April 6th, an hour before dusk
Samantha Cooper shifted sideways slightly in her seat as she wrestled one handed with her purse wedged between her feet and her backpack. She was trying to dig around for her cinnamon gum. She was hungry and it was at least an hour until the mid point rest stop. Gum would have to do for now. Samantha’s curly strawberry blonde hair was in a half hazard slept on sideways ponytail and she was wearing grey rolled up sweat pants, white Adidas runners with a black hoodie jacket bearing the University of Iowa icon in yellow lettering. Stacey Chung slept in the window seat beside her, glasses askew in an impractically short denim skirt with pink tie dyed leggings under it, tall leather boots and a loose pink t-shirt under a leather jacket on top. She slept face against the window with her mouth slightly open, creating a small patch of fog on the glass with each exhale. Samantha chuckled towards Stacey’s sleek black bobbed hair at the face planted nap pose. She popped the stick of gum into her mouth and began to chew. Her whole mouth tingled as the tangy spice infused it.
The forests dwindled and the corn fields began, rolling by the window in their sad wet pre-planting phase. Last year’s deadfall still scattered the fields with spindly brown debris. In no time though every field would be lush with green shoots in tidy rows; every farm except the Cooper farm that was. For four generations the Coopers had defied the corn monoculture and grown wheat, not just any wheat, "turkey red wheat" brought to Kansas by Mennonite immigrants from Russia. Samantha’s paternal great grandmother Katerina Volkov had emigrated from Russia to Kansas with her family. Her father had told her the story so many times as a child. When the Volkov’s settled into American life they shortened their traditional name to Volk and sent their children to the local school. Katerina Volk became Kate Volk and eventually met and married Benjamin Cooper. The Coopers had originally landed in New Amsterdam in 1657 when they came over from England with the Quaker movement. Over time the original Coopers migrated west. Land became available in Strange County for cheaper than Ben and Kate could ever save for in Kansas but Benjamin was a terrible farmer. His crops failed and the bank threatened to foreclose. The Volk family came with shovels, prayers and turkey red wheat seeds and saved the farm. The Coopers were about to have their first child. Samantha’s grandfather, Avery Cooper, was born fast and early in the shoots of the first wheat field while Kate Copper weeded alongside her husband and her two brothers that stayed on through the season. The harvest bestowed its generous bounty and the Cooper wheat farm in Strange County began its long history.
The yellow dingy glow of a small gas station diner came into focus as the sun met the horizon in amber and purple hues. The bus rattled and squeaked as it slowed and turned in. Stacey jolted awake and then yawned in irritated protest.
Samantha giggled and elbowed her “Come on let’s get something to eat.”
The girls knew the rest stop plan well. They just had time to order takeout and use a non-moving and slightly cleaner bathroom so they didn’t waste a minute. Back on the bus they ate in their laps.
Stacey wrapped the uneaten half of her sandwich back up and stuffed it in her bag “I better not arrive totally full. It’ll break my Mom’s heart if she can’t feed me something.”
Samantha laughed “At ten at night? I’m lucky my Dad’s willing to stay up that late. I’ll probably have to drive us home.”
Stacey groaned “I could never be a farmer. You have to get up stupid early!”
Samantha finished her sandwich and then heard the buzz of her phone and fished it out of her purse to read the message “It’s Malcolm. He wants to make absolutely sure I’m coming to the game tomorrow. D’uh….it’s opening day buddy. Why’s he even asking?”
Stacey had opened a compact and was re-applying her soft pink shimmery lip gloss “Maybe he’s flirting with you Sam. I mean enough time has past….”
Samantha shifted in her seat uncomfortably “Nope. Not gonna happen. Dave’s best friend? Stacey seriously?”
Stacey smacked her lips and shrugged “Dave flew off to another planet and Malcolm’s still home and cute.”
Samantha looked slightly annoyed now “Then you ask him out. We’re just friends. And it’s Jupiter Florida not the other end of our solar system.” Samantha rolled her neck back and to the right until it cracked before an obvious subject change “I have to be at the ballpark diner first thing in the morning for the breakfast thing. We should have taken the earlier bus.”
Stacey perked up at this “Me too. Mom signed me up to serve with you. She texted me yesterday and told me she picked up my t-shirt.”
Samantha smiled now, happy the shift in topic had taken “You’re so lucky your Mom texts. My Dad is so adverse to it. I mean seriously, he’s not that old!”
Stacey laughed “Mom’s totally addicted to her iPad. And aren’t you descended from those luddites?”
Samantha swatted at her “Mennonites Stacey. Mennonites and Quakers.”
Stacey curled up now, bunching her jacket into a pillow “Mmmmm oatmeal. I’m just gonna rest my eyes for a minute.”