You hear it on the news all the time.
“Worst drought in years.”
George is all too familiar with it. It seems as if he hears it every single year now.
Saying that George was at the end of his rope would be casting a much too optimistic light on the situation.
George would be the first to tell you that even though he was raised for farming, he wasn’t meant for it.
Still, he is the fourth generation to be farming this land.
And that is the only thing that keeps him setting his alarm clock for 4:00 am every morning. (Not that he is ever alseep when it rings.)
Well, that and the memory of his father coming in after dark every night. Hobbling badly. Forcing a smile for his only son.
George went to college. The state university, of course. He was the first of his extended family to graduate. George was “nudged” into studying Economics because his father thought it could help with the farm.
George is forty. His father has been dead for ten years. George still makes every decision based on what his father would do.
It’s not as if he could even sell the farm if he wanted to. This isn’t the movies. There are no evil landbarons wanting to drill for oil or build strip-malls on the land.
He wouldn’t want to sell anyway.
Even though watching sports on his satellite dish is no longer drowning out the nagging voice of cognitive dissonance, and his hatred for the land on which he lives and works is growing clearer by the day.
His one respite are his weekly trips into town for groceries and supplies.
He is just one of many farmers that make the weekly trip. But, he is the most popular.
At least amongst the town ladies.
George still looks as though he could pass for twenty-five, and is constantly given fresh-baked pies by lonely townswomen.
He sometimes wonders why they never make cakes.
The ladies also slip pieces of paper with their phone numbers under the pies.
George is flattered by the attention. And he is kind to everyone.
But, George gave his heart to another many years ago, and still hasn’t figured out how to get it back.
It was his senior year in college. Her name was Stephanie.
She knocked him on his ass.
They were inseparable for the entire year. But, with graduation looming, and a few glasses already emptied, she broached the subject at the campus bar. She was sitting directly scross from him. He remembers what she was wearing. He remembers that fucking “Time of My Life” song from DIRTY DANCING playing.
“What are we going to do after graduation?”
He wanted to think that she was talking about what party they would attend.
But, he knew better.
She had a job lined up in Chicago. He was expected to go back to the farm.
She never asked him to go with her.
He wasn’t sure if it was because she knew he couldn’t do it, or because she just didn’t want it bad enough. He hoped it was the former.
She still sends Xmas cards. Pictures of her with her lawyer husband and gorgeous kids. He was happy for her.
George got up at the same time as always this morning. He did exactly what he did every other day.
He went to look at the fields. And that is when he saw it…
George hadn’t cried since he was a toddler. He had no idea what he was experiencing. The strange burning in his eyes. A feeling in his nose that, if pushed, he’d describe as “feeling like you spent too much time around fiberglass insulation.”
For the rest of the day, he did the exact things he did every other day. Still, they felt different.
That night, for a change, he took out his father’s old records and put on some Johnny Cash. A train was rollin’ down to San Anton as George whipped up a batch of his mother’s special recipe fried chicken.
Johnny walked the line as George cleaned up his dishes.
George glanced over at his fridge. Lined up neatly – and held in place by magnets from various farm insurance companies – was every slip of paper with a phone number from a lady in town.
George stared at them.
“Noy yet,” he decided. “But soon.”