M.L. Roth


My great-grandfather, Wiley Vaslexi, was not a man who did things in a small way. He and Lenin struggled over a fundamental disagreement; Grandpa Wiley left Russia because the party would not allow him to run the revolution by himself. Instead, he became a chicken rancher in the Midwestern United States. And, being a rancher in the grand style - my great-grandmother never clear on what the grand style was, and Grandpa Wiley owning only a handful of diseased, naked chickens - he invested their life savings in building the finest, most prodigious barn the Bible Belt ever saw.

Neighboring farmers and ranchers traveled from all over the territory to stand gawking at Grandpa Wiley's shocking example of contemporaneous architecture and scratch their jaws in wonder. "Why, I believe, sir, that Noah himself, taking instruction from the Almighty, could not have built such a fine barn," the county preacher said to Grandpa. It stood a proud red and white affair planted solidly against the sky, and at night Grandpa Wiley threw a giant switch handle, and twenty-six spot lights blazed its wide sloping roof before shadows of the gently rolling fields and flat lands. "But, if I might inquire, Mr. Vaslexi," the preacher asked, "what will you put in it? The chickens live in their hen houses, and you only have two horses and one cow. If you were of the faith, I'd say it's dandy for prayer meetings, butů" and the preacher clasped his bony hands together wringing out hopelessness, because in such hard times as these, every inch of space remained precious, every farm animal worth its weight in gold; a chicken rancher could not afford to lose one chicken or a single egg. While better men than my great-grandfather starved, no one dared plumb the mystery of why Grandpa Wiley spent his hard earned money on a barn the size of Nebraska instead of increasing his number of chickens and selling more eggs. Whenever asked, Grandpa smiled, saying softly, "I have a plan."

In Russia, Lenin sat my great-grandfather on a horse, because in Russia everyone knew. In America no one knew, and one day Grandpa Wiley hiked into town to purchase an automobile with the last of his fortune. They sold it to him. Of course, Grandpa couldn't drive.

That afternoon, Grandpa Wiley came barreling down the road leading into his ranch in a forty-five mile per hour swerving dust cloud. Since leaving town for the chicken ranch, the automobile refused to spin more than two tires on the road at any time, and the other two plowed ditch dirt, first on one side and then the other; it grew inexplicable to Grandpa why "The Machine", as he called it, continually gained speed until the wind in his eyes nearly blinded him. He would have liked to stop The Machine, but he couldn't decide whether to turn the key or step on one of those odd shaped pedals down by his feet, or both, and quickly picking up speed with the wind in his eyes made choosing impossible.

Closing on the yard he panicked, twisting the wheel this way and that, knowing he'd built a barn with nothing in it, knowing he'd bought The Machine intending to park it in the barn so that he'd have something in it, but not knowing how to drive it there - all of this, and then he saw the egg. It sat small, round, and white in the middle of the road during such hard times when better men than he were starving.

Grandpa Wiley wouldn't run over the egg and couldn't turn off The Machine. He did the only thing he could do; he turned the wheel and The Machine smashed into the barn at fifty miles per hour taking one wall and three quarters of the roof and twenty-one of the twenty-six spot lights with it into the gently rolling fields and flat lands of the Bible Belt.

After that, and at the prodding of my great-grandmother, Grandpa Wiley Vaslexi apologized by special letter to Lenin, who, being a revolutionary in the grand style, took him back into Russia returning him to his horse; and that is the story of how a single egg destroyed the greatest barn ever built in the Midwest.

Location: Valley Village, California
Email: litarts@pacbell.net
Website: http://www.successliterary.com

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