By Susie Kaushik
“Suzie!” Mama yelled. “You best get to feeding those pigs! I don’t see Tucker slackin’ off!”
“In a minute, Mama!” I yelled back. My brother grinned.
“Yeah Suzie, the pigs are real hungry!” He taunted.
“Oh, be quiet Tucker.”
“Suzie!” Mama yelled again.
“Fine!” I hollered. “But Tucker’s scoopin’ the poop.”
“Hey!” Tucker whined.
“Quit your whining! For an eighteen-year-old, you sure are childish.” I said.
“Am not!” Tucker replied.
“Kids, quit your yappin’ and get to them pigs.” Mama yelled again. Tucker and I grabbed the slop bucket, while Rosie, the pig, followed us around, waiting to be fed. As she trotted around excitedly, she knocked the bucket out of my hands and spilled the slop all over.
“Rosie, now I have something else to clean up,” I said as I headed to the shed for a shovel.
Later that evening, after I changed into clean clothes, I opened my dresser drawer and stared at the pages inside. A month ago, I submitted a short story to a newspaper in the Big City. I gently picked up the letter and read it for about the thousandth time. ‘Dear Suzie, thank you for your entry! We are very pleased to inform you that you are the winner of our contest! Your story is being published, and we would love to have you at our Young Authors Reading Event in the Big City! The details and ticket are in the enclosed envelope.’
I trembled with excitement and imagined myself reading my story in front of an audience in the Big City. This was all I ever wanted. “Hey Suzie, dinner’s ready.” Tucker poked his head into my room, interrupting my daydreaming. Flustered, I shoved the letter into my pocket, and headed downstairs.
After a dinner of hearty stew and green bean casserole, I knew it was time to tell Mama about the invitation. I gathered all my courage and said, “Mama, I was wondering, well, there’s this event in the Big City, and I really want to go. I looked down sheepishly, then reached into my pocket and gave her the envelope. Mama read the letter and gasped.
“What is this about, pumpkin? You didn’t tell me you were writing a story!”
“I didn’t want to tell you until I was done writing it.”
“But then you sent it to the Big City without telling me. Why would you keep this a secret?” She asked, bewilderment on her face.
“Because I thought you would disapprove.” l responded, my confidence slipping away.
“Susan Jean Barnes, I do disapprove.” Mama said sternly.
“But Mama!” I begged.
“Besides, there’s only one ticket, and you’re only thirteen! I’m not letting you go on a plane all alone, and we can’t afford another ticket!”
“But it’s only for a weekend. And I can stay with Aunt Ellen!” I pleaded.
“No!” Mama’s tone was firm. I got up from the dinner table and ran to my room. I heard my mother’s footsteps behind me. “Suzie!” She called. I didn’t hear the rest of her words as I slammed the door before she could follow me inside. I sank onto my bed and cried.
The sound of footsteps in the hallway shook me out of my despair. I peeked through the crack in the door and watched as Mama reached the top of the stairs, then paused, looking at a picture on the wall. It was a photo of me, when I was two, grinning as I picked blackberries, purple juice staining my face and clothes. ‘I always knew my baby girl would grow up and leave the farm. But why is it happening so soon?’ mama muttered. I held my breath, as mama stood there, looking at my photo for a long time, then, with a deep sigh, she slowly turned around and walked back down the stairs.
The next day all I thought about was how I could convince Mama. I thought about it during school, while I did my homework, and while I fed Rosie. That evening, after dinner, I stood up, and pleaded my case. “Mama, I love living on the farm, but I don’t want to work here when I grow up. I want to be an author!”
Mama looked up at the ceiling, hands on hips, as if the answer to everything was up there. After a long moment she spoke, “If I sell Rosie, I’m sure we can get a good sum for her, enough to get another ticket, so I can go to the Big City with you. I reckon it will leave some over to arrange for someone to take care of the farm while I’m gone. After all, I didn’t feed her all that good, rich slop for nothing.” She spread her arms wide, and smiled, happy she had found a solution.
“No!” I cried and threw myself into her outstretched arms. “If it means selling Rosie, I don’t want to go to the Big City!”
“Oh honey,” Mama said, enclosing me in her warm, comforting hug. “You do love this farm.” She stroked my hair, “Hush, darling, hush.”
Absorbed in my thoughts, I was startled when I heard Tucker’s voice. “Mama, Suzie, I think I know what to do.” We both looked at him in surprise. “If we sell some of the old tools from the shed, I reckon there’ll be enough money to buy another ticket.”
“But, Tucker,” Mama said, disappointedly, “There won’t be enough money left to hire a good, honest man to watch the farm.”
“Mama,” Tucker stood tall and proud. “There’s a good, honest man right here, in front of you.” Neither mama nor I knew what to say for a while. Then Mama looked at each of us. “Oh, Tucker. Oh, Suzie. I am so proud of you two. Now, how did y’all grow up without me noticing?”
My heart swelled with love for my Mama and brother. “Mama, Tucker, I won’t let you down.”
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Sophia Kaushik loves to write stories which speak to the reader’s emotions, entertain, and create a sense of connection with one’s truer self, and sometimes, better self.