The New Farm

by Mathew Hosler Jr.

America wasn’t really what I expected. Mexico just seemed so normal and safe, but America left a bad feeling in my stomach. Like I wasn’t welcome, or didn’t belong. I never wanted to come to America, though there was a small part of me that was excited for the new experience. It was Papa’s idea to move. Mama wanted to stay and take over the farm from Abuela. Papa’s moving plans just seemed unstoppable. A week after he made the plan, we packed our belongings, kissed Abuela goodbye, and hit the road in a big, rusty green van. Mama wouldn’t tell me very much, but Papa wouldn’t stop talking about being an American. He kept telling me he would get a good job, saying that if he worked hard enough, we’d probably buy our own little house, and I could start going to school. I’ve never gotten to go to school before, so that idea sounded nice to me. Mama just kept working on a quilt through Papa’s jabbering. Mama made the best quilts. She always told me she got the talent from Abuela. 

We were nearing the American border when Papa pulled the car off the road and behind a large hill. He wouldn’t tell me why, but we stayed there until night. When the moon was full and the traffic on the nearby road was weak, we grabbed our belongings, left the car, and started north. I didn’t understand why we left the car, and Mama wouldn’t tell me. Papa just kept reminding me it was safest this way. 

Our feet sobbed in pain. Papa and I had removed our shirts and tied them around our waists, hoping to get some cooling wind. Mama tied her hair up in a bun and began to fan her neck, relishing in the kind breeze. Papa checked a card that he was keeping in his pocket for the trip, and would compare it to every number on every mailbox we passed. Eventually we came across an old white mail- box. Papa compared the numbers, and a smile lit up on his face. We hurried down a very long dirt driveway. It was just as agonizing as before. However, after seeing the great house, we couldn’t help but smile. A few tears made their way down Mama’s cheeks, but I knew she was happy. 

We were nearly to the porch when an old man threw open the door and made his way out. He used a cane in his right hand and wore overalls that sagged a little. He tucked the bottom of the pants into his boots, which climbed half way up his calves. Beneath the overalls I could see a plain white shirt, which was spotted in brown patches of dirt. A pair of brown gloves made home on his hands, and looked to be hugging him a little too hard. Nonetheless, he used them as though they weren’t even there. Though his body was frail, the grip he had on his cane was enough to crush steel. His strength sent shivers down my spine. 

As we came to a stop, silence fell. The man slid his tongue out of his mouth enough to dampen his lips before shooting it back in. His lips pressed together when he closed his mouth, like two sponges slowing being squeezed against each other. His neck didn’t look like any neck I had ever seen; it sagged like a lizard’s. He fastened a cowboy hat atop his head then tossed his cane forwards and started down the steps. 

 “I was hoping y’all would be here yes’erday.” The man’s voice was scratchy. There was a small thunderstorm in his throat. 

“We are very sorry, sir,” my father explained, taking off his cowboy hat and pushing it against his chest as he stepped forwards. Papa had learned English when he was very young. Though Abuela worked on a farm, her parents had been rather wealthy, and they wanted Papa to have a good life. They were hoping he’d be a lawyer, but Papa never wanted that. Instead he chose to work like any other man would. In his case, however, he was rather fluent with English. 

The old man reached the bottom of the stairs and paused before speaking again. 

“S’pose it don’t matter none,” the old man started. “Leas’ ya here now.” He turned and started down a small path that wrapped around the side of the house. The path wasn’t intentionally made. The grass had died away, leaving a strip of dirt from all the people who had walked upon it. As we reached the side of the house, the large backyard became clear. It was a large field of more farmland than I had ever seen before. Behind the golden wheat field was yet another wall of trees, blocking the farm into a square. Down the road rested a small pig pen with four fat pigs. Then, deep in the corner of the farm there was an old chicken pen. A small home for cute balls of feathers. However, there were no chickens. As I drew closer to the pen, my eyes focused a door that had been screwed on. It wasn’t very strong, but still stood firmer than the walls of the chicken coop. 

“This is wer’ ya gon’ be stayin’,” the old man said as he stopped at the chicken coop. “Ya work for me an ya do a damn good job. This ain’t the firs’ time I had ya kind stayin’ with me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The name’s Mr. Slicc, an tha’s what ya’ll can call me. You got a day ta settle in befer ya get ta work.” 

The old man left us at our house. I understood everything Mr. Slicc said, I just didn’t say anything. I had learned a lot of English from Mama and Papa. Mama had American parents, but she ran away when she was little. She never told me why, all she would say is her daddy loved her too much, so she needed to leave. I don’t know why that would push her away, though.

We had been on the farm for almost two months. The work was boring, but usually Papa would let me stop early so I could go play. He always told me to stay out of the horse barn though, which only made me want to go even more. One time I saw a tall black man in there. I didn’t tell Papa though, because he’d just tell me not to be so curious. 

There was one day that something odd happened. Mr. Slicc left in his big, old, rusted truck and Papa didn’t make me do any work. I was about to go to the trees and pretend I was fighting in wars with stick swords, but instead my body took me to the big house. I hurried so Papa wouldn’t see me, then pressed my back against the side of the house, outside of Papa’s view. I checked to make sure he didn’t notice before walking to the front of the house. I got right behind the front porch and peeked over to the barn. A tall man was scooping hay into the horse pen. He was distracted, so I saw my chance and took it. I could get to the barn and see why Papa didn’t want me there. 

I rubbed my hands together and, keeping my head lowered, made my way slowly around the porch. I peeked past the corner of the house to see Papa continuing to work the farm. If I was going through with this, then my time was now. I ran as fast as I could to the barn and quickly leaped behind a couple of barrels and a pile of hay. Before I entered the barn, I moved my eyes over one of the barrels and watched Papa again. Then, I slowly began to back up. My hand gently brushed the wall, flaking off some of its old paint. Then, my back hit something. My body froze. My heart began to race, but my limbs felt numb. That’s when I looked up. Right in front of the sun was a dark face attached to a dark body. 

I pulled away, facing the dark man. “Please don’t tell Papa,” I whimpered before running away.