Small Town Problems: Book 2 Chapter 1 -Part 1/2


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Har’elday stepped down from the tractor and wiped his brow, “You really need to get one of those newer models with the air conditioning.” 

I shook my head and laughed. It was early spring and the temperature was fairly cool, “It’s not my fault you’re used to a cold climate. Anyway, we’re only going through this much trouble so we can get you that hyperbaric chamber. Well, material so you can build one. I wish you guys could have found something cheaper than titanium to use.” I handed him a bottle of water, “We have to pay Eleanor back for the equipment and her share of the profits, and then prep for the next harvest. I don’t think we’ll have enough money for a new tractor for a while.”

“She said we don’t have to pay back the seed money all at once.”

“I know, but Bill didn’t have a huge life insurance policy and two of their kids are still in college. It’s only been six months, but I want to make sure she’s taken care of for as long as I can. I’ve never planted garlic before, but if we get things right with this half-acre of the Elephant variety we should be able to keep expanding it with each harvest and eventually start another field of one of the gourmet varieties. And once we get to that, we’ll be able to have enough for everyone to retire on when the time comes.”

“You’re right. She’s relying on this venture more than I was thinking.” He took a drink and then said, “Do we want to move the hay bales over now?”

I looked at my watch, “No, it’s getting close to dinner time. We can do it tomorrow.”

“Not tomorrow. I have another appointment with the speech therapist.”

“Oh right, not sure why you’re still going to those. I mean, I can hardly hear any trouble with your R’s now.”

“True, but it’s more than that. It’s been a good opportunity to meet someone new and learn more about your language. I only have a few appointments left anyway.”

I threw my hands up and said, “Never accuse me of getting in the way of someone learning.” As we walked inside I couldn’t help but think about how I didn’t want to do anything more than sell off excess crops and a few heads of cattle not that long ago. Now I’ve got a whole new family to try and take care of and things seem to be heading in the right direction

After dinner we grabbed a beer and sat on the porch, “There’s still a bit of light left, do you want to do anything?”

I shrugged and turned to him, ” You did say it was a nice day for fishing this morning.”

I looked at him oddly as he laughed, “No, I was just quoting something Shannon has been showing me after I told her we were going to be garlic farmers, but it sounds like a nice idea. You want to get the gear and I’ll load up the cooler?”

“Sounds good. Meet you at the truck in a few.” I ran out to the workshop and grabbed the fishing gear. I had to step over a few things and I couldn’t wait for Shannon to get back from spring break tomorrow so they could finish up with their prototypes and cleanup.

“Didn’t your parents teach you how to keep your room tidy?” I asked as he brought the cooler out. 

“What are you talking about?”

“My workshop is a mess. You guys keep working on one project after another and I can hardly get to the things I need.” We got in the truck and headed down the road.

“Maybe we need to build a lab then? There’s not enough room in there to do everything we need anyway.”

“That’ll push the tractor back even further if you want to build another building.”

“Not necessarily.” He smiled and turned to me, “There’s a lot of money to be made in the medical device market.”

“I’m not sure I like where this is going. You have to keep a low profile.”

“Hear me out first. You know how we’ve been working on making my oxygen concentrator more reliable and have a more sleek, form-fitting design?” I nodded my head. “We did a lot of research to see if we could utilize another design and reduce our R and D time. And we determined there wasn’t anything out there like what we want to make. And the better news is that there seems to be a market for it.”

“You don’t think Shannon Wilton and Har’elday showing up on patent paperwork is going to raise any alarms?” We officially entered dusk as we pulled up to the river.

He groaned a bit as we got out of the truck and started taking things to the dock, “First of all, it’s going to be Shannon Wilton and Harold Day.”

“Solid Earth name, proceed.”

“Thank you. Secondly, it’s been four months since we’ve seen any government agents. After they cleaned up all of the debris, I think they were convinced there was nothing else here and left for good.”

“You’re too much of an optimist. I think if we take one wrong step, they’ll be back.”

“For what?” He set the cooler down on the dock. “The only piece of technology left is my crystalline tool, and they don’t know about that.”

“What about the modifications to the processes on the farm? The wheat yield was the best it’s ever been and if the same holds true for the garlic, then it might raise suspicions.” I opened up the tackle box and started to attach lures to our lines.

“Statistically speaking, one farm’s increased yields are not going to be noticeable. We hypothesized that if we get to a financial level high enough to accomplish our monetary goals, that we would still be classified as a small farm, of which there are a high number.” He cracked open a beer and handed it to me, “The probability that we will remain unnoticed is almost guaranteed.”

“Okay, but what if you guys keep making technological breakthroughs? You are both driven to seek out challenges like that.”

“That is true, but most of what we have accomplished has been for personal use. Most of it cannot be used by humans and would therefore not provide a commercial benefit worth pursuing.”

“I don’t know, that odor neutralizer you came up with for your air mix would probably sell for a lot of money.”

Har’elday’s cheeks turned a bit pink and he stammered, “Well, that… that is most definitely for personal use. The chemical reaction only works for my compound.”

I chuckled, “I knew it was for personal use when you and Shannon locked the workshop door after the first batch you made. I just like embarrassing you.” 

He hit my arm, “You’re just jealous.”

“Maybe a bit. Courting Maggie was one of the best periods of my life. Other than meeting her parents for the first time, it was great.” He seemed to hold eerily still at that comment. “Har’elday?”

He cast into the river and slowly turned his head towards me, “Yes?”

“Have you met her parents yet?”

“I’m supposed to this next week after they’ve recuperated from their family vacation.”

“You’ve been dating for six months. How have you not met them yet?”

“Meeting the parents of a mate has never been an easy task for me. On my world, there is a certain expectation of one’s accomplishments before a marital contract is finalized. And a plan for achieving that level must be submitted to the parents for review before a relationship of any kind can proceed.”

“Wait a minute. Before any kind goes forward? So before a first date?”

“That is correct.”

“You’re not exactly young and you’re way more accomplished than a lot of humans by your age.”

“Oh no, I am still quite young by Th’opnekian standards.” He paused and looked up for a moment, “In Earth years, most do not finalize relationships with their mates until about forty years of age and our life expectancy is one hundred and sixty years.” He paused for another moment before shaking his head and continuing, “Some start seeking mates earlier, but it is rare for both partners to be able to map out their achievements and goals for approval of the other’s parents at a young age.” 

“Wow…” I tried to fathom what that meant, but it was hard to imagine, “I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life, let alone had any accomplishments when I asked Maggie to marry me. I was so nervous when I asked for her dad’s blessings, too.”

“I feel that way now. I had to start over and I have nothing to plead my case with.”

I felt my heart ache a bit for him, but I mostly felt a headache start to kick in. I set my fishing pole down and stepped in front of him. “Now you listen to me. Any parent that didn’t approve of you back home is a damn fool, but I’m glad they didn’t. Do you love her?”

He sighed deeply, “Yes, but…”

“But nothing. You two are made for each other.” He tried to interrupt, but I held my finger up. “The way you two are with each other is so unabashedly deep, and oftentimes overwhelmingly sickening, that to try and say you two are anything other than soul mates should be a capital offense.”

“It takes more than love to make things work.”

“Of course it does. Relationships take hard work to maintain. Are you telling me you can’t commit to that?”

He sneered at me and shook his head, “I would do anything for her! But what have I done to earn the right to…”

I poked him in the chest, “Stop it. That’s not how things work here. Her parents don’t want anything more than for you to make her happy and not live under a bridge. Do you think you can accomplish that?”

He puffed out his chest and nodded forcefully, “Yes, without question.”

“Good. You’re already breaking your tradition anyway.” I went back to my spot, picked my pole up, and cast my line out. “But it still doesn’t hurt to impress them.”

* * * *

Continue to Chapter 1 Part 2! Coming January 4!

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