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PROMPT: Buy or Sell from the 12 Short Stories Challenge
WORD COUNT: 750 WORDS
GENRE: Fiction

“We’re selling everything,” he had revealed Monday morning before school. “The cows, the barn, all of it… but we bought a nice house in town and we’re moving on Friday.”

I already knew it was awful news when my parents called us to sit down at the kitchen table. My dad’s eyes never met mine during the impromptu family meeting when he typically looked my way for support. When he had to talk about the farm, I was his go-to, but this time his words had deflated me, taking away my breath like a sucker punch to the gut.

It wasn’t enough to just sell the cows, the couple steers or the chickens… we had to let go of our property, our land… our home.

“Why?”

After several long, drawn out moments of silence, I was still trying to process what those words meant when I asked that question. And it had left my lips as a soft whimper.

Dad said it was because we weren’t making enough money, that we couldn’t manage to keep the farm itself. Mom added that it was getting to be too much for them to handle, both physically and mentally, that it was time for a change.

I could tell it was tearing Dad apart. His mouth was drawn down into a permanent grimace.

But to be honest, I wasn’t surprised, really. Being 16 and the oldest of the three kids, I had to be more responsible than most and I picked up on things the last few years.

My parents getting part-time, then full-time jobs in town. Mom offering to babysit our neighbors’ kids on Saturday nights instead of going out to the movies with Dad. Finally asking me to get a part-time job, too, rather than spend all my free time on the farm.

I really wasn’t happy about that last one either, and I made it crystal clear.

In the end, all of the extra work we had snagged didn’t matter, and I still didn’t want to face the reality of our family’s situation. Seeing how my brother and sister reacted so nonchalantly that night had made my stomach drop.

Couldn’t our parents have asked us to do more? I probably worked twice as hard as they did around the farm, but I would have done it!

So much of our lives, our history is in this ground, in these fields of corn, hay and soybeans. This simple red barn had been a part of our family since the 1800s. My dad’s great-great grandparents traveled all the way from Poland to the Midwest just to have a piece of land to call their own, for their family.

And now I have to say goodbye to it all tomorrow morning.

I still have to pack up my things, but I’m sitting out here in the straw mow, wiping away the tears that won’t stop sliding down my face. Whenever the sobs subside for a moment, I’m working to commit as much of this farm as I can to memory.

I don’t want to forget the smell of hay or straw or freshly-cut silage. How the cows constantly jostle around in their stanchions, either ready to be milked or ready to run out to the pasture. How the hum of the combine or the buzz of machinery in the milkhouse always seemed to calm me down.

I don’t want to forget the feeling of being this connected to animals, to nature, to myself every single day.

Then, oddly enough, a soft pitter-patter of rain starts to hit the barn’s tin roof above me and brings me out of my reverie.

Raining tonight. How fitting. I think with a little self-pity. It’s like nature and I formed a bond, or something.

I hear my dad calling my name, telling me that it’s time to come in. I hear the sadness in his voice, tingeing my name just enough that I almost run out to him, automatically thinking of a way to comfort him.

But I don’t react like I usually would.

I don’t move. Not tonight.

I don’t want him to see me.

My eyes bloodshot from crying. My cheeks raw from wiping away the tears. My throat, tight. My voice raspy from audibly and angrily blaming the world for letting this happen.

All of this, the cows, the chickens, the fields, the garden, the orchard, the farm… our home. It was still calling my name, searing into my soul, begging me to stay.