Today, I'd like to introduce you to author Karen Ingalls. Hope you enjoy her free short story.
It was one of those wonderful August days when the sun was high and warm in the sky. The big cumulus clouds slowly drifted by, creating designs that filled Jim’s imagination, who at nine years could see all kinds of amazing sights. He had been playing with his model airplane in his aunt and uncle’s yard, where he spent the summers on their ranch in San Diego, California. Staying with Uncle Leon and Aunt Helen was always a special time of adventure, fun and farm work.
“Jim, do you want to go to the pasture with me? We’ll check the water trough for the cattle,” Uncle Leon asked, at the same time he took his handkerchief and wiped some perspiration from his tan brow.
“Oh, yes,” Jim responded with great excitement. He ran to the front porch and put his treasured airplane on the table next to where Aunt Helen sat in her rocking chair.
Uncle Leon walked over to the Allis-Chalmers tractor and stretched his long, thin legs up and over onto the metal seat. “All right, Jim, you can come on up now.” Jim awkwardly managed to climb up and grab hold of his uncle’s hand, who swung him onto his lap. With the turn of the key the tractor began to vibrate and the engine roared. Shifting the gears into forward, Leon yelled, “Here we go!”
The pasture was a favorite place for Jim with its rolling hills, oak trees, and green grass. It was always a peaceful place where a boy could run until he was out of breath, and then fall onto the grass and let the wind gently blow over his panting body. Many were the times that Jim would spend his days, just climbing in the oak trees pretending he was hiding from some enemy, or shooting squirrels with his imaginary rifle.
He and his uncle drove through the pasture until they came to a large trough sitting by a water pump on the top of a knoll. The cattle were grazing some distance away, but their occasional moos could be heard.
Uncle Leon helped Jim off the tractor and then sauntered up to the trough. “Not much water left so we best get this filled up.”
Jim was leaning over the trough where the top of it just reached his chest. “What can I do? I want to help.”
“Well, now, how about you pump the water in once I get it primed,” replied Uncle Leon with his usual smiling face. He was happy that Jim wanted to help, but he also knew that pumping water would be a big job for such a young lad. Once he had the water flowing with each downward motion of the pump handle, he instructed, “Okay, young feller, it is your turn now.”
Jim eagerly grabbed the handle and standing on his tiptoes, pushed it down, smiling happily when the water gushed into the trough. He repeated the pumping for as long as he could, but all too quickly his arms and shoulders began to ache. Jim did not want to admit that he was getting tired, but his uncle knew and said, “How about if I do it for a while?”
Once the water neared the top, Jim leaned over cupping some water into his hands. “This is the best tasting water I’ve ever had,” Jim thought to himself. He slurped several handfuls into his dry mouth.
Looking over at his nephew, Leon asked with a twinkle in his eye, “Did you see that fish drop into the water from this here pump?”
“Why, that fish that came right out of the pump into the trough. I thought sure you would have seen him while you were drinking the water.”
“No, sir. I didn’t see any fish.” Jim wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve and earnestly looked in the water.
“Well, he must still be in there.” Uncle Leon leaned over the trough looking for the mysterious fish. “Now isn’t that something. I can’t see him anywhere.” He peeked a look at his nephew, who now had eyes as big as saucers. “I wonder if you accidentally swallowed that poor little fish while you were drinking all that water.”
Jim stepped back from the trough and began to rub his stomach. “I don’t think so, sir.” The minutes passed and Uncle Leon continued to wonder out loud what happened to the fish. Jim began to imagine that the fish was swimming in his stomach. “I don’t feel so good,” Jim said as he stretched down on the cool grass.
Seeing that his nephew was fearful and feeling sick, Uncle Leon laid down next to him and pointed up towards the clouds. “Jim, look at that cloud up there. See the little one next to the big puffy cloud?”
He waited until Jim nodded his head and said, “I think so.”
“It kind of looks like a fish, doesn’t it? I wonder if that is the fish that was in the trough.”
Jim looked at his uncle, then up at the clouds, and then back at his uncle who was smiling from ear to ear. Uncle Leon laughed and began to tickle Jim’s stomach. “Or, is that fish still here? Where is that fish?”
Jim laughed and joked right back while he patted his uncle’s stomach. “No, I think that fish is right here!”
Soon they both stopped laughing and just looked at one another. “I hope I don’t tease you too much,” Uncle Leon said.
“Oh no, Sir.” Jim looked at his uncle and went on to say, “I like to tease my younger brothers. Mother is always telling me not to do it too much. She doesn’t want them to cry.”
“Well, I would never want to make you cry.” Uncle Leon put his big hand on Jim’s head. “Do you know why?” Jim slowly shook his head back and forth not wanting his uncle to remove his hand. “I love you too much to ever make you cry for any reason.”
With tears in his eyes, Jim whispered, “I love you, too.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sun, the warm breeze, and just being next to one another in the grass, watching the clouds drift by. It was a special day that Jim always remembered with a smile.
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