Those Fertile Fields: Prologue

Every day, I find myself wishing things could go back to the way they used to be.

I'm Richard James Tanner, apparently my great-great-uncle Marshall was the founder of our little corner of Louisiana. I'm fourteen years old, with four sisters. Shelly is nineteen, Paula is seventeen, Elaine is fifteen and Samantha is twelve. Yep, I'm the only boy in the family.

That wishing bit I mentioned is mostly because I truly miss my parents. If mom had not been so damn stubborn! Arrrggghhh!!!!!

It all started a couple of years ago when she began to have brief bouts of dizziness and nausea, along with occasional fainting spells.

We didn't know anything was happening because mom was, as I said, very stubborn, and passed each thing off as nothing to worry about.

What we didn't know, and didn't learn until just a bit over a month before she died, was that she was dealing with cancer. Apparently, from what the doctors could determine based on a multitude of tests that were taken in her last few weeks of life, it started in her abdomen.

Because of her stubbornness, she didn't bother to get it checked. If she had, she and my dad might still be alive.

She just couldn't be bothered to take care of herself because she didn't goddamn fucking 'feel sick enough to worry'. Damn her!

By the time that we did find out, the seven of us, mom, dad, myself and my four sisters were walking across the parking lot to a nice restaurant and mom staggered, turned away from us, vomited up blood, then fainted on the asphalt. We could see blood seeping from a head wound.

Well, dinner was a no go at that point, mom was far more important to all of us; we managed to lift her into the back seat of the Suburban and dad raced to the nearest hospital. It was a bit over three hours later that we heard the diagnosis: inoperable terminal cancer.

According to the various tests they did that evening, the cancer had spread from her abdomen up to her left lung, down to her liver, also to her stomach, spleen and her intestinal tract. The doctor who spoke to us in the waiting room told us she had four to eight weeks left, if that.

Another part of the spreading cancer was within an inch of one of her heart valves and there was no way to stop it.

What the six of us noticed, when we were allowed to visit mom two at a time, was that her skin was quite jaundiced. Apparently, her liver had been damaged badly enough that she had been resorting to using special make-up to cover the skin on her face and hands.

I mean, holy fucking hell, that should have been an obvious sign something was seriously wrong! Did she do anything? Bloody hell no!

There was no doubt in our minds that she was deathly ill. The next shock was that she looked like she had no flesh left. Before the cancer started, she had been a beautiful woman, 5'7", 134 lbs, long and curly golden blonde hair, now she was bare skin and bones.

She had been weighed as part of the testing. They had been forced to use a scale that could be placed under her, and we found out that she was down to 101 pounds. The cancer had literally been eating her from the inside out, and now we could see the result all too clearly.

The lead doctor said that the best they could do was make her passing as easy as it could be for her.

From that time onward, until she died just over six weeks later, mom was on a slew of medications, many of which left her doped to the gills.

In her last week of life, it became even more horrible for us as she no longer recognized us as her own family.

Further tests showed that the cancer had raced through her system and attacked her brain, spreading through it like a raging fire. By that time, the cancer had ravaged more than half of her heart, leaving her with a seriously depleted blood supply in those last few days.

We buried her in the tiny churchyard of our little town, Tanner Crossing, a small hamlet at the end of a dirt road that runs south and west for about a mile from the end of Louisiana State Rd 333. Our wee place has only five main buildings, a gas station, a supermarket, a farm supply and feed store for the farm folk surrounding the hamlet, the church and a shabby tavern. Add about twenty shacks or houses, and that's it.

There isn't a whole heck of a lot of dry ground out there, so those who do farm tend to grow wet friendly crops like cotton or soybeans. Most of the farmers here sell a significant part of their harvests to the farm supply store in exchange for tools, seeds and other necessities.

Because we don't get very cold in the winters, the farmers can often do two or even three crops in a year, which helps them to survive.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. While mom wasted away, and after her death, dad pretty much fell into the whiskey bottle.

I have no idea how he managed to function every day with the amount of whiskey he consumed over that five month period.

Five days ago, he fell too far into the bottle, headed off to work at the garage in Esther, and lost control of the car just past where 333 turns almost due north next to the water. The car skidded along the road for fifty feet, then rolled several times before going in the water.

The car flipped one last time, ending up upside down, with dad's head actually under the water.

The rolling of the car had knocked him out when he slammed his head against the dashboard. He never regained consciousness.

We buried him next to mom in the churchyard. The two eldest members of the family gave their respects. You see, dad served in Afghanistan from '91 to '97, then came home and almost literally ran into mom as he stepped off the bus in Esther, Louisiana.

Grandpa Jack and great-uncles Robert and Shawn all served in the '70s and '80s in various military actions around the world.

Great-grandpa William and his brother Marshall both served throughout the Vietnam war.

All five of these men were the lone survivors of the family, well, except for Uncle Sal.

Uncle Sal had also served in Afghanistan, although in a different unit than dad's and the two had returned home together.

Uncle Sal has never been talkative about his war service years, at least, he hadn't been for as long as I could remember.

What I do know, from idle comments from dad, is that Sal went to Thailand after getting out of the service for rest and relaxation.

When he came back, again according to dad, he started acting odd, dressing in women's clothes and presenting as a female.

I suppose the five of us kids grew up with Sal being more of a Sally, but that didn't stop her from being family, ya know?

Anyhow, as the only adult in our family who was not on old age pension and who had a decent income, we ended up in Sally's care.

And that is where I began the slippery slide into the realms of femininity.

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