Short story from the second book of The Fall of Seasons. . . I liked it. Critique at will.
|May Peace never Reign
Back during the war, there were two farmers of the mainland who grew wheat and raised a couple cows in the back of their land. They were older folk; homosexual men of seventy, who had lived a long and full lives together. Their house was the only one in ten miles, any direction, and neither man had any cell phone service. Both had been born in a town nearby, and they had never travelled much further than just out of state. They knew little of modern politics, and cared to know even less. They had no family and few friends. And the last time they’d heard from any one of those “friends” was two years ago.
These two people were significant because of all the adult people in their entire country they were the last to learn of the war.
Ran and Paul were their names, and both had been stocky and handsome fellows back in their youth. They hadn’t always been completely cut off from world news, and in the old days they used to favor magazines and newspapers. Paul had for many decades been interested in the internet, during the time peak of its popularity and use. But after his eyes began to give, he’d cared little for reading of any kind.
Considering all of this, it was not too surprising that it had been a whole year and a half before they’d learned of the Setinese
Uprising. They were surprised, to say the least.
On the day it happened it was April in on the grasslands, and Ran had just put the cows back in the pen and was chewing on a long, dry piece of hay. The sun was vicious, brutally penetrating his eyelids so that he could not even open them when looking away from the light of god. When he did open his eyes, he saw swaying fields of young wheat, gold, pale and dried, for it had not rained in weeks.
The drought had come suddenly and without any warning. Of course, to the two hermits that was how all warnings came, but all the same it was terrible.
This was not good, as this was an especially important period for the growers. They were the last small farmers in the county, and they simply could not stand up to the competition as it was. For the weather to bring bad fortune was more than a curse; it spelled certain financial doom for the older couple.
But they were old, and they simply didn’t worry too much about that kind of stuff. At least that’s the lie they told themselves to get to sleep at night. The secret to their marriage had been that neither ever discussed their worries, and they both had a whole bottle full of problems which they pretended did not exist. This relationship philosophy would not have worked if either man had not been completely faithful or forgiving for their forty years of marriage, but due to the mutual passiveness between Ran and Paul it sufficed. Of course, this lifestyle did not make them all-together happy, but their union was forever intact.
Leaning back against the wooden post of the cow pen, Ran did as he always did and tried not to think. He didn’t think of how he’d be paying his taxes after this year’s crop failed. He didn’t stop to think how bothersome work had been since his love had lost his eye sight. Now he had to do almost all the farm work himself, while Paul kept to the maintenance the inside of the house. And sometimes, he couldn’t even do that. But Ran’s body wasn’t as it used to be either, and all the bones in his skin ached and burned through the long hard days. Simply waking up in the morning and doing what was needed to be done to survive in the world; it was hell for a man, and worse still for an old one.
Suddenly, as if out of the blue sky above, Ran felt a strange feeling of discontent. He had always been a man who was satisfied with simplicity, and had long enjoyed his solitary life. However, that day he felt sad and worn. He was tired, but he didn’t want to go inside.
On the other hand, he did not want to stay out in the sun. Firmly he decided that he would head to town.
Driving north to the nearest town with good outlets, Ran nervously twitched his eyes and rubbed the back of his pale, thin flaky hands.
Indecisive, the man had no idea where he was heading, or why. He just wanted to get away for a little while. Usually the awkward fellow didn’t like having to get groceries, or even leaving the house at all. But today he was eager to be out somewhere. Anywhere.
Out of habit, the older man found himself in the parking lot of the super market he usually used. He felt different, and Ran realized then that there wasn’t anything he had wanted to buy at all. While he was there, he did pick up of grilled chicken for his husband.
Usually, Ran didn’t pay much attention to scenery when he went out, and he usually didn’t even notice the headlines on the magazine rack. But that day he happened to glance over at a cover. Immediately his eyes caught the words “War on Setinal”. At the moment, he didn’t think too much of this, and the concept went over his head. But once he was seated in his car, the words came back to him, and he pondered their meaning.
“A ‘War on Setinal’? surely it did not mean another actual war. It was an exaggerated headline, probably. Probably the press just called some insignificant event by that name to catch eyes like mine at the supermarket checkout.”
Still, he felt ill at ease.
Next he drove his car across the street to a gas station. It was a self-serve station, so he didn’t need to go inside. Some kids were playing by a cash machine, pressing buttons at random. That made Ran smile in a way he hadn’t in a long while. “I could live to be a thousand, but kids will always be kids.”
While he was filling up his car with all natural exotic gas, a group of young men came walking past on the side walk. Glancing by force of habit, Ran saw that they wore blue army vests, and he guests they were heading for the nearby military base.
Usually, Ran would have thought nothing of this, but he was suddenly very desperate for outside social interaction, of any kind.
Closing the hubcap, Ran walked up to the young lads as they passed and asked casually, “Hey, what’s new at the base?”
The boys stopped and one rolled his eyes; but Ran didn’t mind. The young men were unsure who was going to respond, and how.
Finally, a handsome youth with brown hair stepped forward.
“Well, between you and me, the war doesn’t look good. Now, don’t go into a panic, but they are fighting not too far south of here. They still have a ways to go . . . and if they get here, which they hopefully won’t but you couldn’t be too careful. . .” The boy’s linguistic abilities stumbled for a moment, and a great awkwardness that emitted took form among the young adults and the older man.
“Ahem,” the young man who had disrespectfully rolled his eyes before said. “But shouldn’t we be going. . .”
“Yes, but. . .” the brown haired boy said this as if he was somehow questioning himself.
The third of the young men suddenly leapt forward, grabbing the queer man’s thigh behind him. “Common. Let’s go!” And in an instant they were all running past. The brown hair boy jogged fifty paces, looked back shyly for a moment, and then continued on again.
Yet again, Ran had pondered these events in awe. “Was it a joke?” he thought. True indeed, the boys had acted strangely.
By the time he had arrived back at his home, he had forgotten the event. Paul had been worried, and had not known where Ran had gone to. He was irritated as well.
“You nimwad! I’ve been calling for you for hours!”
Ran didn’t answer immediately, but took his time putting his keys back to their usual home; hanging from the arm of a golfer bobble head. The famous golfer’s name was Wood Tigers, and he grinned his celebrity smile.
Ran wondered if they still made bobble heads of Woods after the sex scandals.
“You know . . .” Ran began suddenly, strangely distracted. “I’m tired. I just took some time off from the farm. I brought you back some chicken. . .”
“What? I can’t hear you,” Paul called back.
“Sorry, I know I’m mumbling . . . I just feel-“
Ran was going to say that he felt weird when he heard a rap at the door.
Ran cursed. “Now who the hell is it at this time of day.”
Opening his door, Ran was shot in the face with a bullet.
A Temanian Officer held the gun, and Ran died, looking deep in a younger mans eyes.