WARNING: FICTIONAL WRITING ONLY. PLEASE DON’T TRY AND CONNECT THIS STORY TO ME AND MY LIFE IN ANY WAY.
They say a writer possesses one of two characteristics: a raw and unbound talent for creativity, or a troubled life usually consisting of a traumatic childhood. While the one person that has read his writing, Dahlia, seems to believe Leon is incredibly gifted, he attributes his “artistic ability” to the less than perfect world around him. She doesn’t know what goes on, she can only see it in his eyes. And since he has grown some sort of tolerance for pain and an ability to hide feelings, she sees the only way to get through to him is by encouraging the writing. But he insists, he is not talented… He is not talented.
It all starts on the bus ride home from school. All the other kids laughing and smiling, excited about getting home. Leon was the only one straight faced and upset about finishing another day of classes. Besides writing, school was his only haven. He excluded church from this list a while back, but still attends quietly and defiantly. He would get this sick queezy feeling in his stomach on the ride home. Leon has some folded up paper in his lap and is holding a pen in his hand. He almost always sat at the back of the bus. Unnecessary conversation made time just go by faster, and made the inevitable closer; something he didn’t want. This piece of writing was called ‘The Scarecrow’, but no other words follow the title. “Hey?! Why is it you can’t talk to me on the bus?” a girl asks beside him on the bus. Leon shifts his eyes her way momentarily, but quickly moves them back to view outside. He also hides his writing. Dahlia was her name, and was the only colored person at the school, and one of only a handful in the town. She had it tough, for obvious reasons. What’s obvious is people seem to be scared of what they don’t know or can’t understand. Just then, the bus slowed down as it approached a long path in front of Leon’s home. Dust from the gravel road created a moment of minimal visibility. It eventually settled, and Leon took a deep breath and threw his bag over his shoulder. “See ya tomorrow” Dahlia says while Leon gets up from his seat. As he walks, she stops him suddenly by grabbing his arm “Hey, what’s that on your arm?” she asks. “Are those burn marks?” Leon snatches his arm and continues walking down the middle of the bus. He slowly walks down the steps of bus and stands at end of path. Bus pulls away leaving another thick blanket of dust in the air. It is a dirt path that is extremely long. His head rises to see the farmhouse at a distance. His head lowers again as he starts walking the path with his heavy and worn backpack.
He had to walk this path home everyday which took him roughly ten minutes. Depending on his stride. But who’s counting? He’s in no rush anyway. Leon thinks about a lot of things on the walk down the path. Usually thoughts like the first time he may kiss Dahlia, feeding the animals, writing up in his room, or when…HE’S gone. These happier thoughts all change like the wind when he sees that damn scarecrow. It reminds him that he’s almost home. Leon sees crows picking at the scarecrow with evidence that this is a common occurrence as it’s clearly falling apart. The scarecrow that doesn’t scare a single crow. Leon walks away shaking his head.
Leon arrives and opens the screen door to the front of the house, looks around quietly and realizes no one is in the house. All of the windows are open, with the wind blowing the curtains in quite the picturesque way. It’s peaceful, with just the right amount of light coming in. Leon runs to a window and sees a man in the fields riding a tractor. He quickly kicks off his shoes and runs up the ‘run down’ stairs into his room and closes the door. He moves his bed slightly, and reaches for a section of the wood floor. He grabs hold with his fingers, shifting the wood and pulling it out. His face is intent, focused, but still childish. As if he is hiding candy from someone. A smile comes over Leon as he opens the box. It is Leon’s writing. Leon quickly sifts through hundreds of sheets of writing as he is knelt down on the floor. He takes his newest piece of work out of his bag and throws it into the box. Leon discreetly hides his prized possession making sure the wood is secure and bed in the same spot. The blanket on his bed was just a bit too large but suited Leon, as it hid the area on the floor even better. The perfect cover if you will. Leon runs downstairs to begin clearing up the kitchen area. A few minutes pass and Leon is still cleaning the dishes. He hears the sound of footsteps at the front of the house.
The scariest part of any of his days, was when Leon knew Father was coming home. Leon always felt as though he had done something wrong. His face slowly changed from the satisfaction of almost completing his task, to emotionless. Not horror, but fear. Leon’s father, clearly the same man from the field, enters the kitchen and grabs a glass of water from the tap. Gulping it down ferociously as sweat beads down his face. He doesn’t look at his son, in fact, Tom acts as if Leon isn’t even there for a few moments. Leon purposely keeps himself preoccupied by clearing and cleaning table while keeping his own eyes away from Tom.
“I’m gonna go feed the animals” Leon says. Tom puts down his glass and watches him as he leaves. Leon quickly walks out of kitchen and heads towards the barns. He’s looking at his father through the corner of his eye in hopes that he doesn’t say anything. “Please don’t say anything” Leon hopes and whispers to himself. He escapes without any word this time. It was as if any time with his father was spent trying to avoid him. Imagine, a child who’s father he was so much in fear of that every time they were together, the child is thinking how much he’d love to be apart. That was Leon. He cherished every moment he wasn’t around him. Leon walks towards a fenced area. He is certain that his life is already written out for him in that he’s supposed to continue on with the family farm. Even though he resented it, renounced it as if it were religion, but to no success. He don’t even argue anymore, not so much because it has no effect because there are visible effects. It’s just that they happened to come in the form of bruises on my body. Leon carries a bucket of seed and throws handfuls out generously for the chickens. After throwing a few handfuls, he turns around and sees a single horse running around in a small field they have fenced up.
The horse’s name is Grace, which was fitting the way she moved. She came up and nudged the fence near Leon. He pets her on the nose. While Leon enjoys his time with Grace, it’s really Tom who takes care of her, sometimes sitting out there for hours with her. Suddenly father yells out “Leon!! Dinner!!” Leon says his good byes to Grace and rushes home for dinner.
Dinner was usually a quiet time. Tom liked to stimulate conversation, but Leon wasn’t one to fall into a trap. He would usually reply in one word or short sentences, and try to pretend he was too hungry to chat. “So what’d you learn in school today boy?” Tom asked. What was the point anyway, Leon thought to himself. Father would only laugh at the supposed lack of usefulness of it all. “You hard of hearing? I asked you a question Tom says in a stern voice. What did you learn in school today?” Tom asks Leon again. Leon takes the last portion of potatoes. “Not a whole lot.” Leon shrugs. “You’re going to have to come up with something better than that. If you’re not learning a whole lot, then you might as well stay home and help me look after the farm. At least you would be more productive. I remember when my father taught me how…” Tom lectures while Leon looks at him intently, careful not to look away or drift off in thought. Tom was scruffy from not shaving for a few days. Quite the portrait of the working man. Sweaty, food in his teeth, character in his face and experience in his hands. Leon wonders how they are so different? Leon is artistic, compassionate, polite. And Tom is, well…archaic. There is an unspoken love, and that is to be understood. There was only one way, Tom’s way, and that was understood.
“..and that’s how I learned how to fix a cracked exhaust pipe on a tractor. You listening to what I have to say boy?” Tom asks. “Yes dad” Leon grudgingly replies.
Tom grabs the bottle of Jack Daniel’s and pours himself another drink. Leon finishes his meal and begins to clear his dishes off the table “Hey! Don’t you know it’s impolite to clear the dishes when another man is still eating at the table! Sit!” Tom yells. Leon sits down and patiently waits. Tom takes a swig of his drink. Silence.
Moments pass, and finally Tom finishes his last bite and chew. That felt like an eternity to Leon who was anxiously waiting. “OK, go ahead” Tom says. Leon grabs as many dishes he can and proceeds cleaning up. Tom, clenches his bottle and glass and heads to front porch. Tom pushes screen door wide open and steps outside. The crows perched on the scarecrow all fly away as soon as Tom steps onto the porch. Tom watches them fly away with no expression. He sits on his rocking chair and enjoys his drink and a cigarette while Leon finishes up cleaning the dishes.
During this time of the day, anticipation is high. Leon is so close to getting into his bedroom. Freedom. His sanctuary. Leon fears he’ll find out about Dahlia, or his writing. He’s afraid he may start an argument right before bed. He’s not the most forgiving of people. Out of sight, out of mind though. Leon shakes his head in a slight disgust. He finishes his kitchen duties, and looks around the corner to see what his father is doing. He realizes that Tom is still outside drinking on his rocking chair. Leon darts across the hall and after taking the first two steps of the stairs to the upper floor, the noise of the front door freezes him. Oh Leon stays absolutely silent and motionless as Tom makes his way back indoors. Leon desperately listens to every move Tom makes and hears Tom sit down in the family room. He listens to Tom flick on the lone, small television. Leon quietly climbs the few stairs left, but just as he’s almost at the top…”Leon!” Tom shouts. “Get down here.” Leon turns around, and hesitantly proceeds down the stairs. Leon ducks his head out, and sees that Tom is pointing at the chair beside him. Leon slowly sits down, and awaits his almost certain grief. “The next time you forget to wipe down the table, I’m going to make you lick off the scraps. Your mother kept this kitchen clean for over ten years, and since you obviously have more of her blood in you than mine, it’s your job to clean it. You here me?” Tom says in a stern voice. “Yes sir” Leon responds soldier like. “Clean it, do your schoolwork, whatever you have to do, and get to bed.” “Yes Sir” Leon replies. Leon, with a sigh of relief, grabs a wet cloth and thoroughly cleans the table and heads upstairs. Usually he’s a judge reading a guilty verdict to an innocent Leon, but today, today he’s merciful. He’s merciful, or Leon’s lucky, flip a coin.
Leon gently grazes over the spines of all his novels in the book case. He’s got all the greats. Dickens, Poe, Orwell. Leon lies and tells his father that they are all for school but they’re really not. He uses them as inspiration for his own writing. The Bible is there too. Even though he’s not a believer, pardon the blasphemy, he feels it is definitely one hell of a read.. You take the Bible strictly as a read, it is very fascinating. That is why it’s on his bookshelf. That, and his dad makes him put it there. Leon is cleaning his room, putting away his homework, and preparing for bed. Even when he’s in another room, he can’t help but have one ear listening to what father is doing. If he speaks, Leon thinks his father talking about him. If he walks, Leon assumes the worst and thinks he’s coming into the room. Some call this paranoia, Leon would beg to differ and calls it being cautious. He climbs into bed, covers himself with blankets and stares at his books.
Leon had always hoped he could some day write like the authors’ work he read. He wanted to write about things that would make, for example, someone waiting in line at the post office, or listening to a teacher’s lecture, to just stare off somewhere in another world. To be so moved by words, that a person actually questions their very purpose to life. He wanted to write like that.
Tom turns off the television, yawns, and heads upstairs. Leon could hear the unsteady sounds of the stairs. Creeking louder each step he took as if to warn Leon. Tom walks into his room, and as he shuts his door, he looks at the bottom of Leon’s door to see if there’s any light from bottom crack; there isn’t. Back in Leon’s room, the lights may be turned off, but he is wide-awake. He waits another fifteen minutes or so until father is fast asleep. The loud snoring usually gives it away. Leon, twiddling his thumbs under the moonlight, stops his movement when he hears his father snoring. He quietly removes himself from the covers and stands up. Leon has to be careful not to make any noise when lifting his bed and the wood panel. This particular time, he wasn’t careful enough and a sound is made. Leon freezes.. Luckily, he hears only snoring. He lifts the slab of wood, and takes out his writing. It seems to glow under the moonlight, darkening everything else. He grabs a pen and gets back into bed with his papers. He takes a candle and sparks a match. Let there be light, Leon begins to write. He writes as he speaks; it is his unfinished piece of writing:
Hired to protect the land, the scarecrow has a simple life to live.
Yet I ask it simple questions, and it has no response to give.
It stands tall and mighty, in skies orange, blue and grey
But it lacks the simple power, to scare the crows away.
A few seconds pass by, and Leon gets a little flustered. Scratching his head, he can’t think of anything to write. He pauses, thinks, and momentarily gives up. His eyes move towards the single lit candle, and he blows it out, and heads to bed.
Leon opens the floorboard early in the morning, slowly putting in all the papers containing his writing. But just as he does he notices something he hasn’t before. Maybe it was the light coming in, but he saw a shiny metal object underneath the wood. Was it money? He digs deeper and deeper with his hand; his face showing his full effort and mobility. He has it. Slowly he lifts it up from the floorboard. It’s cold, and metal from what he can feel as he grasps it. He lifts it up carefully, until finally it emerges in full view in his hand. Leon’s eyes bulge and his jaw drops, because to his astonishment, it’s a gun…