David Grubb, a retired Coastguard Warrant Officer, has creatively written since childhood, yet career/family always came first. He’s changing that aspect of life and loving every minute. His work appears in Touchstone, Toasted Cheese, 1:1000, Sixfold.org, The Elevation Review, Every Day Fiction, The Abstract Elephant, The Bookends Review, Wingless Dreamer, & Ab Terra Flash Fiction. www.agrubbylife.com
Artwork: Photography by Strixx Slade
Dwight inched around the rim of the large hole as if it was a vicious predator. The deformation was like a crater from a meteor in some absurd Sci-Fi movie. A putrid odor of Sulphur and fried vegetation overwhelmed him as he skirted the charred ground. He wicked sweat off his forehead with a calloused thumb and tried to comprehend a lightning strike had created the cavity in his highest yielding cornfield.
After a few more steps, he paused and glanced down the rows at Christina. His wife insisted on walking the main field with him to help assess the damage from the fierce thunderstorm. Maybe there was less hail and wind damage at her end, but he doubted it.
Out of habit, an old spade shovel lay across his bare shoulder. Thick, black mud caked his rubber boots, which made walking difficult. Everywhere he went, powerful gusts of wind had flattened the knee-high corn. Pea-sized hail shredded anything left standing. As he converted lost bushels to dollars, bile rose in his throat. They’d weathered hard times, but this was fucking bad.
He pitched the shovel into the bed of their farm truck and kicked the mud off his boots using one of the bald tires. When he slid into the seat, his tight grip on the steering wheel made it squeak. For many minutes he stared at the decimated field through the cracked windshield. Christina’s gaze was like a red-hot branding iron searing the side of his face. The crevice from the lightning strike came back to mind.
Christina said, “Your end?”
Her fear shook him out of his trance. “Not good.”
“The other fields…”
He turned and faced her. “The same, maybe worse.”
Her fiery gaze faded. “Jesus, why this year? We’ve never put the plantings on credit before.”
Tears trickled down her cheeks, and he clenched his stomach to stop from doing the same. Christina’s crying always sucked the grit right out of him. He tried to pull her close. At first, she resisted and then surrendered. He tucked her under his arm like he used to do when they first started dating. From their junior year of high school, she rode right there, everywhere they went until—his mind faltered. When—why had the practice ended?
He rubbed her arm. “I know what to do.”
Sniffling, she twisted her head to look into his eyes. “You do?”
He gunned the truck and tore out of the small parking area of the field’s upper end. Once they were on the old gravel road that led to their home, she moved to give him driving space. But he squeezed her closer to his side. Her blossoming smile warmed away their sadness, and an arid wind from wide-open windows dried her eyes. The great Nebraskan sand hills rushed by on their right. A continuous rise and fall of dunes splotched with mediocre grazing grass, thorny cacti, and quilled yucca plants.
Before long, he zoomed down the long lane that led to their large, century-old farmhouse. He roared past it, throttling the truck towards the Platte river. At one time, the vital waterway was also the playground of his youth. They’d gone all the way for the first time in a tent under a starlit sky at his favorite camping spot. The water rushing out of the head gates had muted their noisy ruckus as it did for everything else within hundreds of yards.
At the check gates, he jammed the truck in park and carried her down the river’s sloping bank. The water swept past his thighs and she nuzzled deep into his neck as he waded them onto the closest sandbar. In minutes they became teenagers again. The cold, wet sand turned hot and sticky as they reconnected.
Afterwards they swam away the rest of the wasteful day. Their naked bodies shimmering in the water like the bellies of minnows darting around the shallower pools. Looks passed between them that hadn’t lit up their faces for years. A warm, encouraging sun took its sweet time arcing across the sky as if to give them as much splendor as possible.
With stomachs growling and delicate places reddened by the sun, they dressed each other in slow, deliberate movements. His fingers slid over her gooseflesh skin, but he forced himself to wait before stirring up the wet sand again. Late afternoon shadows cast long silhouettes against the riverbanks as they climbed into the truck and headed for home.
In the kitchen, Dwight sat at their country table while Christina whipped up dinner comprising breakfast items. Wearing nothing but an apron, she flitted around the cozy room like a barn swallow chasing bugs. She dove for a spatula, soared up to snatch a pan, and weaved around the island to stir things up.
They ate fluffy pancakes, soft-boiled eggs, and hearty slices of country ham without saying a word. The entire meal came from their meager, but bountiful way of life. Matching grins feasted upon the hearty food. A renewed heat shimmered between them, and the spider lightning that had lit up the previous night’s sky skittered across his thoughts.
Later, lying on their bed in the thick velvet of darkness, it was impossible to read her face. The visual was unnecessary. It’d been too damn long since they spent that much time together. Apologizing was as futile as filling in the hole from the lightning strike, but that’s what he planned to do in the morning with his trusty spade. When the half-moon cast a cool radiance on their sweaty faces, he turned away from her to stop from breaking down.
She slid her hand up his torso and rested it over his heart.
He whispered, “I should have…”
She flicked his nipple and cut off his words. Then she latched onto the nub, twisting it until he winced. Her entire body shook as she twisted harder, his muted sobs broke apart the silence.
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
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By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7
32 pages, published 1/15/2022
By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7
32 pages, published 1/15/2022