COLD FINGERS

By Richard Rochemont


CHARACTERS

Omer a 6”2’ Northern farmer in his mid-30’s

Gaven a 5”9’ Southerner in his mid-20’s , who came up North to find work.

SETTING

A farmhouse

TIME

1858

The sun had begun to set and Omen had just locked up the chicken coop. Gaven was inside the farmhouse, trying his best to stay warm. He sat in Omens chair, which was closest to the fireplace. Gaven had put water to boil for the tea he planned to make. The kettle sat on the stove. Omer walks in, cold and tiresome from the days outdoor labor. He walks in to find Gaven sitting in his chair, warming himself in its comfort, right by the fire. He pulls a small stool and sits beside Gaven.

Omer: Cozy, aren't you?

Gaven: Gettin’ there, once my hands warmup, I think I’ll be set.

Omer: It’s never this cold down South, is it?

Gaven: Not this early in the year.

Omer: Figured.

(The kettle let out a faint whistle, letting the two know that it was warming up. The crackling of the fire followed. Omer looked at the kettle on the stove.)

Omer: Heating water?

Gaven: You bet, I need some hot tea in me. This fire ain’t enough to keep my southern bones warm.

Omer: That’s a warm chair, next to a warm fire, I’d figure any man would find comfort in that chair.

(Gaven wriggled around in the chair, then smiled and turned to meet Omer’s eyes.)

Gaven: Are you sure you got the right chair?

Omer: Same chair my ol’ man passed in. My father was aware of everything, so if he didn't know he was passing, then that has to be the comfiest goddamn chair ever made. Don’t believe me? Ask his ghost, he’s still lingering around somewhere. I’m sure.  

(Gaven sat a little less comfortable now.)

Omer: I was looking for you today, after midday you pretty much disappeared. Did you set the pig fence?

Gaven: I started but-

Omer: What about the chickens, did you give them their feed?

Gaven: I was going to but-

Omer: And the eggs, I told you to look for any that I might’ve missed.

Gaven: My fingers got too cold to handle any-

Omer: Maybe you were at the chopping block! Is that where you were? Cutting the frozen meat for the hounds?

Gaven: No, no! I couldn't do much. I told you, my fingers got cold.

Omer: So tell me then boy, how did your hands get so cold if they didn't do any work?

(Before Gaven could answer, the kettle went off again. This time it was louder and longer, but the water wasn't boiling yet.)

Gaven: It was that corn you told me to shuck, these November corn aren't like any down south. They're cold an’ hard to peel, it takes forever to shuck em’.

(Omer let out a bellowing laugh. He was a tall burly man, muscled with age and eternal labor. His laugh filled the small farmhouse. Gaven squirmed in discomfort.)

Omer: Oh son, you've got cold fingers from shucking a few dozen cobs. What a poor excuse, even from a half-baked man like yourself. You come to me begging for work, for somewhere to prove yourself, but you stop work over some cold fingers? Ever since I let you work, you’ve done nothing but disappoint and make excuses. The South doesn't make real men, does it? Try sticking each finger up your twat, see if that warms them.

Gaven: I’m ‘bout as real as a man gets. You gon’ heckle me over some cold fingers? I ain’t used to shuckin’ corn an’ cuttin’ meat, that’s slave work. Down south we got slaves to do house work like that, not like you liberals up North.

Omer: I don’t give a fuck about whatever property you think you owned. You’re up North now boy, every man is free and if he wants to stay free he has to pull his own weight in his own world. And son let me tell you, when you get cold fingers, you don't stop pulling.

(Gaven stood and looked down at Omer, who was still seated in his stool.)

Gaven: You ain’t know nothin’ bout me Omer. Nothin’.

Omer: I know all I need to know, son.

(Omer stood from his stool and used his height to tower over Gaven.)

Gaven: I’ve done much around here, more than you care to notice. Give me another day Omer, I promise you, you won’t regret it. I’ll wake up before the cock crows, I’ll check off that list you gave me an’ more.

(The kettle whistled again, except this time the water was boiling. It wouldn't stop until the heat it rested on stopped. Omer looked at the kettle, then at the fire, then down on Gaven.)

Omer: Alright son, you can start by feeding the fire some air while I make us some tea.

(Gaven smiled and nodded in approval, then he went over to the dying fire. While Gaven was on his knees trying to blow the fire back to life, Omer walked to the stove and grabbed the kettle by its handle; ending the high-pitched whistle. Omer walked to the fireplace, where Gaven knelt, still blowing on the fire.)

Omer: You don't need a cup do you?

(Gaven let out a weak laugh, but when he looked up and saw Omer standing over him with the kettle, his face straightened. Before Gaven could stand, Omer punted him into the fire. Then, using his boot, he pressed Gaven’s face against the coals. Gaven shrieked in pain, but he could do much except twitch under Omers strength.)

Omer: I didn't think so. Here, let me warm up those fingers for you.

(Omer poured the boiling water from the kettle onto Gaven’s hands, then continued the stream onto his face. Gaven screamed until he no longer could. Omer put the kettle down and took his boot off the limp body. Then he walked over to his chair and sat down, relishing in its comfort.)

Omer: The North is no place for a Southerner.

Fade to black