Authors: Caddy Rowland
The days turned into weeks, then months, and finally a year. At last two years had passed. Gastien would turn eighteen in a month. He had swallowed his pride and his desires, only drawing by candlelight late at night, and always up at dawn to begin work on the farm. He shoveled more dung than his father, pulled more weeds, picked more vegetables. He managed his siblings, and found that many of them actually enjoyed the farm work. That made them easy to be managed. Although his father never said it, many times young Gastien would glance up and see admiration in his father’s eyes. He knew his father thought he was finally doing a good job.
He knew he could not wait any longer. It was unfair to his siblings to do so, because the next oldest should start to be groomed for running the farm. He did not care that he would lose that right.
, he wanted out of there, and would never look back! He hoped the
that called himself their father died while shoveling shit. Gastien did his best to not let those feelings show.
Today he came in at mid-day for a break, deciding that this was the day. Instead of going back to work, he went to the river and washed himself up, putting on a clean set of clothes. He wanted to talk with his father, who had gone to Paris to sell vegetables and had left Gastien in charge. He should arrive home by late afternoon. Gastien wanted to catch him as soon as he arrived.
Gastien knew the farm looked good. His father should be able to see that he had done a great job of managing and be more open to hearing what Gastien’s dreams were. Surely it would not matter if his brother Paul took over, as long as a Beauchamp kept the farm. He should also see that Gastien was not asking for a free ride. Once he explained his plans for getting a job at a restaurant to pay for food and tuition to the art school in Paris, his father should be willing to help him with a small room. Nothing much, but enough so that he would not have to live in the streets. Gastien had worked the last two years for no wages. He could have left at sixteen and been employed somewhere else. If his father was any man at all he would be fair to his eldest son. Gastien could hear the approaching wagon. He went to stand inside the door, ready to make his stand as a man.
His father pulled up, yelling at Paul. “PAUL! GET OVER HERE, TAKE THE HORSES, AND BRUSH THEM DOWN! MUST YOU STAND THERE LOOKING LIKE AN IMBECILE?” As Paul approached the wagon, his father cuffed him in the head. “Where is that lazy Gastien? Out playing with himself in the woods again?” Jean laughed crudely.
Suddenly Gastien knew this would not go the way he had dreamed about for two years. He once again saw his father for what he was, not what he wanted him to be. Regardless, he knew he still had to try to explain. If he did not get out now he would forever lose his dream. Without that dream, his life might as well end. He could not be a farmer with a washed out wife and a dozen wailing brats to feed.
, he was going to take this chance if it killed him! Nothing, not even his father’s wrath, was going to stop him now.
Gastien suddenly realized that he was finally bigger than his father, and Jean no longer scared him. His father only sickened him. As Jean approached, Gastien steeled himself to be civil. He concentrated on making his smile sincere as he asked:
“How was your trip, Father? Did those Parisians once again try to take advantage of you?”
“Never! They know better than to try to trick Jean Beauchamp,” his father bragged. “That will be your next lesson, before you can even think of taking over. I want you to start acting as the price negotiator next year. We will go into the city together, and I will stand back to see how you do. It is important to learn not to back down to their demands, but to appear charming. Quite honestly, I doubt if you have it in you, Gastien. It will surprise me if you are a quick enough thinker.”
His father entered the front room and sat down to pull off his boots. “MARGUERITE! SOMETHING TO DRINK, FOR GOD’S SAKE! DON’T YOU HAVE A BRAIN IN YOUR HEAD? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ALL DAY WHILE I AM OUT BUSTING MY BALLS FOR THIS FAMILY?”
“I am getting some lemonade poured, Jean. I will be out there with it in just a minute,” she called.
“LEMONADE? LEMONADE??? IS THIS A LADIES
PARTY? GIVE ME SOMETHING A MAN DRINKS! BRING ME A WHISKEY, AND DON’T DILLY DALLY!” His father sighed and looked at Gastien. “Gastien, I hope you also learn to never let a woman have the upper hand. Honestly, I don’t think they have it in them to make a decision based on common sense. What man drinks lemonade after driving a wagon all day?”
Marguerite hurried in with his drink and, hesitating, asked Gastien if he would like anything. Gastien would have loved some lemonade; it had been warm out in the fields. Still, he did not want to risk upsetting his father. He needed his father as calm as possible right now.
Father, I want to talk to you about something important.” Gastien concentrated on keeping his voice steady and calm.
Jean rolled his eyes and sighed. “What went wrong while I was gone, or who didn’t pull their weight, and how much is it going to cost me to fix it? Can’t a man be gone a day or two without the whole farm coming down on his head?”
“Father, nothing happened to your farm. There is no problem with it. The only problem is that your farm is not the life that I want for myself.” It was blurted out before Gastien could change his mind.
For once, there was total silence with his father present. His father stared at him. Gastien could see the disbelief slowly turn, first to puzzlement, and then to scorn.
“Boy, what in hell is wrong with you? Do you know how hard I have worked to keep this farm a profitable business for our family? And you, as my first born son who inherits the right to run it, you have the gall to tell me it is not good enough for you? Exactly who do you think you are??? You are too good for your old man now?”
“I didn’t say that, Father. I know how hard you work. I know this is a successful farm, and one of the few this large to actually turn a decent profit. It is a business to be proud of. It is just not in my blood! Paul would be great at it, or several of the others, but not me. I simply don’t want to work it anymore.” Gastien tried to calm his heart rate down. He did not want to appear anxious or weak.
His father had been standing open mouthed and now he snapped his mouth shut. Jean then downed his whiskey and moved closer to Gastien. “You don’t WANT it anymore? You just kick it to the side and me along with it? Do you think you have so many choices with what you will do in life? You are lucky, LUCKY to have a business to take over. Do you want to starve in the streets, or what crazy notion do you have now?”
“I want to paint, Father. I want to go to art school. It is all I have ever wanted to do with my life!” Gastien met his father’s eyes, refusing to be the first to look away. “I would work at a restaurant for the tuition and food. I was hoping that since I have been a good son working this farm the past two years that you would help me by paying for a small room, so that I could attend
His father advanced on him quickly, raising his hand to slap him. Gastien stood his ground and grabbed his father’s hand before he could be hit.
! Not this time, father. You won’t touch me anymore! I am bigger than you now, and I will not be hit or beaten again. Never again!” Gastien held his father’s arm firmly and stared him in the face.
His father’s face turned purple with rage. “You little bastard! Who do you think you are talking to? Are you out of your mind? I would never, NEVER give you money for a room so that you could lounge around painting at some la-di-da art school! That is no living! There is no pride in that. You would make the name Beauchamp a joke! Beauchamp’s are farmers. Damn good ones!” Jean then sneered, “Artists are libertines who play with paints like little girls.”
“Then I will find a way on my own! I am giving you notice that I will leave at the end of November. That will get all winter vegetables in.”
“Gastien, if you walk out this door to go paint I don’t want you to return. I will disown you. That is final! Do you understand?”
Gastien blinked back his tears. “
, Father. I understand completely. And I am giving you notice.”
His father leaped at him and screamed, “WOMAN!
YOU ARE DESTINED TO BE A BUGGERING FOP, BEGGING PEOPLE FOR MONEY IN THE GUTTERS!”
Gastien turned white, but managed to push Jean back. “DON’T EVER CALL ME A WOMAN OR A GIRL AGAIN! I AM NOT A HOMOSEXUAL! I AM WARNING YOU!”
“YOU ARE NOT A SON! YOU ARE A WOMAN!” his father yelled.
Gastien reacted without thinking. As his fist flew to his father’s face, he heard his mother screaming, “GASTIEN,
!”, but he could not have stopped the forward motion if he had wanted to. The anger that had built up over the years from all of the ridicule, condemnation, and assaults to his manhood finally surged up to his conscious mind. Before he knew it, his fist landed with a hard smack right to his father’s mouth. He felt the crunch of jaw or teeth breaking as his father staggered and then hit the floor.
Everyone in the household came running and stopped motionless at the spectacle of their father laid out, mouth bleeding profusely, groaning. As one, they gaped from Jean to Gastien and back again. No one dared to speak. They did not know if they were more afraid of father now or of the eldest son! One thing they all knew was they would not want to be Gastien when Father got his wits back.
His mother stood frozen. She should be down at her husband’s side, but she just couldn’t. Marguerite knew it looked bad to the children, but she actually felt Gastien was justified. He was the most different in the family, and he paid over and over again for that uniqueness. She had lost count of the beatings, the berating, all of the misery Jean Beauchamp had heaped on his son over the years. Jean had thought he could beat Gastien into compliance, but that compliance was simply not part of Gastien’s spirit. She had often worried that Jean would kill Gastien during those harsh beatings. Despite the cruel treatment, Gastien never bent to his father’s will. He refused to be just like the rest. It simply built an inner resolve in him to never be anything at all like his father.
Now Gastien stood above his father, fist at his side. He held no remorse for what he had just done. He would have liked to kill Jean Beauchamp. Instead, he waited until his father was once again aware of his surroundings. Then, he pulled his father up by his shirtfront, reared his fist back, and slammed him squarely in the nose. This resulted in rearranging that nose to one side of his father’s face. Jean Beauchamp howled and his legs buckled again.
“And that, you bastard, is for all of the times you fucked at my mother like she was some dirty whore. You showed no mercy in your ruthless rutting and I have no mercy for you!” Gastien said with fury.
With that, Gastien let go, causing his father to fall to the floor.
“GET OUT!” Jean roared. “GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE AND DON”T COME BACK! I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU EVER COME BACK TO MY FARM!”
, Jean! You don’t mean that! Don’t do this, Jean, he is sorry! Don’t send my Gastien away!” his mother sobbed.
“HE WILL BE OUT BY NIGHTFALL! I DON’T WANT TO SEE HIS FACE OR SMELL A TRACE OF HIM WHEN I GET UP IN THE MORNING!“
“You can’t make him leave by nightfall! Where will he go? He will be in the dark!”
“GOOD! HE BELONGS IN THE DARK! LET HIM WALK TO HIS BELOVED PARIS! LET HIM FIND OUT HOW ANXIOUSLY THE CITY AWAITS FOR THE “GREAT ARTIST” GASTIEN! LET HIM BE ROBBED AND STARVE IN THE STREETS OR PAINT HIS WAY OUT! IF HE HAS SO MUCH TALENT, IT SHOULD NOT BE HARD FOR HIM. LET HIM PAINT PICTURES OF DIRTY ALLEYS WHERE HE SLEEPS AND SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE WANT TO BUY HIS EXPERIENCES!”
He pulled himself up and stood to face Gastien, This time when he spoke it was quiet and even. “Get upstairs and pack your things. You are a disgrace to the Beauchamp name. I despise you! You are no longer my son.”
Gastien looked him straight in the eyes. “I never was.”
His father once again tried to slap him, but Gastien stopped him and spit in his father’s face. The last thing he ever said to his father was, “If there is a God, may he damn you for all of the harsh words and beatings you gave me! Get out of my way, so that I can go pack.”
With that, he pushed his father away and calmly walked up the stairs. He could hear his mother telling Paul to take the wagon to go get a doctor for his father. He knew he should be ashamed for what he had done to his father, but he was glad. It was small compared to how his father had abused him.
When he got to the room he shared with Paul, he grabbed a blanket from the bed, wrapped his few clothes in it, a comb, a straightedge, a bar of soap, and his extra pair of boots. He knew he needed to go get his art supplies from the attic and painting supplies from the woods. What would he put them in to keep them dry? Then he remembered the tarps his father had in the barn for protecting vegetables. He would take one of those and fold everything into it. The tarp was waterproof so the paper would stay dry, and he could use it as a covering if it rained. It would also make a place to lay his head if he got tired of walking during the night.
Gastien heard his mother on the stairs. Turning, he saw the raw fear and sadness in her eyes. “Don’t worry, Mother. I will make it. I swear that to you with everything that is in me. I will make it to Paris, and I will paint. Please, try not to worry.” He hoped he sounded a lot more confident than he felt. It was miles into Paris, and night was fast approaching. He knew it would be cold and damp. There would also be animals out. There might be little, if any, sleep for Gastien Beauchamp tonight.
His mother rushed to him. As she held him tightly, she wept. “I love you so much, Gastien. God forgive me, but you are my favorite. I don’t know how I will go on without you here! In my heart I knew this day was coming. Paint, Son! That is who you are. Just paint! You will find a way. Stay open to possibility and humble yourself if you have to, for the chance to paint. Don’t be a prideful ass like your father! Sometimes the biggest risks have to be taken for the greatest satisfactions.”