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Harper's Homecoming

by BP | Score: 6400

Harper hadn't been home in fifteen years. Christ, she thought, how can something feel like it went by in a flash while also feeling like five life times.

It still smelled the same. That much she remembered. Wet hay and the faint tang of animal refuse. Like her time away she mused at the duality of things. How that smell could be simultaneously repulsive yet the most reassuring smell she'd ever experienced. Like her father and his keys. She could still recall the nights she'd spent awake in bed, unable to fall asleep, listening to her father move about the house. Even after a full day of tending the farm's needs he never seemed to stop. Stomping from room to room, picking up toys, putting away dishes. Even when it came to his own relaxation he seemed to do it with a haste she didn't understand. All the while the giant ring of keys he kept clipped to his jeans would jingle against his hip. On nights where her restlessness bled into the late hours--as a child it felt like she had shifted into some ethereal twilight realm, which, to her, was any time after 9 at night, but in reality was probably only 10:30--and the darkness seemed to creep in and fill every corner of her room, the sound of those keys was a salve. A steady, comforting chant that kept evil and loneliness at bay. They could also terrify her. An uncleaned dish. An animal let loose by mistake. The wailing cries of her younger brother after he had fallen off something while she was supposed to be watching him. She could still hear frenzied shaking of her father's keys as he rushed to see what was wrong. He was not a brutal man, her father, in fact he could be quite doting in his own way. But striking a child had never been as repulsive to him as it had been for others of his generation. A hard swift open hand slap to her face or bottom. A chill lanced through her, and Harper felt the cold ichor of vomit threatening to spew out. She'd never been hurt badly. No hospital visits. But the fear of being struck carried a pain all its own. Once or twice the very thought of is had made her sick. To this day the sharpest memory of her father was when he had rushed outside to see what was amiss when Ryan, her brother, had fallen off a fence and was crying himself raw. Harper hadn't done anything wrong. She'd been watching him. Had told him not to climb and, after he had, insisted he come down. But the young fool hadn't listened and when one of the horses got spooked by a car backfiring and reared up, he'd gotten frightened and fell off, landing hard on his arm, breaking it. She recalled the look of it, like a wobbly S. Later, she would learn that he had broken his arm in two places, which explained the gummy-like look of it. But when her father came rushing over, his keys slapping hard against his jeans, the impending discipline she expected to face overtook her and she puked all over herself, ruining one of her favorite shirts. When he arrived, a mixture of fear and fury on his face, Harper's father looked first at Ryan and his bent arm, then at her and her soiled shirt. An emotion she couldn't quite register washed over him. To this day she, despite still being able to see it clearly in her mind, she still didn't have the word for it. But it broke her heart whenever it came to her. Once or twice she had seen it in a dream. Her father bursting into a room, or through the door that led into her kitchen, or into her classroom where she taught, and he'd look at her with that face. 

Harper placed her hand on her stomach. Her knees were shaking. Fucking homecomings, she thought, and she managed to actually laugh despite the feeling of dread that seemed intent on boring into organ in her body.

She saw her father before she heard him. Maybe that's what made hugging him easier. He smelled the same too. Like the farm it came with conflicting emotions. How many nights had he carried her from the couch or the backseat of the car to her bedroom? How many times had she been shaken from sleep, agitated and fussy, only to slip back into comfort in his arms, his warm chest against her, her face nuzzled against him, that musky, warm smell letting her know she was fine, this was only a momentary disturbance and everything would be back to normal in a moment. And above all, nothing, absolutely nothing, would ever make her feel more safe than this. Even as those damn keys continued their klaxon song.

Fucking homecomings.

"How you doin, dad?"

"I'm alright, honey. How are you?"

He looked good. Harper thought for a moment, trying to place his age, but when she looked him over she realized nothing in his appearance helped her out much.

"Farms' alright?"

"Yeah, she's doing ok. Don't keep as much on as I used to but everything's still working."

Not much had changed. The fence Ryan had fallen off looked the same. The boards had clearly been replaced at some point in the past, but the design and lay of the frame looked unchanged. Middle America's version of Theseus' Ship. Same with the house. At some point individual singles that had rotted out had been pried off and replaced, and the roof looked new, but they were new coats of paint over the same body. As if a bubble had been placed over this place and preserved it.

"Looks good." Harper hoped her father couldn't hear the thickness in her voice. Hoped he didn't pick up on the mess of emotions coursing through her. For all his strengths and weaknesses, her father still mishandled emotions the way a child might mishandle a set of blocks. He had them. Lord did he have them. Perhaps more so than any other man she'd ever met, he had a depth to him that at times frightened her. He could be telling her a story about his childhood, smiling about some trouble he and his friends had gotten into, or some wondrous stretch of woods where he had spent countless hours, only to switch and describe a scene of pure horror and sadness that brought tears to his eyes. Dogs who had been hit by cars, friends who had died in the war, then he'd take a sip of beer and be himself again. Of all the things her father had learned to fix, most of which he'd taught himself, his own past and his emotions around it still seemed to puzzle him. And because of it, Harper always felt a similar emptiness in herself. A puzzle piece missing from the father, had made its way into her. And now they stood, two incomplete pc

Completed challenges

The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:

Begin Start typing to begin
Location A farm
Words Reach 50 words
Words Reach 100 words
Words Reach 200 words
Words Reach 300 words
Words Reach 400 words
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Words Reach 700 words
Prop Include a couch
Words Reach 800 words
Words Reach 900 words
Words Reach 1000 words
Letter Use the letter W

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