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The Seed is Planted

by PJ Jackelman 6 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 6 months ago

Of Marigolds and Lies

I pulled my Ford truck into the last available stall outside of the feed store. The storm—and what I witnessed—pushed me to town to hear what folks were saying. Forewarned, was forearmed, I thought. Now in these parts if you wanted the lowdown; you came here. I needed to know what I was up against.

The last two days had been a roller coaster and I was glad to be back in the fields working and keeping busy. Things were steady there. I knew what to do when I was working. No matter if it was turning a wrench, or driving a plow—no difference. It was predictable. Steady. Not like parenting.

I’m not suggesting I don’t love my precious little girl, Beni. No. I don’t just love Beni; I adore her. I like her, too. She is a sweet and decent little gal. She takes after her Momma, which I’m grateful for every day of my life.

I love my family, but it has never a question of enough love. It was a question of know how. Raising a child of Beni’s peculiarities, was a test I never prepared for. Hell, I didn’t even believe in all that clairvoyance, telepathy, or people levitating bull crap—whatever label you wanted to smack on it—it was hocus pocus in my opinion. Still no denying, my girl—she was favored. Blessed. And I’m not too much of a man to say sometimes it shook me a little when she did those things—right to the core.

Hell, just looking into her luminescent eyes you knew you were dealing with something you’d never come across before; and I’d seen that same realization in others when they met my girl’s eyes. Depending on their own inner terrain they’d immediately appear scared, repelled, or enchanted. There was no in between. Now this.

I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’d stayed extra busy since the day of the storm. I’d not been able to bring it up to Jessica the events of that day. So I worked. I’d not been able to confirm what I thought maybe we were both thinking.

Hell, I was holding Beni at the time of the storm. Lightning tore that sky apart, and it felt like the heavens were crashing down—on a clear afternoon. I couldn’t tell Jess I thought my daughter—our daughter—brought that storm. How on earth could I find the words to tell a mother her daughter was the storm. But I was holding her, and with every fiber of my being, I knew. God help us I knew.

I believe in God, but I’ve never been a church-going man. I never had the time for such business.

I looked to myself to live right. I looked after my own and whatever, and whoever, else needs a helping hand. I believe in hard work, and decency. Morals. So when Beni came along, she knocked the house off its foundation with her eidetic memory, and off the charts IQ—then Christ on a cracker that turned out to be the easy part. It was the rest of it that dumped our world on its head.

Folks around these parts would not take lightly to such strangeness. Hell it wasn’t that long ago that they burned women at the stake for less. A lot less.

I strode purposefully into the feed store and made for the back room. Setting aside my ruminations for the moment, it felt good to let it go.

It occurred to me for the umpteenth time since the storm that the torment and anguish suffered upon my little child after those three boys left the severed dog’s head on our porch that something had shifted in her. I felt what was what. Her degree of purity, met with that degree of evil—well something was bound to happen. And it surely did. Now I needed to determine exactly which way the winds of gossip were blowing.

My little girl was my light—my little Sweet One. I was simply stuck in the belief she deserved better than a simple farmer to guide her through a world not prepared for one of her nature; and I was haunted by what would happen if folks caught wind.

Mark Calverly was loading dog food onto some pallets. “Hey Mark,” I called out.

Always with a quick smile, Mark gave a wave and pulled a rag from his back pocket, giving his forehead a mop off. “Hey Greg,” he smiled, making his way over. “What do you need?”

Mark always knew what I needed because I always called it in ahead; but this was his usual opening query before he launched into an update of town gossip. I was looking for more than the few things I knew would already be boxed up.

I pulled the list I’d phoned in earlier from my shirt pocket, and read it out. “Two salt licks, marigold starters.” I looked at Mark over the list. “Jess and Beni are putting in an organic garden so I can’t forget those marigolds or Jessica will have my guts for garters.”

“No worries, Ole' Boy,” Marked said, “your guts are safe for another day.” He grinned, and I returned to the list.

“Three bags Equine Pine and forty pounds of bulk alfalfa cubes,” I said, knowing it would be waiting on the loading-bay ramp. One played these games in this neck of the woods. We took time for people here.

“We got her here for you, Ole' Boy,” Mark said, heading to the pickup bay. “Say did you hear about the Ripley business yesterday, after that freakish storm that has the locals buzzing.”

Here it comes, I thought. “Can’t say as I have, Mark.”

“Like that storm didn’t have folks rattled enough that brat, Scotty Ripley, gets himself and his shithead buddies all liquored up—probably on Daddy’s moonshine, but you didn’t hear that from me—and drives into town half-cut, and starts shooting off his fool mouth about none other than your own sweet, little Benedicta, there.”

“No kidding?” Keep responses minimal. I already didn’t like where this was headed.

“Yeah, no kidding,” he says nodding, eyes wide. “Talking nonsense about her being a witch and some such crap.”

“Boy’s a damn fool,” I said. We came into the loading bay, and I could see two boxes with my name on them. I was thankful his back was turned as I digested his comment.

“Here they are, Ole’ Boy.” He picked up the first box and motioned me to the second one.

“You want this on your account, Ole’ Boy.”

“That’ll do just fine, Mark. Jess’s coming in on Tuesday to settle up some accounts.”

“Right, right. So like I was saying, that Ripley shithead starts mouthing off, and what do you know? Out comes Kevin Wong from his veterinarian’s office with his white jacket on as he does when he’s working.” He keeps talking through the store, and out the front door to where I’d parked the truck.

“Now Kevin’s not a real big guy as you can know, but what if he doesn’t have that little shit on his knees. He’s got his hand on his neck, right here.” He does a pinching motion under his left ear. “Saw it myself. Was quite something. Now, he leans down and says something right up tight to the little shit’s face.”

“No kidding, huh?” I couldn't help but smile. I was beginning to appreciate my friend, the vet, more with each detail.

“Now I can’t say for certain what he said, but I can tell you his face was like stone when he said it. Like stone, Ole’ Boy.”

I gave him a shrug. “Who knows, hey?”

“Well that Ripley snot face, and his buddy Smitty, went pale. Pale as the belly of a rainbow trout. I thought Ole’ Wong there, was going to pop him one—pop him right in the pie hole—should have too. This whole town would have cheered—little shits that they are.

“Right, right,” I said, and closed the tailgate.

“Might have done, but that’s when the Sheriff pulled up.”

“No.”

“For sure. See I think it was that pretty little Mariel Blythe, the secretary from the school who called it in. I’ve heard tell she’s been seen around town with him—with Wong, of course—not one of those shit face kids. She was in the diner and saw the whole thing. I think she called it to stop Wong from getting himself into any more trouble with that whole crew.” He took a brief moment for air, and got back to it. “Yeah, their a surly bunch if you get on the wrong side of them.”

“Ole’ Sheriff Ripley was some peeved, too.” He gave a hearty laugh while he replayed the memory. “So he grabs his boy off his knees, and without a word to nobody hollers for Smitty to get in his ‘fucking car’, he called it. Imagine that language in front of the ladies standing about? People had gathered, you see.”

“Of course,” I added, with a nod.

He flipped his ball cap up and gave his thinning pate a scratch looking across the street where I assumed it had all taken place. He was obviously considering something. I waited, because I suddenly felt that I wasn’t going to like the rest of his observations.

“In that whole mess, the weirdest part—between you and me—was those two snotty little bastards looked shit scared. I mean shit scared. They were going on about your little one being the cause of that storm a couple days back.” He set his hat back on his head and met my eyes. Clear and blue, they held questions. When it came to Beni, I didn’t like questions.

“The liquor talking, no doubt,” I said, going for matter of fact.

“Yeah. Right. Right. No doubt.”

I moved toward the driver’s door, anxious to be out of there. “There was that rumor they were the ones that killed the Conrad dog,” I said.

A vision flashed of the dog’s severed head in the box occupying my doorstep. My mouth dried. “Hit by a car and left for dead,” I lied.

I pulled myself into the truck to avoid his eyes. I was a terrible liar, and I knew it, but getting better. Another thing I was learning to do since Beni’s arrival. Stretch, fabricate, and lie, it was all semantics.

“No way,” he said. His eyes widened.

“Well that would account for Ole Wong being so pissed then,” he said.

“Dunno,” I said.

“Now my personal take for what that’s worth, I think they’re jealous that your little one is a metric shit ton smarter than that whole crew of them dim bulbs put together. What’s that thing folks do—defecting?”

“Deflecting--projection, yes,” I said. “That would explain a lot.”

“That’s my take anyway, for what it’s worth. Man alive. Killed a dog? What a crew. What a crew. Oh, and the whole Arden Conrad business.”

I wondered at the state of society when the rape and beating of a lovely little teenager could be swept under the rug and referred to a business within days. Her bruises had yet to heal, and might not have if not for Beni.

“Yeah. There’s that,” he added. I started the truck.

“Thanks a lot, Mark. Appreciate it,” I said, jabbing my thumb at the box of the truck and its contents.

“No worries, Ole’ Boy. You and the family are good people and we’re always happy to do you a service.”

I pulled out and left Mark Calverly with an unreadable expression on his round face, scratching his head and watching me drive away. The look sent a shiver up my spine.

Good God. The seed was planted, and I knew it.

Sci Fi

PJ Jackelman

A compulsive writer with too much time and too little talent, I harbor a dark imagination and a darker sense of humor.

Read next: Song of Birds

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