Odd Prompts

Odd Prompts: Flash Response


For this week’s prompt, I wrote a little bit of flash fiction. 

Time’s Tractor

John Grundler was looking at the very nice Jersey calf when his granddaughter popped up at his elbow.

“Granddad, you’ve got to come look at this!”

 He startled; he hadn’t heard her coming.  To his dismay, his hearing was not what it had been when he was in his 60s. 

“It’s not far,”  She took his arm and assured him. 

“I can walk, girl.” He grumbled at her,  moving slowly in the direction that she was indicating. 

She tucked her arm under his elbow. “I know you can, granddad, you get around good for 87 years old.”

“Thank you for reminding me.” He patted her hand. “I’ve made it to this fair every year of my life.” He told her. 

He had a feeling he’d told her that before, but she had assured him that she didn’t mind hearing his stories more than once. ‘You add in details,’ She’d told him. ‘Things change. It’s like a moving picture through your eyes back into the past.’

“Where are we going?” He asked now, as they came out of the livestock barn and took a turn to the left.

“Over to look at the tractors!”

 He chuckled. The tall blonde Amazon who’d come to work with him on the farm every summer since she was too small to do more than carry a flake of hay, had come to live with him full-time two years ago after she graduated with a degree in agricultural husbandry. Her thing always had been the tractors. He didn’t mind he liked them too. That had been one of their first connections, the little peanut sitting on his lap while he drove the tractor up to do whatever needed to be done around the farm.

“What did you find this time? The latest and greatest that we need to buy?” He teased her. 

“You’ll see!” She said, grinning. 

A long row of tractors on display gleaming in the sun came into view. It was clear they had never been on anybody’s farm, but were fresh from the factory. Big machines being shown to the combine farms, and smaller ones meant for the family farmers like him. Although he was a dying breed, and felt it every morning.  She led him past the new ones in their bright greens and reds and yellows down towards the show tractors: the ones that got turned into works of art in deference to their age. 

“Check this out.” She pointed. “They’ve done a good job on it.” She slipped her hand out of his arm and he stood there with his hands on his hips, admiring the beautifully restored antique.

“Reminds me of the one that we got when I was just a boy.”

“I thought it would.”

 He said, “They did a beautiful job on it.”

 A man came out from behind the tractor then. “When you were a boy, Sir?”

“Don’t believe I was ever a boy?” John lowered his brows and growled. 

“I was just thinking it probably brings back a lot of memories for you.” The man said politely, smiling in the face of the thundercloud on John’s face. “Would you care to set up on it?”

 John’s granddaughter looked hesitant, like she didn’t think the old man should be climbing up on that high seat.  That decided it for John. 

“Sure would.” He said he moved towards the tractor with more alacrity than he shown before.  Perha[s because it was indeed bringing back memories of what he’d been like as a younger man, spry and nimble, able to jump up on that high seat without thinking about it or feeling any pain. It took him a lot longer to get up there now, but he settled into it. He reached out to touch the control levers, smiling, and as he sank into his memories a little shadow crossed his face. He started to come back down, but he didn’t get down all the way and instead stuck his head down under the seat as though he were inspecting the machinery hidden below it. 

“Granddad?” she asked, sounding concerned. 

The man stood there quietly with a small smile on his face. 

John looked at her “There’s something here… something I can’t quite put my finger on.” Then he looked at the man “Where did you come up with this anyway?”

“Was sitting in a barn, just like it never been used.”

 John cocked his head to one side, his eyes narrowing. “This isn’t a restoration.” He said bluntly.

The man’s smile never wavered. 

John pointed, “This wiring has been sitting in a barn for the last 50, 60 years?” he shook his head. “It’d all be rotted.”

“Oh, granddad they can replace everything these days.” His granddaughter looked like she was a little embarrassed at his truculence. 

John declined help to climb the rest of the way down. Off the tractor, he dusted off his hands, even though there  hadn’t been a speck of dirt on it. 

“Doesn’t smell right.”

The man’s smile widened, “Well, we didn’t anticipate this.”

John turned and looked at him hard. “Smells like the original, looks like the original, wiring in dadgum perfect shape. What is this?”

The man shrugged. “Would you believe me if I told you we thought it was a good way to disguise a Time Machine?”

 John heard his granddaughter’s gasp of indignation and anger. She thought the man was making a joke at her grandad’s expense. 

John ignored her, and nodded “Makes sense to me, who would look twice at an old tractor? No,” He held up a hand toward  the guy “I won’t ask any more questions. I know when to keep my mouth shut. Go on then girl. You’re right. I did want to see this.”

They walked away, the old man a little straighter than he had been. He wasn’t putting any weight on her supporting arm, now. He was staring straight ahead, lost in thought or memory. She wasn’t sure which, these reveries were common. And she had learned to let him wander back out on his own time. 

Footsteps came up behind them. 

“Pardon me?” The man with the tractor came around and planted himself in their path. She opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, but John snapped into focus. 

“Well?” The old man snapped. 

“Would you like to go for a ride?” The man asked, smiling and showing a dimple in one cleanshaven cheek. 

“I would.” John’s eyes sparkled. “I would indeed. No, girl, you go buy that little Jersey heifer I was looking at. I can mind my ownself.” 

He turned, letting go of her arm. “Go on, now!” He admonished her as she stood there. “I’m knowing what I’m doing. Scoot.” 

She walked away, obediently headed for the cattle barn, hearing her grandfather’s too-loud voice, deaf as he was, behind her.

“So where was that barn…?”

I was prompted by Leigh Kimmel with: “You go to the state fair, and while you’re looking at the displays by the various tractor and implement companies, you spy an antique tractor, in perfect condition. As you look closer, you realize it’s not a meticulous restoration. It’s brand new.” 

The prompt led to a lively discussion with the First Reader about how you could even tell such a thing, and this little piece came out of that. 

I prompted Fiona Grey with: “The puppies jockeyed for position, finally ending up whirling around the bowl like a small furry turbine.” 

You can see their responses, and more, at More Odds Than Ends. We’re headed into week 48 of Odd Prompts! Join in the fun, you’ll find instructions there as well. 


4 thoughts on “Odd Prompts: Flash Response

  1. Another *LIKE*.
    Now I ponder… which old tractor?
    An old but common Deere? Minneapolis-Moline? A Rumely Oil Pull? (it ran on ‘oil’ and it pulled…)

    I used to enjoy the antique Steam & Gas engine show in Edgar, WI (before moving, etc.). Hit & Miss engines. Ancient steam machinery (a 12 Hp steam tractor is HUGE… and impressive being *that high* a Hp. Sure, locomotive did more… but were BIGGER.. and… well how many horrific explosions?) And there’s something about steam… I think it’s the *IDEA* that’s comprehensible – never mind that steam ‘quality’ (how much is water, how much is vapor) makes AC phase shifts seem _trivial_. It *LOOKS* like anyone can, with a little study, learn it. Reality: Steam is a predator – you are prey.

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