The Wind Could Blow a Bug
The Riley Sisters
By Jennifer Friess
Here is an excerpt from my upcoming young adult contemporary romance called The Wind Could Blow a Bug. Sign up for email updates about publication at: http://imnotstalkingyou.us9.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=f58cebd8190793e8348ca281f&id=a695e51c66
The Oakley town council meeting had started off typically enough. There was a review of the minutes from the last meeting, and the usual complaints about too much. This time it was too much noise and chickens. But with all the Tucker boys in attendance for the meeting tonight, a rare occurrence, it was only a matter of time before things got rowdy.
The main order of new business on the agenda was to discuss a nationwide pharmacy with plans to build a store at the edge of town. The tiny town, population 3,300, was divided on this particular issue. And so they piled into mayor Skip Wickley’s living room for tonight’s meeting.
Skip was a large black man, in both mass and stature. He was an impressive physical figure to lead the town, but he was often too busy trying to keep everyone happy to make effective decisions.
On a night of a normal meeting, there would have been plenty of room for everyone. Skip had a large old farmhouse. Usually only 30 or so citizens were in attendance. Tonight it looked as though a representative from almost every household in town was here. The living room and dining room were one combined space, as though a wall that had formerly divided them a hundred years ago had since been removed. Every inch of that space was needed tonight.
Jane Riley sat in the corner on the couch, with her spiral-bound notebook on her lap. Although only a high school senior, she was present at all the town council meetings. She took down notes and turned them into the regional newspaper to earn extra money for college. Twenty dollars per meeting. Since the town council was so small, her newspaper recap also served as official meeting minutes. Being quiet with few hobbies, she would take advantage of that on her college application by saying she was the secretary for the town council. As no one officially held that post, no one could really complain if she claimed it.
But tonight she was too distracted to take conscientious notes. Her attention was not on the debate, but instead on the group of four strapping farm boys standing up, trying to holler over one another. The Tucker boys were not the type of guys to give Jane the time of day. They were all older than Jane. Then again, no other boys in town were interested in her either. Jane had earned a reputation for being “shy”, a word she hated. In truth, she just didn’t care to socialize with the jocks and cheerleaders of her school. They had no clue that she could be funny and witty. Jane saw this as their loss, not hers. She was average in just about every way. She was an average height, with a thin frame, and light brown hair of an average length. She was often mistaken for several years younger than her 18 years. If Jane was a boy, she probably wouldn’t be interested in herself either.
The Tucker brothers all had hair damp from the showers they had taken before attending the meeting. It was nice that they had been considerate enough to wash off the day’s worth of dirt and sweat before they came. But they also had drowned themselves in cologne too. Were they all heading to the bar to pick up chicks after the meeting? The mix of four different colognes and testosterone filled the room and made Jane’s head spin, in a good way.
Evan Tucker was the father of all these men. He was nearing 50. While most fathers were old and chubby and balding, Evan was still a good-looking man. He would look right at home in an Eddie Bauer catalog. His full head of black hair was just starting to have some white mix in around the edges.
Randy was the oldest son. He had to be about 27 now, and helped his father run the business. He looked a lot like his father, but Randy was a few inches taller.
Josh was the second oldest. He was known around town as a prankster. This somehow made him easy to dislike. Josh sported a headful of brown hair and wore a goatee of perpetual stubble on his chin. Jane assumed that he did the same work on the farm as his brothers, but somehow he was thicker around the middle than the rest. He was 24 years old.
Wade was just a year younger than Josh. Wade was the Tucker boy most of the girls in town liked best. He had won the genetics lottery. Blond hair, blue eyes, and a face like a model. His smile had been known to stop traffic.
Oakley’s main street only had two lanes and one flashing signal. So really, sometimes a stray cat stopped traffic as well.
Pete was the youngest son. He had been a year ahead of Jane in school, which meant he was now out of school. He looked a lot like his mother. He was wiry, with dirty blond hair.
The discussion was breaking down as everyone talked over each other.
“The SaveRX would bring many jobs to our town.”
“But it would put my drug store out of business.”
“It sounds like a budget strip club.”
“The people from Parker would get all the jobs anyway.” This was unlikely. Parker was the next largest town about 40 miles away.
“Wouldn’t they need to use some of my land to build it at the proposed site? I am not selling. Does that mean you are going to use eminent domain to claim it?” asked Evan Tucker.
Now it was more obvious why the Tuckers were here. Mr. Tucker owned much of the farmland around Oakley, including all of the farmland on the west end of town where the pharmacy was to be built. He may look like a hick, but he was a very smart businessman. Mr. Tucker had kept his farm going and growing in a time when many had failed. He had managed to keep it in the family as well, an even bigger feat.
Tucker Farms had been started by Evan Tucker’s grandfather. Then it was very small and only fed the immediate family. Evan’s father grew it to have many cash crops and added many silos for grain storage to cover himself in times of bad weather until his death.
Evan took over the business in very different times. The old-time farmers were dying out, literally, and their children did not want to continue. They wanted to get jobs at the automotive factory in Parker that offered a steady income and benefits. Or they just moved away to the cities, where they could get a job in anything. Evan started buying up the land. Often times he could not offer much, but the sellers snapped it up just to be rid of it. Evan began to diversify his products.
As Evan’s business was growing, the local grain elevators, the Oakley Co-Op, just called ‘the Co-Op’ by locals, were suffering. With the drop in the number of farmers using their buy, sell, and store services, they did not have the ability to make upgrades or pay their employees. When the Co-Op went out of business, Evan was put in the position of expanding his own operation to provide the services to other farmers in and around Oakley that they could no longer receive anywhere else. In a day and age when no one put down new railroad tracks, Evan found he had justification to have some laid between his elevators and the nearest rail spur a few miles away.
Evan had helped salvage what little community was left in Oakley. The goods he bought from the feed store and the hardware store kept them in business. The local tractor supply helped to keep his farming machines in running order. And so on. In turn, all those merchants could buy newspapers, groceries, and eat at the two restaurants in town. It was a delicate balance. Evan Tucker knew this, and it no doubt kept him up late nights.
“Ya, we ain’t selling,” Josh said.
“That is prime farmland,” Randy articulated.
“It is also the best make-out spot in town,” Wade said, smiling.
“You should know, Wade!” someone in the back yelled.
With that, the room let out a whoop and the conversation quickly was derailed from the task at hand. Wade seemed to be at the center of the chaos.
A great dig at Wade came to Jane. She crossed the room to get closer to the action, waiting for her turn to contribute. She felt self-conscious standing, so she sat in an available chair, left vacant by all those now standing. Wanting a better vantage point of the room, she sat on the back of the stuffed green plaid chair and put her pink Converse shoes on the seat. She began to remember that she wasn’t the kind of girl to speak up in meetings, especially to flirt with guys. As the conversation moved away from Wade, Jane knew her chance was gone. This made her relax a little. Although her brief moment of bravery, of just moving across the room, had already made her deodorant fail.