Minnesota Winters: I(raw)

Chapter I
The Long February Night

It’s February in Brainerd Minnesota, with storm clouds brewing on the horizon. The newscaster’s voice disturbs the white noise emanating from the new Grundig transistor radio, sitting on the fireplace mantel, announcing the windchill factor will be a negative 3 degrees Fahrenheit with winds up to 15 miles per hour. Cautioning all listeners not to go outside tonight.

The cows on the 1200 acre farm are huddling close to one another for warmth, they lay down under the giant oak perched in the center of a sunken knoll, enclosed by a perfect barrier of huge white pines and stubby hemlocks. The cold air is brutal, however the wind is dulled to an almost eerie still by the circle of pines.

The horses are restless in the barn, several cats lay perched above on the hay bales stacked half way point of the barn, a great white horned owl looms lazily on a truss, the half wit pet of the farm lets off a single hoot. The chickens are snug in their roost inside the large coop attached to the backside of the barn. The glaring bright lights installed inside to keep them warm, doesn’t seem to bother the hens, the rooster struts around the barn pecking at the ground.

Nine siblings are settling in for the night, their mother, May, a 37-year-old woman, is getting ready for work and trying to get everything set for the morning so she can sleep in instead of bustling the kids off to school. Packing the kids lunches while yelling at them to wash up and get into their pajamas.

Frank a 40-year-old jack of all trades, is walking into the house after a long 8 day trip. His sky blue and chrome trim rig sits in the yard next to the barn, steaming from the heat in the cold air. He beams at his wife, “You going to be performing tonight babe?” May nods, “Plus we had a call in, I be tending deh bar too luv, care to come help out?”

Frank with a glimpse of confusion “You know I just got off a long haul, …why are you asking that? I haven’t even showered or eaten anything yet. Please let me be for a moment and get me bearings love” May sighs “you betcha, there is some leftover fried chicken in the fridge I have to leave now” Frank nods and vanishes down the hall. May gets herself bundled up in her bulking winter clothes. Walking outside with her clumsy over sized pink and black wool lined coat, thick handwoven wool cap, and mittens made for a man. Tossing obscenities to empty air while fumbling with the key and lock to open the vehicle, takes off her mit and unlocks it, “Fuck!”, she climbs into a rusty 1967 ford truck, sits down on the long seat worn out with use and sighs. She inserts the key into the ignition and turns over the engine. The engine whines and groans with reluctance, making a noise like a goat getting beat over and over. Then the rumbling and the backfiring black smoke, the engine comes to life. She puts the truck in gear, backs around the rig, puts it in drive and goes on down the long driveway. Looking at the house in the rearview mirror, with a sigh of relief as it fades.

Frank just finished his shower, walks into the kitchen to grab the fried chicken and a bottle of beer, when he hears the girls arguing upstairs in the bedroom “You three lil shits better simmer down, close dah lights, or Nana gonna come up and beat deh tar outta yer hides.

House falls silent, Frank flops down on the thick wooden chair to eat his cold food. Marc walks into the kitchen, whining about the girls causing problems and acting like idiots.“Boyce, you bedder get outta my sight, you’re 17 years old, get a job, move out if you have problems with your sisters, I don’t wanna to hear it.”

Marc protesting “I don’t have a problem with my sisters pops, I have a problem with not being able to tell them a piece of my mind!” Frank glares at him “Get with it, are you a boy or a man, get the fuck out of my face, I’m eating diss here food and going to bed, I had a long week, yer grating on dah nerve boyce!”

Marc stomps up the stairs, Lingers in the doorway of the girls bedroom, glaring at the them, belching out in annoyed tone “If you three bitches can’t shut up and let a guy sleep, then get your asses out to the barn with the other critters” The girls slam the door shut in his face and giggle. Marc mumbles under his breath “Stupid bitches” and goes back to bed. Frank overhears it, smiles, sinks his teeth into the chicken leg, with the leg in his mouth, stands up, grabbing the bucket of chicken, two more beers from the fridge, he walks into the living room, flips on the television turns it to channel 11, flops down in his favorite recliner in the corner of the room opposite of the fire place. .

Few hours later, Frank is passed out on the recliner holding his ninth beer, with Johnny Carson on the black and white television set, Thomas, a hippie stoner degenerate, embittered high-school drop out comes shuffling in the door stoned out of his mind, to the point he is toppling over everything. Mumbling, unaware his dad is snoring to sudsy dreams, in drunken slur “sorry pops, I was out with the guys” Frank half alert, grunts out “Shaddup I’m sleepin Tommy boy”

Thomas tries to make his way to the basement door and opens it with difficulty, chuckling because he can not feel his extremities. Tripping down the stairwell, making a loud ruckus, he got himself undressed, and popped two barbiturates and laid sprawled out over his broken down couch with an old unwashed quilted comforter. Mumbling as he falls asleep “I hate this family, this town, and my life. Everything and everyone is fucked up.” Sighs and passes out.

May arrives at the bar, the owner strolls out “May is your offer still on the table?” May replies “Which one are you referring too” with a hint of excitement and hope, she smiles a little. The owner “To purchase this heap, I’ve had it with these town people!” May locks up the vehicle, not saying anything until she gets to the door “You know Doreen, I offered to buy this 2 years ago, why are you selling now?” Exasperated “Come to my office we need to talk!” May and Doreen walk through the drunken crowd, a patron “Hurry up May, we want some music.”

May turns around to the people in the bar area “In a few, I promise.” She shuts the door the quaint stuffy room, once a storage room for kegs, now converted into a small office. With a big metal desk, a gaudy lamp with cowboys and Indians on the lamp shade. A large pine and leather couch and one desk chair. A black and copper safe from the Gary Safe Co. with Doreen Heifferman written across the top and and Buffalo N.Y. On the bottom, sits in the corner of the room.

They both sit down on the couch at opposite ends “May, can I offer you a drink?” May shaking her head, “You know my rules about job and spirits, Dor seriously now!!” Smiling, Doreen looks at May, grabbing her hand “This is why I think you will be great owning and operating this gin joint.” May elevates her voice, yanking her hand away “Quit with the bullshit Doreen, why are you selling it now?”

“Because I am tired, my family is gone, my husband passed away, and this bar lost all its meaning to me. It’s time to move on, experience life before I’m dead.” May nods, sits quietly for a bit. “You know I will have to pass this by with my husband, our finances and family changed since two years ago.” Doreen replies “Take your time!”

Doreen gets up from the couch with some effort, walks over to the safe, and kneels down, she spins the dial left, right, left then opens the safe, pulls out a yellow stuffed envelope, “Here’s your cut for the band from last week, you should get ready, your gig is starting in 40 minutes” May nods and walks out of the office. Doreen looks around the office as if she is soaking in a memory for the last time, closes the door to the safe and jerks the handle to lock it. Closes the office door and flops on the couch.

May walks across to the bar and leans over the counter to the bartender, “Henry mind staying for a few hours more, Jen called in sick tonight, and I’m about to go on stage.”

Henry, a 56-year-old grouch, a long beard, and tattoos all over his arms, stands there pouring spirits into a row of shot glasses “May, for you I would move the moon.”

May walks up to the center of the stage “Hey boy’s and girls, we are about to bring the sounds of harmony” sixty three regulars start hooting and hollering with excitement “Get with it May, sing your heart out!” May chuckling on the microphone, looking at the drummer “Dizzy, babe.. 1… 2… 3…” (drummer starts out with Tommy Roe’s: Dizzy)

Thomas jerks from a dream and ends up doing an airborne cartwheel into the coffee table, waking up from the white searing hot pain, blood gushing from his face like a garden hose. He gets up muttering, whimpering like a kicked dog, strolling into the bathroom, looking in the mirror and sees a gash below his eye down to his jaw bone, “Fuck my life!”, strolls to the coffee table he grabs a bottle of superglue and returns to the mirror in the bathroom, struggles to get the big red cap off, then squeezes the glue into the gash, dropping the glue in the sink, and pushes the wound together with both hands.

After a few moments of grunting from the sting, he shuffles back to the couch, flops down face first. Mumbles “Fuck my life!” Grunting as he rolls over, reaching to the coffee table, grabbing his favorite pastime, he flares up his bong and takes a big drag. Leaning back exhaling slowly, giving out a dry cough. Relaxed, he stares at the ceiling for a half hour.

Looking at the clock mounted over the wash machine. He props himself up enough to get off the couch, he leans forward, struggling to his feet and proceeds up the stairs. Strolls over to the fridge grabbing a beer, a drumstick and a Tupperware bowl of potato salad, sits down at the table and consumes his snack.

Belching, gets up walks over to the steps leading upstairs, hesitating as he puts his hand on the banister post, contemplating whether to go up. The 2 am chime blares off, the LeCoultre Atos on the fireplace mantle. Startled he looks at Frank passed out on the lazy boy in the living room, hesitating from being petrified. He takes the first step to ascend the stairwell.

Halfway up the wooden stairs, a step creaks loudly. In sheer terror he stops, squatting down to look through the banister rails into the living room, to see if Frank is awake. After an exhalation, steadying himself, he goes quietly up to one of the bedroom doors.

Tapping lightly on the door and pausing for a moment to listen for a response. Opens the door slowly and quietly, tip toeing across the room to the farthest bunk bed, and squats down onto one knee. Grabbing the shoulder of his kid sister, he shakes her gently, whispering “Mary…. Mary… wake up.” Annoyed Mary mumbles “What do you want Tom, you know you’re not allowed upstairs anymore!” Tom shakes Mary again “I need your help with something, come get up already!” Mary angrily “fine!” Rolling out of bed in her ankle length gown, she almost trips onto her face over it. Tom “Stop playing Mary I really need your help.”

They make their way down the stairs quietly, through the kitchen into the basement. “Mary I need you to help me with this wound, can you clean it up for me?” She looks at him “Tom, you need to stop getting into fights!”. Tom shrugs “This isn’t from a fight , I fell over and hit my head on the table. You see?” pointing to table then the stain on the potato fiber rug. Mary chuckles “Maybe if you stop being a pig, you wouldn’t trip!” Tom looks at her with disdain. “Why do you have to be so judgemental?” Mary looks at him “I’m 12, you’re 19, you’re supposed to be telling me to be mindful, not the other way around!”

Tom looks at Mary, “You know something Mary, you are right, you are a grown woman, I respect that.” Mary cleans up his wound without another word. “There, I am going back to bed Tom” as she finishes up putting the bandage on his face. Tom grabs her hand “Mary do you want to know how adults treat one another when they are thankful?” Mary turns her head and gives him the stink eye “What do you mean Tom?” “I mean would you like to know how we show our appreciation?” Mary hesitates, “No… not really. Why is there something I should know?” Tom nods and gives a half ass smirk. “Just sit down on the couch, I’ll show you!” As she sits down on the couch, he sits next to her “Just keep quiet now, it won’t take long, and it will make everything better.” He slides his hand up Mary’s leg lifting her nightgown, while kissing her.

May sang her last song about half hour ago, the musicians already packed up and left for home. The tip jar at the edge of the stage is overflowing as usual. Most of the patrons left for the night, just a few of the exceptionally drunk people, the loyal barflies were lingering around. “Ok John!” as she pats her favorite customer on the back. “You need to get home. If I let you drink anymore your wife is going to give me an earful on Sunday!” John, “Yah yah May, I’m going!” John guzzles down the last of his beer, stands up and almost falls over the stool, May steadying him “You alright there big guy?” He slowly walks out the door as he steps outside, he quickly lights up a camel. “May you are the reason I come to the bar all the time, you sing beautifully.” May giggling “You are such a charmer John, go on now, get home!”

Closing the door and turning around to gather the glasses on the table, May shouts out “Last call gents it’s closing time, I got kids to mind in the morning”. The last three guys at the bar “We are good, just finishing the last of the beer, and listening to the jukebox.”

An elderly world war II vet who is sitting with two others at the bar slurs “You know May, I’d ask you to be my wife. But I don’t think it would work out!” May shaking her head, “Why is that Joe?” Elderly guy chuckles, “I think your kids would cause me to have a heart attack!” He tries to stifle a laugh, “I’m to damn old!” May laughs out loud, “Joe you are an ass! That they would! So why am I still alive and breathing?” Joe laughs too, “Because you’re an Irish woman! A runaway tractor could run you over, and yah bounce up with fists in the air!”

The three guys are laughing, as they get up laying money on the counter for tips, one of them speaks up “When you going to sing again May?” May hands Joe his coat “It will be awhile before I do that again, I have other obligations that need attending.” All three men protest. “Come on guys let me close up and get home to my husband, see you all tomorrow!” Letting them out, ready to lock the door, May notices it’s snowing pretty hard. “Ok Gents drive safely a’ight!” The men almost in unison “You betcha!” She runs over to the bar jumping on top of it and reached to grab the keys, she runs outside to the truck and starts it up. After a struggle it idles, she gets out to let it warm up. She runs back into the bar swearing up a storm, shivering from the biting bitter February Minnesotan Winter air. “fuck the heavens that’s freezing meh titties off!”

After doing the final touches of cleaning up and putting chairs up on the tables, she counts the till. Taking the tip jar, ecstatic “Gosh Darn those guys were generous tonight, three hundred twelve dollars in tips, damnnnn!” She divvies up the tips amongst the band members, puts the money in separate envelopes. She writes their names and draws a daisy by each. Putting all the money into a giant satchel and drops it in a drawer in the office, turns around and to lock it after exiting. She notices the owner is sleeping on the couch. May shuts the lights off, smiling. Locking the door. She goes outside the bar, turns to lock the door, smiling, “I get to have you to myself!” Locking up. She walks to the truck, gets in and drives home.

May takes the fastest route down the highway to get home, she is trying to beat the thick of the storm. Half an hour later she is pulling into the driveway. The snow is coming down so hard she can barely see the haze of the front porch light. She pulls the truck up to the barn, quickly gets out, opens the barn doors, then runs back into the truck, puts it in gear and drives into the barn. Knowing the engine would warm the barn up a little for the horses and keep the truck from stalling the next day. She turns off the engine, hooks up the glow plugs to the generator. Then runs to the doors and closes them and drops the latch from the inside. She didn’t think she had a choice the wind was picking up, and she didn’t want the doors swinging open.

As she is walking into the house, shaking the snow off her coat, she notices Mary emerging from the basement, “What are you doing in the basement child?” Mary looks at her mother’s feet, “nothing ma” “Don’t you sass me now child, I’ll bust her hind end. What were you doing in the basement?” She demanded in a forced tone. “Tom busted up his face, I was helping him put a bandaid on it, he was bleeding all over” “Get on up to bed, don’t you go down there again. Tom is a bad influence on you girls, and I don’t want you girls smoking his dope or listening to his trash music” Mary looks at the floor and tries to masquerade that she isn’t in pain, as she lightly limps away. May unaware of what really happened.

May sits down at the table in the kitchen, notices the empty pot on the Monarch Malleable stove, she gets up, grabs some wood, throws in the log on top of the embers in the basin part of the stove. Grabs the clay jug from the fridge, filled with fresh milk squeezed from Bernice the morning before, and fills the cast iron pot with cold milk. Puts the lid on the iron. Setting the clay jug on the table, She turns around and reaches up for the can of Nestle cocoa and the tin of sugar. Taking her time, she makes some hot cocoa using a wooden spoon to stir it. Sets the pot on the edge next to the burner to allow it to simmer without boiling. She walks out of the kitchen into the hall.

Removing her jacket and hanging it on the rack at the end of the hall next to the front porch door, kicking off her boots, and arranging all the other boots in a neat order. She goes back to the stove, grabs a big A&W mug and pours the hot cocoa in. She opens the center lid on the stove to half crank, and flips the overhead flute on full ventilation. As to not overheat the house, until the log burns down to embers. She grabs her favorite book on top of the fridge, sits down at the table, and starts reading. Waiting until 5am to roll around.

Nana strolls into the kitchen at quarter after 5, looks at May in her usual disapproval. May snarks out “Don’t even think about it, woman! I don’t give a shit if you were the Mother of God herself, I will not put up with it this morning!” May gets up and grabs another log, puts in the bottom of the stove. Walks over to the hutch and grabs a mixing bowl, then to the larder for some flour, sugar, salt, lard, cream of tartar, baking soda, cornmeal, setting it all on the table, she starts adding it to the bowl and mixes it by hand. Wiping her hands grabbing the giant deep cast iron pan hanging on the wall over the stove, she takes a hand full of lard and greases the pan. With the same greasy hand she scoops out the batter and flopping it in the pan one by one. She finishes up and takes the clean hand to slide the heavy iron into the bottom part of the stove. Walks over to the faucet and washes up.

Nana “No wonder my son is a chubby man, you feed him all that fatty food,”. May turns around, stares at Nana for a moment, “WOMAN! I’ma warnin yah, I’ll toss yer scrawny ass in deh snow you betcha I will!” May hesiting for a bit “ …My family loves my cooking, it shows when I don’t have any left overs,” She walks to the icebox, grabs the 2lb bag of sausage, drops it in a deep cast iron pot, browns it up, adds in some cream and butter, and sets it on the side of the stove with the lid slight off, so it can simmer.

Looking at the clock over the kitchen window, May yells at the top of her voice “BREAKFAST!” Poor white-faced startled Nana “Why are you so rude?” May smiles a little. May pulls the biscuits out of the oven and set them on a hot pad in the center of the table, grabs the gravy and set it next to the biscuits. She throws in the last of the sausage, then scrambles up some eggs with the meat.. Sets the skillet on the table, stacks the plates, silverware, and glasses. She walks to the stairs. “GET UP! Breakfast”

May didn’t need to eat, since she was tasting everything she made she had her fill. The first of the kids ran down the stairs, May walks up the stairs, “Your lunches are in the fridge with your names on the bags, don’t be late for school!” May walks into the bathroom, draws a bathtub of hot water, she intends to soak and sleep for several hours. She turns on the little hand held transistor, puts it on the jazz station, lays it on the edge of the vanity. She feels the water, “perfect!” undresses and she slides in, pulls the towel of the rack, rolls it up, puts it behind her head, and she falls asleep instantly.

Lori, Bonnie, Junice Mary, Marc are racing down the stairs pushing one another, Kathy is standing at the bottom of the stairs already “What are the rules in this house about running?” Jim strolls past the kids, behind Kathy to the kitchen, ignoring them as if they don’t exist.Frank wakes up from the smell of breakfast, gathers up the empty bottles. Walks into the kitchen and puts the bottles into the cardboard crate they came in. Jim “Pops I’m taking deh buick into town, I got an interview with Bjerga Feed, they are looking for a supervisor”

Frank, curiously “What time is the interview Jim?” Replying directly “9 am sir”. Frank nodding “Ok fine you can drop me off at the Trucking station on the way in, just makes sure you have that car back at the trucking station by the time I get back from this haul, you got it?” Jim looks his dad in the eye “Yes pops, promise, whats wrong with the rig though?” Frank, responding in a monotone “It’s due for an overhaul, I’m taking the company truck, in the meantime, you will do whatever errands your mother asks you to do while I’m gone, got it?” Jim looks directly at his father again “Yes pops, I’ll take care em”.

Tom comes strolling out of the basement, his face is swollen, he walks over to the table where everyone is standing and gathering up their plates of food. He pushes Marc really hard, “Move over, pussies go last” and grabs with his dirty hands a couple of biscuits and grabs another beer from the fridge and walks to the basement door.

A loud smack could be heard throughout the house, Frank had just slapped Thomas across the back of the head, “You mind yourself and your brothers and sisters, this nonsense has to stop, or you can move out” Tom looks at his father, shrugging, goes into the basement.

Nana speaks out with disapproval “Frank!… You’re going to tolerate that kind of disrespect in your house?” Frank whips and stares at his mother with absolute deafening silence. Nana cowers into the other room. The uneasiness in the kitchen has caused everyone to disperse into the other rooms to eat their breakfast. Frank sits down at the table, scooping up the food onto the plate, emptying the last of the gravy, and eggs. He eats his food in silence. When he finishes up, he grabs his plate puts in the sink and calls out for Jim.

Jim walks into the kitchen, “Go get everyone rounded up, gotta talk before they go to school and I’m gone for the week.” A few moments later, everyone is dropping their dishes off in the sink and standing around the table. “Jim, you will get on the tractor this morning and make sure those cows have fresh hay, use the bale fork to crack the ice on the creek if you need, make sure they have water. Kathy you help Nana take care of Pam, Julie and cleaning. Tom you WILL get out of this house, and you will find a job, or I’ll take you down to the recruitment office and make you enlist. You will also pitch the stalls and lay new hay for the horses, Junice, Marc you’re going to help him, put feed in the buckets and water in the troths. Kenny you’re going with your brother to the feed company and apply for a job there too and help him with the cows. Thomas! Warning you once, if you don’t stop picking on Marc, I’ll beat yah with in an inch of yer life. Bonnie, Lori, Mary you do what ever your mother and Nana tell yah to do. I don’t want to hear anything about you giving lip or attitude” he pulls off his belt “Or I swear, you know what will happen.” Almost in unison “yes pops”

Frank gets up from the table, heads upstairs, Nana comes into the kitchen after he leaves, “Mary, Bonnie you two do the dishes, Kathy you go fetch your sisters Pam and Julie, change their diaper and feed them” Almost in unison again “yes nana” Nana grabs a broom, and fills a bucket so she can clean the kitchen.

The boys finished bundling up, Thomas pushes Marc over sideways, Jim laughs, “Marc stop being a girl, hit him back!” Thomas “You’re such a pussy!” Marc almost in tears “I’ll show you pussy one of these days!” Jim laughs hard, Thomas jolts out an insult “Need a tampax Marc?” both Jim and Thomas laugh together. Marc walks out to the barn to start his chores.

Jim, through his chuckling “You know Tom, you ought to ease up on him, he’s your younger brother” Thomas looks at him with seriousness “Who the fuck do I pick on then?” both chuckle together. Leaving the house to do their chores. Kenny speaks up “you two are assholes!” and walks out behind Jim to take care of the cows.

Jim cracks open the barn door, Jumps into the truck, starts it up and backs it out of the barn, parks it on the side. Walks back in and gets on the tractor. Firing up the old red, Kenny jumps on the back hitch rod, and the two of them head out to the hay shed. Marc is feeding the horse, and Thomas is tossing the hay into the middle of the barn.

Jim glances over his shoulder “Ken go unlock the gate to the shed, be quick we have to finish up early this morning, we got an interview to get to” Kenny jumps off and unlocks the gate, swings it open, and ken drops the bucket on the tractor with the long pole called the fork, jams it into the bale of hay, and Ken loads on other bales. Stacking them 6 high. Jim backs out of the shed, and Ken closes the gate, and runs to catch up to Jim. Jumps on the back of the Tractor and they drive out to the knoll.

“Jim, the cows are acting weird this morning. Why are they advancing towards us?” Jim looks around, “I don’t know Ken.” Ken jumps off the back of the tractor and walks through the cows, pushing them aside. “Yo Jim, I found the reason. Shut off the tractor and come help me.”

“One heifer gave birth over night the calf is between those two over by the tree, there is another one over there off to the side, the snow is pink, the other cows are surrounding her as if protecting her.” Jim in awe “holy shit Ken, dump those bales NOW, get on the back we need to hurry.” After dumping the bales, the two ride back to the barn as fast as possible. Jim yells out “Marc get the shoulders, Thomas help me with the trailer, Kenny grab the horse blankets and rope, Junice grab the princers and tarp” They all work in unison knowing what has happened. Jim hops back on the tractor and backs it into the trailer, Thomas latches it on, the four of them jump on the back with all the material and rush out back to the knoll.

Frank see’s them out the back window, panicking, starts dressing. Nana “Frank what’s the rush?” Frank blurts out “one of the heifers is breached, the kids are going out to take care of her. I need to make sure they do it right”

Redo all this… Working on chapter two since this chapter is pissing me off

The four of them arrive at the gnoll, Jump off together, Marc and Thomas putting their differences aside throw the blankets over the heifer laying on the ground, and Jim jumps off the tractor and has Kenny help him with the shoulder length rubber gloves.

“Marc, Thomas, push her sideways. Junice go in front and talk to her. Then Marc sit on her upper belly, Thomas, you pull her tail back. Kenny you stand there with the horse blanket for when this calf comes out.” Jim kneels down next to the heifer “easy girl, just trying to help” He reaches up her, and pushes on the calf’s back legs and pushes them forward, then reaches up with the other arm to grab the front legs and pulls hard. The heifer lets out a long and painful mewing sound. “Damn thing is stuck!” Thomas push on the back of the belly near the loins, Marc feel where the head is, and push on the head as if you’re trying to squeeze a strawberry out of a straw.”

Jim yanks harder as Marc pushes. The three of them feel the calf spin around. Yanking even harder the calf slides out in a massive sloppy mess. Gagging Jim tries to say “Kenny, blanke….” Tosses his cookies on the snow. Kenny blurts out “Fucking hell that smells like a fat womans asshole on a july afternoon” Jim continues to puke while the other boys laughed. Junice blurts out “Kenny you’re a fucker! Nasty nasty fucker!”

Frank is pulling up, jumps out of the truck, runs up to the boys, observes. “Damn proud of you kids. Knowing that someday if I ever die, this farm is in good hands. Damn proud of yahs.”

Jim wiping his mouth off with a hand full of snow, “Thanks pops” Looks at the two laughing. “Get the two heifers and tie them to the trailer and Kenny get the two calves onto the trailer. Junice wrap them up with the blankets, We need to get them to the barn to get them warmed up”

Frank smiling, jumps back into the truck and heads back to the house. The kids drive back to the barn with the two heifers in tow.

Returning to the barn, after clearing out the back of the barn, the boys make a barrier with the hay bales from the rafter, Junice grabs some lamps off the bench and hangs them, turns on the lights to warm up the back of the barn for the cows. Marc and Kenny grab a troth from one of the empty stalls and fills it up with water. Jim looks at the three brothers and Junice “you know, even though we may not always get along, we somehow just click when shit needs to get done.” The other three nod.

“Marc, Kenny, get into the house and get showered up quickly, you’re already late for school, Ill drop you off” Jim and Thomas finish cleaning up and putting the Tractor and trailer away. Jim gets back into the truck and drives it into the barn. Thomas closes up the barn and disappears into the house.


Needs editing*

Jim runs to the house, “Pops let me change my clothes, we are going to be leaving shortly, boys are late for school and I’m late for the interview” Frank smiling he goes into the back room, grabs his travel case, and a fresh set of clothes.

“Nana, be nice to my wife, please. For me” Nana looks at her son, “drive carefully my

boy come home safe!” Frank nods.

Junice, Marc and Kenny jump into the back of the buick, Jim starts up the car, frank throws his stuff in the trunk and gets in the car. Frank pulls out his wallet, and hands each of the kids 10 dollars. “You boys have made me proud. “

They all ride in silence to the truck station. As Frank gets out, Jim says “See yah pops, drive safe” Frank nods hands another 10 to Jim, “Be sure that miscreant gets his share too will yah” and walks away.

Jim drives off towards the school while marc and kenny fight to climb over the seat to run shotgun. “Nope. Both you sit in the back!” Jim wasn’t having any monkey business while driving on the icy roads. Junice clambers over and flops down quietly.

Arriving at the school, Junice. Marc and Kenny grab their backpacks, and start to exit the car. Jim quickly snaps “Kenny you aint going to school today, get your ass in the car!” Not arguing, Kenny gets back in the car “This isn’t fair!” Marc blurts out. “you’re a freshman Marc, Kenny is a senior, he’s got an interview this morning now get!”

The two of them start to drive off, and marc whips a snowball at the car, bouncing it off the back windshield, Jim slams on the breaks. Marc runs into the school. Jim starts to chuckle, “he really is a pussy”. Kenny mumbles out “you’re still an asshole!”

The two of them ride to the feed company quietly.

Upon arriving at the feed company a half hour late, Jim blurts out “Kenny follow my lead, and don’t say anything unless Mr Bjerges asks you anything ok” They walk into the office. Look at the receptionist “Is Mr B around by chance?” Receptionist “who is asking for him?” Jim “We were suppose to have an interview half hour ago” Receptionist “suit yourself, he’s in the grainy, don’t get your hopes up kid”

Jim and Kenny walk outside, down the lot to the tall silos, The see Mr Bjeges standing on a ledge with a huge Multi colored stick. Mr Bjeges “What can I do for you gents” noticing the pungent smell, he steps back a bit. “Problem with the stock I assume!”

Jim nods “Sir I was suppose to meet with you a half hour ago, but we had two heifers to take care of this morning, one was breached, I hope you don’t discount that, I really need a job” Mr Bjerges smiling, “So you want a job eh, boy. What makes you think I need anyone?” Jim hesitates “to be honest with yah sir, I don’t know and won’t assume, I just know I need a job”

Mr Bjerges quietly finishes up his job of measuring the grain in the silo, looks over to Jim “Boy, first off, you have been bluntly honest with me, and you don’t sling no bullshit and butter, I respect that in a person, the fact your father and I are also good friends from Korea, I’ll give you a chance. But don’t be late for work, and don’t screw around, I don’t have time for half ass workers!”

Jim replies “no sir, you can count on me, I won’t let you down” Mr B nods “When can you start?” Looking at Kenny “Who is this?” Kenny replies “I’m his brother, I need a job too sir, and as soon as you want sir.” Jim speaks up before Mr B could “Sir, he’s a hard worker, and he is serious about perfection. Could you see a way for him to have a job too?” Mr B nodding “Jim the pay for your position is 3.75 an hour but I pay salary, 5600.00 a year broken into monthly payments, Ken your position only pays 2.25 an hour and I only need a part time stock boy. Do you kids agree to the wages?” Ken and Jim in unison “Yes Sir”. “Good, Ill see you gents on Saturday, I know He needs to get back to school, and Son, you need to shower that stink off yah fast, even in the bum chaffed cold that is just rank!” Jim and Kenny both shake Mr. B’s hand thanking him, and run off to the car, as they are driving off Mr. B chuckling, mumbles, “Damn I hate livestock!” turns around, hangs the measurement stick on the wall of the silo, and walks to his office. “Patty, get the paper work ready for two new workers will yah.” Patty looks at him shocked and quietly goes back to working.

Jim drops of his brother at Brainerd Highschool, and drives back to the farm. Parking the car next to the barn, Jim goes inside and moves the truck out, and gets back on the tractor, backs it out, slips the beast into nuetral, hops off and closes the doors. He hops back on and heads back to the gnoll to finish the hay job they started earlier. After spreading the hay about the oak, and punching several holes in the ice along the creek, he drives back to the barn. Puts everything away, checks on the calves, laying snug against their mothers, one of the heifer lets out short a mew of gratitude. Jim smiles and walks out of the barn, and shuts the door.

After entering the house and taking his outer layer off, and kicking the boots off against the door, Nana burst out “I heard that Jim, put those muckers on the plastic” “Yes Nana” as he bends over and puts them neatly under the coat on the plastic slab.

He walks into the kitchen, grabs a Coke, and heads upstairs to take a shower. “Jim get Thomas out of the house after you’re done. Make him get a job” “No body can make him do anything Nana, he is his own. Tell pa about it if you don’t like it” and walks up the stairs.

Kathy walks through the living room in a panic, muttering obscenties. “I’m taking the buick jim” A loud boistering “Like Hell you are Kathy, I have to be somewhere in an hour” Kathy not caring, grabs the keys and starts walking out the door. Jim knowing what she was up to come running down the stairs with nothing more than a towel around his waist. “I said no, and pa didn’t say it was ok for you to use it” Kathy pushes jim out of the way, “Fine ill take the truck!” Jim angrily replies “You aint taking shit Kathy, there is a reason you’re not allowed to take anything with out their knowing or permission. You aint waking ma up either!” Kathy gets up in Jim’s face “I am late for work Jim” Jim shrugs “It’s not my problem, it’s yours, but if you wait for me to get dressed, ill drive you” Kathy sulking for a moment “Fine hurry up”

Jim and Kathy walk out to the buick, jump in, and drive off. Half way down the driveway “Jim why are you such an ass to me” Kathy bluntly sneers it out. Jim acting like she isn’t in the car stares out the front window and continues to drive. Half way to work “Kathy you disrespect Ma and Pa constantly. You take off with their vehicles with no permission, you return them on empty, and you dinged up the truck with that little stunt you and your fiancee pulled last fall. You owe pops money and still haven’t paid him back, It’s not being an ass, it’s simply keeping the peace. Learn respect and I wont be an ass!”

Kathy sneers “you’re not an ass! You a fucking ass…hole!” Jim smirks and stops at her work. She gets out and walks towards the building “You will have to get your own ride home, no one is coming to pick you up” Jim replies as he is driving off rolling up the window.

Jim gets home, and walks up to the bathroom to finish his shower, and relax. Nana is knocking on the door “Want some Lunch Jim” Jim turns off the water “Whatcha makin nana?” Nana “Beef stew and fresh bread” Smiling Jim blurts out “Heck yah be down shortly” Nana “Watch you mouth boy” Jim stares in the mirror, and mouths with no voice what the fuck and chuckles.

Jim walks into the kitchen to see Thomas stuffing his face, grabs a bowl of stew and rips off a chunk of bread “Use a Knife Jim, foolhearted boy!” Jim takes a bite out of the bread “Yessum” mumbling out as he sits down. Nana shakes her head. “Did you finish your chores in the barn?” “Yessum” replied jim.

Thomas looks at Jim with detest “Why you still here?” Jim gives Thomas the stink eye as he shoves some stew in his mouth. Swallowing hard “Because I’m the only one who is a responsible farm hand at this table!” Thomas rebukes “Like hell you are!” Jim slams his spoon down on the table “Thomas, the moment you stop getting drunk, acting like an idiot, get your GED, and make something of yourself, you will be respected.” Jim gets up from the table leaving his half eaten bowl of stew and storms out of the kitchen.

Nana turns around “Jim! Finish your lunch!” “Not Now Nana, I lost my appetite!” Jim throws on his clothes, walks out to the car, starts it up and tears out of the driveway. May is walking down the stairs with Julie and Pam in tote.

What the fuck is the commotion, I’m trying to sleep, and the girls are hollering”

Nana looks at May “These two are bickering like children” Shaking her head, she grabs Julie and puts her on her raised stool, pam climbs up on the chair and kneels at the table. May fixes them a bowl of stew, looks at Thomas “Tom, get out of here, I’m liable to throw something heavy at your head!” thomas gets up, tosses his plates in the sink “whatever” and walks into the basement.

May goes over to the phone, calls the Trucking station. Receptionist answers “how can I help you?” May blurts out “is Frank there please?”. The receptionist replies “One moment” A few minutes later “This is frank” May “Frank when are you scheduled to rig up and depart?” frank “in about 4 hours why?” May “I’m coming down there we need to talk!” Frank “Ok I’ll see you in a bit”

May goes upstairs and gets dress, returns to the kitchen, “Nana can you watch the girls for an hour, I need to discuss something important with Frank” Nana nods and washes the dishes.

May throws on her coat and mits, walks out to the barn, opens the big doors, gets in the truck and starts it up. Backs out, gets out to close the doors, hops back in and drives off to the trucking station.

She arrives at the trucking station and heads directly to the sitting room where all the truckers hang out. She sees Frank, and motion for him to come outside with her.

They both walk out to the truck and get in. “Whats up hon, has to be important for you to drive all the way over here” May nods, “Doreen just offered to sell the bar to us” Frank looks at her inquisitively “Well if the finances are in order and we can get a loan, go for it. I know you have been wanting to buy that place for years now.”May smiling “So you have no objections?” Frank shakes his head “No, I’ve been putting money aside just for that reason, just take the safety deposit key, there is money in the safe at the bank, it’s 15% of our original offer, that is enough for the bank to ok a loan for us.” May reaches over and kisses Frank passionately. “I love you. You’re the best husband ever” Frank pulls away “enough of that May, not in public!”

Frank gets out of the car, walks around to the driver side opens the door Whispers in her ear “I love you too sweetheart” Pecks her on the cheek “You better get over to the bank and start negotiations. May starts up the truck before Frank even steps away. “ok hon, I’ll get hold of you on the CB if there is any news” Frank nods and closes the door. May drives off in a hurry and frank smiles as he walks back into the trucking station.

Arriving home, she parks the truck right next to the front door, and runs into the house, into the back room, starts scrounging around the desk and drawers, Nana walks in “What’s the rush?” May glances up “I’m looking for some important paper work and a key” Nana “my sons saftey deposit box key?” Nodding May responds “yes, that one”

Nana “I’ll have to call Frank up” May stops what she is doing, glares at Nana “you moved it didn’t you?” Nana crosses her arms. May blurts out “Woman I swear one of these days you aren’t going to wake up from a nights sleep, stay the hell out of this room and my husband and my things, now give me the fucking key!” Nana storms out of the room, returns a moment later “I’m calling my son immediately” Slamming the key down on the desk. Grabbing the land deeds, and other documents, she walks towards the front door, she hears Nana talking to frank, frank is giving her an earful, loud enough May can actually hear the whole conversation. May smiles, walks out the door, and slams it intentionally as if to deliver a message to Nana.

Getting back into the truck she rides to the bank with all her documents, walks in and goes directly to the back office with out stopping at the receptionist desk. “Hello Jerry, how are you today?” Jerry a long time family friend, military buddy of Frank’s, and chairman of the bank looks up, sees May, scrambles to his feet and runs over to May “My darlin, how are you today?” then plants a heavy kiss on her cheek and a bear hug. “Easy there big fella!” Jerry starts laughing “I’m sorry May, I’m happy to see you, it’s been almost two years since we talked”.

“Jerry, I’m here on business today, and I am hoping that it can happen right away” Jerry motions for her to sit down, May sits down and sets the paper work on the desk. “You know Doreen right?” Jerry responds “You mean the one tha towns O’nearys bar on the other side of town?” May nodding “Yes”. Jerry quickly responds “Why whats up?” May takes a deep breath “You remember we came to you two years ago for a loan to buy the place, but Doreen declined the offer?” Jerry nods. “Well she offered to sell it to us over the weekend.” Jerry smiling, turning around grabbing a big ledger book and flops it on the desk. “Well, let’s take a look at your financials”

Jerry starts flipping through the book, jotting notes down on a big pad, making noises “mhmm… hmmph… ok… “ Closes the book and looks at May. “well it appears you only have about 2500 in your bank account may, that’s not enough for a down payment.” May gives a sharp smirk, “sure it is Jer’, we need to go to our safety deposit box” Jerry looks at her inquisitively.

The two of them descend into the basement of the bank where the saftey deposit boxes are kept, the two of them grab the box, and goes to the private room. May opens it up, “this should cover the down payment” Jerry looking slightly shocked “Well that explains a lot, Your husband has been coming here one a weekly basis depositing in the box instead of an account. Smart!” May nodding, smiling. “Lets go upstairs and count it up together” Jerry grabs a black basket, and puts all the cash in it, and they put the box back in it’s place with all the other valuables.

Jerry spends 20 minutes counting up the money, typing every few minuts onto the Maria Bellini Accounting Machine, he looks up at May “Well, I have to say, I’m impressed, not many people can save like this.” May tilts her head inquisitively. “You have a total of 14,200 dollars plust the money in your account that gives you more than a 1/3 down payment.”

Jerry pulls out some papers from the drawer, “We have several options for you. First you can choose to leverage the bar itself, or you can mortgage your house” May immediately “The bar will be the leverage, and I plan on making 1200 dollar payments every year at the beginning during tax season” Jerry states with conviction “It doesn’t work like that May, you have to make monthly payments.” May sighs “oh, well.. we can work something out right?” Jerry nods.

After lengthy discussion, Jerry reaches to shake May’s hand “Go ahead and make your offer to Doreen, then two of you come back here to wrap up the transaction, and we can notarize it and make everything legally binding”

20 minutes later, May is on her way over to O’neary’s bar, where she knew Doreen would be doing paper work. She pulls up and parks in the handicap parking spot, gets out, walks to the building, unlocks the door, walks through the bar into the office. She sees Doreen at the desk with her nose buried in the paper work, unaware, May sets her purse on the floor and sits down in the couch, and waits for Doreen to notice her.

After sitting for a half hour, May gets a little agitated “DOREEN” Doreen startled so bad her pen flew out of her hand, the paper work flew off the desk “FUCK! What!”

Looking around the room she sees May sitting there smirking “Goddamn it girl, you made me piss myself, scaring an old woman like that, What’s wrong with you?” May chuckling, “Oh don’t be so damn melodramatic, it was funny though!” Doreen gets up and grabs some paper towels, and starts whiping down her chair “how long have you been there?” May still chuckling, “About a half hour, I’ve been waiting for you to notice!” Doreen patts her crotch down with the paper towels, “As you can see I was busy, sorry!” Annoyed she picks up the papers and pen, and sits back down to the desk “What can I do for you?” May stands up “You want to sell?” Doreen looks up with curiousity “Well of course, I didn’t offer on a whim!”

“Our offer is firm, the same as it was last time, We will give 50,000 plus 5,000 more for the closing cost.” Doreen leans back, looks up at the ceiling for a bit. She quietly reflects, blurts out “there will be some stipulations if you buy the bar May” May inquires “What?”. Doreen “ you can not change the name of the bar, and you can not fire anyone for at least one year!” May replies “I wasn’t even planning on that” Doreen gets up “Accepted” After further discussions for over an hour, the two of them go to the bank and close on the deal. After they were done with the bank, May drove Doreen back to the Bar. Doreen “You know you should run over to Courthouse and apply for your liqour license. And since I can’t give you the beer, or sell it to you, we can work something out on the side so we can ease the sales to undercut the losses”

May looks at Doreen confused “You mean I have to get rid of all the booze on sight?” Doreen nods, May “So I have to buy all new stock?” Doreen nods again, May “ Well in that case, until the paperwork and deeds are finished, Id like you to continue running the bar to make a smooth transition.” Doreen “Since you were a loyal worker and close friend, i’ll stay here until all the booze is sold and the place is licensed. “

May smiles, and walks out the door, and heads straight over to the courthouse, found the county clerk, and inquired about liqour license. The clerk handed her a stack of papers to fill out and showed her to a room with a big table. Finishing up the paper work, she turns the over to the clerk. Clerk looks them over “Everything looks like it is in order, that will be 1250.00 dollars please” May stares at the clerk with shock. “I have to run to the bank, mind holding on to those” turns and walks out the door.

Arriving at the bank she walks directly past the secretary again into Jerry’s office, knocking on the door lightly as she enters. “Jerry I need an additional 2,000 dollars, and I’ll put my truck up as collateral” Jerry nods “That’s ok May, we will just apply it to the loan you already have with the bar as collateral. I had expected this much since it is your first time owning a business.” May blushing “I had no idea about the fees and expenses” Jerry chuckles. “Expect some hellacious speed bumps over the next 2 years, you are going to experience some serious changes, and shrewd salesman”

May looking overwhelmed sits down on the chair “What have I gotten myself into Jerry?” Jerry walks over to the door and closes it, pulls the blinds on the windows. Returns to his desk, sits down, opens a drawer and pulls out two glasses and a bottle of single malt rum with no label “This is a family brew, have a taste” Both of them grab a glass and chugs it. May gasping “Holy shit Jerry!” Jerry laughs out loud “May Smooth huh” May still trying to catch her breath “That shit goes down smooth but Hell boy that burns once it hits the gut” Jerry nodding. “I keep this on hand when i’m about to enter a tense situation, helps calms the nerves” May shaking her head “Calm them, more like kill them dead!” Jerry laughs even louder. May laughs too.

After about 45 minutes of chatting, May departs the bank with 2 grand in her hand, returns to the courthouse half hour before closing, walks upstairs to the clerks office and lays the 1250 dollars in 50s, counting out loud. The clerk grabs the pile of cash and recounts it. Writing may a receipt, “It will takes 3-7 weeks before you receive your license. As long as you do not have any criminal history” May nods and leaves the building.

After sitting in her truck for a half hour contemplating everything that transpired over the day, she smiles in the mirror, feeling like she accomplished a milestone in her life. Feeling good, she opens her purse, pulls out the 750 dollars, and counts out 500, she rolls it up and puts that on the side of the pruse. Takes the other 250, and goes to Montgomery Wards.

When she gets home, she notices Jim is back, and she calls out to him, “Come help me!” Jim walks out of the house, “Help me get these off the back of the truck” Jim looks in the truck “What’s all this stuff mom” May smiling proud “This is for your father, and it has a dual purpose, I’ll explain it later”

The two of them finish up and walk back to the house. May opens the refrigerator and pulls out a bottle of Coke and sits down at the table and sighs. Jim copies her. “Ok spill” May nods. “Well you know the bar that I work at?” Jim nods. “It’s mine now” Jim confused “wait, what, you mean to tell me you bought the bar?” may nodding and smiling, “Yes finalized the loan and sale this morning. Doreen asked over the weekend if we wanted to buy it. Your father and I discussed it and I made it happen.” Nana overhears the conversation, comes strolling into the kitchen “What kind of fool hearted bullpucky did you get yourself into now Woman!” May sneers at Nana “I own a business now, this family isn’t going to be sniffing the dirt for entertainment anymore. So shut it Nana” Nana walks out of the room with an attitude grumbling and mumbling to herself. May smiles at Jim “Your grandma is a piece of work!”

May grabs the bottles off the table, “Jim, go get the fool of a brother of yours and have him tend to the horses. I’m tired of him just sitting in that basement listening to that trash reading comics all the time!” Jim gets up from the table “Sure thing ma” He walks into the basement “Get up, we got chores to do” Thomas flips Jim off “fuck off, I’m busy” Jim grabs Thomas by the collar and yanks him up the stairs “I swear Ill beat you senseless” Thomas pushes Jim off him, slurring his words “Fuck off Jim, you can’t tell me what to do.” May standing in the door way “No but If you don’t get your ass out the door and get those fucking animals fed, I’ll throw your ass out in the snow!”

Thomas angrily “Can’t a guy get some peace and quiet!” May smacks him across the head “ill give you peace and quiet”

Thomas leaves the house after getting budled up. May looks at Jim, “I hate to play favorites, But you and marc make me feel like he was an accident!” Jim sighs, “don’t talk like that Ma. Not everyone is perfect” May sits down at the table, puts her head into arms and starts to weep. Jim tries to confort her, but my brushes him off “I’m overwhelmed atm, just let me have a moment.” Jim confused about how to respond, leaves the room and head up to his room, flips the black and white mini-tv on, and flops down on his bed and watches the afternoon game shows.

Thomas walks back into the house about half hour later, sees his sisters running around the kitchen playing tag, May is passed out at the table “as if she actually does any work around this place” Walks into the basement pissed off. May gets angry.

After resting on the table, she looks up realizing the kids will be home in a few minutes from school. She fixes Julie and Pam lunch and sets them on their stools, and calls down the stairs “Thomas get up here!” Nana hears the tone in her voice and walks over to the kitchen entry, thomas comes walking up the stairs. May looks at him sternly, pointing to a chair “Sit your ass down!” Thomas sits and stares. May angrily blurts out in a loud voice “I heard what you said earlier, I was resting, for your information, I do more than you could ever possibly know, if you were not such a loser and sitting in the basement all the time getting high you would see what really goes on. Things are going to change in this house, particularly for you! You’re going to start working the bar, or you can move out. You’re going to start helping Nana with out giving her lip. You’re going to help around this farm with out being told to do so. Or you can find a new place to live!” thomas blurts “But..” May smacks him across the head “Don’t sass, dont talk back. Enough is enough. There are 14 people in this 6 bedroom house that Nana and I take care of. You will respect your grandma, you will stop sassing me, and you will stop being a miserable shit” Thomas tries to blurt “but..” May smacks him across the head again “I said shut it, I’m not done. You have managed to alienate yourself with most of the family. You will not bring your drugs into this house anymore, you will not come home drunk, stoned or otherwise!” Nana is smiling in the doorway

May looks at the girls, they are confused and looking scared, then she looks at thomas again “you will stop being the rock around our ankles in this house. You have a choice to make. I want to hear your answer tomorrow morning. Not tonight tomorrow, you sleep on it. Do you want to move out, or do you want to be part of this family?” May notices the girls are finished eating, she grabs their dishes and puts them in the sink, and picks them off the stools and pats them off to the other room. Nana standing there looking happy “About time” She turns around and walks away. May looks confused.

Thomas gets up and walks to the stairs, “Jim!” Jim yells down “What Tom” Jim “Come down will yah” Jim gets up reluctantly. Walks to the top of the stairs and looks down “What” Thomas blandly states “I need a ride into town” Jim nods, “ill be down shortly” Thomas turns to head into th basement.

Jim bundles up and goes to the buick and starts it up. Thomas comes walking out the side of the house with a sleeping bag, pillow and a duffo bag. He throws his stuff in the back of the car “take me to the salvation army” Jim not saying a word drives off. They arrive at the Mission, Thomas starts getting his shit out of the car, Jim hands the 10 dollars to him, “That’s from dad, he gave us each 10 this morning.” Thomas takes it from him angrily. “good luck thomas” throws the buick into drive and takes off down the road.

That is the last time Thomas is seen for several months.

Chapter 2 >>

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