Cracked Like Me

“What the hell did you think I’d be doin’?” Farmer Orville said, in response to my questioning his sanity because he was weeding blackberry bushes, and the temperature was 102.

My hummingbirds drank two containers of sugar water today. The squirrels lay flat out on the ground, their limbs extended. There were no insects to be seen. The ground was hard and cracked and burnt. The sky was spit-colored, and a metallic perfume of pollution filled the air.

Quilt Queen sat indoors and watched “Ellen.” I handed her my fingernail clippers and she relieved me of cracked and broken nails that I couldn’t handle. She and Orville keep the thermostat over 80. I had showered for the first time in five weeks, and now I was soaked through again.

“There you go, Robert,” the GOP congressman said on NPR. “You said you would interview me about Made in America Week, and now you’re throwing in cracks about Trump and Ivanka—like I know anything about Trump and Ivanka and the stuff they sell.”

“I am done with that Republican Party,” Orville said. “We elected an idiot.

“When I was a kid and it was hot like this on our farm, I would shimmy up to the top of the tallest maple tree, the branches hangin’ over the road. And I had me this really cheap wallet, and I would stuff it with green, edged paper that I had cut to look like money.

“And I would tie that wallet to a long length of fishin’ line, and then I waited for cars to come along. I would dangle that wallet at windshield height, you know, lure in somebody with ‘free’ money. Ever’ once in a while, a car would brake and a driver climb out to grab that wallet, and I would haul it up and make it dance. And people would shake their heads and curse and drive off. And I’d be up in that tree, invisible, and crackin’ up.”

Orville is like an implied character out of a Chekov play: the corrupt gentry holed up in the big house set and existentially suffering, and the unnamed farmer out in yonder cherry orchard, doing the work.

Madame Ranevsky: Without the cherry orchard, my life has no meaning for me, and if it must be sold, then for heaven’s sake sell me too.

Orville: Well, I’ll be weedin’, if you need me.

Madame Ravenesky (to Orville): You want to eat me, don’t you, you want to devour us all.

Orville (cracking up): I prefer a DQ cheeseburger.

Madame Revenesky (watching Orville exit): I knew it.

Orville’s grandson Justin drove up the drive in his pickup. Quilt Queen ran outside to hug and squeeze her two great-grandbabies. She babbled like a brook, and it was Tower of Babel gibberish, like I do with Scout the Cat: you know, ‘widdo wookums’ stuff.

Orville shook his head in amazement. “Tough old woman cracks me up, goin’ bonkers with them babies.”

Fingernails clipped and with a bagful of ripe, homegrown tomatoes, I walked home.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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