jeff's alfalfa field

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Adult Romance  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Featured Review on this writing by DampKitten

Just a bit of old fashion romance and a sprinkle of magic.

Jeff’s Alfalfa Field

 

Old man Pickard banged on the farmhouse door until Jeff yelled out from the hayloft.

“I’m in the barn, Mr. Pickard!”

“Well, get your butt down here, son. I haven’t got all day.”

Jeff emerged from the barn a moment later, brushing straw from his clothes.

“What is it, Mr. Pickard?”

“Understand something, Rockford. My offer is off the table as of nine o’clock this evening.”

“I already told you, my farm isn’t for sale, Mr. Pickard.”

"Now, just a minute, you’re $3000 in debt to me on the alfalfa seed."

"I was hoping seed would pay for itself once I establish a crop."

"Fat chance of that. We're in a drought, boy, and you've got no water shares. Get out of debt while you still have the chance."

"I'll take my chances on rain,"

"You do that, Jeff." He moved a step closer. "You know, there's talk you’ve got yourself a share in one of those European brides. What’s the matter, Jeff? Aren’t local women good enough for you? Peg Martin over on Road 7 needs a man. She’s a fine little mare. Why not hitch your wagon to that?”

"Is it hard to understand that I’ve fallen in love, Mr. Pickard?"

"Well, you know what they say, Jeff."

"What's that?"

"Turn em’ upside down, and they all look the same."

The smile disappeared from Jeff's face, and Pickard laughed until tears streamed down his cheeks.

  •  

That afternoon, Jeff waited at a DIA baggage kiosk, searching the flight display for United flight 754, nonstop from Munich to Denver. It had landed but hadn’t yet arrived at the gate. He readied the sign on which he'd written his lady's name, Cassandra.

Their first online conversations had started slowly, but each had steadily gained the other’s understanding and trust. And now Jeff wondered if it wasn’t all a dream, a lovely creature from an imaginary land. Hungary. He’d never ventured beyond the Colorado borders. He didn’t know cultures, but he was in bloom… Due to her heritage, she had known strife and social rejection. He’d suffered a cruel loss to cancer, a young wife. And always, the legacy farm that would not produce. Could there be a child? They both yearned for fulfillment and a chance to start their lives anew. They were yet to meet, but his heart was full.

Travelers arrived at the kiosk and crowded the island. He searched their faces but found no one resembling the picture he'd studied carefully. The nearby elevators chimed and whooshed and whisked travelers to the upper levels.

 A single suitcase remained, winding slow laps around the baggage carousel. His heart sank a little. “Please let this be real and good,” he murmured.

And then he spotted her, coming down the concourse with a large straw handbag. But the light must not be correct. The pictures had done her no justice: oceanic blue eyes, raven hair, a bow-shaped mouth, and a dazzling smile. She wore a floral macramé blouse, a full-length muslin skirt, and an ankle bracelet with tiny bells. The closer she drew, the more vivid and otherworldly became her appearance. And then she was at his side, taking his arm and filling his ears with sweet laughter.

On the drive back to the farm, he stole glances at her as if he was dreaming, afraid he'd wake up. Cassandra intercepted Jeff's glances, meeting each one with a warm smile and a steady gaze.

  •  

The following morning, Jeff awoke with a start. He lay on his bed with closed eyes. Was she real?  He slipped out of bed, pulled on his clothes, then went quietly to the kitchen. The guest bedroom’s door was ajar. He approached it, thinking to knock softly, but stayed his hand. What if I’m still alone? He found his courage and rapped lightly.

“Come in, Mr. Jeff; I am very awake.”

He pushed his head past the door, but her smile was jewelry.

She lay nestled in the guest bed.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Jeff said. He glanced around the room, which seemed strangely aglow.

“Oh, but I am glad for your presence, Mr. Jeff. Promise to let me cook breakfast. I have seen you have very many eggs.”

She tumbled out of bed. Jeff stepped boyishly aside as Cassandra swept past him, coloring the air with the fragrance of her hair.

Jeff went to a window and looked over the dusty farmyard as Cassandra cooked breakfast, a pole barn, the corral, a sprawl of old farm machinery, and the tool sheds. 

The roof joists need immediate attention. Where’s that money coming from? The alfalfa needs to take off like never before. What are my chances for that? I need rain. These last three years have been hell. 

Cassandra called him from his reverie, and he went to the table, noticing she’d put their settings next to each other on the table. She quickly joined him, leaning her head on his shoulder, saying, “You are a good man, Mr. Jeff.”

I feel seven feet tall, thought Jeff.

After breakfast, He went outside and looked down the driveway, its two hundred yards dividing his two fields and then intersecting County Road 3. 

A pickup truck barreled along the unpaved stretch, kicking up clouds of dust that drifted slowly across the fields and settled in the morning's dead calm. Red-tailed hawks circled high above the parched irrigation ditches. A gust of wind blew in from the snowcapped Rockies, spinning the barn's weathervane to the east, and a thundercloud tumbled in and spat out an electric-blue bolt, rending the sky with a terrific crack. The cloud passed, casting the farmhouse in shadow, pelting the thick dust with raindrops as it floated quickly into the distance. 

Come back, cloud! 

He watched it disappear.  Then, listening to the shrinking rumble, he saw something he'd never seen. The storm cloud began moving against the wind, back toward his farm. Jeff removed his hat and scratched his head. 

These things have scientific explanations. Oh God, don't let this be a twister. 

The cloud continued moving toward Jeff's property, positioning itself over the alfalfa field and letting loose with a downpour. Jeff glanced toward the farmhouse and saw Cassandra watching from a window. She waved at him and smiled. He waved back, soaking up the rain in wonderment. He ran for the farmhouse, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"It's rain, Cassandra, a regular downpour. I don't know how, but..."

"It's very good, this rain?"

"Heck yeah," Jeff said.

"This is very good in Hungary as well. You like it?"

“I do, Cassandra, only we can't count on luck around here."

"Maybe there is not so much wrong with your luck."

"Well, that'd be every kind of wonderful. To think it would rain every day, just enough to get the crop up and keep it going."

"Maybe you cross your fingers a little bit." With that, Cassandra went outside and spoke to the raincloud in a foreign tongue. The rain tapered off and the cloud headed due east.

  •  

Meanwhile, old man Pickard woke with a snort. The aroma of sausages and scrambled eggs pulled him towards the dining area, where a stack of pancakes awaited.

He pulled his suspenders over his pear-shaped torso, sat at the kitchen table, and drained a glass of orange juice.

"Rosalinda," he bellowed, "bring coffee and the paper and then go."

The woman bit her bottom lip, then peeked around the pantry door. For seventeen years, I've worked here. And my name is Juanita. "Yes, sir," she said, bringing a coffee pot and the paper.

Pickard let go with a giant belch. Juanita exited the pantry and continued out the front door, leaving the house keys and a resignation note on the kitchen counter.

Pickard poured syrup over his food and wolfed it down. After another enormous belch, he caressed his belly. People had compared his appearance to Jack Dempsey as a young man, but he'd ballooned to over three hundred pounds. Going to his porch, Pickard bellowed for his foreman.

"Hola Señor Pickard," said Manuel, coming around the side of the house.

"Round your crew up, Manuel; we have eight hundred acres to cut."

"Si, Mr. Pickard."

"And get rid of that new boy. I don't need him."

"Ricardo? He is a hard worker, Señor Pickard."

"You heard me!" roared Pickard. "I own ninety percent of the arable land in this county; I’ll have you know!"

As Manuel returned to his truck, he mumbled, "The man with the spooky eyes."

  •  

Jeff watched admiringly as Cassandra put a lunch together for his workday.

"There's no reason to trouble yourself with all that," he said.

"You are a strong man, Mr. Jeff. This keeps your strength." 

"Well, I'm clearing Pickard's irrigation ditch today. Call me if there's something I can bring you from Pickard’s Quick Stop."

"This is Pickard's ditch and also Pickard's Stop?"

"It's Pickard's Reservoir, too," added Jeff.

"And you will have water from Pickard’s ditch?"

"I'll earn half a day's water. It doesn't amount to much, I'm afraid."

Cassandra went about the kitchen, preparing the rest of Jeff's lunch, pausing here and there to smile.

"There is a drink they served on the plane. This is green can, very sweet. I'm saying 'Spite,' but it is incorrect. Perhaps Spite is a common drink at Pickard's Quick Stop?"

"Sprite," corrected Jeff with a laugh. "If you had a feather and I had Pickard's money, we'd both be tickled."

  •  

Jeff parked his truck on the side of Reservoir Road, then pushed through high cattails until he'd reached the headgate, an open-top concrete box sticking just out of the ground. He cleared it of tumbleweeds, checked the action on the slide, then started up the weed-covered embankment to the top of the earthen dam.

The man-made lake, a thousand yards in circumference, had reached its maximum depth, catching the irrigation runoff from a network of farms along the Bear Creek Basin. A rickety dock extended twenty feet over the water, hovering eight inches above the surface. Small fish swam near the rip rap shores.

He hesitated, devising an action plan should the dock cave in, then started along the slats to test the main valve. The valve wheel turned with average resistance—good to go. The dock swayed as he crept back to the bank.

Grabbing a pitchfork and a flat-nose shovel from the truck, he started down the ditch, clearing debris and caked mud along the way.

The sun blazed overhead. Grasshoppers crisscrossed the ditch, landing on the stands of Kochia weed edging both sides. A bull snake hissed. Jeff stumbled backward, tripping over his boots and landing on his elbows. He leaped to his feet, raising the shovel. "Get out of here, Yah!" The snake held its ground. She was the size of Jeff's arm—and angry—with her eyes locked on him. 

"Yah! Get the hell out of here!" 

Jeff backed up, and the snake slipped into the Kochia. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and continued down the ditch. "Not poisonous," he mumbled. “But rattlesnakes are bad news.” He eyed the three-foot Kochia suspiciously.

Seven hours later, he reached a watershed that channeled water away from his property and into Pickard's lagoon. He trudged back to the reservoir, opened the headgate, then lingered for a moment, watching the flow rush toward the first four culverts.

Heading home, he steered his truck down Highway 56, stopping to purchase the soft drink that Cassandra wanted. He drove over a rise and almost lost his grip on the steering wheel. Pulling over and climbing out of his truck, he stared in disbelief at the alfalfa crop that covered his fields in purple blooms just two days after he'd planted it. But it's not possible! He jumped in the truck and drove like a madman. Bursting through the door, he sat the soft drink down and swept Cassandra into his arms, spinning her in a circle, then setting her carefully down.

"There is much alfalfa. You are pleased, Mr. Jeff?"

"I don't understand it, but I’m very pleased."

Cassandra took Jeff by the hand and led him to the living room. She put a slow waltz record on the turntable and said,

"Then you will be pleased to dance with me and love me, for soon there is much more."

"Yes," Jeff said. And they glided across the floor.

  •  

The following morning, Jeff discovered three hundred large square bales of alfalfa stacked neatly in the south corner of his property and the fields in bloom once again.

An hour later, old man Pickard drove onto Jeff's property with Manuel and Zora from the Agricultural Board, following behind in an old pickup.

Pickard walked straight up to Jeff.

"I don't know what you're up to, Rockford, but a lot of cow manure came down my ditch yesterday and ruined my lagoon."

Manuel stood behind Pickard, nodding at Jeff with an approving smile.

“I don’t see how that could’ve happened. Mr. Pickard, I cleared the ditch and started your water as instructed. It was a clear flow."

"We'll just see about that," Pickard complained, suddenly noticing the stacked alfalfa in Jeff's fields. "What the hell is that!? Those are stolen bales—my bales,” he grabbed Manuel. Right?”

"No, Señor Pickard, I counted your bales this morning. But a strange cloud is raining on them, and they will become moldy.”

Old man Pickard looked at Zora and threw his hands up, but Zora only shrugged.

Cassandra came out of the farmhouse and took Jeff’s arm. She looked at Pickard and said, “Perhaps there is something wrong with your luck, Mr. Pickard.”

“This isn’t over, Rockford, not by a long shot.”

Jeff said, “You know what they say about moldy bales, don’t you, Pickard?”

“What do they say, Mr. Jeff?” Cassandra asked, squeezing Jeff’s arm affectionately.

Jeff raised his chin to Pickard and said, “Turn them upside down, and they all look the same.”

 

End

 


 


Submitted: July 28, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Laird. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Nite-Owl

Really enjoyed reading this story. I admire your story telling skills, details put me on that farm seeing everything happen with my own eyes. Great job L.

Fri, July 29th, 2022 2:39am

DampKitten

What a cute ending. Well written and lovely imagery. Cassandra has magical powers. I assume that Jeff 'arranged' for her to marry him and establish citizenship thru one of those companies where men can 'buy' a wife from a foreign country? I don't know much about that, but it would be curious to have details and understand why Jeff chose this route for a mate.

Jeff seems like a nice man who has limited leverage against his wealthy neighbor, Pickard, a greedy man dead set on taking all the land in the county. Pickard is an ass, so we have no trouble despising him. Nice character development.

You're trying to bounce the time element around by starting in the bedroom (presumably after making love), then sending us back to Pickard's offer and the anatomy of Jeff's farming situation. Then, we jump to the airport for the pickup where you call it "that afternoon", so it's an extension of the same day. I'm not sure you need the literary spacer there.

Use your spacer when you can't otherwise float your reader directly into the next scene.

I like the dialogue. It's a sweet story.

Sat, July 30th, 2022 3:27am

Author
Reply

Wow, you're totally right about the literary space. I could feel that it was awkward, but I didn't see why until you pointed it out. Time for an opening rewrite. As usual, your advice is spot on! Many thanks, DampKitten.

L Reis

Fri, July 29th, 2022 9:29pm

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