Authors note: The following story was written as an assignment at a recent writers retreat weekend. The assignment was to create a short story following a specific 8 paragraph format. The story had to have a specific beginning and end with some type of emotion or tension. I was very happy with my final product and wanted to share it with you today. cn
Spring is my favorite time of year on the farm. Flowers burst open announcing a fresh new season. They spread open their pedals to welcome the warmth of the spring sun. Song birds return home to build their nests and birth a new generation of performers. Frogs climb out of the mucky warmth of their muddy hibernation to sing a new song that fills the evening air with a calliope of music. I love Spring on the farm.
On Tanglewood Farm, Spring means a new clutch of chicks hatched from Rachel’s homemade incubator.
Weeks of care to watch the temperature on the thermostat. A gentle 1/4 turn of the eggs each night to help with the embryo’s development. A sound. Hear that tap tapping. Then the faint line of a crack that bursts open to spill out a wet and wrinkled baby.
Chicks, that once grown will take their place in her flock, as long as their genitals are of the female configuration. There is no room for ornery and arrogant roosters in her coop. Soon the noisy chirping little chicks will be gracing our breakfast table with their morning egg offering. Life gives life.
Spring also means another litter of babies in the rabbit hutch. Wiggling pink bodies squirm in the straw. Tangled babies tucked into the nest of warm fur plucked from the belly of their mother.
A new family of bees arrive and is added to the hive. Replacing those who died in the cold and harsh winter months.
Out in the field, Checkers the cow is breathing heavy. Pacing back and forth across the field. She lays down. She gets up. Heaving and pushing to give life to her first baby calf. We watch her labor as the day turns into evening. Soon the brown and white baby drops to the ground. Silence. Checkers licks and nudges it. Willing it to move. It is evident in an instant to all but her, that it is dead.
We bow our heads. Tears brim in our eyes and fall to the earth. What happened? Why did it die? My sensitive little nine year questions us as she sobs. Why? The steam rises off the still body. It just lays there. Motionless in the grass. Perfect. Dead. The cold evening air chills the corpse. Pick it up. Where to bury it? Checkers moans over the body. She calls after us as we walk to the barn. Her baby. Where shall we dig the hole?
The mournful cry continues through the night. It follows us into our beds. Into our dreams. As I toss and turn I can hear her calls from the barn. Crying out after her dead baby. My own mother heart breaks for her as I imagine the pain of her loss. As a new day dawns the morning sunlight does not dispel the pall of death that has fallen over Tanglewood Farm.
Checkers is in pain. Her heart is broken. Her udder is bursting with milk. There is no baby to relieve her swollen tits. Do something. Do anything. Just make her pain stop. A quick trip to a neighboring dairy brings back a new-born baby steer. Being a little boy calf, he is not an animal of necessity or value. Baby meet Checkers. Checkers meet your baby. But this is an imposter. It is not Checkers baby. She knows it. Her baby is deep in the earth behind the barn.
Hours upon hours turn into days and days. We tried to convince Checkers that this little baby calf needs her. She violently turns it away. The calf does not understand why he can smell the life giving milk from the mama cow’s tits but is kicked in the face or shoved against the barn wall if he tries to take its sustenance. The days are getting warmer now. The flowers are in full bloom. The garden begins to provide some dinner-time ingredients. The baby bunnies and chicks are all out of their nests. The bees are in full swing now, gathering and bringing in the pollen to make their godly nectar. But for the baby calf and the mama cow, it is still dark and cold as winter in the barn. The battle would not be won. We give up. We begin to bottle feed the calf. Checkers goes back to her field to pace back and forth. Lost in the dream of her beautiful dead baby. Life goes on.
Farms are like a magical and sometimes tragic perpetual opera of seasons played out from one life moment to another. Cold and warm. Closed and open. Young and old. Life and death. It plays on. And at the final fall of the curtain it mirrors our life. A reminder that we are but actors in this performance of seasons as well.
Spring? It is my favorite time of the year. At least until Summer.