by a campbell
The spring wind had blown cold that morning, but now it was afternoon, and the air was warming up. Sunlight shone golden on the fields around the Kent farm, where green stubs of wheat were beginning to poke through the soil. Thin fluffs of white cloud dotted the blue sky overhead, and the fence around the acres of wheat had to be fixed before the spring crops progressed any further. Clark could easily have handled the job himself, but during breakfast, Jonathan had insisted on coming out to give him a hand, and neither Clark nor Martha had been able to talk him out of it..
Clark straightened up and shot his father a warning glare. Jonathan was wielding that mallet with way too much vigor for a man still recuperating from a triple-bypass. "Dad, please," he shouted across the yard. "You aren't supposed to be doing too much. You promised you wouldn't."
His father slowed to a stop and straightened up, flexing an aching hand. "Clark, if I just hang around the house watching television and repairing things for your mother, I promise you I'll be dead by next week."
"Dad!" Clark's gaze darkened with horror. "Please don't say that."
Jonathan chuckled. "Sorry, Clark. I will stop as soon as I'm tired. Swear it." He lifted the mallet again, paused, and then tossed it to the ground. "In fact, how about a break right now?" Jonathan rested an arm on the top rail of the fence, eyebrows raised, and beckoned Clark over.
Clark smiled with relief. "Okay, sure." He went to his father's side and leaned folded elbows on the fence. They stood for a few minutes looking out over the surrounding acres.
Clark shifted and glanced down. "Look, Dad. 'Mud-luscious'," He lifted one foot to show off his dirt-caked workboots. "Read that last week in a poem for class. e.e. cummings."
Jonathan chuckled. "It is that. Nice day, though. The sandhills should be through here before long on their way to Siberia ."
"Yeah, for sure." A quiet sigh followed the comment, and Jonathan waited.
"I'll go you one better. `Good fences make good neighbors'. Robert Frost. Your old man remembers a few things from high school English, too," said Jonathan proudly.
When Clark said nothing further, he continued.
"You seem glum today, Son. No, I know you are. I can feel it. What's on your mind?"
Clark hesitated before answering, "Been thinking back over the past year. Something about springtime makes me reflective, I guess." A sad, faraway smile played over his handsome features. "Last year at this time I almost burned down the barn, and we decided I should go to New York to meet Dr. Swann. Things were really heating up between Lana and me. And we were all pretty excited about the baby. Well, you guys were. Maybe I was more jealous than excited." His face darkened with a blush of shame, and he ducked his head.
Jonathan sighed and slid an arm around Clark's shoulder. "You didn't say much at the time, but...figured you had to be. You'd been our only one for so long. Would've been quite an adjustment."
"I still didn't want what happened, to happen, though."
"I know that, Son, and no one blames you." There was a pause, and silence hung heavy in the air between them. Jonathan took a deep breath.
"I mean...no one blames you, now."
Clark, listening, turned to face his father.
"Clark, that afternoon at the hospital, after the truck accident, I said some things I shouldn't have. I was upset, and you know how I get when I'm worried. I had to blame someone for what happened, so I blamed you. We didn't know at that time how badly hurt your mother was, for one thing. For another, I'm probably the only one who knew how much she'd wanted a baby for years, and what an unbelievable miracle it was that it was finally going to happen. The thought of her having her heart broken again, when it didn't have to happen...well, I had trouble coming to terms with that." Jonathan didn't meet Clark's eyes as he spoke, but kept gazing off in the distance, across the fields toward the pine forest and the distant horizon beyond.
"I know." Clark's voice was barely more than a whisper.
Jonathan's hand glided up Clark's arm, his grip tightened on his shoulder. "Son, I've always loved you, but I sure didn't like you much at that particular moment."
Clark sighed again. "I know, Dad. But nothing you said or did made me feel worse than I already felt. I didn't know you and Mom were on your way home when I went to the cellar. I thought you'd still be at the church. If I'd had any idea you were anywhere close by...God, you know I'd never have done what I did. After the accident...I was convinced I was being punished for being jealous, as well as for going against what my biological father wanted. Figured I was only getting what I deserved."
Jonathan opened his mouth to protest, but Clark shook his head, holding up a hand to stop him.
"Maybe you didn't know I went back to the hospital to see you and Mom. The door was shut, she was crying...I wanted to come in, but I was afraid to," Clark's voice was thick with unshed tears. I felt so bad...that's when I decided to leave. I sure couldn't blame either of you for not wanting me any more."
Jonathan just stood and shook his head as he leaned against the fence, shifting from one foot to the other in discomfort. Clark regarded him briefly, then went on.
"Even though you always taught me that running away never solved anything, it seemed like the only option that day. But all I did was cause more trouble. For a lot of other people, and for you."
Jonathan slowly raised his head. "It's over, Son."
"I wish it were over," Clark fumed. "I'd give anything to do back and undo what I did. If only there were some way I could make it up to you and Mom."
"Son. What's done is done, and there's no going back. Certain things just aren't meant to be, and you can blame yourself all you want, but when all is said and done, things fall out as they're meant to. All we can all do is try to do our best, and accept whatever fate throws our way."
"Sometimes it makes me sad, though, thinking of things that could have been."
Jonathan huffed. "After you left, I had a whole summer to think. About how scared you must have been. About that big, terrifying risk you took just so you could stay with us. And how I drove you away. I never even had the guts to tell your mother about what happened between us at the hospital. Just kept it all to myself.
"We've both seen a lot of things go sour over the past year. For us, and for others we know. Look at your friend, Lex. A year ago, he was planning to be married. Now, well...who knows where Helen is? And I'm sure, a year ago, he wasn't planning on having to spend weeks in Belle Reve this winter. Life is uncertain for everyone, and not just the Kents."
"I know, Dad." Clark said nothing further, but he felt a warm glow of pleasure that his father had thought to mention Lex. That was so rare.
Jonathan's response was a rueful smile. "Son, we both made mistakes. We all make them. I forgive you. Forgive me." He reached out with one hand and pulled his son into a tight embrace. "And, no matter what's happened or what will happen, I'll always be proud you're my son."
"Thanks, Dad. And believe me, there's no one I'd rather have for a father On earth, or anywhere else."
Jonathan pulled back and gave Clark a companionable slap on the shoulder. His voice was gruff when he spoke again."So, that's settled, eh?"
"Okay, Dad," Clark bent to pick up one of the posts, then straightened up as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "Know something, Dad? I feel better than I have in months."
Jonathan stretched his arms and nodded. "Know what, Clark? So do I. Just sorry it took so long for us to have this talk."
"Better late than never, Dad." Clark took a deep breath, noticing that the sun was lower in the late-afternoon sky. Their break must have lasted longer than they'd thought. "So, let's see if we can get this fence repaired before supper. Mom's making pot roast."
Clark slammed the post into place and broke into a laugh as Jonathan grinned back at him.
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