By: William Faber
“I’ve always wanted to be on the cutting edge of technology,” says fifteen-year-old Zechariah Petershwim, clutching his straw hat tightly. “When I heard of these ‘ridesharing apps’ last month, I knew I’d have to act fast if I wanted to secure my place in the much talked-about Silicone Ditch.”
“You see, these applications are so new that they haven’t even truly entered the cultural lexicon yet. And it seems these days that no sooner than something's 'in,' it is 'out.' Hell, when was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Hey, can you use your mobile phone to call me an Uber?’ For me, it's never."
“It’s been tough, of course,” Petershwim continues, seeming a bit desperate to talk to someone that isn’t a brother or sister or horse. “I’m not gonna stand here and tell you it's been anything but difficult. When I first started Cloppr, I severely overestimated the number of people who had access to carrier pigeons. That’s the battle I’ve been fighting since the company’s inception.”
“Not to mention,” he goes on, apparently unaware that I brought along some questions to ask, “that I’ve actually been facing a lot of resistance, not only from the public, but from within my own family.”
He gives me a meaningful look and I nod understandingly; I have no fucking clue what he's talking about. I try to enjoy these few seconds of silence, but they’re over far too quickly.
“My father is against the whole thing. He makes me do so many chores that by the time I’ve finished chopping wood, carving wood, and furnishing wood, it’s practically eight o’clock. I’m left with hardly any time to bale the hay for Zebadiah, Ishmael, Ezekiel, Jebadiah, Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Milk Bucket, and Ephram to sleep in.”
“And that’s not even the worst of it,” Zechariah continues, as I intently begin to wonder how much my cousin makes annually as a male escort. “Father won’t even let me take out Violet, our good horse. He makes me ride Richard, our oldest horse, whose front hooves each Petershwim boy must carve.”
When Mr. Petershwim Sr. was asked to comment on this issue, he only smiled slyly and adjusted the piece of straw in his mouth. I then turned around to find Milk Bucket standing behind me. He is either younger than ten or older than sixty. I cannot tell which. Each of his limbs tells a different story.
I return to Zechariah, but there is a brief lull as the sun begins to dim on our one-sided conversation, prompting the young Mr. Petershwim to rush inside in search of a candle. He returns instead with a Tiki torch that’s clearly from Wal-Mart. I can see the sticker. It’s right there.
He starts to speak, but I interrupt him. I have to get at least one question in, or risk facing the truly hollow nature of my degree: “With all these factors working against you, what’s keeping you going in these trying times?”
“Well,” he begins, his mouth forming word shapes as I press 'record' and begin imagining an episode of Black Mirror about horses who sound German. “I’ve always had this dream, almost every night since I was 10 years old, where I’m the CEO of an absurdly tall building, one with five or even six stories. It’s wonderful; it's my future. My ma tells me not to be so prideful, but I once heard her brag to Mr. Miller about the aching fullness of her seed bags, and if that amount of pridefulness isn’t a sin, then I don’t know what is.”
I try to remind Mr. Petershwim that I’m a reporter and not a priest, or whatever they have, but he presses on.
“But then later in the dream, a blaze begins on the bottom floor when one of the torches falls over. It travels up the hardwood walls, and soon my office is engulfed in flame. My family is outside the window watching, even though I’m on the sixth floor. Milk Bucket is waving at me with the wrinkled arm. He’s smiling. Why is he smiling? I wake up in a cold sweat, the words 'Milk,' and then 'Bucket,' fresh on my lips. I look over, and he’s in the hay bale next to mine, fast asleep and smiling.”
Zechariah’s eyes are wide and wild now, and I feel a twinge of existential fear inside myself. Milk Bucket is in the doorway, watching. How long has he been there? How much time do I have left in this town which time ignored?
I begin to run. I don’t know how my legs carry me so far so fast. When I look back, all I see is a pillar of flame where the farm used to be. The same words are traced over and over on my own lips now: "Milk Bucket. Milk Bucket. Milk Bucket."
I heave a sigh of relief as I realize that I am finally free from that never-ending interview. The sudden understanding that Cloppr is no more tempers this realization, though. My car is long gone, along with Farm Petershwim. There are no Ubers out here, no buses or taxis. Only Lyfts. And so I turn around and face the flames once more.