chapter oneI stood there, rain trickled down my back. The shirt I wore was soaking wet. You couldn’t tell where the water started and the blood stopped. The lighting in the distance and constant boom of thunder make my head throb even worse. The red liquid that fell from my nose wouldn’t stop. My ribs burned as if they were on fire, even with the cool evening air, nothing would ease them. The two, once strong now rubbery legs the held my body up felt like giving out. Car lights from the distance appeared,
“Yeah” is all I managed to get out.
I slowly made my way to the vehicle, sliding my beaten body in. The driver was looking at me, probably thinking what he had gotten himself into. He was an older gentleman, around sixty or so, his white beard shown in the moonlight. As my muddied shoes were drying we started up a conversation.
“Name John,” he grunted
I stuck out my hand, to shake his, “I’m Jack,” said wincing from the two broken fingers and possible fractured wrist.
“So, whatda git, yourself into?” John asked.
I cleared the blood from my throat and began to tell him what all I had gotten myself into.
“I, I’m a boxer, tonight I had a fight. Didn’t really go as planned.”
John looked at me with concern in his eyes.
“So, you’re a fighter huh?”
I looked over at him and shook my head.
“I’ve thrown a few punched in the ring, but... that was a long time ago. “
He seemed taken back with his answer, like to a time period in the way distance.
After that we drove and drove, I eventually fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding on the old truck roof. When I awoke, my shirt felt hot and sticky, still in the truck my face was stuck to the leather seat. Carefully sitting up I looked at my surroundings. I was outside a white farm house, flowers were all around the porch and chickens ran through the yard. Attempting to get out my legs collapsed and I fell to the ground. All the sudden two bare feet appeared in front of my. I looked up, it was a woman standing there, bout my age. She was in a yellow sun dress, her brown hair blowing in the wind.
“You alright?” she asked
“Y, Yeah.” I said while trying to pick my self-off the ground.
“Daddy! Your friends up!” she yelled.
This must have been John’s daughter. She grabbed my arm and gently led me to the house, through the screen door I could smell roast beef cooking in the oven and my mouth started watering, I hadn’t eaten since before the fight. John appeared happy to see me.
“Hope ya slept okay, I left ya in the truck because I didn’t want to wake ya.” He said.
I replied with a shake of my head, and then heard someone speak form behind john.
“Now John, where the hecks your manners.”
A little woman appeared from behind him. Her hair was in a bun, and a purple apron she had on was covered in stains. She tuck out her hand to introduce herself.
“Names Martha, I’m John’s wife. So, let me get a good look at ya.”
She pushed her glasses up from the end of her nose.
“Now now, let’s git ya all cleaned up now. Charlie, lead im’ to his room, there’s a fresh pair of clothes up there. Patch em’ up too, that gash on his forehead need tending too.”
I was led to a room; it had a nice cozy feel to it. The wooden maple dresser looked worn, but yet had the feeling it hadn’t been used in some time. The window was open and flowered curtains rustled in the wind.
“There’s the bathroom, soap and towels in there. Let me know when you’re done, I’ll come and patch ya up.”
Charlie went to walk away when I felt I had to say something.
“Charlie, your.., you’re gonna patch me up?”
“Yeah, I’m a nurse ya see.”
“Oh, okay, heh, thought you were gonna use duct tape on me or something.”
She gave me a weird look and walked out of the room. I thought that was a stupid thing to say as soon as I said it. I hopped in the shower. My body was very stiff but the heat from the water felt good. Blood ran down the drain as my wounds cleansed. I grabbed the towel and wrapped it around myself. Pulling my pants on I opened the door to the bathroom, Charlie stood there with a first aid kit.
“I.., I just came to see if you were done yet? I shoulda waited for you to come get me sorry.”
She was flustered, I didn’t know why. Maybe just a little shy around new people.
“No, no I was done, you, you can patch me up now.” I replied
We sat down on the bed while she examined my injuries. I knew two things; my hand was busted, as well as a couple of ribs.
“Well jack, you hurt pretty good. Got two broken ribs, your hand is fractured, and the gash on your eye needs stitches. How’d ya hurt yourself anyway?”
I looked at her brown eyes, they were kind, what should I tell her, the truth one thing, but that would just open up for more questions. From my past, why I left the life I had behind, why all my tatts that cover my arms and back were just faded memories of things I lost. Clearing my throat I began to talk.
“I-I was a boxer. Had a fight that didn’t go well.”
She looked at me, with a kind of fear in her eyes, and then again with sadness.
“You were a.., boxer?”
Looking to the ground I could almost feel the questions forming in her mind, but she didn’t say anything. She just finished wrapping my ribs and started leaving the room without a word, but turned around to say something.
“Dinners in five minutes.”
Downstairs the wonderful smell of food flooded my nose. Martha was in the kitchen,pulling bread out of the oven.
“Oh, Hi Jack. How ya feeling?”
I sat down at the counter
“Fine, better now I got a shower and some fresh clothes.”
“Good, Charlie said you were hurt pretty good. “
I felt as though Charlie was a touchy subject at the moment. I felt like I hurt her, even though I didn’t do anything.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes, grab a slice of bread to tide yeself over.”
I did, and then John came in, then Charlie. We all sat down to eat a wonderful meal of mashed potatoes, roast beef, and green bean casserole. Afterwards I went into the living room to rest beside the fire. I heard a voice say my name when I realized I was asleep. Charlie shook me and I opened my eyes.
“c’mon, I gotta patch that eye up before ya go to bed.”
Shuffling to my feet I made the long journey to up the stairs. I propped myself against the bed post as Charlie came over with gauze, thread, needle, and antibiotic cream. It was late. Martha and john had gone to bed and tiredness was set in Charlie’s eyes.
“Ok Jack, hold still while I clean this wound up. I’m gonna stitch it and you’ll be good to go.”
As she sat there we started on a conversation that I knew would pull some heart strings.
“Jack can, can I ask you a question.”
Here it was the conversation I dreaded.
“Sure, I replied.”
She looked into my eyes; her facial expression was very serious.
“What are all your tattoos for?”
Ok, not as bad as I thought.
“They are memories, the ones I want to remember.”
“What’s this one mean?”
Charlie pointed to one on my left forearm, a tree with boxing gloves hanging around it.
“That’s for my grandfather. A boxer like me. He practically raised me.”
She studied it.
“Where were your parents?”
I cleared my throat; this was the subject I tried to avoid. The rage that instantly filled me wanted to come out, but I couldn’t show Charlie that.
“They, they weren’t exactly around while I was growing up. My ma would travel from city to city looking for any job she could and my dad has been a no show since I was four.”
“Oh…, ya know my brother was a boxer.”
“Yeah…, he, he died in the ring.”
This was the secret they had been so quiet about. I felt there was something about boxing that didn’t set well with them but I didn’t think it was anything like this. I looked at Charlie, tear were in her eyes.
“Ya know, I, I’m probably never gonna fight again.”
Her body expression looked as if she was relived and a little glad.
“I think that’s a good Idea. “She said with a smile.
After that we both said goodnight, Charlie went to bed, and I stayed up thinking about these strange new feelings I had acquired.
Rain pounded on my window as morning arrived. I had been at the farm for about a week now. My injuries, although only being a week old felt much better. Downstairs Martha was in the kitchen as usual baking what appeared to be cinnamon rolls.
“Morning Jack!” she said very chipper
“Morning mam, whatcha making?”
“Cinnamon rolls, they’re gonna be entered in the festival this weekend.”
A festival? I hadn’t herd of a festival but I was eager to learn about it.
“Yeah, the spring festival. The whole town comes to it. There’s food, music, and dancing.”
It was weird how she put and emphasis on dancing.
“Oh, sounds good. Hey, where’s Charlie at?”
“In the barn feeding calf’s, why don’t ya go help her out?”
I shook my head yes, slipped on my boot and went out to the barn. The smell of hay and cow manure comforted my for some reason. Charlie’s was in the calf pen with a bottle of milk.
“Hey,” I said approaching her.
“Hey, look who’s out here,” she said while brush some hair out of her face.
I stood there, watching her feed the little calves. Hard to believe they will become huge animals. Never haven fed a cow I found it kind of fun to watch.
“You want to try?” Charlie asked me.
“Sure,” I said shrugging my shoulders.
Hopping in the pen Charlie handed me the bottle, telling me to keep it up so the calves won’t get air in their bellies. I found it fun, and by the time we were done I had milk all over my jeans and Charlie was laughing her head off.
“Yeah,” I aid hosing mud off my boots.
“You go to the festival this weekend?”
My face got red. This kind of stuff always made me nervous inside.
“I, I guess so. Why?”
“Well, I was just wondering is all?”
I knew there was more behind it; she just didn’t want to ask.
“Yep, I’ll be there.” I responded.
“You, you dance?” she said cautiously
“Heh,” I swallowed hard, “not, not really.”
“Oh.” Charlie whisper.
Dropping her head I knew I had to do something to change the subject.
Looking up a small hint of disappointment was in her eyes.
“You hungry?” I replied
“You wanna go into town and get some lunch?”
A smile seemed to creep back on her face.
“Sure let me change my clothes.”
We drove to town in the big rusty old blue truck that sounded as if it was going to break down any minute but was as sturdy as a rock.
Sitting in the dinor I couldn’t help notice people staring at me. I wouldn’t blame them, after all I wasn’t from round here and I didn’t look it, even if I did smell like cow poo. Our waitress came to the table. She was a woman, in her forties that looked as if he always had a smile on her face. Her blonde hair was tied back in a bun and was held in place with some butterfly clips.
“Howdy Charlie!” she shouted while walking up to the booth.
“Hey Rosie, how’s it going today?”
“Mighty fine, dinors hoppin like a square dance on a Friday night.”
Rosie looked over at me with almost glaringing eyes, even if the smile did stay on her face.
“Who’s ya friend?” she asked pointing at me with a pen.
“This is… uh Jack, he’ gonna be helpin Pa out on the farm this summer.”
“Oh.., ok. “She paused for a moment, staring at me, “what can I git you guys?” then snapped outta it.
“Well, I guess I’ll have a burger and a coke.” Charlie answered a little flustered.
“For you jack?”
“The same please.”
“Mmkay, I’ll run these to Joe.”
The waitress slipped through the door to the kitchen, suddenly I felt awkward.
“Don’t worry about them; they just aren’t used to strangers.” Charlie comforted.
“thanks.” I said kind of taken back.
Our food came and chatter came about between Charlie and me.
“So, about this festival…” I took a bit of my burger, “how big of a deal is it to dance?”
I had no idea of where this conversation was going, but the way Charlie’s face lit up when I asked I knew I couldn’t stop now.
“It’s, a pretty big deal.” She laughs a little.
“oh.” I said with a smile.
I had been at the farm a week and a half, so far I felt I could live here, I was already working there for the summer with john, there had been some feeling inside me though, ones I hadn’t felt for a while, and I couldn’t define what they were.
That Friday night the festival was in full swing, music was blaring for the middle of the town, the smells of fried dough and funnel cakes was enough to make your mouth water. I had parked myself along a tree with a bag of popcorn, sorta feeling out of my element, but that changed once Charlie found me.
Approaching , I could see she wanted to dance.
“Hey, whatcha doing?” she said grabbing a handful of popcorn and fanning herself with her cowboy hat.
“Nothing, just enjoying the festival.”
“Yeah ok, by yourself?” she said sarcastically.
“yep.” I said with a smile.
“C’mon” she yelled grabbing my arm.
Charlie yanked me onto the dance floor, hand in hand I learned how to square dance, which sorta reminded me of a boxers training method. Twirling around the floor I found it to kinda be fun, or maybe more than that.
Once the dancing was over the fireworks started. Charlie and I stood there staring at the sky. At one point of the other she grabbed my hand, I.., I didn’t mind it.
Back at the farm everyone seemed to have had a good time, Martha cinnamon rolls had won first, john won a new knife at the ring toss, and I couldn’t remember ever being this content.
The days after the festival were sorta confusing for me. More feelings had surfaced, new ones, specific ones. Charlie was the cause of all of em’. One day I took a walk into the woods behind the house, I had to think. I found the perfect spot to do so, a clearing that had a creek running through it and the tall pine skyrocketed above me. There I sat, thought about my time here, the new people I had met, and what Charlie really meant to me. It was evident that I was here to stay, for a while at least.
On my walk back I grabbed some flowers growing in the field. Charlie’d like em. At the house she was sitting on the porch, dusk was setting in. the homestead was quiet except for the chirping of peepers in the grass. I sat in a rocking chair next to her.
“Where’s ya pa and ma?” I asked.
“They had to go visit my great aunt, it was her birthday today, won’t be back till tomorrow.”
“oh.” I was sweating like crazy.
“These…, these are for you.” I stuttered holding out the purple posies.
She looked at me, with a happy yet confused expression.
“ Th- thank you.” A smiled appeared
Tension was thick.
“Well..” Charlie stood up, “ guess I’ll go put these in a vase a go to bed”
She started to walk away, I had to say something anything. Then I thought about a poster for a rodeo I saw in the feed mill.
“Charlie!! Wait!”, She turned around, “do.. would ya wanna go to a rodeo with me?” I almost yelled it out.
“Sure, all ya had to do was ask.” She laughed a little, “Night Jack.”
I hadn’t felt this way until just before a big fight, I was thrilled.
The night of the rodeo everyone was in the western wear. Charlie had on her leather cowboy boots, cowboy hat, plaid shirt, and blue jean. Me, t shirt, blue jean, work boots. I had never been to a rodeo so I didn’t know what to expect. The first half was good, steer roping looked fun to try, even the barrel racing was neat to watch, but there was event that captivated me. It was the bull riding. Not just the riding itself, but the fighting of the bulls. I sucked me in like a hurricane, the thrill of being face to face with an enormous creature was right up my alley. I had to find more about this sport. While Charlie was getting some kettle corn I saw one of the fighters, he was in tattered clothes and work boots. I decided to walk up to him.
“excuse me sir?”
Turning around you could still see the fight in his eyes.
“whatcha want boy.” He said kinda snappy.
“ I-I, just wanted to know how to become a bull fighters all?”
I hadn’t meant to spurt it out all at once but I was so excited I couldn’t help it.
He looked at me, spit a wad of tobacco on the ground and started laughing at me.
“youa, you wanna know more bout fightin huh?” he said sneeringly
“well, we happen to be short a fighter, but I’m warning ya, you don’t know real fear until you stare that animal in the eye and nothings btween ya but hot air.”
“I ‘m willin to go that far sir.”
I felt like a kid again, telling my grandfather I wanted to box a guy five times my size.
“I see ya got some rage in ya huh kid?”
It was true, I had a lot penned up inside, boxing was a way of getting that out, but lately I needed a new outlet.
“I guess so sir.”
He looked at me for a while, spat more snuse out and replied with a hopeful answer.
“Be here next Tuesday at eight, well see how tough ya are.”
I shook his hand and gave him a huge thanks, this might be my next big break.
Charlie came back and noticed the big grin on my face.
“why you smiling like that?”
“I uh, I just got a chance to try my hand at bull fighting.”
She stopped, and didn’t look happy.
“You mean, you’re gonna try it?”
I had to try to comfort her.
“well, yeah, but it’s just a chance, I mean I might not even get the spot.”’
“aren’t you worried about getting hurt again?”
I finished the conversation with that word as we approached the truck. Rain pounded on the roof of the silent interior of the truck. The splash of puddles in the driveway was kind of a relief from the tension between Charlie and I. saying goodnight I could tell she was still mad.
The weekend ended and soon Tuesday approached. I met the fighter from before at in the fenced ring where the rodeo had taken place.
“See ya haven’t changed your mind!” he yelled as I walked over to him.
“No sir, I’m pretty bull headed.”
He held out his hand, “didn’t get a chance to formerly introduce meself, names Frank.”
I shook his hand and introduced myself.
“Now jack, I gotta test run for ya, see that calf over there in the pen,” he pointed to a steer that was put in a shoot, “ if ya can distract that little guy in less than twenty seconds, well move on.”
It didn’t seem too hard. They opened the gate and the gate open and out the little guy came, bucking and kicking like and actual bull would. I ran around the arena dust blowing in my eyes, I eventually got him back in the gate, but over twenty seconds. A couple more times I had it done, along with working up a sweat. Next he had me test out different distracting methods with the steer. Then it was time to test my newly honed skills against a big guy. His name was Melvin, and older Brahma bull but still with some fight. He was still used to train, but not really to ride. The released him, I grabbed the duct taped wrapped dummy and ran in front of him, he chased after me like a kid running after an ice cream truck. Running in the gate they shut him in there as I franticly ran up the sides of the pen. I had done it, caged my first bull. It felt good to be in the ring again. With a couple more times practicing with Melvin, and a couple livelier bulls Frank came up to me with some promising new.
“Well kid, I want ya here this Saturday at five. I’m gonna have ya in the show that night. Now being that your green I gotta keep ya in the back, and I only want ya out with the more mild bulls, you’re not ready for the big guys yet.
This was the best news I heard in a long time.
“thank you sir” I said shaking his hand.
With a few more days of training, the excitement in me built up.
Friday night I sat on the porch, fireflies danced on the grass. John came out and sat in his old rocking chair.
“So kid, you excited about tomorrow?”
“Yeah I am.”
He lit his pipe and blew smoke out of his bearded mouth.
“You ain’t nervous?”
Looking at him I knew he was getting at something.
“ A little I guess, but I always get that way before a fight.”
Sitting there, I could tell he was pondering my answer.
“I just don’t want a nice boy like to git hurts all.” He said, voice crackling.
“thanks John.” I said softly.
“Ya know my girls quite fond of ya don’t ya?”
“ Yes sir I do.”
“Just thought I’d remind you.”
After that I stood up from the steps, “Night John.” I answered patting his shoulder.
The next morning I awoke, jittery as ever. I could hardly contain my excitement, getting dressed I rushed downstairs to a gloomy morning. Charlie sat there, head buried in the newspaper, acting like she didn’t see me, obviously she was still mad. I ate my breakfast of cereal and coffee, Martha and John went to town early this morning. Clicking my spoon in my bowl I couldn’t help but try to talk to Charlie.
“ can I ask you something?”
She lifted a corner of the paper down and glared at me, “What?”
“Why you so mad at me?”
“I’m not mad, just think you’re doing something’ stupid’s all.”
“Riskin your life for nothing.”
“Nothing? It’s not nothing.”
Our voice was rising into a low yell.
“it is! Trying to fill a hole that don’t need to be filled!”
“You don’t understand! Fighting was my life, it was all I had!”
This time I was yelling.
“Now it’s over! You can’t fight in the ring anymore so you’d rather fight an animal, it’s really the same isn’t it!”
“No, but it’s something!”
I stopped yelling.
Charlie threw her paper down and ran out to the barn. Like an idiot, I ran out to her. She was sobbing next to the calf pen.
“What’s the big deal anyway?” I spoke softly
Tears were pouring down her face, even if she was a strong woman I ‘knew I had reached a breaking point.
“It’s just, I’ve lost my brother in the ring, and I... I can’t lose you too.”
I took a deep breath unsure of where to go with this. I knew how Charlie felt about me, but I was unsure about how I felt about her really. I decided to take the safe way out without giving any emotion.
“Nothings gonna happen to me, they’ve got me in with the gentle bulls, I gotta git ready. See ya later.”
I walked away wishing I could’ve said more, but I got spooked and backed out.
I arrived at the ranch on time, my clown clothes fully in tact with a nice hint of face paint and a fake smile to make my outfit complete, I felt confident and like jello all at once. Frank came over and gave me a pep talk on how I gonna do just fine. Looking around the stands just before the show was about to start I spotted Charlie, just knowing she was there I felt better. We sang the national anthem and before I knew it our turn was up. I stepped over the metal bars into the ring, my heart pounded as sweat dripped through my makeup. I was shaky and unsure what I was really supposed to do. The announcer said the riders name, the buzzer blew. The shoot open and here came the beast. Dirt flew threw the air along with hot steam and spit, I ran around the animal as the rider pulled his cord and fell to the ground, this was my moment. Running between the bull and the cowboy on the ground I felt pure terror strike my body, his eyes were fixed on me. Another fighter grabbed the rider and pulled him out of harm’s way, but me, I had to run. I ran with all my might but realized when I hit cold metal bars I had nowhere to go. Turing around I saw the horns of a monster going straight for me, there was nothing I could do. Piercing pain go through my body. The last thing I heard was Charlie scream my name, everything went numb, then black.
The beeping of monitors rang in my ears as a blurry image came into focus. My leg was in a harness, a cast covered it. My face felt swollen and an intense pain filled my left side. Looking at my right, Charlie sat in a chair head resting on the side of the bed. I touched her hand with mine. She awoke with a sleepy expression on her face.
“Hey, you’re awake.” She said with a smile
Looking at her I could tell she hadn’t slept in quite a while.
“How long was I out?” I spoke in a raspy voice.
“For about a week.”
Looking the rest of my body over I could see bandages on my chest and another cast on my left arm.
“How bad is it?”
Charlie looked at me with some anger and yet comfort.
“You’ve got a busted leg that had to be put back in place with pins, the doctors think it’ll heal but you may have a permanent limp, along with that your left arm is a compound fracture and needed surgery too. The worst of your injuries occurred to your chest,” she took a deep breath; “the bulls horn went up through your sternum and missed your heart by a millimeter. It did though pierce and artery with caused them to do even more surgery.” She stopped talking and looked at me, “Jack…, you almost died, doesn’t ever scare me like that again.”
I had never been in this predicament before, never. I was almost scared even though I was still alive. I realized what I may have lost, and what I won’t take a chance on losing again.
“Charlie I, “my throat felt like it was closing, I couldn’t get my words out, “Charlie I’m sorry for scaring you, I should have listened to you. “
She leaned over and kissed my bruised forehead.
“It’s alright. “
A few moment of silence made the room a little uncomfortable.
“Well, uh, how you are feeling?” she broke the quiet.
“A little pain. “ I said wincing
“I’ll give ya some more morphine.”
As she pumped that liquid gold into my IV and my worries seemed to drift away, this was good stuff.
A few more weeks I stayed in the hospital until I was released, this came to a very much needed welcome to me. I had been getting antsy since I was able to get around in a wheel chair but now that they had me on just crutches I felt freedom.
Back at the farm things seemed to settle down, I felt bad I couldn’t help john out with the chores though. I hobbled around with my crutches; the only real pain I felt was in my chest. The wound my bull had left a horrifying gash. At night, it was the worst. I had nightmares about the incident. I’d wake up just before the bull stabbed me, most of the time screaming and covered in sweat. On nights like these I’d go sit on the porch to calm my mind. One night Charlie came out.
“You ok?” she said through the screen door.
I was sitting on the steps.
“Yeah. “ I said with a less convincing smile.
She came out and sat next to me.
I looked down at my leg and shook my head yes.
She put her hand on my shoulder.
“Wanna talk about it?”
I didn’t really; there wasn’t anything to talk about. I was attacked by a bull, and for some reason my mind feel the need for me to relive it every night.
We sat there in silence for a while gazing at the stars.
“ Ya know jack, you’ve kinda become part of this family, and my parents talk about you a lot.”
“That’s good,” I really didn’t know how to react, I’d never had a real family before, “ what about you Charlie, how do you feel?”
This was a little deeper than I wanted to go.
She didn’t answer, but her body language told me she was uncomfortable.
“Yeah?” she said softly
“Thanks for everything.”
She was smiling.
“ No problem jack.”
Then she did something unexpected, she kissed my cheek, and leaned her head on my shoulder, we sat there all night till the sun came rising up through the tree line.
The next morning I was as stiff as a board, my whole body felt as if it were a mounted animal. I took a hot bath, careful not to get my casts and bandages wet. It made me feel a little better. I got outta the shower , slowly got dressed, and went downstairs. Charlie was there, her parents had gone to town. A big pile of steamy pancakes awaited me.
“Those are for you” she said grabbing her purse and car keys.
“Where ya off to?” I said not realizing it was Monday.
“Work, you’ll be okay by yourself right?”
“Yeah, just fine.” I said stuffing a forkful of syrupy goodness into my mouth.
“Mmkay, then I’m gonna head out. See ya tonight.” Charlie responded rushing out the door.
I finished breakfast, and parked myself on the couch. It was raining out, so I was stuck. The day consisted on endless court shows, the news, a little snooze, pain meds, then finally John and Martha came home.
“Hey kid!” john said coming through the door with a pile of wood.
“ Brr, it’s a cold one out there.” Martha commented behind him.
The weather was starting to turn, what was once a green filled yard started to turn a dull brown, the trees had begun photosynthesis , and gotten orange tints to em. Fall was approaching, my favorite time of year. I felt a little guilty though, here I was, staying at the Threads house, eating there food and everything, with no way of pulling my weight. I did know how to cook, maybe I could make em something. An idea hatched in my mind.
When John and Martha went out to do chores, I decided to cook them supper. I pulled some pork chops out of the fridge, along with some fresh carrots. I figured I’d make stuffed pork chops with glazed carrots. I crumbled up bread crumbs, chopped celery, melted butter and before I knew it everything was in the oven and baking. I had forgotten how much I loved to cook, I should have stuck with is instead of getting my head beat on every night.
As I was finishing up the glaze of brown sugar and honey on my carrots, Charlie was home. Coming through the door you hear the happiness in her voice.
“Mm mm, somthin smells good mamma,” she said, her back was towards me.
Turning around , she was surprised.
“Are, are you cookin?”
“Yep.” I smiled.
“well, I figure you and your folks have done enough for me, I’d might as well cook some dinner for ya.”
“Oh. Well what’d ya cook?” she pulled a chair up to the counter.
“ I got some stuffed pork chops in the oven, and some glazed carrots on the stove.”
“Oh,” she was still confused, “ you cooked this yourself?”
“Yes mam.” I smiled.
John and Martha came in.
“Mama, look what Jack did.”
They were both happy and surprised. Dinner was ready and we sat down to eat. Everyone enjoyed my meal. Then we sat round the fire place, telling stories about growing up. I felt out of place for a moment and stepped out onto the porch.
I buttoned my jacked up, and hobbled to the rocker, the cold made my chest ache. Once again Charlie came out to check up on me.
“What the heck are ya doing out here? It’s freezing.”
“I uh, I had to clear my heads all.” I spoke as steam rose from my mouth.
“Uh huh… What’s up?” she sat down in the chair next to me.
I cleared my throat.
“it’s just… you guys got all these great memories about your childhood and growing up, I ...I don’t”
“Ah. Gotcha. Well, do ya have any?”
Tears welled up in my eyes, I told myself I wouldn’t cry.
“No, no I don’t.”
She sat there in a moment figuring out an answer.
“well jack,” she placed her hand on my knee and looked me in the eye, “guess we’re gonna have to make our own memories together.”
I swallowed hard. I knew what she was implying. I liked Charlie a whole lot. I knew she liked me too. Maybe this could happen. I was a little scared.
“that, that uh, sounds good Charlie.” I said looking in her soft brown eyes.
Then she did something very surprising , she put her hand on my cheek, and kissed my lips. Then stood up, and walked in the house. I sat in the cold a while longer, trying to put what had just happened into perspective.
I was kinda glad Charlie was at the work the next morning. I was confused, and not really in the mood to talk about my feelings. Overall I’d say a little grumpy. I didn’t know why, maybe because this was a card I wasn’t expecting to be doubt, or maybe because I was beginning to feel what love was life, and I was scared. Right now I was kinda stable. I had a family that loved me, and a girl that I hoped might feel the same way. As the morning went on and I once again found myself bored I went in search of some entertainment, well sorta. John had an extra truck sitting in the driveway, and I was itchin to drive it. I decided to visit Charlie and maybe have some lunch. A soon as I shuffled into the hospital, crutch under my arms, a nurse, not Charlie, pulled up a wheel chair and told me to hop in.
“ um, no thanks mam, I’m not a patient. “
“you’re not?” she said looking down at my legs, which were in braces.
“no, just a former one.”
“uh huh, so whatda doing here?”
“I’m, I’m lookin’ for Charlie Threads.”
“Wait, you mean to tell me you’re that fella Charlie always talkin bout, Jack right?”
I was a little shocked, I never realized Charlie had spoken about me to other people.
“Hang on kid, I’ll get her.”
“Wait,” I grabbed the nurse gently on the arm, “ don’t tell her it’s me. Um.., can you just tell her ya need me for a patient.”
“Hmm, I think so, go git in that wheel chair honey, I’ll go git her.”
the wheelchair was kinda a nice option for a few minutes. My arms were raw and sore from the crutches. I was in the middle of doing a wheelie when Charlie came in the room.
“Jack?”, she came over to me, “what’dya doin here?”
“Oh, just thought I’d take ya to lunch is all.”
“Well, uh. Let me finish my rounds and I’ll take you up on your offer.”
I sat in the chair bout a half hour till Charlie was done. We went to lunch at a little café’ across from the hospital. Charlie was sitting there, sipping her coffee eyeing my crutches leaning against the table. I knew something was up.
“Charlie?” I said, she snapped outta whatever mindset she was in, “what are ya thinkin about?
“Huh?” she seemed distracted and out of sorts.
“your minds focused on something, what is it?”
“Uh, Jack.., I gotta talk to you about something.”
I didn’t know what it was, I was kind of afraid.
“ Jack, your legs, they uh, might not heal right.”
“Yeah, you said that I’d have a limp.”
“That, That’s not all,” she grabbed my hand, “ Jack ,I was going over your file today, and I noticed some more notes your doctor added since your last visit,”
“Okay, I’m starting to think this isn’t good news,” I pulled my hands away from hers.
“ Jack, uh,” tears welled up in her eyes, “ you might have to use crutches the rest of your life.”
I swallowed hard, this was honestly terrifying news, I knew getting my legs smashed by a bull would take a long time to heal, but I didn’t think I’d be a cripple my whole life.
“So, uh. What now?” I said very solemn.
“Your, you’re not mad?”
“Yeah I’m mad, wouldn’t you be,” my voice elevated, “ I’m stuck with these stupid things for the rest of my life!”
I proceeded to throw the crutches down on the floor, the café’ went quiet. Picking them up I noticed my eyes were watery, I, very shockingly was crying. Taking my metal shackles I left Charlie at the diner. I needed to go clear my head, I had to go to the woods.
It took a while to get to my favorite pine tree. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, what was I going to do now? As I dosed on and off, I heard the rev of an engine, Charlie had found me.
“Hey.” She said walking up to me.
Looking at her I was mad, but more I was concerned about how she felt about me now.
“Hey.” I replied, looking at my hands.
“So a, you okay?”
“No, not really.”
“Jack, you may also regain some more function of your legs.”
“But not likely right?”
She sat there in silence which gave me a deafening answer, my life was changed.
“Charlie….,” I wanted to tell her how I really felt, what was deep down inside, “ how would you ever….” I paused, swallowed, and continued, “ how would you ever want to marry a man that can’t use his legs.”
That was it, my response was out, and I was shaky and nervous on how she was going to answer that.
“Jack, are you proposing to me?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond except for the definite answer.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” My heart was pounding, I got on one knee, very gingerly, “Charlie, will you marry me? I know I don’t have a ring, or a lot of money or…” I was rambling.
“Jack, shut up.”
This was the rejection I was afraid of.
Charlie grabbed my chin and kissed my lips, for more than a second.
“ Of course I’ll marry you.” She said with a smile.
This felt like a punch in the gut, but somehow a good one.
I was stunned that she said yes, and all I could do was grab and hold on to her. If anyone like her would want to marry me, I might not be as bad of a person I thought I was.
“Jack, there is one thing.” Charlie said.
I let go of her.
“What is it?”
“Youa, you gotta ask my dad first.”
This wasn’t a good feeling, all the sudden my stomach got queasy.
“Jack, I don’t want to tell anyone until you ask him, you understand right?”
“Yeah, of course I do.”
This was not going to be an easy task.
The following days Charlie and I had to keep our excitement down to a minimum, with John working twice as hard and I was trying to get the courage to talk to him, it didn’t get done. Along with all my free time though, I did manage to find a ring. I had a little money saved up and decided to spend it on something very much needed. It was dark when I got back to the farm, after all I spent almost all day in the jewelers, and of course the moment came when John and I were “Coincidently” alone. He was sipping coffee and reading the paper on the couch, and I was sitting in the chair by the fireplace, hoping the sweat on my brow looked like I was just getting too toasty. John looked up at me, and noticed something in my eyes that I was trying very hard to hide.
“What’d wanna talk about kid?” John bellowed out from across the way.
“What, what sir?” I said caught off guard.
“You see anciy, you need to talk bout something.” His hands lowered the paper.
“Sir, uh, th- there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
He looked content, and a little le frightening.
My voice crackled with nerves, I felt I couldn’t breathe.
“Sir, I’d… I’d like your permission to..to..a…marry you daughter.” I spurted out.
John glared at me for what felt like an hour, then sat the paper down on the coffee table and gave me an answer.
“So, you wanna marry my little girl huh?” he looked me in the eyes
“ yea.. yes sir I do.”
The anticipation built up inside me.
“You love her?”
“More than anything sir.” My voice crackled with nerves.
“You better respect her, and promise me you’ll never hurt her.” Tears welled up in his eyes.
I looked him in the eyes, and gave him a stern answer.
“Sir, I promise, I’ll never lay a finger on her, and I’ll respect her more than anything.”
John sat there pondering my answer.
“Alright Kid, you can marry my daughter.”
He held out his hand, I shook it and he gave a smile.
“Wella, welcome to the family.”
“Thank you John.”
After that I had to run and tell Charlie, who was at work. The lady at the Registration desk was there again.
“You here for ya girl?” She asked as I shuffled to her desk.
“Yes, uh Susan,” I said looking at her name tag, “Can you tell her, her fiancé is here to see her.”
“Fiancé huh, you must be a beter guy than I thought.”
“Guess so , her father thinks so, just asked him.”
“Hmmm, okay, she in room three.”
“I-,I can go in there?”
“Not suppose to but.., you look like a paitent, go get your girl.”
I went back to see Charlie who was stitchin up a kids arm.
“Hey.., Jack your not suppose to be back here.”
“Susan said I could come back. I uh, talked to your dad.”
“You did? What’d he say?”
I cleared my throat.
“He said yes!”
“What!” Charlie screamed with excitement and let go of the kids arm and grabbed me.
“Charlie, uh you might want to finish that?” I said trying to breath.
“Oh, yeah. “
She continued the stitches and sent the kid home with his mother.
“So, how’d it go?”
“Fine. “ I replied.
“I’m so excited Jack!”
While we were exiting the hospital she insisted on telling everyone one of her friends I was her fiancé.
“Charlie, you wanna go grab a cup on coffee?”
As the next few monthes went on our wedding was being planned, and before I knew it, the day before the wedding was apon us. The night was cold, Charlie and Martha were at the church finishing up some last miniute decorations while John and I were back at the farm. I was nervouse, since my legs were gonna be crippled for the rest of my life, I was unsure how sturdy I really was without my crutches, I could walk short hops from one point to another, but tomarrow I had to dacne, and I knew that would be a challenge.
“Something eatin’ at ya kid?” john asked as we sat on the cold October porch.
“Like what, ya ain’t got cold feet do ya?”
“No, no sir, nothing like that… uh, tomarrow I gotta dance.”
“I’m not sure I’ll be able.”
“Like ya don’t know how or…?”
“No, like I don’t know if my legs will give out or not.”