Short Story Exercise: Escaping the Farm

(rolled a D12, took that number of random Rory’s Story Cubes, shook ’em up, dropped on table, arranged in order they fell top-to-bottom, wrote short story)

When Brandon came home from the bank, he walked straight past Daisy in the kitchen and entered his bedroom. There he emptied the envelope’s contents onto his old comforter and started counting. The teller had counted it, too, but he wanted to see it stacked, wanted to feel each piece of money in his hands. He formed a pile of twenties, a small pile of ones, then arranged the coins in descending stacks.

“So that’s what a summer of mowing lawns gets you,” Daisy said from the doorway, smiling and shaking her head in that sisterly condescending way.

Brandon crossed the room and shut the door in her face. She didn’t understand. Daisy had never had a problem taking money from their parents or their grandparents. But to Brandon, every cent he took hurt like a bruise, a mark of weakness and greed. He gazed at the money on his bed. He had earned every last cent himself, and no one could take that from him.

After a moment’s hesitation he toppled the neat stacks and swirled the money into a large pile. He pushed his fingers through it, squeezing an odd bunch of coins, crumpling a few bills together. He scooped it into his hands and rained it down onto the bed with a laugh. Satisfied, he gathered up his bounty and stashed it in the piggy bank hidden in his closet.

***

Brandon rose with the sun the next morning. There were chores to do before he left for school and the farm house was already humming with activity. Dancing around his siblings in the kitchen, Brandon managed to gulp down a mug of coffee and put a square of toast in his mouth before going outside. The older girls took care of the cow and the chickens and his little brother was on hog duty. Brandon was in charge of the sheep and horses. Their father was already in the fields riding the old John Deere and their mother, once breakfast was cleaned up, would tend to the dogs and the cats.

By the time his work was finished, Brandon barely had time to clean himself up and catch the bus. But he still rode to school with a smile on his face. This was the first day of his last year. One more school year, then he was free to leave.

After school he met up with two of his friends. They took turns riding a dirt bike until one of them managed to wreck it, dislocating his shoulder in the process. Brandon made it home in time for dinner, and then it was up to his room to count the money he’d been saving for years once again.

But when he pulled the giant plastic Coke bottle out of his closet, it was no longer full of money. In the poor light Brandon couldn’t tell exactly what was in the bank, but he knew his cash was gone…and he had an idea who took it. He hoisted the bottle over his shoulder and strode to Daisy’s room.

She was sitting on her bed painting her toenails with Katy Perry blasting from her stereo. 

“Give it back,” Brandon said, snapping the stereo off.

Daisy shrieked when she saw the Coke bottle. “No, don’t! I’m sorry, okay?! I thought it would be funny. Please don’t dump that in here!”

Still not knowing what was in the bottle, Brandon tipped it over her bed and said, “Give it back. Now. Or else.” He gave the bottle a little shake and a dead cockroach dropped onto her bedspread.

Daisy screamed and kicked, dumping nail polish onto the carpet. Brandon stared wide-eyed at the piggy bank. Now he could see the little legs, the brown masses, and he roared with laughter. Daisy tried to run out of the room, but Brandon blocked the exit, pointing the bank at her like a weapon. “Where’s my money?” he demanded.

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!!!!” She yanked open her closet door and dug through piles of clothes, shoes, costume jewelry and old Barbies. Finally, she dragged out one of her tall boots and upended it. Coins and wads of cash fell onto the floor.

“Where did you even get this many dead cockroaches?” Brandon asked, curious.

“My boyfriend. He got them. And filled the bottle up,” she said, red faced.

“You have a…boyfriend?” Brandon’s voice dropped an octave. “What’s his name, and where is he right now?”

Daisy made an exasperated noise. “You’re so stupid! I can have a boyfriend if I want. I’m old enough.”

Brandon put the Coke bottle on her dresser and calmly picked up his money. What wouldn’t fit in his pockets he could carry in his hands. He stood and said, “I’ll give you one more chance. What’s his name, and where is he?”

Daisy stuck out her tongue.

Brandon shrugged, called out, “OOPS,” and hit the Coke bottle with his elbow. When it hit the ground, the lid broke off spilling hundreds of dead cockroaches onto the carpet. Daisy screamed louder than Brandon could laugh, but at least he had his money back.

***

The following spring, Brandon was ready to go. He’d graduated from high school and had packed the few things he wanted to keep in a single sturdy suitcase. He said goodbye to his sisters and spent an extra few minutes with his kid brother to give him a “you’re man of the house now” pep talk. His mother was crying and his dad, well, he gave him a gruff “See ya later, kid,” before passing him a sweaty twenty dollar bill. Brandon’s gut ached at the idea of taking the money from his father, but he swallowed his disgust and thanked him. With a final nod to his siblings, Brandon stepped onto the green and gray striped bus that would take him far from the farm, all the way to another planet.

***

Eight months later, Daisy got a package in the mail. When she realized it had shipped from New Venus, she squealed and ran to her mother who was in the backyard hanging laundry on the clothesline.

“Mama! It’s from Brandon!”

Mother gasped and hollered for the other kids to come and see what Brandon had sent. To date they had only received signed postcards and the occasional money order, always with a promise that he would send more when he could.

Once everyone was gathered around, Daisy opened the envelope taped to the box. Brandon wrote, “Daisy, here’s something I picked up for you that reminds me of home. Love, Brandon.” There was also a money order, made out to his mother, and another promise that more was on the way.

Daisy handed the papers to her mother then tore into the box. Inside she found chocolate brown tissue paper, folded and closed with a fancy foil sticker that read, “Dark Chocolate Confections.”

“Oh my gosh, yum!” Daisy ripped apart the paper…then screamed at the sight of a dozen eight-inch Venusian cockroaches, dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles.

rory-escaping-the-farm