The Businesswoman and a 'Modern' Peasant
By Graham L. Wilson
Copyright (c) 2010-2012 Graham Wilson. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included at this link: see my profile page.
Note: I wrote this for English 20 to spec, so if this is a bit cutesy, that is why.
It was the year 2068, nearly the dawn of my seventieth birthday, and thus almost my seventieth year on my farm. With the coming of ever increasing age, I have been becoming more and more complacent with whatever end shall meet me down the road, and often reflect upon what I have done in my life and what I have accomplished. In general, I have no complaints and only a few regrets. Two of my achievements were sitting before me right then, eagerly awaiting me to tell them a tale from my many years.
"Come on grandfather, tell us a story" my eight year old granddaughter intoned with her typical enthusiasm.
"Child, when you get to my age it is difficult to decide which out of the many to relate to you" I replied. My granddaughter considered this reply briefly, before deciding she intended to give me a more specific request as to not task too much my weary old memory.
"Tell us a story from when you were young" she replied. My grandson, her junior by about two years, then gave up a suggestion himself.
"Yeah, one where you were clever" he said.
"Clever?" I asked. "When have I ever been clever?" I commented modestly. The looks on the faces of my posterity seemed to indicate they had opinions to the contrary.
"Well, alright then. I'll tell you a tale from back when I was only twenty-four years old and I managed to convince someone of something important, whilst still learning a few things myself." My granddaughter's eyes brightened at the description of this particular tale. "I had just finished checking up on my cows, who were almost ready to calve one spring morning when I noticed someone walking up my driveway..." I began.
A most eccentric sight indeed, I remembered thinking, as I observed the woman walking up the dusty road. She looked quite lost whilst dragging up a black briefcase through the spring mud. Her attire was all the more unreal as well – a business suit with a white undershirt, black jacket over top and black skirt on the bottom. Hardly appropriate on such a windy day; I could only imagine the feel of the harsh winds on her poor exposed knees. I decided that she probably needed some help and approached.
"Good day madam, is something the matter?" I called out. She looked up from her toil of dragging along her briefcase.
"Umm, yes. My car broke down just a bit down the road. Can I use your telephone?" she asked, "assuming you have one." The last part of the sentence struck me as a little odd, but then that fit well with my general appraisal of her in the first place.
"Of course I have one, come into the farmhouse and we'll get a tow truck out here" I said. She nodded as she finally made it up the road.
"Well I'm a bit surprised. I could not see any hints of civilization up here" she replied, "hence my questioning the existence of a telephone."
"Well, madam, we've moved on a bit since the 19th century out here you know" I replied with good humour. Once inside, I handed her my telephone directory and she looked up the nearest tow company. She explained to me that she had been on a business trip between Edmonton and Calgary when her car broke down, and she found her cellphone lacked coverage in this area. I explained that sometimes coverage out here can be lacking, or at least often you need to seek out different providers than what you would probably get in town.
"How can you stand living out here then?" she asked.
"It'll be about an hour or so before the tow truck arrives" I replied, "come out, and I'll show you." Our progress was slowed somewhat by my companion wearing shoes evidently not made for walking over this sort of terrain, but even so I had soon showed her my chicken coop, my barn and my machine shed. Whilst practical and quaint to me, my living environment obviously did not impress her.
"You still have not answered my question. In this day and age, why would anyone want to live out here like this?" she noted questioningly.
"I'm not sure what you mean, I have electricity, I even am a computer programmer in my spare time. I am living in this day and age" I replied.
"I don't just mean modern conveniences" she began, "what about the lights, the sounds, the excitement of the city? Don't you long to be where all the action is?"
"I can not speak for you, but don't you ever long for the peace, the quiet and the tranquility of the country?"
"Alright then, if not the atmosphere of the environment itself, what about the locations? Here is just bush and more bush. Don't you want to see shopping malls, museums, theatres or restaurants?"
"I can see all that when I go into to town. I do not need it to all be right on my doorstep."
"You're so pigheaded!" she wailed, throwing up her hands, "Can't you see your deliberately placing yourself in a primitivist fantasy!" I must admit that I was somewhat taken back by that reply.
"Oh then madame" I replied tersely, "a fantasy this may be, but is it any better than just accepting the not-so-nice truths of the majority's modern condition? One of smog, pollution, hard concrete, few wildlife and mechanical death whirring down each street sixty thousand times a week!"
"You people just live like this to annoy us enlightened modern people" she yelled back, "and you get in the way. Whilst living in your little overgrown paradise, imagine what could be done with this land? There could be a supermarket or a stadium or skyscraper many many feet tall! A true monument to human ingenuity, not human backwardness!"
At this point I had just about lost my cool, who did this woman think she was? Coming here in need of my help only to insult my entire way of life? A way of life my family has experienced for generations! Before I could reply however, we were interrupted by the bleating of one of this year's calves. We both turned to look as the doting mother cow arrived, and the calf began to enjoy its breakfast. As we stared, the sun moved ever higher up in the sky, showing off the rolling fields of grass and further off wheat; only occasionally dotted with an intertwining web of fencing. I turned to look at my visitor and saw a much more relaxed expression on her face.
"So then? Is this really a monument of backwardness? Would you rather have this paved over or worse yet converted into a factory farm with one thousand head of cattle shoved together side-by-side?" I asked her. She looked at me for a little, thinking over her response.
"Oh I'm sorry, it's just I've never been somewhere like this, met someone like you" she admitted, "I don't know, I guess I felt a little threatened by it all."
"That's all right, I have probably said some things I didn't mean as well." Just then a sound of monotone electric beeping, a whirring of engines and the clinking of metal began symbolizing the arrival of my companion's salvation from my backward little mud-heap. She turned to look at me again before she went to catch up with it.
"Well madame, I think that is all the time we have" I said. She looked up for a moment in thought, before opening the purse harnessed around her shoulder and writing a brief message on a scrap of paper with her pen. She then came up and handed it to me.
"The name's Joyce by the way, you don't have to keep sounding like a butler with that overly-polite 'madame' moniker." I flipped over the piece of paper in my hand and saw it was an e-mail address and a telephone number. I looked up and saw she was still standing in front of me.
"I might come back if I ever want to clear all that 'smog and pollution' out of my system" she said smiling.
"Maybe one day you could show me your environment, those lights and that excitement you promised." Just then, a figure down the road appeared gesturing to us; the tow truck driver evidently wanted to know where exactly he was expected to take her vehicle to. Joyce nodded back at me one last time, before turning to go. I rolled up her note and slipped it down into my pocket, as I saw the eccentric figure in black walk off.
Although I had finished my story, my granddaughter had not let up her attentive stare in my direction. Noting her expression, I asked if they had any questions about my story.
"Who was she, grandfather?" she asked.
"Oh, you've met her" I replied, "many times."
"Really" said my grandson, "Who is she?" Just then, my wife called in to inform us all that dinner was served. She had taken up more and more of the cooking as the many years of hard farming had started to catch up with me, ironic given her situation when we had met. The grandchildren were already seated at the table by the time I had arrived. The meal, as usual, looked excellent and I told her so. My wife smiled at me and said,
"The food is only as good as the environment that grew it" she said.
"Yep, but that's not to say one environment is necessarily better than another" I replied.
"Well, I don't think carrots grow well from concrete" Joyce said with a little wink. My granddaughter gasped in realization. She's a clever little girl that one.
September 10, 2010