The Free Farm: A Novel
The Free Farm: A Novel...treats a working-class couple who make their way onto a university campus and then a co-operative commune in the late 1960s. It's a coming-of-age novel and a love story.
From Chapter One
Saturday comes, and I am wearing a white shirt and thin black tie, like I am going to a hip church or something. I show up at her house early at 6:45. We are to walk the couple blocks to the dance. It is raining lightly, so I carry an umbrella with me…Mom’s idea. She’s come around some. This is all new to me, but I drink up the specialness of it and feel it in my gut. Sharon’s old man isn’t home, and so her little brother opens the door. Inside are her sisters sitting on the couch and the old lounge chair. A general giggle goes about the room as I wait, and finally Sharon comes down the stairs in a blue flowered dress that just about breaks my heart. Her mom comes out of the kitchen wearing an apron, and with a cup of coffee in her hand. “Now you two have a good time,” she says, blessing us amidst the stares. “And be nice…okay, Lee?” She knows my name; they’ve been discussing me. Outside, alone in the misty rain, I no longer hear the mill roar, just the touch of her voice, “Oh, watch your step, Lee,” as we go down the broken walkway. At the sidewalk, I open the umbrella over her and she holds my arm as we stroll towards the church, like a scene right out of a movie. From time to time I can feel her soft breast against my arm. I glide on air that night, even as we box step around the posts in that room. Mrs. Smith has decorated the place with some rainbow crape paper, and at one point actually dims the lights a little. My brother Dave is playing DJ for the night, spinning 45s from home. And when he plays “This I Swear” and I hold Sharon closer, I realize I have never felt any girl’s lower back before. I start to sweat a little, but she is light on her feet yet real and smooth, not like the bouncy girls from gym class, or the ones with heavy legs. Later we bop and even bunny hop, and do the hokey pokey and laugh. We talk about little things—other kids and school. She loves Mrs. Z’s class too, and we both recite the poems we’ve written. I get her punch and look back to drink her in. I could live on this planet with her a thousand years, but at 9 o’clock, Dave announces, “This is the last dance,” and we hold each other close, her head on my shoulder…the sweet smell of her soft hair, her body swaying slowly with mine. I close my eyes. I want to be 21 and propose, then take her out of that house to our place in the country near a woods. We walk home in silence. The rain has stopped. Outside her house I hold her hand a speechless moment, then say, “Thanks, Sharon,” and she, “I had a great time, Lee.” I float home and go right upstairs to crawl under the cover to dream of her.