At five in the morning the farm was silent. Sure the farm was usually quiet; at least it had been for the two weeks of summer vacation that Sam had wasted here. But in the early hours of the morning it seemed that the air had settled, almost like setting Jell-O. Sound seemed to be swallowed up in the stillness of it. And that was probably a good thing. It hid Sam’s cussing, the words he’d learned back home in Washington, and the new ones he’d learned here in Idaho.
Sam’s aunt and uncle, on his mom’s side, lived on and farmed about 100 acres in the middle of the Snake River plain, in East Idaho. It was only supposed to be a two week trip. So he could get to know his cousin Kyle, and see where Mom had grown up. Uncle Dave had barely said two words two him until last Sunday. He came into Kyle’s room where Sam was listening to his iPod. He just stood there for what seemed like forever. Then he finally said, “Well, looks like you’re going to be here a while longer.” Sam didn’t get it, but before he could ask Uncle Dave left. Uncle Dave spent the rest of the afternoon moving the haystack ten feet to the north. Aunt Kathy brought him a slice of warm bread, smothered in butter and homemade strawberry jam. The best part about being here is the food he thought. But even that turned awkward when she just stared at him while he ate it. He’d called Mom and Dad almost non-stop the rest of the day, no answer either on the home phone or their cells.
Then, at some early morning hour Sam had never experienced before, he was torn out of bed by Kyle, saying, “Hey, Dad says you gotta help with the chores.” Kyle was ok, Sam didn’t have a ton in common with him, but they were both 14, both liked basketball, but Kyle loved hunting; Sam hadn’t killed anything, yet. Chores consisted of moving pipe, fixing pipe previously moved, feeding cows, getting crap on your 120 dollar True Religion jeans, tearing your jeans on the barbed wire fence while avoiding a mad rooster, getting laughed at by your cousin, and spitting, a lot, whenever some foreign substance got into your mouth.
“I’m going back to go to bed,” Sam said, as they stumbled back to the farmhouse, the sun barely cresting over the mountains.
“If you thought my mom could cook, wait til you’ve had her breakfast after doing some real work. It’ll be the best meal you ever tasted,” Kyle said as we climbed the back stairs, and took off our cow pie laden clothes.
Only Aunt Kathy wasn’t there, neither was Uncle Dave.
When they finally came back about noon, they took Sam out to the garage. Uncle Dave spoke first, “Look son, I don’t know any other way to tell you this, but your mom’s hurt bad.” Uncle Dave went on to explain that Sam’s parents had divorced, this didn’t surprise Sam. He’d seen it coming. Half his friends had divorced parents. After the divorce had been finalized, Sam’s mom somehow got into a wreck and ended up in a coma. His Dad had split, no one even knew where he was.
Sam’s two week summer vacation ended up being a six month stay. But Sam learned to love the silence in the morning. The stillness before the day started and everything fell apart.