1st Place, The Antonym Creative Non-Fiction Contest (Use an ordinary word in an extraordinary way), November 2021
I believe that the beauty of art comes from a deep darkness in life. My awakening to writing began at a very early age when I got in trouble for a mischievous act of vengeance. I lived on a dairy farm with my mother, father, and younger brother Tyler. It was tucked into a valley which had been in my family for generations. Rolling green hills surrounded our home that my father had built. We had various animals such as cows, chickens, horses, and domesticated turkeys. Each animal was in its own respective pen or coop. I was around the age of four or five but I could read and write at the time. It was the early 90’s and my mother did her daily “duties” as a stay-at-home mother, raising two boys on a dairy farm. When my father would come home from working in the modular home factory all day, he expected dinner on the table. He would sit in his chair at the kitchen table and make Tyler and I stand before him and in detail explain our day. I always went first being the oldest and more often than not would receive some sort of punishment from whatever I had done that day. Tyler seeing this, usually kept quiet and did not receive a punishment or engage in any acts that could get him into trouble. As the punishments kept coming on the daily, I felt the need to act out more and so devised a plan to get back at my father for what I considered his oppression of me.
One hot summer day I was going about my business playing in the yard, pretending I was a soldier on the battlefield. It was a weekend, and my father was home doing various work around the property. My grandfather’s John Deere tractor was sitting in the open bay two-car garage getting a fresh paint job. It was built forty years prior and was due for some maintenance. As it was drying, my father left the garage and decided to go into the house for a drink. I saw this and decided to go see what he had been doing. That was when it dawned on me, I would spray paint his animals. He would never know what hit him and his precious livestock would look ridiculous in a shade of John Deere green. My father would be the laughingstock of the surrounding area thanks to me. It was the perfect revenge!
Now that I had my plan, I had to pick a target, I thought to myself that I dare not go around the horses or cows in fear that I might get trampled to death. I had too many run ins with the chickens already and did not feel like being chased, which left me with the turkeys. These turkeys were a special kind of turkey in that they were all white. I did not realize that these were not common at the time. All I knew was that they were his prized turkeys, and they had their own special pen. I ever so carefully made my way into the turkey pen, using a stick to undo the latch, took aim with my can of spray paint and began to fire. The turkeys in a flurry began to scatter about as I chased them in their tiny space of a home. After spraying half of the dozen pure white turkeys that were now green, I quickly made my way back to the garage and placed the can back on the shelf where I had found it. I left the garage just in the nick of time as my father was returning.
About an hour had passed when my mother came to Tyler and I playing in the yard. We stopped what we were doing and ran over to her.
She asked, “Boys, do you know why the turkeys are green?”
Acting shocked I replied, “The turkeys are green? They must be sick or something!”
My brother not knowing anything, stood there in silence. Little had I known but by trying to be clever, I had given myself up.
My mother then asked, “Travis, what is on your hands?”
It dawned on me that the paint had sprayed on to my hands during my paint tornado and all I could think was, I’ve been caught green handed.
“Uh I don’t know.”
“Come with me, we’re going to talk to your father.”
My stomach sank and I swear to this day that the sun went away, and the sky turned an ominous dark as I walked up the small embankment with my mother to where he was. My father always seemed like a large man to me. One of darkness and discontent for others. This was my dark space and there was no beauty to be found here. He towered over me with his eyes barely visible underneath his cap that he was issued during his time in the Marines.
“Boy, what the hell is wrong with you?” his thunderous voice clapped.
“Uhhh…I…uh don’t…”, I stammered out.
I knew the wrath was coming next, so I braced myself for impact from his mighty blow. But there was nothing. He just stared at me for a moment and in a normal tone began to speak.
“This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to write a hundred times on a piece of paper, “I will not spray paint the turkeys green.”
I was astonished! That was it? That was all I had to do? In school I particularly hadn’t cared for writing, but knew I was OK at it, as I had won a few awards for my writing. I knew I could do this in my sleep and decided to make the best of it and not let it get me down. I meticulously wrote and wrote and wrote until I had one hundred sentences on several pages of paper. I took the pages to him with pride. He looked them over to make sure my sentence was carried out and handed them back to me.
I looked up at him and said, “I think when I get older, I would like to be a journalist.”
I walked away that day with an awakening. I learned that if you look deep enough within the darkness, you will see the light.