Value What You Get

Áron Antal

I have been sitting here for more than two hours. Some modern music blasted in the background, people were talking to each other, some were sitting around me in the living room. I was staring into the abyss of the striped grayish white carpet on the floor, while holding a can of beer, my fourth or fifth along with countless shots, I couldn’t remember.My childhood was on my mind.

….oh my God, why don’t you leave that fool, you deserve better….

I was at my grandparents’ house. I remembered playing in the garden with my sister. I was frustrated because I hadn’t seen my dad for weeks.

All of a sudden my mind switched back and realized that staring at a carpet while people are talking around me is kind of rude, so I raised my gaze.

– How drunk are you? – asked Samantha. Her high-pitched voice was like a police siren screaming in your ear. I didn’t even know why I had been sitting around the girls. I wasn’t even remotely interested in any of them. I wasn’t even sure what on earth I was doing here or why I had come.

– Let me assure you that I am not  – I said, stood up, took a last glance at the grey carpet on the floor and walked towards the kitchen.

George was creating some sort of abomination out of whiskey, tequila and rum. I stared at it in disgust, but my stomach was made of steel. Greg’s wasn’t, because as soon as he drank up that fence ripper, he threw up. Loud cheering followed, and Greg received a pat on the shoulder from Mary, and an F for effort.

– Who will come to the next party on Friday? – asked Jack, half drunk, from among the crowd.

– Meee, Weee!- shouted everyone; everyone except me.

– Come on man, why not? Don’t tell me it’s a bad party!

– It’s not that, Jack. I have to work starting next week.

– Pfht! – he said and made a sluggish movement with his arm, denying the sentence I just told him, in the effort of which he knocked over a shot glass that shattered on the floor. He stared at the shards for twelve seconds, tried to walk over them, which resulted in him stepping into them, and held me by my shoulder.

– Your father can’t be so cruel as not to let you come.

– He wouldn’t be. I don’t want to come. I wouldn’t have the time and energy, and couldn’t be in proper shape for the next day.

– Then you are just a wuss! Ahhaha!

– Yeah, go to hell then!

He stood there laughing, still standing in the shotglass he knocked over as I walked out to the street and directed myself towards home, still holding that can of now piss-warm beer, drinking from it on my way.

The day arrived when I had to work during the summer break. My alarm clock rang at 6 a.m. I got up so rapidly from my bed in excitement that I left my blood pressure under the blanket, so I had to sit back down for a moment. My father was already up, and after half an hour of gathering, we sat in the pickup and drove out of town to the ranch. The morning attendance meeting started at 7.

I shook hands with all the workers who were there, and with all the others who came in late.

– One sugar and milk right? – asked Anita, the measurement facility’s operator.

–Yes, please – I answered.

By the time my well-awaited coffee was ready, the instructions were given out. I was tasked to prepare my tractor and wagon by 9 a.m., and then go out on the back gate, turn right, then turn left and go until I saw the harvesting machines. Today was the first day of harvest.

I drank my coffee like a shot of whiskey, and walked through the ranch to where my tractor and wagon were parked. I drove the Old Lady, the 1993 John Deere 7600, which had a 40 speed gearbox (20 forward, 20 backwards) that could be operated with two gear levers. It was an art to drive this beast. Last year I had a 2017 John Deere 7230R, with a 40 speed automatic, but I hated the on-board computer and the fact that everything was electronic. That’s why I asked specifically to work with the Old Lady.

I did what always had to be done: checked the oil and coolant level, the pneumatic and hydraulic hoses, the wagon attachment, and the connectors of the hydraulic cables and brake valves. I also brushed out the interior. When I looked at my watch, it was 8:56, so I was ready to start. I sat in the seat, pulled the steering wheel up against me, and turned the ignition key. The engine started after two seconds of cranking, shooting a cloud of soot up to its white cousins. After the air pressure reached 4.5 bar, I put the main gear lever in B, and pulled the second gear lever from Park to Neutral then into the fourth gear forward, and left the ranch.

It was midday, the June sun was scorching the surface of the earth, and by that time, there were no clouds to at least ease the heat.

I just had my lunch, which was pasta with cottage cheese and a hint of wheat stalk. I put it out on the hood of the tractor with the hope that it would heat it up, because I had picked it up from the fridge the second time I went back to the ranch with a full wagon. Unfortunately, as it was working in the sun, and I fell asleep because two tractor were ahead of me, one of the harvesting machines passed by, covering me and my lunch in dust and straw.

After an hour it was my turn finally, and after relieving three harvesting machines of eight tonnes of wheat each, I headed back.

This went on until 8:30 p.m., when after arriving with my final delivery, I could go home.

On my way home, I asked my dad to stop for a minute, because I wanted to have an ice cream to crown the day.

And to my suprise, Jack was there, with another guy and three girls, all of them dressed up in fancy clothes, and expensive ones at that. I was approaching them in a torn shirt covered in dust and sweat.

– Ay man, how’s work going? – he asked.

– Fine, I guess.

– You look like crap, maybe you should just quit – said Jack, and all of them giggled.

– Yeah, this is so lame, working all day. I can tell you I wouldn’t even talk to a guy who is not available for me the whole time – said one of the girls.

I took my ice cream, paid the guy, turned toward them, smiled, and said:

– All of you are worthless.

Jack hopped up at the instant I finished the sentence, and tried to hit me in the face. The outcome of this event was that I hit him in the nose as he changed his mind after I sent my arm toward his face before he could hit me.

I think it goes without a saying that after this incident I was never again invited to his parties, which I will not miss. I realized that with hard work, you can make a difference, which you can’t do by just wearing expensive clothes and drinking your mind away.