[Author’s note: This is satire. Absurdity is the intent.]
Hi. My name is Charlie Weaver. I am a hero and this is my journey.
First, I was born, which goes without saying. I have no memories of my parents, because what good hero does? My Aunt Bertha told me that a stranger dropped me off on her doorstep when I was a baby. I’m not sure if she’s telling me the truth. It wouldn’t be the first time that she’s lied. But I do know that I’ve been living with her for as long as I can remember.
My story begins on a typical Tuesday morning. I woke up to the shrill voice of Aunt Bertha.
“Charlie Weaver, you better get your butt out of bed right now, or I’m gonna skin you alive! Them cows ain’t gonna milk themselves!”
“Coming, Aunt Bertha,” I called out, as I scrambled to find my milking clothes in the toolbox that I used as a makeshift dresser. I dressed quickly, pulling out the stray pieces of straw from my hair. I raced down the loft ladder.
Aunt Bertha stood in the barn door, glaring at me. She was carrying Baby Susie in her left arm, and had my little cousin Tobey by the scruff of his neck with her right hand.
“Boy, what are you thinking? Sleepin’ in this late on a school day,” she grumbled, adjusting Cousin Susie’s position in her arms. Susie emitted on ear-shattering shriek, before starting to wail. “Now look what you done.”
Whap! I felt the blow on the back of my head. “You made the baby cry. She’s hungry. I coulda been feedin’ her right now, if I didn’t have to come out here and haul your lazy ass out of bed. Now go get the pail and get the milk.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, as I followed her and the kids into into the kitchen. I rubbed the back of my head, which still stung a little.
“Now, Martha, go easy on the boy,” Paw Paw Joe chided mildly from the breakfast table. His spectacles slid down his nose as he flipped through the obituary section of the newspaper.
“You shut yer yap, old man,” Aunt Bertha snarled. “I ain’t Martha. I’m Bertha. Martha’s been dead for a long time.” She strapped the wailing Susie into the high chair at the table. Tobey climbed up onto the chair next to Paw Paw and helped himself to a handful of Paw Paw’s crackers. Aunt Bertha saw him and removed the bowl from the table. Tobey responded by throwing himself onto the floor and howling.
“Aw, hell,” Aunt Bertha muttered, while she tried to pick Tobey up from the floor.
I quickly pocketed two biscuits while Aunt Bertha’s back was turned. Paw Paw saw me, winked, and slipped me an apple. I smiled gratefully and added it to my stash before reaching for the pail. A glance inside made me groan inwardly. There was a hole in the bucket. My stomach tightened, as I braced myself for another smack upside the head. “Um, Aunt Bertha, is there another bucket?”
She scowled at me, as Tobey continued to shriek. “Do I look like I have money to buy another bucket? Use that one.”
“But,” I began timidly.
“Boy, I thought you were supposed to be smart,” Aunt Bertha rolled her eyes at me. “Use your thumb to cover the hole.”
Her sarcasm stung. I didn’t want get hit again, so I just nodded and left. School started in a few hours. My history class was going on a field trip to the World History Museum. I loved field trips. This was the one day that I didn’t want to be late for school.
The walk to the pasture was at least one mile. I kept staring at the hole in the bucket as I munched on the biscuits. There was no way I could carry all of that milk without losing it to the hole. Aunt Bertha would beat the living daylights out of me if I came back with less than a pail of milk. But what could I use to patch up the bucket?
I was so worried about the hole that I didn’t notice that I was being watched.
As I walked through our grazing pasture, I looked around for our milking cow, Clarabelle. She was nowhere to be seen. I had a sinking feeling that she may have wandered off again. My fears were confirmed when I saw the broken boards in the fence surrounding my family’s small property.
“Clarabelle,” I called out, as I hopped over the fence. This wasn’t good. Our neighbor, Mr. O’Toole, had already threatened to shoot Clarabelle the next time he caught her eating any of his prize-winning squash. I had to find her before he did.
“Here, girl,” I shouted, as I landed in a large, ankle-deep puddle. Although I was wearing Paw Paw’s knee-high rubber boots, which offered some protection, my pants were already splattered with mud. I made a mental note to hose myself off before going to school. “Clarabelle, where are you, girl?”
Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head. I’m over here, Charlie Weaver. By the golden apple tree on the hill.
I don’t know why, but something mysterious prompted me to run towards the tree. The voice was right. Lo and behold, there was Clarabelle, calmly munching on some apples. The large brown cow looked at me reproachfully. What took you so long? My udder is full.
I stopped and stared at her. Did her lips just move? As I scratched my head, thoroughly confused, I wondered what was wrong with me. Was I hallucinating? Why could I understand what Clarabelle was thinking?
Clarabelle made a sound like a moan. Well, Charlie, don’t just stand there like a gawking at me like a ninny. Milk me. She swung her head towards the tree. There’s a stool over there. Hurry up.
Something propelled me to grab the stool from under the tree, set the pail down, and start milking her. Clarabelle emitted a loud sigh of relief. In the middle of milking, I heard a noise behind me. It sounded like mooing.
Who be your friend, Clarabelle?
Your friend, who he be?
Two beautiful Jersey cows walked around me and stood on either side of Clarabelle. The larger one was all black, while the other one had a shiny black coat with large white spots. They both watched me with eyes that were surprisingly human in expression.
Clarabelle mooed her response. That’s Charlie Weaver. He’s my caretaker.
The cow with the spots watched me as I finished milking Clarabelle. She turned to Clarabelle and tilted her head in my direction. Milk me, can he? Full udder I have.
And I also, Clarabelle. Full udder I also have.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead before pulling the pail out from under Clarabelle. The milk immediately started to leak from the hole in the bucket. I quickly placed my thumb over it and wondered how I would make it all the way back to the house without losing any milk.
Thank you, Charlie Weaver. Can you milk my friends as well?
A loud guttural sound emitted crossed my lips without effort. It took me a few moments to realize that I was conversing with the cows in their native tongue. In short, I was mooing my responses.
“I’m sorry, Clarabelle, but I can’t. My bucket is full,” I held up the pail and tapped it with the side of my head. “Although it won’t be full for long, because of this stupid hole.”
Clarabelle looked at me thoughtfully for a moment before speaking again. If I can fix your bucket, will you milk my friends?
I looked at the sun rising in the East. Based on its position in the sky, I estimated that I had a few hours before school started. So I shrugged. “Sure, I can milk your friends too. But how will I carry their milk in this bucket? Should I dump yours out?”
No, no, Clarabelle shook her head and spat out an apple core. You must keep all of the milk that you collect in your bucket. You will need it later.
I had no idea what she was talking about. “Well, whatever,” I shrugged again, swiping my sweaty forehead with my sleeve. “I’ve got school, so let’s just get this done. Which of you wants to go first?”
The cow with the white spots approached me after Clarabelle moved away from the stool. First I will go.
The other cow nodded and stepped behind her. Go you shall first.
I began milking the cow with the white spots. I could feel a surge of adrenaline as I reached for her teat. When the first drops of milk hit the pail, an eerie calm settled over me. I just lowered my head and focused on the milk.
Even though I was consumed by the milk, a part of me could still feel the tremors of the earth as a herd of cattle descended on our group. Voices echoed in my head. Milk you he will.
And I did. It felt as if time stood still. I just kept on milking one cow after another until no more cows stood in front of the stool. After the last cow walked off into the meadow, I collapsed onto the ground. I felt utterly exhausted after milking what must have been over 100 cows.
Clarabelle nudged my foot with her nose. You have our gratitude, Charlie Weaver.
Both of the Jersey cows nodded their agreement. Our gratitude you have, Charlie Weaver.
A boon we will give you.
Give you a boon, we will.
As I lay in the cool, comforting mud, I stared up at the sky and whispered, “What’s a boon?”
Clarabelle, to her credit, did not roll her large brown eyes at me. “A gift for your services.”