The results of last week’s vote to determine when my new weekly posting time determined that… well… nobody cares when I post, so long as I do (I chose to add that last part because it makes me feel good).
Having a schedule, though, helps me. So, after today, I’ll be trying out Mondays at 11am.
Now, enjoy this week’s story. Sorry, no art or audio today.
His blue eyes gleamed hard and tough. Set among thin folds in the sun-beaten skin, they were the only hint that the man was thinking, but they were enough. Marvin waited silently, listening to the wind push a few dry foxtails against the rough siding of the barn. He watched uncle Barrett survey his surroundings and contemplate the question. Uncle Barrett always took a few moments to think before he responded, but when he finally did, Marvin had learned, it was best to listen.
When grandfather had passed away, he left the ranch to his two sons: Uncle Barrett and Marvin’s father Norman. The falling out between the two brothers over the direction the ranch should take had been bad once upon a time, Marvin had heard, but he had only ever seen it as a general disdain and occasional acts of passive aggression – until this week, that is.
Uncle Barrett still ran a herd of cattle, and had recently discovered the small mine that Grandfather had used as a pet project before the two boys were born. Marvin’s father wanted to extend a few of the rows of grapevines – the grapevines taking up a sizable portion of what used to be grazing land, and had been the main point of contention between the two brothers. The problem was that the new section of vines would need to be extended right over the mine entrance, as well as block off one of the routes that Barrett liked to direct his cattle through when moving them between pastures.
Things had gotten heated until Gladys, Marvin’s mother (and the only person on Earth that both men would listen to) had intervened. She was the reason they were all there today. Both men were to sit at the table with her and talk it out while drinking tea.
When Marvin had asked about the tea, she had given him a smile and said “Just like my mamma used to say, make them drink tea instead of beer; tea will keep them civilized.”
Now he stood outside with Uncle Barrett. He had seen him standing out by the barn, staring off toward the grapevines, while his mother and father were in the kitchen waiting.
“Yeah. I’ll be right along, Pip,” he said, finally.
Marvin ran back to the house, only looking behind him when he reached the stoop, to see Uncle Barrett making his slow way after him.
When Uncle Barrett finally made it to the door, his huge frame becoming a dark silhouette in the rectangle of bright sunlight, Marvin and his father were sitting and Marvin’s mother had just set the tea kettle on the table and went back for the cups.
“Have a seat, Barrett,” she said.
Uncle Barrett walked slowly into the room, hung his hat on a hook by the door, and pulled out the closest chair at the table, not looking up to meet his brother’s gaze.
“Thanks for having me to tea, Gladys,” he said, settling down into the chair.
“So,” Marvin’s father started, “you’ve decided you’re too busy playing with that damned, dangerous mine to run the cattle the long way around-”
“Tea?” Gladys interjected, cutting him off, then turning to Uncle Barrett, “Tea?”
Uncle Barrett was sure making eye contact with Marvin’s father now, and it was a look that Marvin had never seen on his uncle’s face, which was always guarded to show no emotion. There was emotion there now, though, and it was something like anger.
Neither man said anything as she slowly placed a cup in front of each of them and filled it with tea.
When she turned to Marvin and started to fill his cup, Uncle Barrett sighed, then said, “Papa wanted us to raise cattle, not those god-damned California Raisins.” He pointed out the door to punctuate his point, to where they all knew the first row had been planted years ago.
Marvin saw his mother cut short the pouring of his tea and bound the two steps back to the counter, where she snatched up a plate of cookies.
“You know as well as anyone,” Marvin’s father said, starting to raise his voice, “they are wine grapes, and they are the only thing keeping this ranch afloat!”
“Cookie? Cookie?” Marvin’s mother interjected again, offering each man the plate. They both stopped and looked at her, but neither moved to take a cookie, so she set it down on the table. Marvin reached out and grabbed one.
“I have half a mind to just plant them anyway, what would you do with your precious cattle then?” Marvin had heard his father do many voices, but he had never heard a sneer before and it scared him.
His mother went back to the counter and grabbed the bottle of honey.
Uncle Barrett shot to his feet, staring down his brother, “Well, I’d herd it THROUGH that grape vine! I’m not about to lose my mine.”
“Honey? Honey?” Marvin’s mother asked.
Listen to me read it here:https://www.dropbox.com/s/xq64epzrfc0mvel/Grapevine.mp3?dl=0