Buddy Wilson’s eyes were stuck. He wanted to snap out of his trance, to stop staring. After all, there wasn’t a minute to waste. Move it or lose it, he told himself while his burning tired eyes followed the cow’s hind end over the hill. It was out of sight now and still his eyes wouldn’t move any more than his feet would. The mud sucked his boots down a little further.
The rain was constant. Not a nice light rain, not even a downpour. No, this was pelting rain: hard, loud, pounding. It was a punishment and it wouldn’t let up.
His mind was lost in the banging on the metal roof of the barn just as his eyes were fixed on the end of the hill. If he didn’t go after her now, right now, she would probably drown. Just slide down the bank with the sliding earth, land in the mouth of the tumultuous monster the river had become, and be swallowed up.
He couldn’t afford to lose another cow, yet he couldn’t get his eyes to move or his mind to give up on the rhythmic beating of the pelting rain. It had been ten days now; ten days of hell. Buddy was trapped in every way imaginable.
Although it was bitter cold, his face burned and sweat ran down the sides of his shirt. This had never been his dream, this taking over the family farm. He’d witnessed the grueling life his father and grandfather had lived, each dying too young, each dying without having lived or known any kind of life outside this farm. This wasn’t a life.
To Buddy, it was a trap; a life sentence he’d done nothing to deserve. It wasn’t an inheritance to celebrate, but a destiny of unrelenting physical exhaustion and a suffocating responsibility he’d never wanted any part of.
Move! He screamed in his head. Get moving! But he couldn’t. He was stuck.
The new windows in the old farm house loomed over him, bore into him like eyes that saw through him. A historical landmark they called it. Buddy, you simply have to restore it. It’s what your parents always hoped you would do.
It had cost him every spare nickel and every extra second he’d had for the past four years to restore it. He hated the house; the huge wrap-around porch, the pretentious ornate trim all sanded and repainted and repaired. He hated the steep pitched roof he’d nearly fallen from twice as he did work that tore at his knees and back all because it had to be done and there was no money for hired help.
No. It was all up to Buddy. His wife loved the house and the rural life. She said it was the best place in the world to raise kids. They were expecting their forth in a few months. She would need help with the newborn and with the others. Her mother would come. Maybe her sister, too. He’d hear how a wife needs her husband at a time like this. He’d work faster and harder so he would have a few minutes to give to her and the new baby he hadn’t had a minute to give a thought to. He’d apologize to her family for not having enough time in a day to do it all, for not being available to do everything for everyone, for being the disappointment he undoubtedly was.
Thirty four year old Buddy Wilson suddenly snapped. His mind cleared, his eyes moved, he took a moment to look around. It was too much; the work would never ever get done. And the smell; why did he bother to shower? What a lame attempt at separating himself from the sour odors of soggy dung and wet animals and rotting hay that permeated his skin? Why did he bother?
Everything came into focus at that moment and he knew exactly what he needed to do. What must be done in order to live even one more day.
Buddy Wilson dropped the rake in his hand, pulled the hood from his slicker up over his head, and pulled his feet free from the suction of the mud. He stumbled out of the barn with his gaze no longer searching the spot where the cow disappeared, but on the highway to the west, about a half mile from where he stood. So many truckers journeying away from here. So many people doing life in an entirely different way.
Buddy Wilson kept his eyes on the highway and began walking toward it. He felt a smile spread across his face as his eyes fixed on the shiny wet pavement. He began to jog a bit now. It was fun. Buddy was having fun! Now he was running; running as he hadn’t done since childhood. He ran as though he were running a race or rounding the bases on a baseball diamond like he did as a kid; a kid without a care in the world. He ran until he felt the blood pumping through his veins, his heart pounding through his chest, and his breathing sharp and shallow.
Buddy Wilson ran until his feet hit the pavement and his thumb was thrust out and high in the air. His heart was floating now, light as cotton candy, his face hurt from the unfamiliar happiness spread out in his wide smile, and his exhausted body came to rest in a soft leather seat it was desperately unaccustomed to. He couldn’t believe where he was or what he had just done. Yet he was happy, happier than he’d ever been.
“What’s your name, buddy?” The truck driver asked.
Buddy didn’t hesitate. “Joe Turner,” Buddy said. “My name is Joe Turner.” He turned his head to the window and closed his heavy tired eyes.
The End as far as we know right now. I’ll continue the story if we ever see or hear from Buddy Wilson again.