Lightning split the dark night illuminating the barren remains of a once bustling town. Windows rattled from the rolling, consistent thunder. Rain and hail pelted against the already worn sidings of the old buildings, taking out some loose panels.
Will took a long drag on his well worn pipe. The embers glowed softly every time he took a drag. A sweet scent of earthy tobacco filled the small room in a cloud of smoke. He chuckled a little to himself as he placed a pot on the floor, collecting the dripping water from the leaky ceiling.
"Why you laughin', Will? Our house is gettin' beat to Hell over here." Kyle grunted and pulled his coat tighter. "This place is a shithole. When you gonna realize that?"
Will's younger brother never took much pride in what their dad left them. Will found it the only thing he had left. It was a small farm, not much crop output those past few years. But the cows were fed and the chickens made eggs. The two horses were getting up there in years, but Will figured they still were good. The land though, dry as a vulture picked bone in July. The first exodus from their little town came when the war started. People would squat there, steal food, and take away the pretty young girls they thought might be good wives. The squatters -- they called themselves soldiers--- started killing people who wouldn't comply. Then the Second Exodus came; the people, all except a handful, packed up and left. Will stayed. This was his home.
"I'm laughin' 'cause it's funny," Will grinned as he took another drag. "We been hopin' for rain and look what we got? From the looks of it, a full well and the ground's so soaked it looks like the creek might come back. River's floodin', but ain't no one lives there anymore. And I just planted. So got ourselves a good output, if this luck keeps up." Will walked over to their cabinet and pulled out a large, half empty bottle of whiskey. He poured Kyle a glass and put it on their roughed up table. He poured himself one and sat down on the creaky chair. "See, Kyle, y'all see one problem, and don't fix it. Then ya get upset when another problem shows up. Then all of a sudden it ain't worth fixin'. That's shit. Take some damn pride in what Dad left us. It's all we got left of him."
"All we got left!?" Kyle gulped down the whiskey. "Do you know how much money we coulda had if we just sold this place back when it was worth somethin'? We coulda gone to the east coast, Hell, maybe even Europe, found ourselves some nice girls and had kids by now. Now we're stuck in this shithole. You ain't young anymore, Will. And you spend all day in the fields on that damned old horse chasin' down a dream that ain't comin true."
Will stopped for a moment, staring into his glass pensively. Getting up, he went to a floorboard and pulled it loose. He reached inside and pulled out a large wad of cash. Tossing it to Kyle's lap he sat back down.
"Look, Kyle, all I can say is that if you want out, there's your ticket. You meet your girl. You have your kids. I ain't goin." Will sipped on his drink, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. Kyle stared at him, bewildered at the cash, he opened his mouth to speak. "Lemme finish. This is somethin' you never grasped. When somethin's old and broke, if it's still got life, you don't chain it up and leave it to die. You fix it. You make it better. You take pride. You don't let anythin' take it away, and if it tries, you fight back. You fight with everythin' you got 'cause if ya don't... well then. What do you have worth fightin' for?" He paused letting that sink in.
"My old horse ain't much to look at, true. But he works. And we'll continue fightin' as long as they continue tryin' to take what we got. Those squatters don't really stand a chance against me. Not as I still got a livin' breath. Well, take it or leave it, kid. There's your way outta here. It's your choice anyway, but I'm stayin'. I'm fightin'."
Kyle looked down. "You sound a lot like dad sometimes. " Kyle sighed and tossed the money back into the floorboard and covered it. "You know I ain't leavin' you here by yourself."
Will grinned again. "Good. 'Cause I hear there's another wave of "soldiers" comin' in tomorrow. Be a shame if they never made it."
Kyle laughed a bit. "And then we'll milk the cows, right?"
"Yeah, but we also gotta plant the tomatoes. Can't forget about that. Gotta be done tomorrow or else the whole crop goes to shit. Now, get ready. We gotta do some huntin'."