Whitey

Debbie Stanton | Stories

WHITEY

by

Debbie Stanton

 

Mack Fibers, a middle-aged man, worked for his town’s Chamber of Commerce. When he received word of the fire that ate up farmers’ fields on the outskirts of town, his heart broke in half.

He loved Edgefield, so much so he came back to it when he got out of college. His parents weren’t farmers, but it was the farmers who held the area together. They welcomed newcomers with open arms and planned lots of activities over the years. They raised awareness and also goodwill. If someone was in need, help was always available.

This year was no different, when so many fires consumed forests and other places in California.

“Mack, my teams finally got the fires out, but now we don’t have a corn maze for the festival coming up. What should we do?” Mack’s friend Joe said.

“I’m thankful you got everything under control, but I agree, you have quite the problematic scenario there. I’ll get you an answer soon—I promise,” Mack said.

When Mack hung up the phone, he scolded himself for making a promise he might not be able to keep. But the urgency was real, and he couldn’t waste time fretting. No—he had to act.

—–

Marge Fibers had a big decision to make. That made her decide to hike over to the lake with a lunch-filled backpack. Ah, she said as she sat on her favorite bench. Just look at the lake, old girl, and you’ll know what to do.

Marge brought out the food from her pack, which included peanuts for the squirrels who always came by to visit. Sure enough, six squirrels were happy to play beggars, some of them sitting up like tiny dogs. The albino squirrel, the only squirrel who ever ate out of Marge’s hand, arrived too.

After all the squirrels except the white one ate, then left, Marge sighed. “What do you think, Whitey? Being the heir of an estate is a big job. Is it finally time to share the farm my dad owned?” Whitey chattered in Squirrelese what Marge thought to be a long answer.

“All righty then, I should reveal my secret,” Marge told Whitey.  She admired the view from her bench as she ate her

photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

lunch. The mist over the lake was still there, even though it was lunchtime. That’s strange, she thought. At least the leaves on the other shore are pretty. Too bad the colors are so muted this year.

 This bench had helped Marge through many dark days when her husband, Jeff, died. Maybe its close proximity to the lake was the reason.

Whitey still sat on the bench fairly close to Marge. He, too, seemed to be in deep thought. However, when someone parked their car and ran up to Marge, Whitey scampered off.

 

“Mom! Thank God you’re here. I had a feeling you would be when I couldn’t find you at home,” Mack said.

“I’m that predictable, huh?” Marge said, but she already knew.

“Mom, we’re in a bind,” he said, ignoring her question. “The festival won’t be able to have its corn maze this year unless we can think of something else. Would you happen to know of a farm that could host the maze?”

Here was the opportunity Jeff had mentioned to her. When the will for Marge’s dad was read four years ago, Marge told Jeff she wanted to keep that secret until she could decide its fate. Jeff agreed and arranged for workers to farm the land until long-term arrangements could be made. They never told even Mack what had happened.

In Whitey’s presence earlier, Marge thought back to how loving the town had been when Mack was going through childhood leukemia. The town needed the farm for occasions such as the festival, and its produce could feed many hungry people. The time to give back arrived.

“I do indeed,” Marge said. “But let’s finish up my lunch first.” Mack shrugged and accepted an apple from Marge. Whitey returned and even begged from Mack. As long as Whitey was in Marge’s orbit, he felt safe.

Soon they stood up and packed up Marge’s backpack. “Take me on a drive, Mack,” his mother said.

—–

Twenty miles later, they reached a beautiful farm. The outstanding feature of the farm were the miles of corn edging up to the side of the road.

“Whose farm is this?” Mack asked. “It’s beautiful!”

“It’s mine, dear,” Marge said. “Grandpa gave it to me, and your dad and I had the impression we’d save it for someone who needed it. Whitey helped me to figure it out today at the lake.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Mack said. “That funny little albino squirrel helped you to make a major decision?”

“Indeed. I got to thinking about the farm today and watched Whitey. Here he was, teased and taunted by the other squirrels for being different. But he had the courage to sit with this big ol’ human and take his chances that I wouldn’t hurt him because he was different,” Marge said proudly.

Marge didn’t know if she was proudest of Whitey or of herself for wanting to share.

“That’s really great, Mom,” Mack said. “But—that’s a lot of land to share. You have a big heart, that’s true, but I don’t want you taken advantage of.”

“Thank you, but I won’t be. It’s my honor to appreciate the people who helped me through your leukemia.”

Mack pondered that. “How much did they help? That was so long ago, I don’t remember.”

Marge cleared her throat. “They could’ve worried we’d take advantage of them. But they raised all the money we needed for your care. You have them to thank for your life.”

“Wow,” Mack said slowly. “I do…do you want the corn maze to be here, then?”

“Yes. But you have to figure out how to make the maze. I’d be no good at that.” Marge looked at him with a question in her eyes.

“No problem, Mom,” Mack said. “Remember Joe’s dad? He’s a farmer who used to plow the mazes.”

“Perfect,” Marge sighed. “Now the land can come full circle.”

Weeks later, the best corn maze they ever saw hosted the townspeople, and the earth gave its harvest to those needing a helping hand.

 

Words: 1,051

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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