I rushed to the kitchen, but again saw nothing.
"Aw, Mrs. Barnett, it ain't nothing," I yawned, my eyes getting heavier.
"I know I saw someone," she sounded suprised.
"Well, if you hear or see anything else, you know where I'm at," I said, aggrivated. I was living with a hallucinated senile OCD middle aged widow. Wow. I went back into my room and plopped down on my pillow. Mrs. Barnett didn't come in my room any more that night.