The Hidden Cache
Flash fiction by Karen Schauber
Ezekiel and Jedediah left the quiet Amish hamlet early Thursday morning, walking on foot toward the Amstutz Farmstead six kilometers away, through the callow field and unhurried roadside. The journey would take them not more than two hours. It was cool out and they walked briskly, with not much conversation between them.
They were to collect a young calf and walk it back, stopping as often as need be for water and rest, ensuring the animal arrived in good condition. It was to be a breeder.
The transfer at the farm was brief, their send-off hurried; a turnkey operation. The boys expected no more. The calf, big brown medallions of dewy-eyed sweetness, followed their every gesture, sticky wet licks dribbling across salty palms, bonding immediate and sure.
The late morning sun rose high on the way back, pitching long shadows through the tree-lined backcountry roads. Sweltering heat stirred up pungent wafts of manure. The fetid horse pastures overwhelmed as they ambled alongside. Tiny gnats congregated in droves, their frenzy unrelenting. The trek was slow and the breeze absent, but the boys remained patient and kind with the beast. There was time to dream, indulge the senses, yet nothing came to mind; it was their way. Shocks of purple and ruby azaleas blazed the path, the colours garish and bold against the staid and simple palette of the boys’ grey broadfall trousers and flax straw hats. They meandered slow and deliberate, the young calf safely in tow.
After a while they stopped to rest and refresh the calf where the confluence of Sawkill Creek and Rameyskill Rivulet breached. The animal stood quenching its thirst not a stone’s throw from a heap of discarded items; a mess of junk: green tarp, broken stool, glass bottles, rusted aluminum cans, a tangle of wire… when something caught their eye.
It was a radio.
It’s old said Jedediah, kicking the dirt around it.
Let me try, Ezekiel motioned. The boy took up the box, braced it square between his knees, and turned the hand crank, slowly, then with increasing speed.
Take heed Ezekiel. Should we be touching this? Jedediah stepped back, his legs wiggling like a field cricket; neck craned, glued to Ezekiel’s every move.
With less than a minute of effort the generator lit up full of juice, and Jedediah expelled the breath he had held back.
Ezekiel looked up, his eyes magnetic and wild. Ha it works! He turned the dial. An announcer’s voice boomed, the ball is long, outside, McMurtry catches it, passes it to Benson, Benson to Archibald – it’s close…. and Archibald nails it at second base – heeeee’s out.
Jedediah spellbound, plunked down beside Ezekiel, and gave the dial a spin. Heavy metal pulsed: Master of puppets I’m pulling your strings. Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams. Aaaaaayyyyiiiiii. Squinching up his nose, Jedediah slapped his palms against his ears, while Ezekiel quickly gave it another spin.
What was that? Jedediah asked. I dunno. Really loud and cranky. Ezekiel said.
Call our toll-free number right now to claim your free bottle of Headache Away before it’s too late. You don’t have to suffer from crippling headaches and pain anymore. 1-888-End-Pain
HaHaHaHa. More! Crank it again, Jedediah urged, clearly on board now.
The boys lay on tufts of Pampas grass, plumes waving, a slight breeze whispering at the water’s edge. Their charge all but forgotten stood off to the side, tail ricocheting left and right, gnats a constant companion. The brilliant sun waning long in the afternoon had all but deserted the sky, its trajectory a new horizon.
Ezekiel and Jedediah would return again and again to their hidden cache. Their world expanding exponentially each time, the return to the fold increasingly difficult. They listened for hours sprawled out in the meadow under the shade of the Buckeye tree, well out of range of the homestead. There, shared conversations had no end of detail and animation, irrepressible laughter and gaiety, an everlasting friendship forged. The maturing bull grazing in the paddock far in the distance.
Without seeing it coming, the irrevocable transformation took hold when the sultry tones of Patsy Cline’s I Fall to Pieces reached their ears and hearts. An ache and throbbing never imagined, skin electric. Melting like ice cream on a warm porcelain bowl. Nothing was ever so good. Nothing ever so sublime. Their blush was deep, their shame untold.
They would not give it up, not then, not ever.