Chapter 3: Chapter 3

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 14

Chapter 3

 

"Sarina? Sarina, you awake?" Jonas called, stepping back into the house. He'd just finished hauling away the carcass from earlier and turning the cows out to the pasture. The process took about thirty minutes. He stopped in the foyer of the farm house. A modest stack of envelopes, sitting on a table near the doorway, caught his eye. Sarina must've already gotten the mail. He grabbed the stack and began flipping through the mismatched documents, one by one. Each envelope had the same ink stamp on the outside. In bold, black letters, the stamp read "Past Due Notice! Important Documents Enclosed!"

"Damn." Jonas mumbled to himself as he sorted through the stack. There were at least a dozen envelopes. He felt his heart sink a bit.

"Would you quiet down, you crotchety old coot?" Sarina soon answered. Her voice radiated throughout the house, from the living room. "Your kid just went to sleep, finally. You trying to wake him?"

Jonas turned and glanced down the hall. He saw, through the door left ajar, Colin, laid to sleep in his crib in the other room. Colin was four months old.

“Sorry. It’s just that, uh...” Jonas said, his voice much lower now. He tossed the bills back onto the table and stepped into the living room to see Sarina, sitting on the couch. She had her laptop set upon her legs, and she was typing away, totally invested in her work. Her acrylic fingernails clicked against the keys of the keyboard. Sarina handled most of the finances at the Santana Ranch. It was horribly tedious work, and she hated every second of it, but she understood that it had to be done for her family and the business to get by. She was probably presently tabulating some obscure cost associated with the operation of the farm for this month. No amount of tabulation, however, would produce more money to dig the Santana family out from beneath their seemingly insurmountable heap of debt. Jonas was reaching a point where he felt like all his hard work would never truly pay off. Some months the family didn't see a penny of profit. It all went to alleviating their debts and purchasing necessities. But these days, the debts were piling up faster than they were being chipped away.

“What?” Sarina asked, peering over her reading glasses at Jonas, who stood in the doorframe to the living room.

Jonas had become distracted watching her. He had a tendency of doing that, even after sixteen years of marriage. She had striking dark eyes and a head of thick brown hair, which was presently tied into a loose bun.

“Oh, right.” Jonas snapped out of it. “The kids were just a little shaken up is all. They found another dead cow this morning. Out in the pasture.” Jonas, too, looked rather shaken from the incident. His face was pale. His eyes looked numb and bewildered. What Devin had said, before heading for the bus stop, was right. The cow definitely wasn’t killed by coyotes, that much was certain.

“Another?” Sarina asked. She closed the laptop and set it beside her, on the couch.

Jonas nodded, a rather solemn nod. “This one was pretty messed up. All sliced open and whatnot.”

“Well, shit, what do you suppose is killin’ all your cows, Jonas?” Sarina asked. She sat a bit more upright, removed her glasses, and rubbed her eyes.

“Don’t know.” Jonas shrugged. “Likely a pack of coyotes, I think.” He lied.

“So what do ya’ plan to do?”

“I’ll head out there tonight with my shotgun.” Jonas said. He turned and stepped into the kitchen. “Just gotta make sure I got some slugs in here.” He began rummaging through a drawer, next to the oven.

“Head out with your shotgun?!” Sarina asked. She jumped off the couch and followed him into the kitchen. “Why would you do a thing like that?”

“Well, I gotta do somethin’, don’t I?” Jonas said, still sorting through the mismatched contents of the drawer. “Can’t keep lettin’ whatever’s out there drag my animals outta their pens and slaughter ‘em out in that pasture.”

“What if it ain’t coyotes? What if it’s something mean?” Sarina asked. She was beginning to sound concerned.

“What you mean, mean?” Jonas asked, glancing at her. He saw that she was genuinely worried.

“Maybe it’s a bear.”

“Ain’t got bears around here, honey.” he answered coolly. Finally he found the cardboard box of shotgun slugs, pulled it out of the drawer, and opened it. Empty. “Damn.” he whispered.

“I don’t want you going out there tonight.” Sarina asserted, snatching away the box.

“And why the hell not?” Jonas asked, reaching for the box. She stepped away.

“You've got plenty more cows where that one came from. No sense in going out there and shooting up the place over one lousy cow.” she said. 

“Three lousy cows, so far.” Jonas corrected her. “And whaddaya mean by that?” he demanded. Now he was becoming frustrated.

“Just worried, is all.” Sarina said. She handed him back the box.

Jonas sighed and leaned against the kitchen counter, his arms crossed. “Worried about what?”

“Everything.” Sarina replied. “Worried about how we’re gonna keep this place goin’. How we’re gonna make ends meet. Worried about our kids. Worried about you, and your silly ideas.” She sounded defeated.

“No sense in worrying ‘bout all that stuff.” Jonas said. “C’mere.” He hugged her. Her head fell into his chest.

“I know you got a lot on your mind.” he continued. “Got plenty to worry about. The last thing you oughta be worryin’ yourself with is me and my antics. Just try not to be too preoccupied with all these silly little things, okay. I don’t want you to be so stressed all the time. Everything’ll be okay.”

The truth is, no amount of condolence from Jonas would make Sarina feel any less trapped.

“Why don’t we just get outta here?” Sarina asked.

“What’s that?” Jonas placed his hand upon the back of her head and ran his fingers through her hair.

“Leave here. Get out of Opal, and start somewhere else, y’know.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jonas said, still holding her. “I know you ain’t happy here. I know the boy ain’t happy either, but…” He paused and thought for a long time. Thought deeply about all of his inadequacies. Thought about starting anew, from square one. Thought about being nobody again. God, what an awful thing it is, to be nobody.

“I don’t think I could do that.” Jonas managed, at last. His voice was blank. There was nothing there. Not remorse or sorrow. No anger. No frustration. Nothing. He had remorselessly told his wife that there was no way out of Opal for their family. Even if there was, somehow, a way out, he refused to take it. Refused to seize his opportunity to build a better life for himself and his family. He had simply given too much of himself to the farm already. And with each day, he gave more, slowly sinking deeper into the cycle of giving, but never really seeing any meaningful reward or payoff. If he were to leave now, it’d be like leaving behind a piece of himself and trying desperately to forget about the past several years, but never being truly able to shake free of the memories.

Sarina began to cry gently into his shoulder. She cried for a few minutes. Cried at the thought of growing old, dying, and being buried in Opal, Wisconsin. Cried at the thought of a comfortable, uneventful life. Eventually she picked up her head and wiped her eyes with her sleeve, then she looked up at Jonas.

She didn’t hate him for refusing to leave Opal. She wasn’t even upset with him. Just disappointed.

“I can’t leave.” Jonas whispered. “Don’t got nowhere to go. We got our house here, our farm, our life. This is our place. This is our home. I can’t up and leave here. I’m sorry, I just… I can’t.”

She placed her hands on his face and caught his racing thoughts.

“This town has a way of ruining you, y’know.” she whispered. “You think you’re somebody to all those people in town, dear. But they don’t know you. They only know Jonas Santana, the provincial little dairy farmer that lives in the ranch on the edge of town. They don’t know you, Jonas. They don’t see you. I see you.”

Sarina gazed into her husband’s eyes with a sort of passion that had captivated him all those years ago.

“Think about it.” she whispered. “I hope you’ll be able to make it out someday.

Jonas said nothing.

Colin began to whimper from the other room. Sarina withdrew her arms and turned from Jonas. She walked over to the crib and took up Colin. She swayed gently, and his cries gradually subsided. She walked back into the kitchen, still holding Colin, and watched Jonas expectantly.

“Gotta go.” Jonas whispered. His voice sounded pained. Tormented by the notion of having to repeat the past five years, and having to build himself up all over again. It was a thought that was almost too much for him to bear. At least in Opal he was Jonas Santana, the solitary dairy farm owner who lived on the edge of town. The guy who single handedly built his business from the ground up, and somehow found a way to survive each and every day. Elsewhere, in that distant new place, he wouldn't even have that. He might as well not even have a name outside of Opal.

He stepped past Sarina and grabbed the keys to his old pickup truck, which lay on the hall tree, by the front door.

He opened the door and set off on his errand to purchase more ammunition for his shotgun. He left Sarina, Colin, and the empty box of shotgun slugs in the kitchen. He left without saying goodbye.


Submitted: May 04, 2021

© Copyright 2021 andrew s.. All rights reserved.

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