09 November 2017

Leaving Home: A Short Story

The Esoteric South 
Leaving Home 
A Short Story by Marshall McCart 

The time was the early 1950s. The place was a farm out in the country in the heart of the Georgia Piedmont, and the main characters were a young boy and his Mother.

The boy had been upset for a day or two. He’d been unimpressed with how his parents had brought an end to his latest venture. For you see, his folks, the owners and operators of a fairly big farm, had gotten the first television set of anybody in their part of the county.

Naturally, it was a big item of discussion throughout their community and many had come by to see it. Well, the boy saw a going concern with lots of pent-up demand and upside potential and decided he’d start charging the children in their neck of the woods to watch television. A nickel for an up-front fee and another nickel for each program watched. The boy was excited about this new venture; he felt like it was going to be a real winner.

But his folks were not impressed and brought a stop to it, and they also made their son return the money.

After stewing on it a day or two, he went to his Mother and said he’d made up his mind and felt like it was time to leave home. That he was going to take some provisions and head back to the back pasture and woods on the river and that he’d just fend for himself.

“Well, “ his Mother said, “you’re 9 years old now...maybe the time has come for you to go out on your own.”

“That’s the way I see it, “ said the boy.

“Well...you’ll need some supplies, and you’ll need a way to be able to feed yourself.”

So the Mother helped her son collect some things. Some soda crackers, a can of potted meat, a piece of cheese, his pocket knife and couple other things. Also, some fishing line and a couple of hooks, and proceeded to put them in a red bandana which they tied around a stick.

“This way you can tie your fishin’ line to the stick and you’ll be able to catch you some supper.”

“That’s right,” responded the boy.

So he set off towards the back pasture. On the way he passed his Father and a couple of the field hands working on a piece of farm equipment. His father looked his way and  so the boy yelled out:

“I’m strikin’ out on my own! I’m going to live on the back 40!”

“Alright then, good luck!” his Dad responded back.

The boy spent most of the day just walking around. He went back to the river and came the long way ‘round back to the pond. He’d already eaten up his cheese, crackers and meat, so he figured it was time to do some fishing.

He dug up some worms, tied his line to his stick and actually caught a nice sized crappie. Then it dawned on him - he didn’t bring any matches to start a fire to cook it. How could he have been so stupid! And why didn’t his Mother think of it? Disgusted, he threw the fish back in the pond.

About this time, around 7 or so - this was Summertime, you see - and those shadows started to loom longer. He was running out of daylight. What was he going to do?

“I’ll just go back,” he thought to himself. “I’ll just say I needed more provisions...but now that it’s dark - I’d just have to wait to go back out tomorrow!”

Pleased with himself, he walked back the mile or so to the house, and there was Mother in the backyard who just light up like a light when she saw him.

“Oh, thank goodness, I was just thinking about how I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight,” she said. “Not worried about you, naturally, but because I was going to be so nervous about not having you to project me, your Father, and your Sisters...I’m so glad you’re back, son.”

The boy was always quick on his feet.

“Well, yes, Momma, I figured, and that’s precisely why I came back.”

She gave him a big hug and then fixed him some biscuits and gravy.

That night, as he lay in his bed, the boy thought about what he might do the next day. He came to the conclusion that they just needed him too much and that he had a responsibility to the family and the farm. He’d shown that he could go out on his own; it’d be his decision to stick around. So, with a smile on his face, the young man drifted off to sleep...