Life on the Acres (Anna, Farmer #1)

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The day was cool and cloudy. Wind rushed through the bare trees. It was a quiet Saturday, and Anna was certain today was the day. What day, exactly, she did not know but she was nevertheless certain it was this day. Brushing her hair with her old and mangled brush, Anna tiptoed down the stairs and, as usual, ran towards the barn.

 The barn was looking particularly wilted today, so Anna took a moment to tell it what a nice job it was doing standing up. This seemed to satisfy the exhausted thing, and it stood up a little straighter. At least, to Anna.

However, amid these usual things, Anna quickly noticed something different- Florence, the old pig, was squealing in pain. As I mentioned, Anna was a very clever, responsible little girl and recognized a pig in labor when she saw it.

Very delicately adjusting her overalls, Anna rushed back home where she bellowed as loud as she could muster- “Daddy? Daddy! Florence is giving birth!”

Her words were followed by a decidedly slow Clomp! Clomp! down the stairs and her father gazed warily at her, adjusting his broad-rimmed glasses.  “Anna, I’m in the midst of an extremely fascinating webinar. Can’t this wait?” Evidently, he had not paid much mind to Anna’s words. She took no offense to this.

“No,” Anna said in a decisive tone. “Florence is having piglets, Daddy.”

Thomas McDermott’s eyes lit up like a cheap, cost-effective Christmas tree. “Already? This could mean higher production rates and distribution expansion!”

Anna had no idea what her father had just said, and quite frankly, did not particularly care. She was used to such unreasonably uninteresting outbursts and had long since gleaned that ignoring them was usually the best course of action.

Herding her father over to the barn, they immediately set to work assisting Florence in her pain. At first, Anna was admittedly worried… she was an elementary schooler decidedly unfit to practice medicine, and her father was, for lack of a better word, something of an unsympathetic man. It was lucky, therefore, that the father and daughter were joined in a matter of moments by the two farmhands, Benjamin Barrows, and Jerry Jones. Jerry and Ben (as her father insisted she call them, for fear of a lawsuit) quickly took control of the situation, putting young Anna’s mind at ease.

Throughout this operation, Anna was, as always a helpful little girl, and very shortly, she watched as the piglets were born. There were seven of them in total, and Anna was very pleased with Florence as they all seemed healthy and happy. Her father however, seemed rather worried. He kept on studying the middle-born piglet, who was the smallest of them all.

Finally her father straightened up, and said in a commanding tone. “They are all satisfying and will make wonderful bacon, except for the middle one, who is too small and will not produce sufficient meat.”

Anna sighed in her unique way, which did not make it seem as if she was angry or dejected, simply forlorn that the proper decision had not been reached. “All right… may I have the piglet then?”

Her father stopped sharpening his axe and turned to look at her in a queer way. “Why would you want a piglet, much less that one? It would be merciful to end its life now, its siblings will probably prevent the runt from getting a drop of milk.”

Anna turned to look at the runt, who was gazing at the axe in a queasy fashion. “But Daddy, we have no idea if she’ll be able to survive. It would be unfair to kill her without giving her a chance.”

The piglet nodded vigorously, but Anna’s father did not seem to notice. “Are you sure you want this, Anna?”

“Yes Daddy.” Anna said solemnly, picking up the relieved piglet. “I will be a responsible ward to this piglet. Oinky will be very happy and I will ensure she receives a world-class education so she is better prepared for the quickly shifting global economy.” She had added the last bit for her father’s benefit, as she knew he valued these things very much.

“Oinky?” Anna’s father repeated, before sighing and shaking his head. He had grown used to such discourse from Anna, and rarely had the time or energy to deal with it. Patting his daughter lightly on the head, Thomas headed promptly back up to the farmhouse, leaving Anna alone with the very messy Jerry and Ben.

“Thank you for your help, Anna,” Ben told Anna kindly as she assisted them in returning the barn to order. Benjamin was midway through college, tall, lithe, and very relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. His baggy flannels and jeans hid very strong arms and legs made powerful by long days on the Acres. Anna appreciated these muscles very much, for they permitted Benjamin to lift her into the air so she could stretch her arms as high as possible and pretend that her fingertips were brushing up against the clouds.

At his companion’s words, Jerry let out an exaggerated sigh. “You’re wasting your time with that piglet, you know,” he told Anna, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she did not care very much for his opinion. Jerry was younger, shorter, and thicker, and Anna did not like him nearly as much. She had heard that high schoolers were ordinarily angst-ridden, but Anna could not help but feel that this did not excuse the farmhand’s aggressive and abrasive behavior. She had, on many occasions, attempted to extend an olive branch by offering to look past these obvious flaws to befriend Jerry anyway, For whatever reason, these comments infuriated Jerry more.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Jerry continued, this previous discord forgotten. “You do understand what is going to happen to all of these pigs eventually anyway, right?” At this, Ben shot Jerry a warning look.

Anna did, in fact, understand that all of her animal friends were to be eventually slaughtered, cured, sold, and eaten, and had silently devised a complex, multifaceted plan to eventually free them from this fate without jeopardizing the Acres. The plan was complex because Anna had yet to actually develop it, and it was multifaceted because Anna had become aware that “multifaceted” meant something similar to “complex”.

“Really, Anna, we’re good here,” Ben’s face twisted into a peculiar expression as he attempted to both smile at the young girl and glare at his companion. “Ben and I can finish up. Why don’t you get ready for school and wait for Jake Jackson to pick up his grain for the week?”

Anna nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Although it may take me longer than usual as I am now a pig’s legal guardian.”

“You aren’t her legal guardian,” Jerry pointed out.

“How do you know, Jerry?” Anna tilted her head coolly. “Are you well-versed in pig law?”

Jerry scoffed. “There is no such thing.”

“Maybe not,” Anna shrugged. “So there is really nothing preventing me from becoming the legal guardian of a piglet, is there?”

Jerry felt certain that this logic was incorrect somehow but was unable to articulate his thoughts beyond a frustrated grunt. The farmhand glared at Anna and resumed his work as Ben stifled a laugh. Undeterred, Anna picked up Oinky, snuggled her new friend tight, and skipped out the barn door to begin her day.

 

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