Like any animal, Pigs need water. Which is why I was always up at 5 a.m every morning.
That and I didn’t want to start the day with a whipping. I’d been getting too many of those lately. No need to tempt fate again.
Lucky for me this morning came off without a hitch.
Since the first winter snow, it had been the same routine. Before anyone else was up, I had to go to the barn and break the ice on the pigs’ trough. Then grab some fresh eggs from the chicken coop so mom could make breakfast.
We didn’t have cows. Just pigs and chickens.
I was glad we didn’t have cows. We’d visited a friend’s dairy farm a bunch of times when we lived back in Florida. And boy it stunk.
Plus their whole family had to get up at 4a.m. every morning. Summer, winter, didn’t matter. Cows needed to be milked. And they had a ton of them.
So once we moved to the little farm up in the Appalachians, I was glad we didn’t have cows.
Pigs and chickens were enough.
Once I’d gotten my warm clothes on, and made it out of the house I didn’t mind 5a.m. so much. Between the moonlight glistening on the mountain snow and the sound of the creek coming from behind the barn and down through the front yard, I’d gotten to where I could find my way to the barn door without ever turning on my flashlight.
I’d pretend I was a ninja. An assassin on a mission.
And if I made a sound that made the pigs squeal before I got to the rusty latch on the barn gate, I was dead and the mission was over.
I’d send myself back to the porch, wait until the pigs settled down and start all over again.
I finally got to where I could a go weeks without spooking the pigs. Those were peaceful moments of being in total control of my destiny.
Everything rested in my teenage hands. By my own skill I controlled whether I lived or died.
And after a few months, I’d become a master ninja. I’d learned how to escape.
You see, we’d only been in the mountains since this past summer, just a month or so before school started.
Mom said we were up here because of the work. But that was until winter came. Coming from Florida, you could work construction in the winter. But up here, with heavy snows. The work got scarce.
So all three of us were home together a lot more often.
And I didn’t like so much. It was more peaceful when he wasn’t around.
“Boy? You finish your chores and get the eggs?
“Did you salt the bridge? I’m sure it froze over last night.
Of course I salted the bridge. Anything to get him to leave. Of course, I wouldn’t care if his truck slid off the bridge into the creek bed below. It’d probably tear mom up pretty good.
Don’t know why. How could you care about anyone who calls your kid boy.
That’s one of the reasons why I never called him dad. That and ‘cause he wasn’t my dad. Just my mom’s husband.
I didn’t get to see my real dad that much. A week or so in the summer and sometimes a Christmas here or there.
But even without my real dad, I’d seen and heard of other kid’s dads.
I’d seen that a dad was supposed to teach you and encourage you. They were supposed to build you up not tear you down. Of course dad’s had do some disciplining too.
All kids need discipline. It keeps us from running riot I guess. Mom said Aunt June, never disciplined Henry. He’s four years older than me and he’s already been in jail twice I think. Drugs or something.
So I guess some discipline is good.
Probably keep you from lying, stealing, and cheating. Things like that.
But not the discipline I get. I get it for just breathing, or being in the wrong spot at the wrong time, talking out of turn, or leaving a candy wrapper in a favorite chair.
Not things you need disciplining for. Maybe some teaching, but not a whipping. At least I think so.
Only problem is mom’s husband doesn’t think so. He isn’t into the teaching and growing you up kind of discipline. His is more the punishment kind, plain and simple.
He uses it to control the house and keep me in my place. Sure it shapes up my behavior in the short run, but only out of fear. Not out of respect or anything.
My real dad, even though I didn’t see him much, he never hit me. Maybe once, but if he did I can’t remember it. He just had this way about him.
If you messed up, he’d give you this look. A look of utter disappointment. And because he was such a nice man, too nice maybe, you would beg for a whipping. That’s what me and my stepbrothers would do when I was there. Well, that’s what they told me anyway.
I know I couldn’t stand to see disappointment on his face. Especially since I didn’t see it all that often.
But here at mom’s house, a disappointed face would be fine. A whole lot better than a belt or buckle, depending on what he grabbed first.
Point is, he just wasn’t so nice. Especially now that winter was harder than expected, and money was getting tight.
At least that’s what I heard mom telling to grandma on the phone last week.
She said there was no “big project” up here like they said before we left. And that we’d only moved to get away from all their friends back in Florida.
There were a lot of them. Their were always people over at the house. They’d all stay up late drinking, smoking, and talking fast.
And in the morning, I’d always look of the little rolled up dollar bills. I could usually make off with three sometimes four dollars.
Most of the people were pretty nice, never did anything to me, which was good. A few were scary. But I’d mind my own business. And go to my room. At least in Florida I had a room.
Up here in the old farmhouse I didn’t have one. I slept on mattress at the foot of the stairs. That was where the pot belly stove was. They put me there because it was the warmest room in the house.
And when winter hit, that was a good thing.
They slept upstairs. Heat rises you know.
I hated that stove. Not because I had to sleep next to it, but because of the firewood. Every night, it was the same thing.
He’d yell from upstairs, “Boy… you get that firewood stacked for the night?”
I’d always say I had. Even if I hadn’t.
I’d say yessir then run to the stove and check to make sure. Every once in a while I’d forgotten. Then I’d have to run outside and grab a cord of wood and try to make it back before he came down after his bath.
Usually I’d make it back. But when I didn’t. I’d get a double dose.
And tonight was one of those nights. I got one whipping for lying and saying I’d done it, and a second one for not doing it in the first place.
The punishment was quick, but it hurt like hell. Especially the buckle. It wasn’t so bad when it hit your flesh, its the thunk on bone that usually put me on my knees.
But tonight, I didn’t give him the satisfaction. This time I stood tall. Even as the buckle hit me for the third time.
Thats because I’d already made up my mind. Tomorrow the ninja’s mission would go beyond the rusty latch on the barn gate.
Tomorrow, there would be no salt on the frozen bridge.
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn …
A “Lorde 2Pac Beck Mashup” Videosong by Pomplamoose
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.
To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Coming Soon
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Dark Outside