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  • Patrick Rizio

Chapter 5

Monday morning after the picnic found Jason feeling more alive than ever. He pulled into the parking lot faster than usual, and quickly parked the car. He was almost trotting towards the front entrance, when a breeze blowing through the oak trees slowed him to a stop. Looking up, he saw the old oak’s branches and leaves moving independently, and in unison, simultaneously. As always, it fascinated him. He was captivated by it. He knew it would fascinate Sarah as well. He knew, because he had felt that depth in her as soon as they had connected. He also knew that while he found such complexity remarkable, it was something which Sarah was able to comprehend at a much higher level.

Jason’s mind returned to the present, and he noticed Bob Schimmel’s car was also parked. The boss often worked late, if the situation dictated, but he rarely arrived before nine. Jason glanced at his watch. It was 6:20-odd?

As he continued walking, Jason thought back, to the day before...

“You’ll have to excuse me OK, but I don’t exactly know how to react to this. Just what is going on here?” Alison asked, a little out of breath. Jason turned to her and smiled. Sarah, however, was the one who answered.

“Nothing, Miss Russo. We were just enjoying the view.”

“Enjoying the view…enjoying…the...view! Uh, Jason, can we talk?”

“Sure, of course. Why don’t you follow me to the cafeteria,” he said, gesturing with an open palm in that direction. “Sarah, would you wait here by the pond for a little while? Miss Russo and I need to talk.”

She looked up at him, visibly uncomfortable with the idea of his leaving.

Jason looked down into Sarah’s eyes. A connection formed that was much more than visual. “It won’t be for long. I’ll be back very soon,” he said softly.

Reassured, Sarah sat, crossed her legs, and looked out over the water.

“OK,” she said, pointing to the ground between her legs. “I’ll wait right here.”

Jason escorted Allison across the lawn, to the closest courtyard door and into the cafeteria. They walked to the nearest table and sat down. Sarah was visible through the windows. The place was empty. Everyone was outside.

“Alison, we just met, and I know this must seem kind of crazy. Believe me when I tell you it took me by surprise as well, but Sarah is a very special girl. I know that. I also know you think Sarah is unusually talented, but I don’t think you realize the extent of that little girl’s intellect.”

She gave him the most incredulous look possible.

“What! How do you know about Sarah? And how do you know what I think about Sarah?”

“I just do, that’s all.”

“Look,” Alison shot back, “I’ve been working with Sarah for months. I’m the only one who took the time to do so. I’m also the only one she seems to respond to. You spend a few minutes with her, and presume to tell me...why don’t you tell me what else you know, Jason? Or should I say Mr. Houdini?”

He put his head down momentarily, and then looked straight into her eyes.

“I’m not Houdini, and I’m not some kind of carnival mind reader. Mind readers are all fakes by the way. It’s just that, I’ve always been able to get kind of a feel for what people are thinking. Maybe it’s some kind of exaggerated intuition, I don’t know. I’ve been doing it ever since I was a kid. Sometimes, I’ll respond to what someone is going to say before they say it. The more intelligent a person is, or the more they’re concentrating, the easier it is.” 

Then, with a half-smile he put his head back down, softened his speech and continued. 

“Ask anyone who knows me around here. It drives them crazy.”

It seemed like he was oversimplifying, and Alison wasn’t sure why, but she believed him. Or at least she felt like she wanted to. 

“Why don’t you tell me what else you think you know about Sarah?” she asked, a bit of sarcasm still squeezing through. Jason was quiet for a moment, then came that half smile again.

“Ladies first...Please?” 

A few rather awkward moments passed. Alison looked through the windows at Sarah, sitting there, staring out at the water. She considered walking out, and taking Sarah with her, but decided against it. She was starting to calm. What the heck. He really was awfully cute.

“All right. Uh, well first of all, how much do you know about art?” she asked, her voice much calmer.

“I know a little, just what I’ve picked up on my own. Done some reading, visited a few museums, never had any formal training.”

“Do you know why Picasso is significant?”

“I would say cubism?”

“Right, well, that plus quite a few other things. Do you know much about cubism?”

“Not really,” Jason answered, hunching his shoulders. “I know that Picasso was instrumental in creating it. I also know that it can depict things in four dimensions. I’ve always found that to be very interesting.”

“OK. So far so good.” 

Alison stood up and headed for the door.

“Hey, where are you going?” he asked starting to follow.

“I’m going to get Sarah, and then out to my car. I’ve got something to show you.”

Jason had a hard time keeping up with her. To go any faster, he would have had to start jogging. It didn’t seem that someone six-foot-two should have to struggle to keep up with this girl who was what, five-foot-four?

Alison got Sarah to sit on the lawn in front of her car and opened the driver’s door. Then she hit the button that unlocked the others. “Hop in,” she said reaching for a portfolio in the back seat. “I have some drawings I want you to see.”

*******

Thomas Wheeler rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, put his fists up over his head, and stretched. Then he rolled over on his side to get out of bed. His back hurt less that way. There was a time when he might have jumped out of bed, but that seemed so very long ago. Wheeler made his way down the hall to the bathroom and thought about the offer. Then he thought about the kids. None of them wanted the farm. He really couldn’t blame them. His two oldest daughters had married and moved away, and none of his three sons had ever shown any real interest in farming. They weren’t about to get trapped in a life such as this. Why should they?

Lifting the toilet seat to urinate, Wheeler did what he had done almost every day for the past forty-three years. He looked out the window to his right and wondered what it would be like to get up after the sun did. God, he felt tired today.

Twenty minutes later he heard the familiar creaks in the floorboards while walking to the kitchen. He was fumbling with the rusted clasps on his overalls, when he caught the smell of coffee brewing. Rounding the corner, the wearied farmer stopped and watched his wife needing two hands to lift the heavy iron skillet. Her arthritis was likely bothering her again, although she would never admit to it. It was all he needed to see to make up his mind.

“Things have changed Mary. Things have changed.”

“Good morning sweetheart. What’s changed?”

“Everything seems to me. Seems the whole damn world has changed.”

It took her but a moment to understand.

“You’re thinking of selling that parcel of land to those people again, aren’t you?”

“No, not exactly. What I’m thinking of doing is selling them the whole damn farm.”

“Thomas, you’re not serious!”

“Damn right I’m serious. Mary, look, I’ve thought it over and over. The kids don’t want this farm, never did. And I’m getting too old to handle it. They’re offering twice what the place is worth, so we could retire with plenty of money.”

“But Tom, this farm has been in your family for over a hundred years.”

He just shrugged.

“And what about the talk I’ve heard?” Mary asked.

“What talk?”

“You know very well what talk. Most folks around here think these people are just a front for foreign investors, and they don’t like that.”

“That’s bunk,” Tom said, waving his hand at the air. “These people don’t represent any foreigners. They’re with a company called Universal Biotech. It’s American owned like Coca Cola, or General Motors, even on the stock exchange.”

“Well, even if that’s right, it’s just that, we’ve been here for so long. What would we do?”

“I don’t exactly know. But whatever it is, we’d damn sure have the money for it. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Mary pushed the bacon around in the pan and noticed the broken handle on her spatula. It seemed to have some significance that she didn’t want to acknowledge, so she turned her attention to the view from the window over the sink. 

“Why do they want to buy our farm anyway?”

“The man says they do research. Says there’s big money in new kinds of farming. Crossing genes from one plant to another, stuff like that. They need land to practice on, that’s all.”

As Mary Wheeler turned the bacon over in the pan, she wondered what it would be like to no longer live here. She had spent her whole adult life here. Her and Tom had raised their kids here, in this house, on this farm. Still, the thought of an easier lifestyle was inwardly appealing. Her husband had nearly worked himself out on this place. Tom had been a good provider for her and the kids. He was a good man. Maybe he deserved more. Maybe she did too.

She poured him a cup of coffee. Turning to hand it to him, she saw the man she had loved for all these years, struggle with a stiff back, trying to lace up his work boots. That was the moment her mind was also made up.

“Tom, I think you’re right,” she blurted out. “I think we should.”

When her husband picked up his head, and his eyes met hers, he had a grin on his sixty-six-year old face the likes of which she hadn’t seen in years. Not exactly, however, for the reason she expected.

Leaning on the kitchen table, Wheeler stood up, his smile getting even bigger.

“The goddam fools think they’re gonna grow pineapples in Minnesota!”

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