In The Summertime

by ingrid



The halcyon days of August had come to Smallville and not a moment too soon.

Jonathan Kent spent the better part of thirty years dreading the month, with its stale, dirt-smoked heat, endless work preparing for harvest and the nights that pulsed with a sluggish beat, reminiscent of a dying man's breath.

Summer was the cruelest season to the farmer, August being the most sadistic of its months. Every day meant a tremulous walk to the fields where he'd spend hours muttering curses as dead crops, sometimes entire fields of them, crumbled between his aching fingers. So close, yet so far away was harvest and if the thundering rains didn't come soon ...

But today, Jonathan Kent was determined to enjoy summer.

The route of his morning walk changed dramatically. It was straight to the cellar where behind his family's secrets lay a box of his son's old playthings. Included in them was the summertime fun, its contents now dusty and mostly forgotten by his boy of sixteen.

His precious boy, Clark. Still sweet now, even sweeter then when he'd leap and squeak like a baby frog around this very box, knowing what was coming. The inflatable pool, covered with laughing fish, which would be methodically examined and unfolded with a precision that would make NASA proud.

Blowing it up was a labor of love, one that left Jonathan red in the face for hours afterwards. Clark would watch his huffing and puffing, those comic gasps for air, encouraging him with claps and jumps for every inch gained against the plastic. It would soon outgrow his lap, turning into an unwieldy behemoth, taut and ready for filling with lukewarm hose water.

He chuckled at the memory, then pulled down the bicycle pump. Old men needed all the air they could grab.

The inflating went quickly this time. He was surprised to see how well the thing had survived the years, considering Clark's rough treatment of it as he grew older. Not rough on purpose, no, never like that, just the normal wear and tear suffered by all the things Clark loved too much.

Jonathan whistled while he filled the pool as the garden hose uncoiled like a snake around his ankles. Cool water, the farm's life blood and he couldn't recall how many emergency drought ordinances he was breaking by letting gallon after gallon pour out so frivolously.

Whatever. He'd dump it on the garden afterwards where Martha's sunflowers were just about to burst forth.

He examined the flower garden, his wife's third great love after Clark and himself. Such colorful, wild beauty; it was a compliment to the endless dull acres he'd tended for most of his life. Rather like the woman herself, the girl who could have done so much better but chose him instead -- Beauty and the Boring.

The pool was close to overflowing so he turned off the hose. Strode back into the house and emerged fully armed for a party of one. Radio, check. Swim shorts, got it. Cooler of beers, without a doubt. Tapes of music to scorch by, yep.

A big ball full of lazy, you betcha.

Everything was set up carefully. He dipped his toe into the water with exaggerated caution. Cool, not freezing .... perfect. With a groan he slid down, the plastic squeaking beneath his weight yet still holding up. He'd have to write a letter to the manufacturers someday; they made a quality product.

He settled back beneath the blazing sun, crossing his ankles over the pool's soft edge. Water lapped beneath his back and the beer slid down his throat very nicely. On the radio some old rock tune played and Ray Davies sang dolefully about the pains of fortune's reversals.

Jonathan nodded in time to the song, not drunk enough yet to sing along. Maybe in a few more beers.

The sun was really blazing now. He regretted for a second the lack of sunscreen on his nose, then had to laugh. His skin had been burnt to a football-like consistency from the time he was twelve, why get vain now? Martha always bugged him about skin cancer, about the pain of having bits of you chopped off and thrown away piece by agonizing piece, but he already knew all about that.

Clark never got sunburned. He was naturally olive-toned, with beautiful soft skin that never turned rough or dry. A handsome boy, kind and good, and he was going to go places, that fine son of his. Places Jonathan only visited once or twice in his life, but his Clark was going to make it wherever he went.

Metropolis, probably. Maybe St. Louis or even New York. He'd get his education, make his way through this hard world and Jonathan drank away the twinge of fear that curled through his belly at the thought of Clark being left on his own.

He'd had dreams once, selfish ones of trapping Clark on the farm, through guilt or guile. Keeping him as his father had kept him, chained to the whims of fickle weather and even fickler fortune.

But Jonathan Kent loved his son. He wasn't going to do that to him.

Even if he could have.

The radio signal turned scratchy. Jonathan grumbled then smacked it with a wet fist. The station changed over to something country and he closed his eyes until everything turned into hot pink spots behind his burning eyelids. There was something to be said for being lazy, he thought, the skin of his hands pruning just enough to be uncomfortable.

He sighed, shifted and reached for another beer. Popped it open and picked up the letter he'd ripped in half upon receiving it early that morning. Held the pieces together with wet fingers and its bold letters darkened beneath the dripping water.

"NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE, KENT ORGANIC FARMS."

He stared at the words then let the lone summer breeze carry the bits away where they tore and flapped against the long-dead stalks. Somewhere Tennessee Williams was singing about hard times, but that was a song from a lifetime ago, when Jonathan Kent was his father's son.

Jonathan Kent was something else now. A father to a man who was going to be everything he couldn't be, everything he could wish for, all of summertime's hopes and dreams blazing brighter than an August sun at noon.

Bright like an arrow through the sky.



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