Friday, July 10, 2015

Seventeen by Shanna Hatfield

Do you remember the summer you were seventeen?

Was it full of wonder, excitement and sweet experiences? Do you have fond memories of those golden days of your youth? Did you have a special boy who made your young heart pitter-patter?

Over the years, I've heard from a variety of sources that the summer you are seventeen is supposed to be the most magical time of your life. 

Apparently, someone forgot to tell me that when I turned seventeen so I could make appropriate plans.  The summer I was seventeen, I'd just graduated from high school and had three months of heat, drudgery and hard work ahead of me on my parents' farm before I started college that fall.

My seventeenth summer did not include any fun trips with friends, no carefree gatherings of youth, and no exciting adult-free rendezvous with cute boys - with any boys for that matter. 

Up until about July, the most excitement I had was the morning Dad turned the dogs loose in my bedroom because I’d slept past six on a morning he needed help haying. There’s nothing like a thirty-pound mutt that’s rolled in something dead then gnawed on it lapping at your face to get you going in the morning.  

Oh, and I got a new pair of ugly green boots. If you can't conceive why this would be a point of jubilation, try irrigating in a pair that leaks. 

A few days after the Fourth of July, I'd just walked in the door one evening after irrigating when the phone rang. I attempted to sluice the worst of the mud and grime off my hands in Mom's clean kitchen sink when she bustled in and announced there was a boy on the phone asking for me.

It must be clearly and emphatically stated that a boy calling my house, for any reason (including mistakenly dialing a wrong number), happened with less frequency than a person stepping outside their front door might unexpectedly observe a total solar eclipse.

Certain the ditch water I still had in my ear from an unfortunate incident of miscommunication with Dad earlier that evening hampered my hearing,  I gave Mom a confused look.


“I said there’s a boy on the phone. Hurry up. He won’t want to wait forever.” Mom gave me a none too gentle shove in the direction of the office where she’d left the handset of the phone on Dad’s office chair.

Completely mystified by the idea of a boy calling me, I swallowed down my nervousness and picked up the phone. “Hello?” 

The sound of someone suffering from what I assumed to be an asthma attack greeted me as heavy breathing filled the line.

“Hello?” I said again. “Are you okay?”

More heavy breathing.

“Who is this? Do you need some help?”

One more heavy breath followed by a click let me know the caller had probably passed out from not using an inhaler. If I knew who it was, I would have happily shared mine.

“That didn’t take long,” Mom said as I returned to the kitchen and resumed washing off irrigating grime. “Who was it? What did he want? Do you have a date?” 

“I don’t know who it was. Sounded like someone with asthma. He didn’t say what he wanted, just breathed hard and hung up.”

“Who do you think…?” Mom continued speculating on the identity of the caller, but I mostly tuned her out, more concerned about the pond water sloshing around in my ear.

Throughout the course of the summer, the boy would call a few times a week, always in the evening after I’d come in from irrigating. A few times, he’d mumbled words so incoherent, I had no idea what he said. Mostly, he just called me in an apparent effort to reach out for help with his asthmatic problems, or so I assumed. I happened to mention the caller to one of my friends, who promptly informed me the boy was no doubt making obscene phone calls and uttering all kinds of prurient statements in my unwilling ear.

The next time he called, I practically screwed the receiver of the phone into my ear in an effort to hear what he said, but alas, his mumbling was so low and quiet, I couldn’t make out anything. Disappointed and disheartened, I informed my mother I would no longer receive any calls from the boy.

A few days later, I’d trooped in covered in mud and pond scum. Eager to take a shower and curl up with a good book, I scrubbed my hands at the sink when I heard the phone ring.  

“I’m not home!” I yelled to my mother as I furiously pried sludge from beneath my broken fingernails. 

“It’s the boy,” Mom said, pointing toward the office, ordering me to take the call.

Indignant, I stomped to the phone and picked it up. Before he could launch into a round of mumbling or afflicted breathing, I decided to set him straight. “Look, whoever you are, I appreciate you calling, but if you can’t speak up and say something I can hear, I’m not answering the phone again.”

That was the first of many times in my life when I should have left well enough alone. The words that poured out of the boy’s mouth, at a volume sufficient enough I could hear and with a speed that made me half-impressed, scorched my ears in a blazing trail right down to my feet. I slammed the phone down and stared at it, wondering if I’d been sucked into some perverse alter world.

The next morning, I emphatically informed my mother if that boy or any other called any time in the next fifteen years, I was not speaking to them. That very evening, the phone rang as we finished eating dinner. Dad answered it then came back to the kitchen to tell me I had a call.

With a beleaguered sigh, I marched to the office and picked up the phone. “Hello?"

The sound of heavy breathing made my ear feel oddly hot and disgustingly moist so I did what any self-respecting, farm girl would do. I picked up the dog whistle that just happened to be near the phone, took a deep breath and blew it with such force, every human in the house rushed into the office to see what I’d done. 

Our poor hunting dog ran to the front door and began howling, uncertain as to what crime he’d committed to warrant being summoned by such a violent blow of the whistle. After slamming the phone down, I glared at Mom. “I’m  Not. Home.”

Oddly, the boy never called again.

Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen one story at a time. Her bestselling sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with realistic characters.

When she isn’t writing or consuming unhealthy amounts of chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, and fondly recalls the days of her youth spent on an Eastern Oregon farm.

She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

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  1. This is so funny! Did you ever find out who it was?

    1. I did not. I asked around to see if anyone I knew had a broken eardrum... and no one confessed!

  2. Shanna, you left us hanging. Did you ever find out who it was? Maybe you didn't want to know.

    1. I didn't - but I'm not sure I wanted to either. :)