A Brief Snippet from Disconnected


Here is a brief scene from my upcoming book, Disconnected: The Broken Path. Twelve-year-old Ben has been struggling without his usual dose of the internet. He's been acting up, and getting into trouble. Finally, his parents send him to Grandpa's, hoping some time on the farm will smarten Ben up.


* * *


The bike to Grandpa’s was a nightmare. The screaming wind attacked Ben, and each push of the pedals seemed a torturous step towards the peak of Mount Everest. Only the summit of Ben’s journey was not to stand on top of the world in glory, but to have a conversation he wanted to avoid. 

            He pulled into the farmyard and leaned his bike against the house. The strong wind promptly pushed the bike over. Ben scowled, decided to leave the bike in a collapsed heap, and knocked on the front door. Ben never knocked on his grandpa’s door, but this time he felt like a prodigal grandson, and that he must not be too bold or brash. 

Grandpa opened the door. “Look what the cat dragged in! Is it still alive?”

             Ben gave a half-smile. He didn’t feel alive. Nor did he say anything.

             “Come in, sit down. I just killed the fatted calf,” continued Grandpa, pointing to a new box of cookies on the table. “I’ll get you a coffee.”

             Ben had never had coffee before. This was strange. But he didn’t want to be rude, so he tried it. By the time he got the coffee to be drinkable, the cup was filled with equal parts of coffee, cream, and sugar.

             “So. You been having a fine time lately?” asked Grandpa.

             Ouch.

             “Real fine. A hundred-and-twenty-dollars fine, to be exact,” answered Ben.

             “Well, I’m gonna pay for it. No, no! I insist.” Grandpa took out a piece of paper and began writing. When he was done, he signed the paper and showed Ben.


I hereby give one half of my chickens, 18 hens in total, to Benedict Montana. He is now responsible for their care.


             “I guess we have to do things officially with some legal-ness these days. We wouldn’t want any more fines,” said his grandpa. “Go ahead and sign it.”

             Ben was confused. He needed $120. Not eighteen hens.  

“Should I take the hens down to the town office to pay for the fine? Just leave them on the mayor’s desk, maybe?” said Ben.

             “No! You work with the hens, darn it. Great layers, they are. You’ll get close to eighteen eggs a day. That’s easily five dollars a day!”

             Now it was starting to make sense to Ben. This was some cute little movie scene playing out before his eyes. He would just get some hens, sell the eggs, become a good person, have money left over to win the girl, and then live happily ever after. How cute, he thought. May as well get a black and white television too, and tuck in my shirt, and listen to Elvis Presley songs, and…

             Grandpa interrupted his thoughts. “What’s her name, Ben?”

             Now Ben’s confusion was the size of Mount Everest. “I don’t know what you mean.”

             “You look so serious. So unhappy. So unfree. Must be a girl you like. No?”

             One minute. One whole entire minute passed. 250 babies were born during that minute. 120 people died. Heck, one of his hens probably laid an egg during the wait. Maybe the egg hatched, too?

             “Sophie. It’s not like that, though. She’s mad at me right now anyway. I just couldn’t let go…”

             “Ben. Are you planning on getting married in the next year or so?”

             Ben choked on his coffee. Married? “What? Of course not! That’s ridiculous.”

             “Then be friends with Sophie. Understand? You’re twelve. Or thirteen? Whatever. The point is, you have some growing up to do. Some living to learn. You need good friends, like Sophie. But you need to grow up and become a man.”  

Grandpa pointed to the coffee. So that’s what was going on. It was a cup of manhood, or something. Still, Ben thought about one of the points from the lecture. Grandpa had said he needed good friends like Sophie. Right now they were not, in fact, good friends. Ben knew it was his fault. He also knew he had to fix it. 

One last time, Grandpa interrupted his thoughts. “Now sign that darn paper and go clean out the chicken coop! Business partners means I don’t have to shovel their crap anymore.” 

“Well played,” said Ben as he signed the paper. “I guess I’ll get to work, then.” 

“Just warning you, the coop might smell a little. I gave the hens some pickles last night.” 

“Seriously? Why?” moaned Ben. 

“Cause I had a talk with your dad yesterday, and I knew you’d be coming.” There was that old, lovable twinkle in his eye. 

* * *

The ride home was slow. Yes, the wind was in Ben’s favor. But hauling eighteen eggs home in a grocery bag wasn’t exactly easy. He would need to bring his backpack from now on. 

            Ben decided he was going to stop and see Blake and Sophie before going home. The first stop was Blake’s house. Blake was a steady boy, and not one to hold a grudge. The apology was easy. The two boys were relieved to be back on speaking terms. 

            Talking with Sophie wasn’t so simple. Apparently she was out doing the favorite pastime of the troubled child—riding her bike around town. 

            After biking around Fairsoil for ten minutes, Ben finally caught a glimpse of her from a distance. “Hey Sophie!” Ben called as he started pedaling faster to catch up to her. 

            Sophie looked back at Ben, shook her head in disgust, and picked up speed. He couldn’t believe it. She was racing away from him. 

            “No! Sophie, wait!” Ben yelled, desperate to catch up.  

            Shouting, biking, and balancing eggs was too much for Ben. He skidded to a stop. A dozen or so eggs in the grocery bag he was carrying were crushed together. Yolk oozed on Ben’s shirt and pants. And Sophie biked out of sight. 

            There was only one thing in the world that could make the situation worse. Just one. Of course, this one thing was exactly what happened. Jaxon, as if summoned by some demon, soon came speeding by on his bike. Noticing Ben, and the mess on his clothes, he came over to offer words of encouragement. 

            “You suck,” Jaxon sputtered. He wasn’t the most eloquent bully to ever live. 

            “Suck eggs,” came Ben’s reply. He started whipping his remaining eggs at Jaxon. One caught him square on the side of the head. 

            “Hey, jerk,” Jaxon shouted, before realizing he should make an early exit. One more egg hit his backside as he rode away. 

            Well, thought Ben, with eggs running down his front side, at least something went right.


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