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[Commentary] Should've Been Home Yesterday

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When the sky has turned fully blue, Kevin gives Nolan a long, assessing look, then goes inside the house and comes out ten minutes later with a plate of toast and sausage and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. They eat side by side in their camp chairs, Kevin probably admiring all the work he's done on the gardens out in front of them and Nolan just glaring across the pasture, at the side of that fucking shed. 

 

This scene quietly establishes a LOT of Kevin and Nolan’s relationship, in my opinion.

 

When he actually tunes in to Kevin’s words, he can just barely make out his voice, softer than usual, from across the yard: “Now you don’t have to lay on the ground. Isn’t that nice?” He wraps a tiny green stem delicately around a string as he says, “Climb up here. There you go!”

 

Back in college, I worked for the Theatre department’s scene shop for a while. One of the grads would talk to set pieces while she was mixing up paints for them, and she’d say stuff like “These guys are ready for their base coat.” I think I picked up talking to inanimate objects at least partially from her. It was always so endearing.

 

There’s a fucking overwhelming amount of cheerful little homesteading blogs and more intense, research-y articles. Nolan rubs his head, turns the brightness down on his screen, and finally settles on a series of youtube videos of this hot guy with a southern accent sitting in a field full of goats and talking about, like, the fat percentages in the milk of different breeds and how high fences need to be to keep foxes from getting in and eating the kids and how to keep track of which goats are the best moms.

 

Leah wrote this paragraph, and I went 👀 link please?
Unfortunately, dear readers, there is no link. The hot southern goat farmer is made up.

 

He ends up on a site called Scythe Supply, and he learns that he was using the rusty old scythe he found in the shed as wrong as fucking possible, and that it was totally the wrong size for him. 

 

Yes, Scythe Supply is a real website. Yes, I did know about it before this fic was even an idea. Yes, I do have multiple friends who’ve purchased scythes from them.

 

Considering that every single trip into town and every day out here makes Nolan have more and more nightmares about all their money running out and them having to move back to Philly and get real jobs again; having to tell Kevin’s mom and dad that the farm that’s been in their family for generations is getting sold off because they can’t afford to keep shelling out money on land that’s not making any, and how fucking embarrassing would all of that be, and--. He decides buying a scythe was a stupid fucking idea.

 

We had a whole conversation here about, like, property taxes.

 

Now that he's got half an idea of what questions he needs answered, Nolan reads through a handful of blog posts that talk about the best goat breeds for different uses. The last link he clicks on is this bizarrely peppy article on the legality of selling unprocessed milk at farmer's markets, which is so far from what Nolan is prepared to deal with that he scratches a whole list of dairy breeds right off his notes and closes, like, five tabs in his browser.

 

There was a little shop out where I live now that got shut down for selling unpasteurized products. It was a whole thing. I don’t even want to think about trying to sell milk.

 

“Baby cat !” Kevin’s voice booms, the back door slamming behind him. Nolan jumps and colorful little dots spark behind his eyelids before he drops his hands. He hears Kevin stomp mud off his boots for half a second before his heavy footsteps continue down the hall and into the living room.

He’s breathing heavy, grinning huge, pulling a toque off and leaving his hair crazy. 

“Look,” he pants, “at what the fuck I found.” 

Nolan takes another second to stare judgily at Kevin, and then he looks down to his hand, where he’s holding a small, awful, wood framed painting of a perfectly rectangular, white cat. Its body is fucking huge and its head and legs are super tiny, but its little face is clearly glaring, teeth bared, at the viewer. 

 

I LOVE the baby cat nickname and I just about screamed when Leah wrote this bit. It’s SO him and the exact kind of farm kitsch that I’d expect in an old place like this.

 

“Dude, stop fucking around," he says, trying simultaneously to bite down on his smile and change the subject. "We need shit from the store.” 

“Oh I’m fucking around?” Kevin says happily, eyes all bright, “What the fuck were you doing in those sheds for a whole day last week, they still look like shit! If you want goat stuff you gotta come with me and meet the locals, bud.”

 

There’s been so! much! tenderness so far! And I love it! But it was so refreshing to finally get to the bit where they tease each other.

 

Kevin pulls his car off the road onto a wide gravel lot and parks alongside one of those signs that's backlit and has swappable letters. It reads: "FLYING G`S FARM SUPPLY".

There's a long, low building that has bags of soil and fertilizer--Nolan recognizes those fuckers by this point--stacked on wooden pallets against the front wall. Off to the side are big rolls of wire fencing and a few sizes of sturdy metal gates leaning on a wall.

 

I grew up in and out of places like this. When SBHY was still just a very, very vague idea, I went by a local store for Carhartt overalls, and I sat in my car and DMed Leah something along the lines of “what if one of them works in a little farm shop. claude owns it. Flying G’s Farm Supply”

And thus this exact story was actually born.

 

Instead of following, Nolan sits for a minute, trying to think --what does he need, how are they gonna get it home, is any of this worth the money, is some farmer gonna ask him a question he doesn’t know the answer to? None of his thoughts actually even process, and he’s left feeling out of breath and like some invisible timer is ticking down and he still doesn’t have any answers. He sighs and taps into the list he'd typed into his phone.

 

You ever feel like your brain is a library where you know the books are there but you can’t find them? All the shelves are empty and the librarians are missing and you can’t even get the computer turned on to look up where something should be?
No? Just me? Well, now it’s Nolan too.

 

Back in grade school, Nolan knew this kid whose dad owned a local hardware store, and Nolan had literally never seen the man without a cowboy hat and suspenders. He's been trying, ever since Kevin told him about this place, to picture the kind of woman that marries a man who's perpetually in a cowboy hat and suspenders.

 

I do, in fact, know this man. I did, in fact, go to school with his son. I had forgotten all about him until I asked my dad to text me pictures of the feed store on his next visit. This man is in the background (he owns the place) and I about lost my shit laughing when I saw him.

 

Nolan is absolutely not expecting the woman sitting behind the counter to be five years older than Nolan, max, with blonde hair spilling over her shoulder in a loose braid and wearing a soft-looking sweater and overalls with little embroidered flowers all over. 

He's, like. Staring, and probably fucking blushing, which is a hilariously wrong first impression, he thinks, kind of blankly.

 

Nolan: Someone’s gonna think I’m into her.
Nolan: No, I just want her whole outfit and vibe.

 

The counter splits it into two halves. The whole space is well-lit and well-organized in a cozy but neat style that seems more Instagram than farm supply store, but still somehow feels homey. On one side, the space is full of pallets stacked with bags of horse and cow and chicken feed, and shelves filled with all kinds of tools and farm shit. The other side of the shop has racks of coats and heavy-duty jumpsuits under a hanging sign that declares them all “Authentic Carhartt Brand”. Nolan spots this black denim jacket that looks like it's got matching black fleece in the collar, and he is gonna have words with Kevin later for buying him the ugly brown coat instead of that. A few rows of chunky boots line the far wall, too, under a corkboard full of little handwritten notices and what look like classified ads.

 

Exposition! But also:
There are so many things in this scene that get just established enough to take root in this world and may come back up later. This shop is a complex little piece of the community, and I love that.

 

The ginger guy is laughing at a story about one of Kevin's grandma's recipes that he'd tried to make last week. Kevin tells him how Nolan had taken one bite and flat out refused to eat more, his voice all noisy and warm and fake hurt as he says, “Patty threw it in the trash after all my hard work, I was heartbroken.” 

 

The way Kevin has already become friends with G and Ryanne here warms my heart so fucking much. He’s talked about Nolan before! They already know this is Kevin being funny, not genuinely hurt, even though his cooking is something meaningful to him!

 

The guy catches his breath and asks, "When are you gonna let us meet Patty, man? Bring your girl in next time!"

Nolan freezes, feels his heartbeat all the way in his palms.

 

I absolutely LOVED writing this scene.

I don’t even remember when the mistaken identity idea came up, but oh my gods, what a scene!

 

The guy--G, whatever the fuck his name is--looks confused, eyebrows drawing together, eyes darting back and forth; taking in Nolan and glancing back to Kevin like he can’t even wrap his head around the idea of Kevin having Nolan and not some sweet little housewife. He parts his lips, then purses them for a second, face tight and scrunched and grimacing, and his face finally settles on discomfort.

 

And, oh boy, G being SO confused and then embarrassed here! And Nolan not knowing at ALL what’s actually going on in his head.

 

He pulls his hand off Nolan but lets it drag across his back for a second, scratching gently in this way Nolan always finds comforting. Usually Nolan would lean into it, but he can still feel Ryanne and G’s eyes on him, and his cheeks are still hot, so he leans away and takes a few steps toward the counter, trying to look serious through his blush.

 

I hadn’t even thought about Nolan and Kevin being a physical comfort type friendship, but I LOVE it!! Kevin’s got these Big Grin And Slap On The Back vibes and Nolan’s got these Touch Me And Die Vibes, and yet!!!

 

G finally, like, unsticks his face and quickly walks up to stand behind the counter next to Ryanne. “We have one outside,” he says, sounding flustered, and Nolan’s heart rate slows down finally because at least he managed to make himself sound normal, not fucking freaked out like this guy does. “Our truck isn’t here today, but we can have it delivered. We do free delivery.”

Nolan rolls his shoulders back and recites the rest of his list, his voice steady and his chin up high, his eyes meeting G’s, then Ryanne’s. 

 

Here’s a portion of Nolan’s character getting developed:
He HATES being vulnerable, but he’s comforted by other people being vulnerable. And there’s that eye contact, that challenge.

 

Nolan feels Kevin leaning into his shoulder, like he’s checking in. He puts a little pressure back into it, tries to say “ I’m good ” through it, lets the tension in his jaw melt out. Kevin relaxes against him; sways away.

 

Again, with the physical comfort and knowing each other enough to be able to communicate through it!!!

 

As soon as he pulls onto the road in front of the Hayes’ farm, TK spots the shape of a guy way back in one of the pastures, putting his whole body into swinging a hatchet at a sapling.   

 

Getting into TK’s head was SO hard at first, but I actually really love it now.

 

But there’s no smoke or blood, or pumpkins, that he can see, so that’s good.

 

One of the final touches on this scene was adding the comma before “or pumpkins.” Setting it off like that changes the rhythm of this line and I think it gives this thought the right comedic timing.

 

The dude spins around and gives him the world's iciest glare.

 

Imagine Nolan Patrick’s dead-eyed glare turned at you while he’s holding a fucking hatchet.
No thank you!!!

 

“I’m TK,” he says, when probably-Patty doesn’t talk. “From G’s. You’re Patty, right?”  Patty’s chest heaves, and his fingers wobble a little as he sets the axe down. “Want a drink?” TK asks, holding out his water bottle. “It’s probably warm, but.” He shrugs.

 

I can’t stop looking at this scene and going “ah, the Before Days, when drinking after a stranger was a little weird but not as absolutely insane of a decision as it is now.”

 

“Patty,” a voice hollers across the field behind them. “Is that an axe murderer trying to get ya or are you good?”

TK smiles and looks over his shoulder. The guy from the porch, Kevin, TK figures, is making his way across the overgrown pasture towards them.

Nolan looks TK up and down, then looks to his big friend and holds up his hand, palm down, and does a wriggly little, “sort of” motion.

 

There’s sooooo much for TK and Nolan to get through before they even become friends, but I love this little moment of Nolan forgetting himself and making a joke at TK’s expense.

 

“I was just teaching him how to use an axe.” 

“He wasn’t--” Nolan starts, jerking out of Kevin’s headlock. 

Kevin lets him go and grins at TK, “And I missed the whole show!” 

 

Kev just flirts with everyone! And it’s so harmless! Honestly, in this moment, TK probably doesn’t even 100% clock that the show is Sweaty Dudes Swinging A Hatchet, but whatever, that’s fine.

 

As he crosses the fenceline on his way back to the truck, TK pauses to brush some dead grass off his jeans. He’s always been sad to see pretty farmland like this go unused, or even worse, get sold off and developed, so it warms his heart a little to know that Kevin and Nolan are kind of moving the other direction, coming out here from the city and trying to take care of the place.

 

The hopefulness! This wasn’t planned. We were just reaching the end of this scene and it felt too easy and too boring to have TK say goodbye and leave, end scene, that’s all folks. And as he walked across the field, I thought: “Okay, what’s the lived experience of this that wouldn’t normally get written in?” The fuckin’ dead grass. I cannot tell you how many times I took the fourwheeler out through the overgrown trails on the back of the property and came back head-to-toe covered in grass seeds. The little fond thought about Kev & Nolan came along in that moment, too.

 

TK still feels weird calling his house, half a duplex in the middle of town, home. It’s been forever since he lived with his parents--shit, eight years or something, back before he graduated high school--and he likes his place just fine, but he still mostly calls it “ my house.

 

We’ve been pretty vague so far with the backgrounds of these characters. I love stories that do that kind of slow, reveal-as-you-go thing with characters and rules of the universe, but I think there’s a fine line to toe to make it feel natural. The world has to be lush and nuanced, so that details feel like they’re coming from somewhere, instead of just being pulled out of thin air to suit the needs of the moment at hand.

I feel like this little bit of TK’s history is some of both: coming out of the world we’ve developed AND building more of that world for future details to come from. I hope we succeeded.

 

Tonight, they’re having their first cookout of the year. It’s early April, finally warm enough to hang out outside and have it actually be fun, and his dad and his cousin Bo are grilling burgers and hot dogs while his mom and aunts lay out buns and condiments and potato salad.  Lawson and TK are hanging out right next to the cooler full of beer, greeting people as they wander over to pull out cans, shaking melted ice off before popping them open.

 

There’s a thread that runs mostly-quietly through this whole story that’s about community. It doesn’t necessarily start here, but I think this is the first time it becomes clear. I’d like to go more into detail on this, but that will come later, once we’re further in or done with the story.

 

“We gotta take the fourwheelers out sometime,” Law is telling TK, sipping out of the can of Hamm’s his hand is wrapped all the way around. “Figure out where we wanna put our blinds and trail cams for next season.” 

 

What’s the shitty cheap beer in your region? I’d think of PBR or Natty Lite. We went with Hamm’s since it was what Leah thought of and she’s spent more time closer to the setting of this story.

 

“I’m wearing my shirt you gave me,” Gavin yells with all the energy and excitement that comes with being six years old (and that G always says comes with being TK, too: “working with you has just been practice for having a kid.”) 

“What! Let me see it, little man.” 

Gavin backs up and stretches his shirt out from his body, pointing to the printed picture of a moose. 

“Dude, it looks great on you!” 

 

We are doing our level best to write as little Child Dialogue as possible. Neither of us are comfortable with it and Gavin’s meant to be more of a tertiary character in the story, anyway.

 

G and Ryanne smile and roll their eyes in sync, and then TK’s mom bustles into their circle, hugging Ryanne and then G. She asks them about business and how Gavin’s liking school and all this boring stuff, and TK stands next to Law and tries to look like he’s sort of paying attention. What he’s really doing is watching all the kids in his periphery, ducking backwards and catching one whenever they run by close enough, tickling them or ruffling their hair a little before letting them go. 

 

I am so fond of this little look into TK’s personality. I also think that everyone involved in this little conversation is absolutely aware that TK’s making an effort to appear involved, but really focusing on the kids. I like to think they’re fond of this too.

 

“Yeah!” Ryanne says. “He and his friend seem super nice, I think they’re really working hard on getting everything back up and running again. How’d it look when you were over there, TK?” 

“Really great,” he says, which is, like, a lie, but the thought of saying that they’re struggling doesn’t sit right in his gut. “Yeah, they’re really working hard.” Way less of a lie.

 

We had to do some revision on this line. Initially, this came across more like gossip, which is, in my opinion, not really what’s happening? Like, it’s more about passing news around and getting a general vibe check than it is about spilling details. Ry’s not gonna spill about G embarrassing himself, and TK’s not gonna spill about how out of their depth they might actually be.

 

“I wanted to tell ‘em that once you have kids, human or goat, TK’s suddenly just there all the time,” G grumbles. 

 

I’m absolutely in LOVE with this detail. It makes me happy every time. I think this one’s from Leah.

 

“So buddy I heard you're getting goats!” TK shouts across the driveway as Nolan wanders down from the porch where he was reading another stupid article, this time on how to put together a fence from rotted old posts and rolls of wire gridding. 

 

When we were working on chapter three, I counted out all the dialogue in this scene. Nolan thinks SO much in this scene, but actually speaks about one-eighth of the dialogue.

 

“Which field are you putting them in to start with?”

“That one,” Nolan says, without pointing anywhere.

 

Nolan, please. TK is so patient with him, but he’d drive me up the wall so fucking fast.

 

There’s this feeling, like Nolan’s spent his entire life turning other people’s ideas of him over and over in his hands, getting to know them. And when he left his hometown behind, went off to college, he’d started to dig his fingers in, taking bits off and adding pieces on until it felt right. In the city, Nolan had finally uncovered the shape of himself, but by then he could also see the ways Philly didn’t fit him like he’d hoped it would.

 

And here we get into our first little bit of Nolan Gender Thesis.
Honestly, my idea of Nolan’s gender is pretty simple.
He’s comfortable with he pronouns. He’s comfortable with gendered terms like “man”.
His ideal style is somewhere between hippie lesbian and grunge lesbian.
He paints his nails sometimes, wears his hair up, probably has reflective heart-shaped sunglasses.
He’s not a man doing feminine things, he’s him doing him things.

In this paragraph, we see a little bit of him figuring that out: dropping habits that don’t fit him now that he’s not in the restrictive environment of the town he grew up in, picking up comfort with different clothing and long hair, etc. Being in the city was GREAT for his gender discovery, but it turns out it’s not what he needed for the rest of him.

 

He glances sideways at TK as they both work, trying to figure him out. He looks like a redneck but acts like Kevin, goofy and obnoxiously friendly. Seems like he could be wearing a MAGA hat but instead has on a snapback with a little fuzzy cartoon llama embroidered on it next to the words “you’re neat.” When he said he liked Nolan’s shirt, Nolan had thought automatically that it was a stupid joke about to be followed by a really shitty joke, but TK had just smiled at him, and then taught him how to chop down a tree. 

 

“it was a stupid joke about to be followed by a really shitty joke” I like this sentiment, but I also really like the visual repetition of this line! It’s just very satisfying to my brain.

 

Nolan really, really doesn’t. The hot southern goat guy only ever had, like, five goats at a time in the background of his videos. And the articles Nolan read mostly said there shouldn’t be more than eight goats per acre, and he figured--based kind of on nothing--that the pasture was around one acre, maybe. 

 

I’ve got this article downloaded called “Balancing Animals With Forage” if anybody wants it lmao

 

“Woah, man, I was born in Ontario! That’s awesome, I’ve like literally never met another person from Canada before.” 

Nolan is--a little surprised by that info. Usually telling people he’s from Canada is met with someone saying “ oh cool eh ” in this fake fucking Fargo accent. And Travis, with his light southern drawl and “y’alls,” really didn’t ping Nolan’s Canadian radar, although now that he says it, Nolan can maybe kind of hear a little Ontario lilt to his voice.  

 

TK’s accent is definitely a weird mashup: he grew up here in this town, probably doesn’t remember living anywhere else, but his parents and family have Canadian accents, so he’s picked up a fair bit of their speech patterns.

 

“The goats will eat on the weeds and stuff, so you won’t have to worry about that. If you don’t mind feeding ‘em a little extra hay when they need it, I reckon you’d be able to have fifteen or twenty at a time.” 

 

Here’s something that will come back up later! TK knows his shit inside and out, has learned it through osmosis and experience. Nolan probably wasn’t wrong about the technical calculations for how many goats he could keep, but TK knows what grasses grow in this area and how fertile the soil is and how much hay can be supplemented in the winter, etc etc. Could he tell you how to calculate it? No. Is he right? Yes. (In this fictional universe, at least. I’m not tryna do math.)

 

“I bet he was like, ‘it matches your eyes,’ huh? Cause your eyes are kind of the same color.” 

 

Travis..... please..........

 

TK says: “I love knots.” 

 

This line.... We knew it was gonna be a funny way to end the chapter, but it really took off, didn’t it? I don’t really regret using it to finish the scene, but it’s definitely been read into a lot by some readers in a way that’s not gonna pay off. Sorry, y’all! I hope we made it clear in the next chapter, but this really is just a throwaway line. It’s funny, it’s stupid, it doesn’t mean anything.