Driving with one hand seems to say “I am in no hurry,” and if one has no passenger to utter this to, it is in a subconscious manner, to remind yourself of a lack of urgency. Jon crossed lanes of traffic, and into the Quickstop parking lot smoothly, and stationed the Subaru by a pump. Through the open windshield he handed me six dollars, and said “go get us something utterly unhealthy.” I grinned and then looked perplexed, “What should I get?” I said, as if I had a gleaming stack of cash- enough to be sickeningly careless with. My mind was swamped with hypocritical notions. He was frequently adamant about resisting our lazy urges to eat out, or buy food- insisted it was a waste of resources we didn’t have. I came back with M&M’s, pretzel and peanut butter, and two gatorades. These are the M&M’s he rewards himself with on occasion, I knew this now.
I had my feet on the dashboard, because having them on the floor is to me uncomfortable and formal- if I know someone well, my feet are on their dashboard; as if by gaining my friendship they also earn a dirty car and optimal view of feet. I don’t know why I seem to do this- perhaps it is the additional rhythm and beat my stomping gives to any song played. We listened to The Weeks, and I was actually quiet, because I had never heard this band before. Our connection to Spotify cut off as we entered Poplar, and we followed the curving roads down the mountain to Michelle’s farm: Poplar Creek Farm. As we reached the driveway we were greeted by trenches, about four feet deep. I had two comical thoughts: either there is a large rodent species inhabiting the farm as of recent, or a war had broken out, and trenching deemed a useful tactic.
Mark came out of the house, at the sound of our care engine, I suppose, with Mikey on his hip (who looked sleepy). He told us of job applications, chicken-pox outbreaks, car troubles, and finally explained the trenches being added- they were adding well water to the “big house.” He asked us how we were, and I described the tramatic experience I had just had about an hour prior. Jon and I decided to take duckies down the lower part of the Nolichucky. I thought the lower was completely tame, until I was swallowed by “radio waves” (a class three rapid), chewed, flipped and ejected from my boat, and sent tumbling down stream. I showed Mark the already-forming bruises and series of small scrapes. Jon rolled his eyes and said “she handled it terribly.” “I was terrified!” I said emphatically. He insisted that flailing my body, crying and screaming “I don’t like this!” didn’t quite suffice as safe response procedures. I shrugged, wishing to move on.
Mark went inside and emerged with two homemade strawberry-hops beers in recycled, glass bottles. I was drinking the batch I had helped make a few weeks back, and that slight notion of partial ownership made the beer taste even more spectacular. Mark took us around the garden with pails for us both to pick the wild black berries. Michelle joined us then, too, in her “homemade bee keeping” suit. It was “way cheaper,” she insisted. Jon and I fed each other berries, while picking, and soon my fingertips were stained, sweetly. About leaving the patch stark, we set off down the driveway and towards the woods. As we walked down the gravel road, we saw Grandpa Chuck in the distance, with his walking stick in hand, surrounded by his four hound dogs. He wore suspenders, a flannel shirt with a notebook in the pocket, long khaki pants, tennis shoes, and a grey cabbie hat- an attire that looked entirely too warm for early August in Tennessee. He told us the story behind his walking stick: where it was found, how long he had had it, and what hikes he had taken it on. We walked on down the road until we met the trail leading up the hillside, where he parted ways with us, back to his neighboring cottage.
On the trail grasshoppers took irregular flights, seeming to fly almost in a sideways, tilted manner. They looked like they had been thrown at us, because of the strange angles they moved in. Grasshoppers’ faces remind me of the facades of sixteen wheeled trucks one sees barreling down the highway, I thought. Chloe, the plump beagle, followed us through the trail, stopping in shallow, muddy water to eat insects. We each toted cut out milk cartons, with a fourth cut away to drop berries into. It reminded me of an Easter egg hunt, as Jon and I periodically compared our hoards of berries. Occasionally we had to duck, or step over, briars, brambles, or nettles. About an hour up the trail we came to a private, family graveyard with four grave stones all with the same last name. The family, we were told, has an estate with land, nearby Poplar Creek Farm. Mark pointed out the lack of weeds or debris around the grave-sites, as if ghosts were keeping their graves clean.
As we returned to the farm, Mark suddenly took off in a sprint and shouted “those freaking chicken!”. Eleven out of the sixteen hen were out, and the rooster had escaped as well. Their fencing was still intact, with no proof of holes or escape routes, so Mark inferred they had flown over the fence. We conversed about how to recapture the chicken, and came to the general consensus that charging was necessary. We would go after one at a time, and if that was to fail, we would run our chicken into the direction of the coop. The first tactic failed, and predator-like, I burst into a row of corn. The hen eyed me quickly, then took off into an uneven, side-to-side run. I felt unusually gangly and cumbersome in my human body, watching the chicken run between the stalks I would never fit through. Cumbersome in my hiking boots, I was a human too slow for a hen, and stood at the edge of rising corn. With a heaving chest, I began a deep, muscle-wrenching laugh. I began to laugh at the hilarity of my chasing a egg-laying bird.