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First Visit to a New World


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First Visit to a New World

by Paul_and_Paco

Abner

This might be a difficult story to tell, as my friend, the adventurer, was a bit of an enigma even to me. Therefore, getting inside his head, understanding what he was feeling, for me was pretty much impossible; his life and experiences were almost a complete mystery to me.

To protect the innocent, we'll call my friend Abner... a good American name for a good American boy. Abner had always been an adventuresome kid, much different from his friends and others his age, and indeed his family. They never traveled more than thirty miles from home, ever. Abner was always climbing the fences between his family's farm and the lands beyond, investigating the unknown, using his wit and openness to make friends quickly. This sort of thing was unheard of in his family or their social circle.

Abner and I had been planning a trip for almost an entire year, the preparations discussed and rehashed on many occasions. The most difficult task was not the trip itself, but obtaining permission from Abner's parents who felt he was still too young to sally forth into an unimaginable unknown.

No, Abner wasn't an old salt... not a veteran of other expeditions. As a matter of fact, this would be his very first time to leave green Mother Earth. The fact I’d be going with him was intended to ease his fears and provide comfort. He didn’t know that I could count my previous flights on the fingers of one hand, or that I still get a bit nervous at the point of liftoff, being thrust into the sky like a rock out of a slingshot.

I guess now is as good a time as any to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. Neither Abner nor I are spacemen. We are just two American teenagers. Heck we can't even drive yet. And you were thinking this was just another science fiction story, huh?

Nope, this is a factual account of Abner's first airplane trip. Now listen, don't turn the channel just yet... The best is yet to be. Because, you see, Abner isn't any old teenager going on a summer vacation. Abner is from an old-fashioned Amish family. Just riding in someone's car is something of a treat. The most modern convenience in their home is a wind/battery powered refrigerator. This is a boy who has gone about as far as he is allowed in school, and is just past fifteen. Abner is a product of days gone by... and, as a result, would definitely be more at home in the 19th century than the one we live in.

Abner and I, and my boyfriend by the way, had become tight friends in a little over two hours. It hadn’t mattered to Abner that we were gay, or even that my partner was brown-skinned. To him we were just two new boys to get to know. That was last year. We spent hours on end playing baseball, exploring the countryside about their home, just enjoying life and being kids.

The problem was, my boyfriend and I were just visiting for a few months. Since coming home I had been planning and scheming for a way to get Abner to come to my home for a visit. Impossible you say? Well, pretty close. You see, Amish don't travel. OK... some do, but only if they are moving to Ohio or maybe Missouri; there are some Amish communities there. But, the Pennsylvania groups where Abner lives are some of the most closed-minded, and the most strict, of the bunch. Their idea of having something newfangled is installing battery-powered lights on a horse-drawn buggy!

I'm not sure how my pop was able to convince Abner’s parents we weren't stealing their son’s soul, and that we would return him unharmed, but if anyone could talk a rat out of a snake hole it would be my pop.

Of course, in all our planning, no one had said a word to me about how Abner would get to our home, some two thousand miles away. That was kept a very close secret. I wasn't made privy to that information for fear I would let it slip in one of my many letters—letters, not emails—to my friend. No, I was only told what had been decided in the final days as my pop acquired tickets for us all.

Now I have to tell you, I was scared shitless on my own first airplane flight... not just across country, but across an ocean. And, I still get that shivery feeling as the plane rolls down the runway and lifts into the air. But I knew this trip for Abner would bring new meaning to the words A New World.

The whirlwind trip up to Pennsylvania was exciting, and meeting with Abner's family again was just as much fun as it had been last year. Abner told me he had packed about ten times in preparation. After a fantastic breakfast of wonderful foods, each made just that morning from completely natural ingredients grown or raised on their farm and cooked on a coal-fired stove, we packed Abner's suitcase into our rental car and, following many tearful goodbyes, were off into the unknown.

As we made our way toward the airport outside Philadelphia, Abner and I caught up on all the things important to boys. Abner was looking about at all the cars and sights he had never seen before, never having left Lancaster County. But, the first sense of something amiss was when we got within sight of the airport, and he saw a jet on the taxiway.

Abner couldn't take his eyes off it, his face almost plastered to the window. “Is... is that an air plane?” he whisperingly asked me.

We dropped off the rental car and made our way into the terminal, Abner holding my hand in a vice-like grip. We passed so many things that were completely new to him, things we take for granted... water fountains, restaurants, t-shirt stores, pretzel stands; these were each a wonder to Abner. It was like I was experiencing my first time in an airport all over again, and I tried to explain all the sights and sounds.

I'm not going to bore you with the tedious trials and tribulations of air travel... picking up tickets, waiting at the gate and such, but I do want to touch on two things. The security check-in was a bit dicey, as Abner had no ID. After much finagling and pop's explanations, and a near strip-search, we were allowed into the gate area. The clothing Abner was wearing served almost as good an ID for him as my passport did for me... long pants, long-sleeved shirt, clod-hoppers—that's old-time shoes to you city folks—and his broad-brimmed hat... not to mention suspenders and an odd dress coat.

The other notable incident was Abner's whispered distress that he had to relieve himself, as in, “Paul, I gotta piss!”. The trip to the restroom was, to say the least, almost like a trip to the moon. I had to explain everything. At least toilets haven't changed in a couple hundred years, except now they flush themselves. I thought I was going to have to peel Abner off the ceiling!

OK, well, the main event had arrived when they called boarding for our flight. We had packed pretty lightly for our trip—just a couple of carry-ons. And Abner, with a bit of convincing, had given over his older suitcase at the ticket counter to be checked. We entered the plane through the tunnel, and were seated in the first of five rows. I thanked God and my pop we had first-class tickets. Pop said we’d have less jostling about and more room to move in there, but I was pretty sure he’d done it more for Abner's benefit.

After putting Abner’s hat in the overhead, and getting him settled with his belt fastened, I tried to explain why he had to wear a seat belt even though we were not in a car. We waited for the news of our departure time. We got served orange juice as we waited. Pop had a drink, I think to calm his nerves from the drive and check-in, more than the trip to come.

I intentionally gave Abner the window seat. He continued his wide-eyed examination of every part of the plane and goings-on, both outside his window and in the plane itself, whispered questions flowing.

Finally, the moment had arrived with the announcement of our imminent departure, and the firing up of the jet's huge engines. The whimper that escaped Abner's throat could have belonged to a puppy first separated from its mother. With that first lurch as we left the gate, Abner again gripped me in that vice he called his hand.

I knew we were in for it when Abner asked how the wings would miss all the electric poles along the road all the way to our house. At the end of the runway, as the engines revved to takeoff speed, I warned Abner to sit back against the seat and hold on. Well, he held on to me.

Lift-off and climbing to altitude was an experience I always thrilled at. Abner spent the first part with eyes tightly shut and mouth open, panting. With much urging from me and Pop, we finally got him to open up a bit, and look out the tiny window as we lifted above the skyline of Philadelphia. After that, we could barely get his attention, plastered to the window as he was, until all that could be seen were fluffy clouds, and even those provided entertainment.

Now, in-flight restrooms are not at all like those on the ground. I'd only been in one twice, but experiencing one with Abner, soon after takeoff, gave a whole new meaning to relief!

I could have said the landing at our airport was anticlimactic, but I'd have been lying. It was a reversal of the takeoff, with much hand gripping and wide-eyed sniffling. I almost felt sorry for my friend, except I knew in his heart-of-hearts he was thrilled beyond imagining. Because my friend was truly an adventurer, and one with courage to spare.

When we finally reached home, and were standing by the car, Pop unloading our bags from the trunk, Abner looked around, took a big sniff of air and got a huge grin on his face. Pop asked him what was on his mind. Abner replied, looking about our small ranch and seeing our horses in a nearby pasture, “Smells just like home.”

Horses, Boys and Baseball

This is our first summer in a new home. Because of that, each day seems to bring something new. Around our house it is the weekends that really seem to make or break a week, at least during the school year.

When we were visiting in Pennsylvania last summer, Abner spent several nights with us at the house we were staying in, so he knew something of our home life and routines. He might not have been ready for what he found here, though.

The major difference between how things work here and how Abner saw them last summer is… somewhere along the way I picked up four brothers and an extra set of parents. OK, maybe not extra parents... Abner had met Pop's friend last summer, ‘Uncle’ Jack, but since then Uncle Jack—who is my boyfriend’s father and was with us on vacation in Pennsylvania, too—had acquired a partner and his son. To add to the confusion, Pop had added a new son. Abner had met four of us in Pennsylvania; now he had to sort out five more, because now we are nine. They are: Pop, me, Uncle Jack, Paco, Uncle Jack’s partner, his son, Pop’s partner, and my two brothers. Confused yet? Pay attention: there’ll be a test later.

We all live together on a ranch, with horses. They play a prominent role in our lives, but our parents do not depend on the horses to make their living, at least not yet.

Abner had to learn who’s who when we arrived home from the plane trip. He had five new faces to sort out. He had some catching up to do.

Now, you might know that Amish families are usually quite large, with aunts and uncles, even grandparents living in the same house. But, around our homestead the only whiff of a girl you will get is when my dads’—yeah, I count both Pop and Uncle Jack as my dads—housekeeper comes during the week. Miss Ella does not really count as a girl, however, as she is about sixty years old and not interested in boys any more... I don't think. That was a joke.

In Amish families the family jobs are pretty much gender-determined. Men do not keep house, cook, sew, or many of the things the nine of us do in a normal day. Abner had been a bit nervous up north when he saw Pop and me cooking. It was OK out on the grill, but inside... an absolute no-no, something that just wasn't right. It took a long time for me to convince him how much we loved to cook, to explain that there was nothing wrong with us doing it, and if we didn't to it, there would be a lot of hungry people sitting at the table giving us evil glares and refusing to leave till they were fed.

The first morning that Abner came down to breakfast with us, there was Pop at the stove cooking up a storm. I jumped right in and started helping, telling my little brother to set the table. At our house, mealtime can be a bit overwhelming. I think for Abner we were just adding more sand into his gears. When every dish was on the dining room table and we were all seated, I looked at Pop when Abner folded his hands and bowed his head.

Our family is pretty diverse with lots of different histories, but one thing we all seem to agree on is organized religion has never done any of us any good. Pop is a Buddhist, and my uncle Jack is a lapsed cafeteria Catholic. Their partners... well, they are mostly nothing. So, having someone in our midst beginning to pray was a little unnerving for us. I figured, though, this was that two-way street everyone keeps talking about, or maybe Abner's way of getting back at my youngest brother, Vincent, for pouncing him that morning... landing right on Abner’s nuts with his boney knee.

The look on Vincent's face when I held his hands under the table to keep him from digging into our waiting breakfast was priceless. Pop cleared his throat and told everyone to bow their heads. When Pop clears his throat, we pay attention. Pop did an amazing job with an off-the-cuff “thank you for the food.” It did not faze Abner, of course, but the other five of us kids were amazed. We’d all overlooked the fact that Pop grew up Amish. That had to be the reason he could do that so nonchalantly.

After breakfast, though, Vincent had to start asking why we had to do that “god-junk” before we ate. That started a rather intense discussion with Abner that lasted most of the morning and never really ended. Sometimes I just want to strangle my little brother. Well, not really. He can be a pain, but an awfully cute pain.

OK, like I said, a while ago now it seems, usually we exist through the week in anticipation of the weekend and all its freedom and excitement.

One event that happens every weekend, the first thing on Saturday mornings, is a sandlot baseball game that all of us kids participate in. I call it a game, but really it is just playing, because there are no teams or sides... everyone plays every position. It is sort of a round-robin affair. There are maybe fifteen kids from the town where I live that show up, plus our rather large horde, making for a good-sized number on the field.

The fact that my brothers and I ride our horses to the game was just the icing on the cake for Abner. You see, Amish kids are really into horses. And baseball. The game is low-tech and very much American... no violence, the way we play it, and only the occasional disagreement.

Last night, the anticipation of today's game was almost palpable. Gloves and caps were laid out. Paco had his bat polished up gleaming bright. (No, not that bat! Get your mind outta the gutter!) And Pop even had a couple of new balls he had picked up during the week.

Oh, I forgot one thing... adults are not allowed at the game. Well, not exactly not allowed, but they never come. The game gives them time at home all to themselves and I expect they have just as good a time as we do. Maybe just sitting out back, drinking coffee. Maybe.

Anyway, back to the game. When we showed up there were about five other kids already on the diamond tossing a ball back and forth. We parked our steeds behind the bleachers... they never like waiting, or maybe they want to play, too.

Introductions were pretty quick, mostly because I think our friends were pretty used to new faces showing up in our family. Vincent and I staked our claim on the sidelines as usual. He is a bit young to play ball with the older guys, and I am not quite able to yet. That's OK, though... I get my fun watching my Paco play.

The game started almost as soon as our guys stepped onto the field. Others straggled in in ones and twos till the field was one mass of kids playing ball. There is always laughing and talking going on, catching up on events of the week and such. Abner had no problem at all fitting in. He played as well or better than most of the guys. By the time we took a break and sat around the bleachers drinking cokes and munching on snacks we had snuck out of the house with us, Abner was one of the gang. No one even questioned his long pants or straw hat. (I’ve got to get that boy a cap... maybe a Mud Hens one like mine. Mississippi has no major league team.)

When we got home, the pool was calling us so bad I did not think I could get Vincent to take the time to put on a swimsuit before he dove in the water. Being an all male household, and out in the sticks a bit, swimsuits are not a required garment, normally. With Abner visiting we have stuck to ‘company rules,’ and suits are the dress of the day in the pool.

When we had changed, and everyone was cooling off in the water, Abner slid up next to me and said, “Thanks for today, Paul, it was pretty special. I really felt like I fit in.”

-End-

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What a great short story. It reminds us that so much of what we all take for granted is, in reality, amazing. We don't think about it that way any longer because we're used to it, we ignore it (perhaps to show how sophisticated we are). The next time you take a flight with a kid who's never been in an airplane like Abner, just sit back and watch him or her enjoy this bit of new amazement -- and let yourself be amazed too.

Thanks, Paul, for a thoroughly enjoyable short story. This will be, I hope, the first of many.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Heh, fine story. I really like that.

You should've seen my grandmother's first and only plane trip at 99 years old. The single, "Oh my!" as we took off and made altitude into the clouds was worth the exorbitant cost of the plane tickets. She enjoyed it, but didn't quite understand it all. The pat down at our city airport was not cool, but we got her through it.

Hmm, you know, I'm not sure what the Amish stance is on whether an Amish is OK to ride in a car or a plane. I think they do allow some things as a practical matter, thought they don't approve of them. I haven't visited Amish folks, but I have family (an uncle and aunt) in Virginia, not too far from Amish country. And how my uncle and aunt (and my dad and his other siblings) grew up was not too far removed from how Amish live. (Difference: My grandparents and their neighbors were as modern as any farm families at the time, but that wasn't too far beyond the 19th century, in the early-middle of the 20th century. My dad put in electricity and indoor plumbing for my grandparents, while on leave from the Army in the 1950's.)

Wow, I hadn't thought of how current air travel security would handle an Amish passenger. That's a really good question. -- And yes, the Amish "plain" style of dress, and Amish language (English and "Pennsylvania Dutch" German) would, hmm, be a puzzle, but Pennsylvanians and a few other places, they'd recognize those. I'm not sure how it'd go.

Haha, Abner's question about how the wings would avoid the telephone and electricity poles, perfect.

Great idea for a story. Great job, Paul. Say hey to Paco too.

It's been a long time since I've watched the movie, Witness, and this reminds me of it a little. Might have to pick it up.

Two thumbs way up.

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How much we take for granted until we see things through the eyes of a character like Abner. Yes, I agree with the others. A delightful tale that can stand alone or be expanded into a longer narrative. But then we as readers always want more of a good thing. Fortunately for us your words aren't fattening. Bravo.

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Wow... what a great first story! Paul's fresh story idea begs a continuation, perhaps as a serial . It's like Cole's Circumstances, a flash fiction that leaves you wanting more.

How about it... are you up for it, Paul?

Mike

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Interesting...just this morning I watched a National Geographic show on the Amish, and it seems they actually encourage males reaching 16 years of age to leave, explore and experience the world, and hope mightily that they will soon return to the Amish community wiser and willing to take on the faith in its entirety. Many do not return, and although they didn't say so, I suspect gays are a large segment of those remaining away. If they return, they are expected to marry a wife and start a family.

As for the adventure of flying, I've only flown 6 times in my 6 decades, and the first time was terrifying. Nobody bothered to tell me that those 'fixed wing aircraft' actually have wings that move up and down, albeit not rhythmically.

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Hi Paul,

I think from all of the comments that you've received here that you now know that you have the interest in your writing by some very good writers. You do have a way with words that bring a story to life without the baggage of drone narrative.

But you've also heard the request (some almost demanding) that you continue with this story. You've left us with somewhat of a cliffhanger, because we now all want to know what will happen to Abner and how he's going to feel and react to a brand new world.

You have a challenge, you know? The folks here have an insatiable appetite for good writing. You've shown us that, and they want more.

Okay. Let's make a deal. How about we get the next installment (or chapter), say, by September 30th?

Oh! Some of us can't wait that long. So how about by the end of July?

Hold on a sec. Dude just texted me.

Okay, he won't go for that. He can't wait that long and wants to see something by the end of June.

Oh Christ! Another text. Hold on.

Camy, Cole, Chris, Trab, Blue, James, and Colin just all texted me. I can't keep up with it all.

Hmmmm. I think Cole's asleep. hehe.

Okay. Here it is.

The consensus is that we should all expect the next installment by...

By...

By...

Tomorrow!

Richard

ps. This is a truly engrossing story that needs to continue.

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That's it, put pressure on the poor kid! Maybe he has writer's block. Maybe he has school. Mabye he's the sole caretaker of 12 brothers and sisters and only gets to share the computer with them. Maybe he's trying out for Little League and needs to practice time.

So I think tomorrow is a little extreme, don't you.

How about the day after?

C

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Writer's Block? If he has all 26 plus 10 numbers, I mean numerals....

Yeah, that would be tough, composing it all out of alphabet blocks.

What if he has writer's sphere? (I'd say balls, but that would be a whole 'nother issue.)

Writer's pyramid? Cylinder?

I'll just be out here in left field, watching the grass grow.

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You're right Cole. I guess I'm just too anxious to continue being involved in Abner's world the way Paul is giving it to us. I'll give him until the next day. LOL

Paul,

Don't feel pressured by us. We're writers and we love to read good writing, and I was being comical. But in all comedy. there is an amount of truth that makes the comedy real and enjoyable. The truth is that you've wetted a writer's appetite with something that is what readers want to read. There is real life in there. I was serious when I said that we want to read more.

Please don't feel pressured. Just understand our desires to read more of what you obviously are capable of. :)

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Jeez, guys, what's all this pressure on the poor guy? Tell him how much you like his flash fiction story and you'd like to see more, then leave him alone... to write!

Colin :icon_geek:

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Hey, a new part! I think somebody has the writing bug. Cool. -- Uh, count me in, cheering on the sidelines.

Now I'm really gonna suggest you submit this to AwesomeDude and Codey's World. Two sections in less than a month, writing talent, the forum is a good place to post, but so is having your stories on a couple of web sites.

That's definitely quite a blended family, there.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

This is a delightful story! I love the Amish boy coming out into the world and amazed at all he's seeing! One of the things I love about boys is how everything is new and they're learning and pushing the envelope and experiencing new things and this is what we see with Abner. Delightful. I have trouble believing this is a first effort. Get to work and write some more!

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