American Gothic: A Short Story
Writing assignment: “Choose a painting, and then make up a story about the scene taking place in it.”
It was your average morning. Chester complained that his eggs were too runny, the bacon was not crispy enough, and that the lack of rain causing the corn crop to shrivel was somehow my fault as well.
I knew I shouldn’t poke a rabid skunk but, “Chester, Lucy’s stopping by soon.”
“Lucy? What in blazes for!” He paced the kitchen and his face instantly flushed. He tossed his coffee cup in the sink splattering the black liquid onto the windowsill.
“She said it wouldn’t take long but wanted to make sure we were both home.”
“I’ve got chores to do.” He tugged on his bib overalls and rubbed his hands over his bald-head as if expecting to smooth hair into place. He would never admit it, but a visit from our daughter cheered up his grumps.
We walked out front when Lucy’s shiny, black SUV pulled into the farmyard at 3mph to avoid dust on her vehicle. She stepped out wearing yellow heels and a bright colored skirt. Her red hair was pulled into a sleek up-do. Our only child escaped the farm as soon as she discovered cities existed with lights, noise, and the absence of scooping manure and carrying buckets. She studied business administration, married a stockbroker, and our granddaughter, Delilah, had only been to the farm once when she was three.
“Hey, Mom.” Lucy leaned in for a hug and I squeezed her tight not knowing when the next invitation might come.
Chester stood tall and made no motion toward Lucy.
“Hi, Dad. Um, how’s the corn?”
“We need rain.”
“Where’s the kid? Where’s your money-man?”
Lucy stammered and kicked the grass with the tip of her shiny yellow heels. “Scott took Delilah to the museum today for an exhibit on nature.”
I could hear Chester’s teeth grind and his knuckles turned white as he clenched the pitchfork he was holding. And then he said it . . .
“You know, there are animals on a farm. Delilah could learn quite a bit about nature walking in the pasture or our back woods. Wouldn’t hurt you to open her eyes to the real world instead of museums and city stuff.”
Silence. Extremely awkward silence.
“I didn’t come to fight, Dad.”
I wanted the scene to end. “Why did you come, honey?”
“I need a picture of you two. Delilah has to bring a picture of her grandparents to school and I don’t have a current one. Do you care if I take your photo?”
Chester locked eyes on Lucy. “Are you sure you want people to see where you came from?”
Lucy stepped toward Chester and her heel scuffed on the sidewalk. She didn’t notice. She grabbed her father’s shoulders with both hands. “Dad, that’s enough! Just because I didn’t want to drive a combine or raise pigs the rest of my life doesn’t mean I’m not proud of you and Mom. You raised me well and I love you.”
Chester turned away toward the cornfield. The wilted tips of the corn stalks waved in the breeze and the morning sun caught a glint of the tear falling down his cheek. He would never let Lucy see him cry.
He cleared his throat and turned back around. “Let’s get this picture overwith.”
Lucy smiled. “Thank you.” She posed us in front of the house.
Chester pulled the pitchfork into the photo and I was not about to argue.
Just before Lucy clicked the shutter, our stubborn rooster bellowed in the chicken house squawking at the hens. The rooster ran the farmyard with its formidable strut and righteous bellowing. It seemed fitting for the moment.
Lucy was our independent child that always knew what she wanted. She charged her way through school and life and became accomplished on her own terms.
I looked to Lucy in her yellow heels and brilliant colored dress. The sun reflected off of her red hair. She was beautiful. We raised a good rooster.