Two farmhands tentatively go inside the farmhouse of a farmer who is now gone.
|"I don't think this is a good idea, Cleat."
"If he didn't want us to come in, he wouldn't have left the key so easy to find."
"It was hidden, Cleat."
"Not that well, Billy Joe, so that means we're meant to find it. The farmer wanted us to come inside."
"The farmer is dead. I don't think he wanted that."
"Well, maybe he should have thought ahead before dying, then. Where's the light switch?" he whispered
"I think the lights are on, Cleat. It's just really dark in here. Who doesn't have overhead lights? It's dark like a cheap motel room in here."
Small particles of dust swirled in the air, disturbed and illuminated by the open front door. The two twenty-something young men stepped into the dimly lit room. Brown shag carpet sprawled wall to wall, absorbing any light that managed to escape the forty watt lamps in the corners of the living room.
"What's that smell?" Cleat wrinkled his nose and rubbed it with the palm of his hand.
"What's that taste?"
"It tastes a bit like sometimes when mom used to try to make dinner when she was high. Salt and dust."
"Mother of the year." Billy Joe's foot stepped heavily onto the worn carpet with nothing left of the pad beneath. He patted the brown plaid couch back, he said quietly, so as not to disturb any occupants, "These folks need to get into the twenty-first century." More dust joined their siblings already hanging in the air.
"Twentieth," Cleat corrected.
"Pretty sure it's twenty-first, but either way, they need to redecorate."
"But they should totally keep that dog on the mantle."
"Yeah, that's cool. Weird, but cool...kinda like you, Cleat. I wonder if it's a pet or like a coyote or something." The wide mantle held a medium-sized beige canine frozen in mid-run.
"Funny, Billy Joe." He touched the dog gently, feeling the coarse fur give way to his touch. "I wonder if anyone is home." In a strong voice, Cleat called, "Hello?" Pause. "Is anyone here?" Pause. "We didn't kill Farmer Pete, honest!"
"Sh! Don't say that," Billy Joe admonished with a sharp look and a harsh whisper.
"What? We didn't," returns Cleat's whisper.
"Just look around, Cleat."
"What are we even looking for, Billy Joe?"
"I don't know, but as they say in the movies, we'll know it when we see it."
The two continued through the old farmhouse living room. The floorboards occasionally creaked in annoyance with the disturbance of their weight. The darkness continued with light switches flipped.
"Good God! Were they mole people? Why is it so dark in here?" Cleat flipped another switch, trying to find more lights. He let his voice relax into a normal tone having seen no sign of life in the house.
"Maybe they're saving electricity?" The two step into the kitchen. Billy Joe ran his hand along the beige laminate countertop. "Ew! It's sticky! They live like you do, Cleat."
"That ain't good 'cause I live like a mess." Cleat smiled an embarrassed smile. Billy Joe's mom always kept a better house than Cleat's and the cleaning styles seemed to have rubbed off on each boy respectively. Cleat headed to the fridge, opening it boldly. The light welcomed eyes to the contents inside. "Beer!" He grabs two and hands one to Billy Joe.
"We can't drink their beer, Cleat! That's stealing!"
"Nuh-uh. Remember, he said we were welcome here anytime."
"I think he meant we were welcome to visit the farm, not to break into his house and steal his beer."
"If he comes back, we'll buy him more."
"If he comes back, I'm outta here. Screw you, Cleat. If I see that farmer, you are on...your...own!" Billy Joe laughed as he popped the top from the beer and tossed it into the half-filled garbage can at the end of the counter.
Cleat popped his own top and tossed it onto the island counter where it landed under a bowl of fresh green apples, the only spark of color in the kitchen. "Beige and brown are definitely their color scheme" he says as he scuffed his foot against the aged beige linoleum, feeling the texture now mostly worn off from years of hungry feet padding to the refrigerator. "And it smells so old. Like a museum mixed with farm animals."
"At least the beer tastes cold and fresh." Billy Joe held his up in cheers.
"What do you think?"
"Come on, Billy Joe, you know, about here? Us? Living here..."
"Oh, no. No, no, no, Cleat! This isn't our house. It's one thing to steal the man's beer. But we can't steal his whole house!"
"We ain't stealing it. I mean, if you think about it, if we just left it, who knows what kind of no-goods could break in and steal all his..." Cleat looked around, "...well, his stuff. We're actually doing him a favor by looking after it for him until his next-of-kin is notified."
"And who's gonna to do that, Cleat? We're gonna bury him so no one can find him."
"Well, that's not the point. Someone's gonna come along eventually and we need to make sure we've taken real good care of this man's home. I mean, it's the least we can do for him after we watched him get killed and all. Plus, he was nice enough to let us have these here beers."
"I don't know..." Billy Joe strolled around the kitchen, then down the hall.
Cleat followed. "You don't know about what?"
"It ain't right, Cleat." He continued his tour to the rows of family pictures hanging in the hallway. He stopped and looked at the smiling faces. "Look. He has a whole family here." Billy Joe motions to a family portrait with the neck of his beer bottle.
"He looks our age in that picture. For all we know, they're all dead by now, just like him. He could have been the last of his line."
Billy Joe continued the tour along the chocolate brown shag, poking his head into a small bathroom. "At least this doesn't smell like dust." He continued to the room at the end of the hall.
"Mold and wet. Yeah, that's much better." Cleat rolled his eyes, then followed behind him. He stopped at a particularly squeaky part of the hallway floor. "Listen." He rhythmically swayed his weight from one foot to another to make a simple two-note song. "It's that death song. Can you hear it?" He continued to play something on the floorboards.
"Stop goofing around, Cleat. But yeah, it is cool. Death dirge."
"Yeah, death dirge. In honor of Farmer Pete."
The carpet lead them to the master bedroom where wooden furniture continued the brown and beige colors predominant throughout the house. Billy Joe drew a frowny face in the dust on top of the dresser, then cleaned the fine powder off his finger with his thumb, then pants.
Cleat walked over to the bed with the uninspiring brown comforter and the threadbare pillow cases. "See? I'm not the only one who doesn't make their bed." He attempted to seat himself on the corner of the bed, but the mattress moved with a surprising sloshing sound.
Cleat's eyes glinted and a smile bounded across his face. "A water bed," he exclaimed. He rolled back and enjoyed the wave action around him slowly settling down in both motion and sound as he laid still. He then wiggled to start it all up again. "Please, Billy Joe? Please? Just for one night? Please?"
A goat bleated outside, the sound seeming to ring with Cleat's pleas.
"Okay, but just one night. And that's it."
"Yay," Cleat sloshed in the bed, allowing the water to share in his excitement. The waves knocked one of the flat, scraggly pillows to the floor. Cleat didn't notice between the sounds of the water trapped inside the plastic mattress and the rolling fun surrounding him. He just wiggled in the bed, enjoying himself and giggling like a little kid while Billy Joe smiled.
"You said we'd know it when we saw it, Billy Joe. Whatever it is we're looking for, I'm pretty sure it's this bed." He rolled back and forth, increasing the liquid ruckus.
Billy Joe picked up a black, leather-bound Bible from the nightstand. The large window behind him brought enough light into the room that they hadn't bothered with the nightstand lamp. There was no dust on the Bible or the area surrounding where it had been seated. Billy Joe considered this a good omen.