The Boy

It had been one of those hot airless days on the South Dakota prairie when the air shimmered in hazy distance. The boy, stood staring across the land. He searched for evidence of the world beyond the place where he stood. There was nothing to see, for the land was flat and stretched in three directions swallowed by intermingled fields of six-foot-high corn and grain rippling like waves on the ocean. He gazed longest to the east for it represented his physical outlet to the fascinating world beyond. He shook his head as he remembered their neighbor’s ferocious dog who always attacked their car as they drove past. Distance on three sides and a dog on the fourth effectively isolated him from the outer world. Even at six-years-old this precocious child longed for the excitements that he believed to be waiting for him beyond the farm.

For some time, he held his position. He had watched his father return from the fields and hoped that he would soon emerge to take a trip to town. He thought that this might be possible for the previous night he had lain in his attic bed of their tiny homestead listening to his parent’s animated discussion. They spoke in a low German dialect which their ancestors had brought with them, first during a hundred-year sojourn in Russia courtesy of Catherine the Great, and subsequently in this their new home in America. He knew that his parents discussed their financial woes – the fact that they were always one payment away from losing their farm. Sometimes the discussion resulted in a drive to town to talk to the local banker. Even after his parents had gone to sleep the boy had remained awake worrying about their future and listening to the distant roar of trucks trundling down US16 somewhere to the north west and to an occasional train clanking into the distance.

Now, as he waited in the farmyard surrounded by geese, he thought about taking another dip in the farm’s stock pond where he could cool off and was teaching himself to swim. He did so by walking toward the earth dam until he became submerged and had to move his arms in an instinctive dog paddle. He was about to put his plan in action when his father came out of the house and strode toward his car. The boy ran up,

“Take me with you! Pleeeeeeeease.”

His father, a slender dark-haired man, was clean shaven except for a small pencil moustache. Like his son, he wore one-piece overalls. He always went to the bank wearing work clothes with a tasteful smatter of manure on one of the legs. He told his son that he did this as a message to their banker that he was a hard-working man. He turned to look at his pleading son letting his face crinkle into a gentle smile.

“All right, yes, hop in.”

The boy climbed into the passenger seat. As they drove, he put his hand out of the window to lie on the wind swooping up and down like an airplane. He withdrew it when they passed the dog’s house. The dog ran at them barking and attempting to nip the car’s tires. Once beyond the dog, the boy became increasingly animated, for he was now in the mysterious fascinating world outside the oasis of their farm. They stopped on Main Street; the boy knew the routine. His father visited the bank while he waited outside. Today was different for, parked in the center of Main Street, were two travel busses. The painted signs on their sides announced them to be housing a traveling display of wax statues of World War II leaders. A queue of people stood outside waiting their turn to walk through the display. The boy was smart enough not to ask his father about visiting the exhibition before the bank visit. He waited patiently until his father emerged. When he did, he looked happy and the boy took his callused hand,

“Dad, may we visit, Please.”

They walked slowly through the exhibits, and as they did so the boy’s father told him about each person. They began with their present President, Dwight D Eisenhower, and continued with the exhibit’s entourage of World War II leaders. The figures included: Adolf Hitler; Joseph Stalin; Winston Churchill; Benito Mussolini; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry S Truman; Hirohito, Douglas Mac Arthur; Hideki Tojo; and others. The visitors moved slowly past the display. The wax statues were so realistic that none of the visitors would have been surprised if one of them had stepped off their dais and joined them as they walked through. People lingered longest in front of Adolf Hitler’s figure. The boy’s father told him that Hitler had committed suicide when Berlin was taken and that his body was never found.

The boy studied Hitler with his pencil moustache and then looked at his father. When he saw them standing side by side in the subdued light of the bus, he discovered a startling resemblance. Could it be, he thought, that the outside world had already invaded the isolation of the farm? Could it be that the isolation is intentional? Could it be, he thought, that he was the only one who knew that his kindly, German-speaking father, with his distinctive pencil moustache, the man who had a hard time making the farm pay, was really Adolf Hitler in hiding?

 

 

14 thoughts on “The Boy

  1. Another well written story, Jane.

    When you mentioned WW2 wax figures, the earlier hint of a German speaking man with a pencil moustache rang a bell – though Hitler had a toothbrush moustache I don’t know why I thought of him when you said WW2. After that it was anticipation on my part. And you did not disappoint.

    All good wishes,
    Eric

      • Then again, Jane – a toothbrush moustache would have been a dead giveaway. Even people in the boondocks would have picked him out.
        Yes, I know, I can be a real nitpicker. But that is how I challenge myself to make my plots withstand scrutiny.
        Sorry for any aggro my reply triggers.

    • Sadly that is happening Damyanti. When we moved here to the coast it was relatively unspoiled then within eight y ears we were surrounded by blocks of housing and the kangaroos had vanished. So we moved and its happening all over again.

    • I thank you for your visit and comment. I suspect that the boy was generally happy to embrace the outside world. Although now that he had his suspicions, he might wish to maintain a quiet uninterrupted life to protect his dad. Perhaps anther story is lurking in there!

  2. Well I didn’t see that one coming. LOL. Pretty good description of the Dakotas and I liked the splatter on the overalls observation. Having lived on farms as a child I can certainly see that in my mind, and the regular visits to a bank during times of drought and distress is very authentic.

    • Thank you, Your comments confirm that farming in temperate zones in those days was similar in whatever hemisphere one worked. Today’s equipment seems to have changed things. On a recent trip I saw many abandoned farm houses and understand that there are many farmers who live remote and have regular jobs in addition to farming even letting the working of the fields out to specialists who come and go. In the old days every farm had a few farting cows, this visit I didn’t see any. This year the Dakotas are in distress because they have had too much rain (that’s a rare one) making the ground so wet that they couldn’t work the land. Most of the fields have no crops.

      • That’s sad. A friend of mine who lives in Boise but owns a rig works the whole of that area with his loads. He says there is rotting farm equipment for hundreds of miles where obviously the land has not been worked for some time. We have lots of farmers going out of business in this country because supermarkets are paying so low for their products they can’t survive financially.

        • Welcome the mega farm with modern computer run equipment. You can even buy self propelling tractors – you just program them and then sit in an AC cab and idle or read or text so something. Someone somewhere is economically producing food for us all. It is sad about the small holding multi-tasking farmer of the past.

          • Yes modern technology is making food and household products cheaper, but it is making a segment of society who cannot keep up with the pace of learning redundant, not to mention the fact that many services are now outsourced to cheap labour parts of the world and that has an effect on unemployment. So technology is a double edged sword. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s