Green Acres

By Sam Doyle

I'm sitting under the old oak tree. I can feel the warm, rough bark on my back. The sun is shining through the verdant green branches. The birds are singing, the bees are buzzing. The breeze wafts by, carrying the gentle smell of manure. The phone in my pocket vibrates. I flip it open.

dude where r u? u havent been in school in like weeks
-John

hell
-Bob

Just a few weeks ago, I was safe at home. Then one day after school, I walked into my house and saw my mom sitting in a chair, waiting for me. Okay...this is odd. What was she doing here? She's supposed to be at work. Surely by now she knows this is "Bobby-time"? Time for my calorie-laden snacks without any recriminations. Time to play my guitar with the amp turned up to eleven. Time to rot my brain with 'South Park'. Time to not be doing homework. But I digress. I noticed that she was doing that thing she does when something's wrong. When my mom's really stressed, she folds and unfolds tea towels over and over again. Immediately, I wracked my brain for things I had done wrong recently. I couldn't think of anything that would warrant the folding of the tea towel.

"Oh my God!" I blurted out. "Who died?" My mom gave a final fold to the tea towel, and turned to look at me.

"Sit down, Robert." That should have been my first clue. She only calls me Robert when something is serious. If only I had known how serious. Life as I knew it was about to change.

"I have something to tell you." My mom's face did not change from her somber stare. I dropped into my chair.

"Mom, I'm sorry. Did someone actually die? Mom...I'm really sorry. Is it Uncle Ronnie? 'Cause I could see the vein on his neck bulging when he was arguing with Uncle Jack at Thanksgiving."

My mom responded calmly, "No, your Uncle Ronnie's fine. No one died. We just need to have a serious talk. Alright, I'm just going to come right out and say it." She took a deep breath, as though she was steeling herself for her next, difficult statement. "We're moving."

My mom continued to talk, but I stopped listening. I sort of went into a dreamlike state, where I saw my mom's lips moving, but I couldn't hear a thing. All I could hear were those two words repeating in my head over and over: We're moving. We're moving. We're moving. We're moving!!!

Finally, I just got up and left. "Where are you going, Bob?" My mom called out to me

"Out." I shouted back as I slammed the front door.

I can't describe the feeling of satisfaction the sound of the rattling windowpanes gave me. But that can't even compare to the satisfaction I got from hearing the note of hysteria in my mom's voice as she screamed after me. "BOB!"

To make a long story shorter, I left two weeks later, without telling anybody. I guess I just didn't want anybody to throw me a going away party, and I definitely didn't want any tearful goodbyes. I just wanted to walk home from school one day, and never go back. I refrained from telling anybody; as if I didn't say anything, it wouldn't be true. So, I decided not to say anything. To be honest, I'm actually quite disappointed at how long it's taken for people to notice that I'm gone. I mean, I'm not saying I was the most popular kid or anything, but I had friends... Didn't I? Did they just assume I was sick for a week? I mean, if I was in their shoes, I would have at least texted me to ask where I was. And where was I? Oh, that's right, I'm in hell.

No matter how many times mom tells me how much more beautiful our new home will be, how much friendlier it will be, and how much healthier, safer, sweeter, kinder, nicer, and all around better it will be, the fact still remains that I am in hell.

The cows outnumber the people, the girls are ugly, the fashion is outdated by about 20 years, and it smells like no one's bathed for months. Well, that might just be the cows.

But my mom, she just won't let it go. One day I found her standing next to the window, just staring out the screen. "Bob, don't you just love the fresh smell of the country air?"

"Uh...Mom? Have you actually smelled this so-called 'fresh country air'? You know what that smells like? Manure! And do you know what manure is? Cow shit! Come on, that's methane gas." I looked over, worried that I had responded a bit too harshly, but she just had a faint smile on her face.

"Well, even you have to admit that the sound of birdsong waking you up is lovely." She murmured.

"Yeah...except not at five in the morning! Mom, I'm a teenager, I need my sleep. I can show you the studies. Circadian sleep rhythms, the teen brain: It's all science, mom. I shouldn't be up at the crack of dawn!"

She just laughed.

"Bob, even you have to admit that the sunset is beautiful. You'd never be able to see something like that in the city."

"Mom...please. Orange with pink and purple? That's just harsh."

"Bob, you can't find anything wrong with the trees."

"Allergies." I retorted.

"Fresh fruit."

"Bees."

"Unlimited fresh vegetables."

I retched and fell to the floor gagging.

She laughed and shouted "Rolling hills!"

Okay, she had me there, they are kind of nice, but I just shut my eyes and lay there on the floor, not about to admit defeat.

"Iced tea?"

I raised my head off the floor. "Mom, they have iced tea back in the city."

"No. Would you like some?"

I jumped up and accepted the frosty glass. "Thanks." I said grudgingly.

I followed her out onto the porch, and dropped into the porch swing next to her.

"Truce?" she asked inquiringly.

I know, it's lame, but I said, "Sure." We rocked in companionable silence for a while. The iced tea tasted good. I gazed out. I could see the golden crops waving in the breeze beyond the fence. Damn, those hills were beautiful.

Shattering my reverie, a car drove by, music blaring, yanking me back to the hellish truth of my existence. Because the music here is another thorn in my side. Let's just say Broken Social Scene won't be playing down at the old Legion Hall any time soon. Everyone listens to country music. All. The. Time. It's like a constant bombardment of twang. I'm being yee-hawed to death.

A pickup truck roared by. Someone stuck their head out and yelled at us.

"What did they say?" my mom asked me.

"Beats me." I responded.

"Are they friends of yours?"

"Oh sure, mom, yeah right."

"Well, don't you have any friends?"

"Oh, yeah. Everyone here's soooo friendly. They even gave me my own nickname."

Mom raised her eyebrow.

"Yeah, rhymes with maggot. I'm starting a club." I continued sarcastically.

"Oh, Bob..."

"I want to go home!" The screen door slammed behind me as I stomped up to my room.

"We are home!" She shouted after me.

So here I am, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the breeze is blowing, blah blah blah. I hear the gravel on the driveway crunching. My mom gets out of the car. She's humming an old Faith Hill song she used to sing to me when I was a kid. She looks pretty today, I notice as she opens the trunk. I'm surprised when I realize how happy she looks, happier than she has looked in a long time. I pull myself up and walk over to the car. She turns and smiles at me. I can't help it, but I find myself smiling back. "Need some help, mom?"

Did You Know

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