“That’s the trouble with the world. Too many people grow up. They forget.” – Walt Disney
I woke up in the backseat of a car. I looked around, confused. I was much smaller, I wasn’t 19 anymore. Was everything a dream, and I was still eleven?
“You okay back there, kiddo?”
My heart skipped a beat at my dad’s voice, and I smiled.
“He was out for a while. We’re almost there, Nicky.” my mom said. I felt safe and warm, like nothing bad could happen to me.
Suddenly everything got dark and there was a loud crunch….everything got shaken up and I found myself upside down. I could hear a boy crying but it sounded far away. I felt pain but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from….and then there was a flash of light…
My eyelids fluttered open and Brian was hovering over me, looking worried. I felt sweaty and sick to my stomach.
“Nick, you scared the crap out of me.” Brian whispered. It was still kind of dark out and I felt like I’d only slept for five minutes. I wiped my eyes and sat up, trembling. It had been a dream.
Only I knew it had really happened.
“Where are we?” I asked shakily.
“My parent’s. Nick, are you okay? You were calling for your mom.” Brian replied. I looked at the clock, it was five.
Why in god’s name were we up at five? It’s too damn early for this crap.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a dream.” I said. I didn’t want to tell him anything about it, I knew he wanted to ask me but I got up and put on my jeans.
“I’m sorry if I woke you up but we need to get up and go start the chores.” Brian said. I looked at the clock and hadn’t been seeing things, it was definitely five.
“Why are we up this early? God isn’t even up yet.” I mumbled, trying to flatten my hair as we went down the hall.
“God’s always awake.” he said bluntly. I ignored him.
I was still yawning as I pulled my Team Mickey hoodie over my head. It was also freezing out, my teeth were chattering as I went over to the barn.
“Morning, boys.” Harold said, grinning at us. I took a breath and nearly gagged. Did it smell like shit here all the time?
“You’re gonna help milk the cows, Nick. Have you done this before?” Harold asked. I just mumbled and yawned again, not paying attention.
He stood next to the cow, a bucket placed underneath with a stool. He held up his thumb in front of me.
“Let’s say this is the cow’s udder. You grip it like this and squeeze gently. Not too hard because you’ll hurt her.”
No way in hell was my hand going anywhere near that cow.
“Excuse me? You want me to put my hand…..WHERE?”
Brian and his dad started to laugh.
“Don’t worry, we don’t milk the cows like that anymore. We use these machines. The other way would take forever.” Harold said. I didn’t find it one bit funny. I was tired….cranky and hungry, up before god o clock in the morning.
So a while later I stood there with the pump thingy, staring at the cow and not sure how to approach it.
“Nick, are you afraid?” Brian asked from behind me.
“Well, the pump isn’t gonna get on by itself.” he smirked.
I took a step towards it and it looked at me, I thought it was gonna just turn and trample me to be honest.
“Nice cow….” I said cautiously before I got the pump on the cow.
By the time we finished that and some other chores, we were ready to eat breakfast. Surprisingly it tasted amazing.
“So how was it? Did you get to do everything?” Kevin asked.
“I learned today that animals don’t like me.” I confessed over my scrambled eggs.
Brian brought his plate over and sat down, gigging.
“Nick, you got frightened by the rooster.”
“Dude, you don’t know what it was thinking.”
I was convinced that the large rooster was on steroids and wanted to peck me to death. I’m not big on animals because they can’t speak human language. You don’t know if they’re plotting something or not. Plotting to wreak havoc on the human race.
Maybe I’m just being dramatic.
We took naps for the rest of the day and I woke up first, seeing Brian’s mom cooking in the kitchen. She was a really nice woman, but I still wondered about the photo.
“Hi, Nick.” she smiled at me. I offered to help set the table.
“Nonsense, you’re a guest.”
I sat at the table and just watched her cook. It almost felt like having a mom.
“You look just like your father.” Jackie commented, suddenly standing in front of me. I pulled at my sweatshirt and debated asking her.
“Did you and him….like….date?”
She looked down at me and I could have sworn her eyes watered.
“We saw each other in college, yes.” she said as she poured me a glass of juice. She took a cup of coffee and sat down.
“I found this picture at the frat back at school.” I said, holding it out to her. She smiled at it and gave it back to me.
“Yes, that was our first kiss. We saw each other for a few years and broke it off when he met your mother, one of my sorority sisters. That was so long ago….”
I was going to ask her more but Brian came waltzing in, his hair sticking up in all directions.
“Morning sunshine.” Jackie said, returning to the breakfast. Brian poured himself some coffee and we sat down to our breakfast, leaving me to think about what his mother had said.
Christmas Eve was pretty uneventful, other than the giant turkey and all the trimmings. I hadn’t had a real Christmas in a long time, not since I was eleven.
“What’s that stuff?” I asked, seeing the bowl of lumpy red blob on the table.
“Cranberry sauce.” Harold replied. I looked at it again, then at Kevin. I always thought it was supposed to be in the shape of a can…
“Nick, this is fresh cranberry sauce.” Kevin said.
“You mean it doesn’t come in a can all the time?”
“Shoot, no. That’s the problem with kids now. Everything is processed these days. They don’t eat real food anymore.” Harold said, launching into a rant about how commercialism was going to ruin his farm and that was why America was becoming so fat. I wanted to crawl under the table and just die there. So did Brian by the looks of it.
“Nick, it’s ok. I knew you wouldn’t eat this, so I packed us a can before we left.” Kevin said with a wink.
“He should eat what is on the table.” Harold commented. The more time I spent with this guy, the more I wondered if he didn’t like me or something.
“He’s not a kid, Harold.” Jackie said sweetly. That ended the conversation and we continued in silence. I helped them clean up and went to bed that night with more questions on my mind than ever.
At least I had Christmas to look forward to.