The Farm by N T Franklin

The Farm by N T Franklin

Jackie, blonde with blue eyes and very curvy, was a living Barbie doll. Graduating top of her high school class, she was smart, too. On campus, she never failed to attract attention.

Thomas was a country boy going to college. Tall with sandy colored hair, all he wanted to do was return home and farm wheat. It was his good fortune to have Jackie as a lab partner in freshman chemistry. By the end of the first semester, they were inseparable.

Four springs later on the second Saturday in May, Thomas graduated with an agronomy degree and Jackie with a degree in agricultural economics. The next day, Mr. and Mrs. Rideout were introduced for the first time. They skipped the honeymoon because it was planting season. Thomas had worked summers for the largest farm in the county, and he started as the farm manager that Monday.

They settled into a routine quickly, but Jackie yearned for more.

Jackie stopped supper preparation when she saw Thomas driving in. She bounded out of the house and met him in in the yard. “Honey, I got a job today. At the feed store. Mostly ringing up sales, but it’s a start, and it’ll help out. Now, I can really contribute our future.”

“That’s great! There aren’t many jobs in the area. It’ll help me buy a farm sooner.”

Jackie smiled. “Help us buy a farm sooner. I’m part of this, too”

“Of course, you know what I meant.”

The young couple worked long hours and scrimped for two years before any land came up for sale. The house was good repair and the land wasn’t the best, but it was a start.

 Thomas’ dream had been realized.

In the car on the way back from the bank, Thomas said, “I can work for myself now.”

Jackie turned to him and asked, “Can we afford it?”

“We’ll have to, that’s all there’s to it, we’ll figure it out.”

“The startup equipment you need is expensive,” Jackie countered.

“There are bankruptcy auctions twice a year. I can pick up equipment cheap.”

But the auctions took cash and Thomas had none. So, he bought and financed a new tractor from the dealership. Tillage and planting implements were borrowed from the farm he worked for, once they were done with them. This put Thomas late in planting, and his yields reflected it. But with Jackie’s steady check, they were keeping their noses above water for their second season.

The next year, Thomas bought some used equipment at an auction. It was more than they could afford, but at least he had his own gear. Jackie’s raise with her promotion to manager was not enough. She had to increase the garden and raise a steer to make ends meet. The many evenings she spent alone working in the garden paid dividends as she provided most of the food on their table. But her checks seem to vaporize covering farm expenses.

“Thomas, I make good money now. Do you think it’s time you took your wife out for a Saturday night dinner in town?”

“After harvest, we’ll be rolling in money and then we can have a night out n the town.”

Jackie sighed and went to the kitchen to start supper. Another day sacrificing today for the future.

Jackie watched their banker drive up in high-end black SUV on a Saturday afternoon. “Are we behind to the bank?” she asked.

“Nah, he just wants to stop by and see how we’re doing. That’s his job.”

“Yeah, well, he creeps me out. He comes into the feed store and leers at me. Buys a pair of gloves when no customer is in line. How many pairs of gloves does he really need? It’s not right. I’ll be upstairs.”

“No, no, you have to be here. We both are on the mortgage. Please?”

“Thomas, can’t I have a headache? “He makes me uncomfortable.”

“I know, honey,” Thomas replied. “Just this once, please?”

“Okay, just this once.”

Thomas held the door open as the banker approached. “Mr. Robertson, come on in. How’s my favorite banker?”

“Mighty fine on this mighty fine day,” said Robertson. “Ah, I see the missus is here as well. Could you make some coffee, honey? I’ll take my black.”

Jackie’s fists clenched and her body stiffened before Thomas stepped in.

He gave her an imploring look. “Great idea. Could you do that for us, Jackie?”

She turned on her heel and made coffee. It was all she could do to not spit in the banker’s cup.

Robertson wedged his fat frame into one of the rickety Windsor-style chairs. The chair gave a bigger groan than Robertson when he sat.

Jackie brought three cups of coffee to the table. “Here’s your coffee, Mr. Robertson.”

“Thank you, little lady, and do call me Sam.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Robertson.”

Jackie looked around at the furnishings in her house. The threadbare couch was picked up at a yard sale. Mismatched lamps and tables told the story of their finances. But she this was only temporary.

“Everyone’s talking about a good crop this year. How’s your crop, Thomas?”

“It may be my best ever, but I’ll have to wait until harvest.”

“Good, good,” replied the banker.

“You came to check out my crop?”

“No, I like to stop in and visit my clients and see how they’re doing.”

“We’re fine, thanks for asking,” said Jackie through a clenched jaw. She stood up.

“You don’t have to leave so soon do you?” asked the banker. “We could visit a bit and get to know each other better.”

“That’s right, honey. Mr. Robertson just got here.”

Jackie sat down and tried not to let her anger show.

Thirty minutes of ogling her over mindless chitchat was lost on Thomas, but it was more than Jackie could stand.

Robertson was driving away when Jackie turned to Thomas and said, “I told you he creeps me out. All he did was stare at my chest. In my own house. Bad enough at work. Didn’t you see that?”

“Well, no, I guess. He was being neighborly, that’s all.”

Jackie’s eyes burned at Thomas. “I don’t think so.”

Thomas shuffled his feet. “Well, I guess I need to get out to the field.”

Jackie clenched her fists. She stared at Thomas’ back as he went out the door.

All the growers in the county enjoyed bumper crops that fall. Thomas more than most.

Once the crop was all in, Jackie thought the time was right to bring up the subject of money. Over hot tea on the porch, she said, “You know, Thomas, we could pay down some debt and get a little ahead.”

He put his cup on the table and looked at her. “That may be the sensible thing to do for some, but I have a better idea. I spoke with McHaney today. He’d be willing to sell off the block of land on either side of us.”

“Gee, the price of land after a big crop is always high.”

“I already said yes.”

Jackie dropped her cup on the porch floor. “What?”

“I signed the papers at the bank. Mr. Robertson hurried it through, because we’re such good customers.”

“I didn’t sign anything,” Jackie said, regaining some composure.

“I know. It’s in my name only.”

“Thomas! How could you?”

Thomas shifted in his chair. “Well, … I thought maybe …” Finally, he just shrugged his shoulders.

Jackie leaned forward and chose her words carefully. “Your equipment is maxed out right now. How are you going to work three times the land with it?”

“Oh, Jackie, you’re always the sensible one. We’ll figure it out. I know we will.”

“I wanted to talk about having children, but it seems I have an adult one.”

Thomas perked up. “Kids? That’d be great. I’d be a great father.”

“But we can’t afford children now,” Jackie said, “and we sure can’t afford for me to stop working.”

“You could have kids and wouldn’t have to take much time off from work. We’ll figure it out.”

Jackie didn’t clean up the spilled tea on the porch floor, she went to the bedroom and slammed the door so hard the windows rattled.

Jackie calmed down in a few days and things went back to normal—she went to work, cooked, cleaned, and worked in the garden as Thomas was in the field. Thomas talked about farming and Jackie wished he would listen to her talk about finances.

As spring approached, Jackie braved the chronic money issue. “Cash flow might be an issue this spring, Thomas. The crop was good last fall, but you’re planting three times as much this spring. We will need a lot of cash and credit for the crop. I can’t get any more hours. The money has to come from somewhere.”

Thomas nodded his head in answer.

By midseason, Jackie’s prediction turned to be correct. They had needed a lot more cash than they had and could get no more credit extended to them. They took out a second note on their original farm and home. Thomas made the tractor payments, but fell behind on the land loan and personal loan from the bank. Way behind.

The crops in the area looked good again that year. Then, an August rain turned to hail and cut a narrow swath right through their entire planting. The shredded crop was laying on the soil.

When the rain and hail stopped, Thomas and Jackie went outside to survey the damage. It was a total loss. No grain would be harvested from any of their land. Jackie had never seen Thomas cry before. She hugged him and held him tight for a full ten minutes.

“We need to go inside,” she said.

Thomas nodded, took her hand, and she led him back into the house.

“We should charge gawkers a dollar a head to look,” said Thomas.

Jackie shook her head, “Shut the curtain, you’ve been at the window all day. All you’re doing is gawking at the gawkers.”

“Mr. Robertson called. We might lose the farm.”

“If we lose the farm, we still have each other.”

“I don’t want to lose the farm.”

“I know. Talk to Mr. Robertson. Maybe you can work something out.”

Jackie watched Thomas drive away, knowing there wasn’t anything to work out.

“How’d it go?” Jackie asked when Thomas returned.

All he did was shrug his shoulders. That was the end of that conversation.

The next evening, Thomas’ mood had improved. When he came into the living room carrying a tray of tea, she turned the television off, knowing he had something to say.

“The meeting with Mr. Robertson didn’t go well. We’re going to lose all the new land as well as the original farm and the house if we can’t come up with a big payment.”

“There’s no other way?” Jackie asked.

Thomas kept his eyes down. “Well, there is a way. I know you’re not going to like it, but the entire year’s payments would be taken off the books.”

“Sounds great. What do you have to do?”

Without looking up, Thomas said, “Me? Well, nothing. But you have to meet Mr. Robertson at the Starlight Motel at 8 pm on Friday night.”

Jackie stared at him. “What? No way. That’s not even funny. Look at me.”

He raised his head and looked into her eyes. “Would you just consider it? It’d wipe a year of debt off the books.”

Jackie got up and went upstairs.

Thomas went outside and looked at the destroyed crop. He stayed on the porch all night, crying most of it.

In the morning, Jackie delivered toast and coffee to Thomas on the porch. He didn’t look up and was crying.

He was still there when she left for work.

Jackie arrived home from work to find Thomas sitting on the porch crying. She coaxed him inside for supper but couldn’t get him to speak. She cleared the dishes while he was still at the table.

She came to the table and sat down across from him. “I love you, Thomas. I’ve thought of nothing else all day. If the farm is that important to you, I’ll do it on Friday. I hope our marriage is strong enough to survive this. But you must not ever speak of it again.”

He looked her in the eyes and said, “I love you, too. Wear a green dress.” And he slid a key with a green plastic fob with a gold 22 on it across the table. He rose and left the room.

Jackie sat dumfounded, realizing what she had just agreed to. She started to cry.

Sam Robertson had not been in the feed store for the entire week. By the time Friday rolled around, Jackie had run every possible scenario through her head. Time was running out for options. Thomas was back to his old self; Jackie was not.

Jackie showered and chose a tasteful green A-line dress that fit beautifully and showed off her curves. Sensible flats completed the look. She promised herself she wouldn’t cry.

Thomas sat in front of the television as she busied herself in the kitchen, killing time mostly. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him watching her. She couldn’t read his dispassionate look.

Jackie put her phone in her purse. “I need to borrow your phone, where is it?”

“On the table by the door, help yourself.”

Jackie grabbed it as she was leaving the house. Thomas looked at the wall clock, 7:40.

The clock read 7:45 when Thomas got out of his chair. He looked out the window and saw Jackie still sitting there, fiddling with her purse on the front seat of her car.

Just before 8 pm, Jackie knocked on the door of room 22 of the Starlight Motel

“Come in, it’s not locked,” Robertson’s voice came from inside the room.

Jackie entered the room and closed the door. She surveyed the typical motel room furniture and carefully put her purse on top of the highboy dresser.

“Give me your phone,” he ordered.

Jackie handed him the phone and watched him turn it off. Then he laid it on the highboy next to her purse.

“I’m here as you required, Mr. Robertson, exchanging sex for debt forgiveness.” Jackie’s voice was as cold as ice.

“Please, call me Sam. Do you want a drink?”

“No, thank you.”

“You look very pretty tonight. Green is my favorite color. It looks good on you.”

Jackie took a deep breath. “I know. This isn’t a date, this is business. You don’t need to compliment me. Get undressed. By yourself.”

“Yes, ma’am. I like a lady who takes charge.”

Jackie watched him undress. He was a round fat white blob of flesh and did not look very powerful in his underwear.

“All the way. Naked.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Sam dropped his drawers and nodded. “Your turn.”

“First, let me get this straight, you promise to forgive our past year’s debt after tonight, correct?”

He sighed. “Yes, that’s what I told your husband. You’re killing my mood, here.”

“Okay, I have to be sure.”

Jackie reached behind and unzipped her dress. She shimmied out of it and let it drop to the floor. She stepped out of the dress, picked it up, and neatly laid it over the chair. She stood before him in her green bra and panties.

Robertson’s jaw dropped and he stared. He blinked twice and swallowed hard. “Oh my God.”

Jackie reached behind her back and started to unhook her bra, but stopped. She moved slowly toward him, then retreated. She reached behind her back to unhook, but stopped again.

Jackie straightened up and said. “Mr. Robertson, I thought I could do this, but I can’t.”

“This is bullshit! You’re going through with it now.”

He surprised her with his quickness off the bed. He grabbed her by the throat and threw her on the bed.

“Whore. I might reconsider renegotiating to a month of forgiveness now.”

She rolled off the bed and was standing when he moved to her and grabbed her throat again. She dropped him in a heap with a well-placed knee.

Jackie grabbed a lamp and raised it, but didn’t need to use it. The man was writhing on the floor, having trouble breathing, and no longer a threat.

He coughed a couple times and said, “Bitch, I’m gonna own your farm.”

She put her dress on, not taking her eyes off him; backed to the door, grabbed her purse and the phone, then left.

Jackie calmly walked across the parking lot; her eyes straight ahead, focused on her car. She arrived home and found Thomas still on the couch, watching television.

Thomas called out from the couch, “How’d it go?”

Jackie ignored him.

Thomas, still on the couch, tried a different tact. “Did you take care of it?”

Jackie stomped into the living room and stood between Thomas and the television. “I think you should stay on the couch tonight.” She put his phone on top of the television and turned on her heel.

Thomas thought about saying something, but Jackie had already stormed out of the room.

Jackie slammed the bedroom door shut, sat on the bed and opened her purse. She pulled the duct tape off the inside that held her phone with the lens facing out the side seam she had split open with a kitchen knife. She stopped the recording, saved it, and played it back, with the volume on low.

Her phone had captured everything. The images were clear and the sound audible. Robertson looked pathetic, curled in a fetal position on the floor. Jackie slept well that night.

Thomas was not in the house when Jackie came down for breakfast. She called in sick to work. She drove to the Robertson’s mansion and waited for Sam to leave. Once he did, she pulled into the driveway of the mansion.

Jackie was out of her car and heading toward the front door when it opened.

“Oh, hi. I was just leaving. Can I help you?”

“Yes. Mrs. Robertson, I’m Jackie Rideout and I have some information about your husband.”

“I was just leaving.”

“You’ll want to see this. May I come inside?”

Mrs. Robertson looked at the beautiful but earnest-looking woman in her driveway, and hesitated. “Okay, I have a few minutes. Come on in.”

The two women entered a grandiose foyer. “I can’t offer you coffee, but please, sit at the table and tell me this information about my husband.”

“My husband and I are way behind in payments to the bank. Your husband proposed debt forgiveness in exchange for sex.”

Mrs. Robertson cocked her head and said, “My husband asked you for sex?”

“Well, no. He approached my husband with the offer of a trade of me for debt forgiveness.”

“And what did your husband say?”

“He traded me.”

She sat without speaking, looking into Jackie’s crying eyes.

“Jackie, please call me Anne. This is beyond comprehension.”

“Anne, there’s more. Watch this video.”

Jackie pulled out her phone, pressed play, and handed the phone to Anne.

Anne watched the entire video without saying a word. She pressed play and watched it again. After the second viewing was over, she put the phone face down on the table and pushed it away.

“Well, Jackie Rideout,” Anne said. “We have a problem. My husband is a pig and doesn’t deserve me. Your husband is a pig and doesn’t deserve you. You were assaulted.”

Jackie stared into Anne’s eyes. “I haven’t given a lot of thought to the situation, but I do know things have to change.”

“Not many people know this, Jackie, but I own the bank. I inherited it from my Daddy. I keep pretty much hands off in the day-to-day operations. My iron-clad prenup will leave that pig of a husband of mine with what he brought into the marriage, which wasn’t much.”

“I married without a prenup,” Jackie said, “because we had nothing.”

“May I offer my lawyer for your divorce, on my dime. He’s very good.”

“That’s very generous. Thank you. I couldn’t afford a divorce lawyer.”

“Let’s keep this between ourselves for now. Be at the bank at 4 pm on Monday. My lawyer, our lawyer, will be there serving papers to the two, uh, gentlemen.”

“Thomas and I’ll be there.”

“Keep that video safe, Jackie. Monday 4 pm, be there.”

With that, both women rose, hugged, and walked out the door.

As Jackie was getting into her car, Anne walked over. “Changes are going to happen in your life. You need to trust someone right now. We could be great friends.”

“Yes, I need to trust someone right now,” Jackie replied.

Both women smiled and went their separate ways.

When Jackie and Thomas arrived at the bank, Thomas was all smiles, assuming the meeting was about debt forgiveness. At 4pm, they were ushered into the executive conference room.

Thomas turned to Jackie and said, “Executive conference room, we’re moving up in the world.”

Jackie rolled her eyes.

Once seated, introductions were made with the usual handshakes all around.

Anne stood up, and after a poignant pause said, “I’ll start this meeting by showing the commission of a crime. Jackie, would you please play the video?”

Anne sat down as Jackie propped her phone on the table so Sam and Thomas could see it, then pressed play.

The video ended and there was silence in the room. “I assume you could hear and see the video?”

Both men nodded.

“Here’s what I propose,” Anne said. “Sam, my lawyer has a copy of the prenup you signed as well as divorce papers, which you presigned. A moving van loaded with your belongings in my driveway. Your belongings will be delivered anywhere you designate. You are not allowed in my house.”

Sam’s mouth hung open when the lawyer slid papers across the table to him.

Anne cleared her throat. “Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Sam said meekly.

“Good. This next set of papers is your resignation letter and a six-month salary severance package. Sign these, and assault charges won’t be filed. Do you understand?”

The color had drained from Sam’s face. “This is harsh, Anne.”

Anne stared at him. “This offer is off the table if you leave this room.”

“Bitch,” Sam said, as he signed the papers.

Anne, smiling, said, “Thank you. There is a security officer standing by your desk to escort you out of the building. You might want to clean out your desk quickly, as rumor has it he has limited patience. It’s time for you to leave this room.”

“Bitch,” Sam said as stood up and left the room.

The awkward silence was broken by Anne.

“Now for you, Thomas,” Anne went on, “you are hopelessly behind in your payments. The balloon payment clause you signed entitles the bank undertake all sorts of actions.”

Now Thomas looked concerned. “Am I going to lose my farm?”

Anne nodded. “That’s the least of it. You do know you pimped out your wife?”

“Hey! It’s not like that!” Thomas shouted, jumping to his feet.

“Don’t raise your voice to me. Sit down.”

Thomas obeyed.

“My lawyer has a set of papers for you, too. The bank is taking over your farm and your house.”

“You—you can’t do that!”

The lawyer slid a set of papers across the table.

“Yes, we can, and we are. Those papers are informing you of such. You should know the terms of what you are signing when you take out a loan,” Anne said.

Anne nodded to the lawyer and he slid a second set of papers across the table.

“These are divorce papers and papers transferring all rights and responsibilities of the three properties to your wife. She will assume all the debt. You will be completely debt free, as you had hoped. As the bank owns your house, I’m giving you thirty days to leave.”

“What? Jackie? Is this what you want?”

“I’m afraid so, Thomas. You pimped me out for your dream. You don’t deserve me.”

Anne smiled. “Yes, Thomas, either sign these—divorce and property transfer, or the bank will dog you forever to recover money you owe. That I can guarantee. You sign them and you can start over with a clean debt-free slate.”

“Jackie, this is my dream! Don’t do this to me.”

She put both hands on the table and stood up. “SIGN them.”

“Thomas shook his head as he signed the papers. “I guess I can start over and try to get my old job back.”

Anne and the lawyer rose to their feet, signaling the meeting was over. Jackie and Thomas stood up and moved toward the door.

“Jackie, would you please stay behind?” Anne asked.

She nodded as Thomas walked away without looking back.

Anne motioned for Jackie to sit down.

Jackie sat down and started to speak, but Anne held up her hand.

“That may have been harsh, but it was needed.”

The lawyer opened his briefcase and slid another set of papers across the table.

“What’s this?” Jackie asked.

“You been through enough, girl. Those are the deeds to the three parcels of land. I don’t think farming is in your blood, but selling them will give you a good start financially. They’re yours, free and clear. I do own the bank.”

Jackie sat and stared at the papers. “But…”

“Oh yes, you need to live somewhere for a while. I have a guest house on the property that is available. I could use the company now. You look like a size 6.”

Jackie nodded.

“There are size 6 dresses in the wardrobe. I hope you consider my offer.”

“Thank you,” was all Jackie could get out.

“Oh, the dresses—there’s nothing in green.”

Both women smiled.

“I don’t know if you plan on sticking around the area, but it seems I’m looking for a new loan officer. Think about it, if you want it, it’s yours.”

Jackie perked up. “Tomorrow at 9 am?”

“Yes,” Anne answered. “Now, let’s go get a drink, Lord knows we could use it. We’re going to be great friends.”

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