Hanson Acres: The hard decision

Elaine was furious. “I know exactly what you’re doing.”

It was nearly midnight when Elaine and the baby got home. She carried the sleeping little girl in from the car. It had been a long day for one-year-old Jenny. Four and a half hours each way to Saskatoon and back, and a long afternoon entertaining her grandmother while Elaine went to a meeting.

Elaine was exhausted too. After she tucked Jenny into her crib, she peeked into five-year-old Connor’s bedroom. He was sound asleep. She smiled, and looked into her own bedroom. Jeff wasn’t there.

She found her husband in the living room, asleep on the couch while an infomercial hawked hair extensions on the television set. Connor’s farm toys were spread all over the floor.

Still wound up from the long drive and the stressful meeting, Elaine went to the kitchen for a glass of water. On her way, she was distracted by papers spread all over the kitchen table, and Jeff’s open laptop, still turned on and glowing in the darkness. Elaine glanced at the screen. Then she frowned. She pulled out the chair and took a seat in front of the computer and started investigating Jeff’s Internet browser history.

I probably shouldn’t look at this, she thought to herself. This is his computer. Not mine. But, we’re a family. And he knows he shouldn’t be looking at this stuff.

The more she looked at the colour photos on Jeff’s screen, the angrier she got. I wasn’t even gone a whole day, and he’s looking at this? What am I going to do?

Then she found the worst of the incriminating evidence. A name and a meeting time, scrawled on a sticky note. A meeting set for Monday afternoon, when Elaine would be busy, volunteering with Connor’s preschool.

Elaine slammed the laptop closed and went to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and paced around the kitchen as she drank it. She weighed her options, and poured herself more water. Then she went back to the living room couch. She shook Jeff awake.

“Oh, good, you’re home,” Jeff mumbled, blinking his eyes. “Sorry about the mess in here.”

“Never mind the mess,” Elaine said. “I’ve been looking at your computer. I saw your note. I know what you were doing today.”

She could see the panic in his eyes. He’d been caught.

“I’m sorry, Elaine.”

“Did you really think you could get away with this?”

“I was just looking. Nothing happened,” he said.

“Yet.”

“Elaine…”

“I know exactly what you’re doing.

Jeff was silent.

“You’re buying a second combine.”

Jeff gave up on his own defence, and tried for pity.

“It’s been a long day, looking after Connor. I’m half asleep. Could we talk about it in the morning?”

Elaine was still fuelled by fury.

“Do you even remember last year when we sat down with your parents and set out a vision for the farm?” she said.

“Well, yes,” he said. “But we agreed. We’d expand if we got the chance. And now we’ve got the chance. Ron Friesen is pulling the plug on his farm. We finally have a chance to rent those two sections of his that butt up against ours. Dad and I have been watching that land for years. I’ve been blowing snow in the Friesens’ yard after every blizzard for three years, hoping we’d get a chance to rent that land. Now we have our chance. Dad and I talked to Ron this afternoon. We’ve worked out a pretty fair price.”

“But…” Elaine started, but Jeff interrupted.

“We have two kids. Don’t you want to grow the farm?”

“That’s not why I’m mad,” Elaine said.

But Jeff was on a roll now. “You know as well as I do that we can’t farm the extra land without a second combine. There’s just not enough time. And did you forget? Our combine was down for three whole days this year. If we had a second combine, at least we’d have a chance at finishing harvest before Thanksgiving next year.”

He knew what he said was making sense, but he could see she was still angry.

“I’ve done all the math,” he said. “I’ll show you the spreadsheet, as soon as I rub all the sleep out of my eyes. It makes sense. Especially with the rent deal Ron cut us. All that snow blowing paid off. Now if we can just make a good deal with Greg on that used combine… Did you take a look at the specs? It looks perfect. Just what we need.”

But Elaine still looked mad.

“Come on Elaine. You know this is what we need to do.”

Finally, she exploded. “That’s it exactly! You keep saying ‘we!’”

Jeff was puzzled.

“I thought we were partners in this. The ‘we’ should be you and me. But it never is. It’s you and your dad.”

“But,” Jeff started, “you’ve never been that interested in machinery.”

“That’s not the point,” she said. “I’m in charge of the finances. I do all the books. I know all the numbers. And you and your dad set up a meeting with the salesman to make a huge buying decision when you know I can’t come. Would you have even told me about it if I hadn’t seen the sticky note?”

“But you weren’t here…” Jeff started lamely.

“I was gone for the day,” she said. “I wasn’t taking a six-month round-the-world cruise with no cellphone coverage. Remember the vision we made? It was about all of us making decisions together!”

“It’s not like we’ve finalized everything…” Jeff said, knowing he wasn’t really telling the truth.

“So we can just call Ron Friesen and tell him you don’t want the land after all? And cancel the meeting with Greg if we decide not to buy another combine?”

Elaine stormed off to the bathroom, to wash her face so she could go to bed.

Jeff stood in the living room, wondering what to do. He looked down at the floor, where Connor’s two combines stood in a row, ready to pick up more imaginary canola from the hardwood floor as soon as the boy jumped out of bed in the morning. Jeff followed Elaine down the hall and stood watching her from the bathroom doorway. He could see she was trying not to cry.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have waited for you. But Dad was excited. And if I thought you didn’t want to expand the farm, I wouldn’t have done it.”

“I know that,” Elaine said. “I just want to be part of things. I want your ‘we’ to be ‘you and me.’ Not ‘you and your dad.’”

“You’re right. I’ll work on it.” Jeff meant it, and Elaine could see that. Neither of them were sure if anything actually would or could change, but they could try.

“I’ll reschedule the meeting with Greg. To a time when you can come.”

“Good,” Elaine nodded.

Jeff went back to the living room to shut off the TV before he went to bed.

Elaine heard him. “What’s wrong?” she called.

“Stubbed my toe on Connor’s damn second combine,” he yelled back.

Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan.

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Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan.

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