“Pa says the corn growing so much this year that he reckons we might not even have ta plant this fall,” Edgar said, stripping off his shirt and overalls.
“What’s he gonna do if it rains? My Ma always says ta not count ya chickins till they all grown,” Jackson said, stripping off his overalls. He only wore shirts for church and school.
The two boys jumped into Cow Creek and started splashing each other. It was a time when summer days were spent fishing, walking around, or swimming in the creek, and the nights were filled with frogging, raccoon hunting if you were lucky enough like Jackson to have a hound, and chasing fireflies long into the night. But, for two twelve-year-old boys, it was starting to become boring. Things that used to entertain them for hours, now held no interest, and thoughts turned from games and toys to money and futures. Even cooling off in Cow Creek was not as much fun as it used to be.
Jackson sighed, laying on some rocks with his feet in the water. “Uncle Joe wrote Ma a letter sayin’ I could come live with him if’n I wanted to.”
Edgar gasped and stared intently at him. “Ya ain’t gonna leave, are ya?”
“It’s nice there, in the city, ya know. Always stuff ta do and things to see –”
“You got all that right here! I mean…” Edgar stopped splashing around and sat there, on the edge of the creek next to Jackson and sighed. He had to admit, there wasn’t much to do anymore. Everything they could do, they have already done. “Don’t reckon I could come too?”
Jackson’s eyes lit up as he started grinning. “Hoped ya woulda asked. I already asked an if’n it’s alight with your Pa, Uncle Joe says he gots lots a room.”
“Let’s go ask!”
As the two boys were putting on their overalls and getting presentable again to be seen by anyone, a horse pulling a little wagon appeared next to the creek. Edgar and Jackson stared at each other. Neither heard the cart, its horse, or its driver approach, but there is was.
“Howdy, boys,” the driver said, jumping off the wagon’s seat.
“Hello,” Edgar whispered, looking at the little man standing by the horse.
Either the horse was exceptionally tall, or the man was exceptionally short, because the man could walk under the horse without having to duck. Both boys watched, slack jawed, as the little man unhooked the horse from the wagon and then knocked on the wagon’s door. A very tall woman appeared in the strangest clothes.
“Whys she wearin’ bed sheets?” Edgar whispered in Jackson’s ear.
“Nev’r seen bed sheets that thin or those colors,” he whispered back.
The lady started laughing as if she heard the boys clearly. “My name is Madam Esmeralda.” She curtseyed, “and this is my assistant Count Wigglebottom, the Third.” The man took off his hat and bowed.
Edgar and Jackson looked at each, looked at her, looked at each, then stared dumbfounded at her.
She laughed. “Come here boy’s and let me show you the future.”
Never to disobey an elder, no matter how strange they were, the boys slowly got up and walked over to the back of her wagon. It seemed to grow the closer they got until all three could fit inside comfortably.
“Sit down boys.”
There was a table with three chairs already waiting for them. As they sat, Madame Esmerelda took a crystal ball off a shelf on the side of the wagon and set it on the table. When she had taken her place at the table, she began waving her hands over the crystal ball and it filled with white, billowy smoke. Edgar’s eyes grew as big as saucers, and Jackson had forgotten how to swallow, and just let his saliva drip from his open mouth.
“Ah, yes, it is very clear. Very clear indeed. So many choices ahead for both of you. Should you stay? Do you leave? I see many things, many things indeed.”
“Like what?” Jackson said.
Madame Esmerelda laughed. It was a laugh that sent shivers up both their spines, making them shiver. “I’ll show you.”
Suddenly, their entire lives flashed before their eyes. Jobs, wives, houses, children, deaths. Every moment of their life to come.
“STOP!” Edgar screamed.
Madame Esmerelda laughed harder. The harder she laughed, the more the images changed. People riding in metal wagons without horses, metal monsters in the sky, faster and faster time passed until it stopped, and they were on top of the world, in the clouds, looking down at what had become of their creek. Their fields. Their hearts grew heavy.
“It’s like Pa’s corn turned to metal.”
“Ma wouldn’t be happy with no sun, an no open spaces. Ma’am, where’s all the folks?”
She smiled and leaned in between the boys. They’re there. Down there. In all those buildings.
“But where’s Pa’s field?”
“An Mr. Jenk’s field? An the apple trees that we pick from for Ma’s pies?”
“No more fields, no more apple trees. Not necessary. Other people grow food and these people work in offices. They live and work in these buildings.”
Edgar’s throat was dry and a lump was forming as he tried holding back his tears. Jackson wasn’t so willing or able to and started to cry.
“I want ta go home,” Jackson said.
“I thought you were bored at home and wanted to run off to the city? Well, now you’re here.”
“I want ta go home too. Pa’ll be lookin for me soon.”
Madame Esmerelda laughed and laughed. The world around the boys spun so fast they both slammed their eyes shut started screaming. Suddenly everything stopped, and they fell into Cow Creek. The splashing water shocked them, and they jerked their eyes open.
They looked around, but the horse, wagon, little man, and Madame Esmerelda were gone. Edgar and Jackson looked at each other, jumped up, and ran all the way home. They didn’t move to the city with Jackson’s Uncle Joe, and they certainly were never bored for the rest of the summer. In fact, they grew to love their quiet little lives, found wives, had children, and enjoy telling their grandchildren the story of Madame Esmerelda on long summer evenings when the kids are complaining of being bored.
This was inspired by the photo and written for the Worth A Thousand Words daily photo prompt.