An Empire (Flash Fiction)

“Someday this will all be yours,” Bob said. He rested his hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’ve worked hard for this. I’m proud to be able to hand it to you, son.”

“Yeah,” said Brian. Together, they walked.

“It’s an amazing thing,” Bob said. “It’s liberating.” The walked slowly down the dirt lane. The mid-summer sun hung above them in a harsh glare. “I know yer young and it’s hard to understand, but there’s nothing better than being your own boss.”

Brian didn’t reply. He swatted absently at the flies drawn to the sweat on the back of his neck.

“These are your workers,” Bob said, “your employees.” He pointed to the parked semi-trucks in the lot. “Take care of them. Respect them. You’ll live and die by these machines.” Bob paused and arched his aging back with multiple pops. “Yup,” he said, staring at the manure yard. “It took my whole life for me to get where I am.”

“Isn’t that true for everyone?” Brian asked.

“What’s that?”

“Doesn’t it always take your whole life to get where you are in the present?”

Bob gave him a glare. “Shutup, boy. Did yer damn teacher learn you that? Don’t talk back.”

“Yessir.”

“You need some appreciation, boy,” Bob said. “You’re walking into a gold mine, I swear it! The cows just keep shittin’ and the farmers scoop it up. They pay ya to spread the manure on their fields so they can grow their crops. Then they feed those crops to the cows so that the cows can keep on shittin!” Bob laughed and laughed. “It’s a goddamned glorious circle of life.”

Brian sighed. They continued down the dirt lane lined by piles of manure on both sides. The years of living next to those piles and deadened his ability to smell it, but he still knew the smell was there. The kids at school went out of their way to point the smell out to him.

“What’s the matter, boy?” Bob said.

Brian stopped and looked into his father’s eyes. They were haggard and worn. His face glistened with sweat. “It’s shit, Dad.”

“It’s not shit, boy.” Bob clapped him on the shoulder again. “It’s manure, and someday it’ll be all yours.”

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