Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow,
The cow’s in the corn;
But where is the boy
Who looks after the sheep?
He’s under a haycock,
Will you wake him?
No, not I,
For if I do,
He’s sure to cry.
Hank was seated in the corner of the bar, having a loud discussion with some other farmers. Troy was about to back out of the bar again when Hank saw him. “Oi, Jake, come over here kid.” He waved Troy over.
Troy slowly walked closer, “I’m done with the crates, Sir.” He said with a tired smile.
“Great!” Hank laughed.
“You had this scrawny kid do your job, while you sat here getting drunk – Hank?” One of the others at the table laughed, “The least you can do, you lazy bastard, is to give the kid a drink.”
“True.” Hank laughed and placed a money note in the man who had spoken’s hand, “You go get him one.” – Troy just stood there and waited, not sure he was out of the woods just yet. The man returned with a bottle of beer for Troy. “Alright kid.” Hank said raising his bottle, “If you can drink that in one go, I will give you another, and some money to spend on your little girlfriend over there.” He nodded at Penny who stood awkwardly just inside the door to the outside.
Troy was about to argue, but could see the challenge in Hank’s eyes, so he just put the bottle to his lips, drinking the beer in one go, almost choking. As he put the empty bottle down, he had to hold on to the table, and burp. “That’s the spirit son.” Hank cheered, leaning in over the table and placing some money in Troy’s hand, and as he did, Hank grabbed Troy’s wrist and held it hard enough to bruise. “Remember, keep your fucking mouth shut, and your hands to yourself, you don’t want any trouble. and we leave in a couple of hours.”
“Promise, Sir.” Troy said with a skittish smile, before he straightened up and walked out of the bar, his steps slightly unsteady.
“Uhm.” Troy shrugged, “I don’t know.” Scratching his cheek he laughed a little nervously, he couldn’t exactly tell her that he had never been at a town fest, not really. If he had, he had been ‘working’, and had had an agenda with hanging around. But to go just for fun? No never.
“Are you hungry?” Penny asked.
“Yeah.” Troy said, opening his hand still clutching to the money Hank gave him “I think there might be enough.” He mumbled.
“It’s okay, I have some.” She patted her pocket, and then to Troy’s surprise she took his hand, not for any other reason but to hold it as they walked down the road. Troy felt heat rise to his cheeks, which was absolutely ridiculous! He probably knew more about what went on behind closed doors, than she ever would. And still the innocence of the gesture had him all knotted up inside. She didn’t demand anything of him, didn’t have any expectations, didn’t have guidelines and rules to abide by. She just held his hand because she felt like it. “Something wrong?” Penny asked sweetly.
“No..” Troy said, trying to sound more confident than he felt.
Penny had let go of his hand before they had made it to the marketplace, and the first thing that went through Troy’s mind as they made it to the heart of the festival, was what the hell he had been thinking going there in first place? He stepped backwards and looked at the town folk, instantly he noticed a bunch of children whom he knew would be worth a damn lot, but it would probably be real hard to get them out on their own. What the fuck was he thinking? He was here for Penny, not for Jack. He turned his head and looked at Penny who stood with her soda cup and tapped her foot to the music. He felt a little bad that he didn’t know how to dance to that cowboy crap, because at least she would get to have fun. He could tell that she was itching to dance, but no one would ask her to join as long as she hovered in the shadow with him, well maybe no one would ask her at all.
“Wanna dance?” Penny finally asked.
“I am the worst dancer ever.” He lied with a little smile, taking a sip of his own soda. Was this what kids did here? Suddenly Penny elbowed him, he looked up and saw a trio of girls his own age coming towards them.
“He’s not my boyfriend.” Penny said with a sigh.
Madison was already bored with Penny and turned her attention to Troy. “What shithole did you crawl up from?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Troy said, taking a sip of his soda.
“I would, because if it smells anything like you, I wouldn’t want to go within ten feet of it.” Madison said, ignoring her friends giggling behind her. “Have you never heard of soap and water? Are you fucking retarded or something?” Madison shook her head amused, “Guess that is the only date Piggy will ever get.”
Madison stared at Troy, who just stared back at her.
“Jake, let’s just leave.” Penny said, taking his hand again, hauling him off. Once around the booth, she let go of him. “I’m sorry it’s just.. there’s no winning with those girls.”
“Jake, you’re from the city, right?” Penny asked.
“Yeah..” He didn’t really know ‘what’ city that was supposed to be, but ‘a’ city would be pretty safe to assume.
“You don’t have town festivals like this?” She asked, grinning embarrassed. “You must think we’re all a bunch of hicks here.”
“No, no..” Troy started on defending himself and then chuckled, “Yeah pretty much.”
“Jerk.” Penny grinned.
When they returned to pick up Hank, it turned out he was passed out in the bar, and would not be going anywhere tonight, Troy sighed, resigning himself to a cold night on the tip of the truck. Penny was waiting for him outside the bar, not really surprised to see him come out alone. “So..” Troy said, running a hand through his hair. “It was – ” He searched his brain for the right word, fun? no, not exactly. “Really nice, thank you for sticking it out with me. And – I’m sorry you didn’t get to dance.” He smiled a tired boyish smile that never reached his eyes. “Maybe next year you’ll have a date that can actually dance.”
“Goodnight Penny.” Troy said, unsure of what to do, was this a date? was he expected to kiss her? That just seemed wrong. What then? She looked like she was waiting for something. “So.. yeah, goodnight.” Troy placed a friendly hand on her shoulder before he brushed past her and walked towards the truck.
Troy turned around, and watched her with mild surprise.
“Where you going? You know the way home up those dirt roads?”
“No.” Troy said, “I’m gonna stay here and get a lift with Hank when he wakes.”
“That’ll be really, really cold..” She shook her head, “No, what about I follow you home?”
Penny shook her head again, “Come on, I won’t bite.” She chuckled and held out her hand to him.
Troy hesitantly ignored the hand, but walked by her side away from the town and the lights.
As they walked home over the dark gravel roads, Penny took his hand again, and this time Troy was more ready for it, so he even shot her a smile. “I really had a wonderful time.” Penny said softly as they stopped at the crossroads.
“Me too.” Troy said, and to his surprise he really meant it. He couldn’t remember a time he had laughed that much. He had even joked with Deputy Adams as they met him. A sour taste haunted the back of his mouth, because he knew this was what he had been trained for, this was what he was good at. Playing polite, pretending to be interested. Joking and false empathy was easy, exept he had no reason what so ever to fake it. Penny liked him, not that he understood why, he didn’t have anything to offer her.
“A nurse?” Troy smiled amused, “I can see that.”
“What about you? What do you want to be when you grow up?” She asked casually.
“Uhm..” Troy chewed his lip, “I don’t know.”
“You gotta have a plan!” Penny said clearly impersonating someone that Troy didn’t know, and therefore the joke was lost on him. Penny laughed, “He is right though, everyone should have a plan. Don’t you ever dream about what you’re gonna do when you are old enough to get the fuck out and do your own thing?”
Troy’s mind raced, should he tell her the truth or should he come up with a convenient lie? He turned his head slightly and looked at her in the dark, her happy smile and the bounce in her step. “I don’t know… I suppose that I never thought about it.”
Penny giggled, thinking that Troy was just being funny. “Hmm.” She stopped and studied him from top to toe. “A firefighter maybe?”
“I know! I know! A librarian? It’s those broad shoulders that does it!” Penny laughed.
Troy pretend punched her on her shoulder, “Fuck you very much!” He chuckled.
Penny rubbed her arm and started walking again while she giggled. “Yanno,” She said sobering from her giggle fit, “Maybe I’ll even find a dashingly handsome man one day, and get married.” Flashing Troy a toothy grin she continued, “Not like these girls here, pregnant and married at 17.”
Troy just nodded, listening. He liked just listening to her dreams of the future. It was a completely alien concept for him. He never had given it thought, it was rare that he could even foresee what the day would end with, much less where he would be in years from now.. Him as an adult, the thought was ridiculous. But never the less true, it would happen eventually, wouldn’t it?
“What about you?” Penny asked, “Do you wanna get married and have kids? Settle down in a nice apartment maybe? I don’t assume that you want to leave the city for good, as in ever.”
“Uhm.” Troy replied with a goofy expression. “No I don’t think so.”
“Really?” Penny was intrigued. “Maybe you really are a firefighter?” She winked in the dark.
Troy turned his head away from Penny, and he kicked a small rock on the road out into the field. “Love and all that shit, that is only real in movies, Penny.” He took a deep breath and frowned with determination, “I am never getting married, and I am sure as shit never having any kids.”
Finally Troy turned to look at Penny again, “You didn’t upset me, it’s just -” He smiled disarming, “I want to do ‘something’ like maybe travel?” Inwardly he kicked himself for the slip up of something real and raw, and on the other hand he congratulated himself on the smooth save.
“Like to foreign countries?” Penny asked.
“Yeah.” Troy said, hating to lie to her trusting face.
“That is so cool.” Penny said dreamily.