The Farm Diary of Guus Kuipers
Guus Kuipers lives in the Dutch province of Drente, near the Groningen border. Borders have had a great effect on him, so you may find him a little ruffled. Moreover, the roosters love to taunt him. His diary has been abridged somewhat out of consideration for his feelings. We assure you that everything is going fine with him now.
Part I: In which the main personages and central conflict are introduced.
My brother's gone to Groningen, and now I'm all alone again.
My brother Klaas goes to school in Groningen now. The Gymnasium, that's where he goes. He doesn't help out on the farm any more. We can't talk to each other, because now he's learning the Gronings dialect. They teach him that in school, the rich farmers teach him. And he learns it from the kids, the rich farm kids. The way they talk, it sounds stinky rich. Sometimes I know what they're saying, but it sounds funny. And it doesn't mean the same thing.
Like the word for horse. Now them Groningers, they're mean to their horses. They whip the shit out of them and work them till they're dead. And when they say "horse," it comes out like "poard." Now us Drenters, we love our horses. We pet them and feed them and talk to them and support them in their struggle. And our word is "peerd." It sounds a lot nicer, if you ask me. If I was a horse and heard "poard," I'd gallop to Drente. That's why a lot of horses are trying to get across the border to Drente. The Gronings farmers, they're rigging up electric fences and saying it's to keep our Drente horses away. I spend a lot of my day helping Gronings horses over those fences, while my brother spends all day learning how to talk so I won't understand him.
And now he's getting attitudes. Ever since the animals started taking over the farms over here, he's been bugging Dad to promise him most of the land. Dad's afraid Klaas will kill the smartest animals and beat the rest of them till they can't neigh or moo or bleat any more. And Dad has this great school going for them. The rabbits, they're good at milking the--And the party will go on till late tonight! Dear cows, you are invited! And!
What a party! They sheep got dressed up in Drents folk costume and danced around, while me and my dad and mom and three sisters crawled outside and ate from the trough. How lovely our pony Sjeba looked in that pink silk nightgown! The windows were like bright TV screens. We could see them toasting to Drente and spilling the champagne and trying on our clothes. Then they filled the troughs with strong punch, made us drink, and invited us in. All the furniture was kicked over, the wallpaper was torn, we danced around in a circle! We played games with beans, and Gerrit the goat won the most beans. But I was wearing the longest tie until I had to take it off. Heh heh heh! Ha ha ha! Mooo! Baaah! Aieee!
(The laughter continues for an entire page.)
Then my brother Klaas stomps in the door. He glares at me. I offer him a can that I've been saving for him. His eyes explode. He gets his whip and brandishes it at the animals. They all go running out the door and into their stalls.
I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror, just to make sure. I come back feeling better. People often think we're twins, but we don't look alike, no, not at all. His red hair sticks up. He has a double chin. I'm the one with green eyes and long fingers. I smell whiskey all over him. He spills his smell onto me, and for a moment we're close. Then! Gulp! Sticky floor!
Part 2: In which the conflict develops, romance brews, and secondary personages and accompanying conflicts come to the fore, vying for primacy.
My brother went to Groningen, he's got that Gronings tone again.
But why am I telling you all this, anyway? I am telling you this, dear cows, because you should never trust a Groninger. And you should never, never trust a Drenter who crosses the Groningen border. Because they're forming an army over there. They're going to come and take over. That's why I'm glad you voted last night to make Drents the national language. That way, you can spot the enemy. It also makes it easier for me to help you. And I want to help you, because I'm scared!
(Here the young Mr. Kuipers drifts into an exposition of his guilt, where he recognizes that he will never become an animal and is helping them only out of brute ambition. This passage has been omitted because it really doesn't matter--he's a nice guy.)
My brother used to say, animals are stupid. I always said, it's just that you don't understand them. Talk to them and listen to them. And you'll see that one goose is different from another goose, and you can't say anything about all animals. Take Lubbers, the garden snake. He thinks the world will go on forever. But Lies the squirrel is busy preparing for the end. Which one's the smart one? The one you happen to agree with. And often the animals can't talk too well, but they write wonderful letters. I spend about an hour a day reading all those letters from animals. Except for you cows. I never get letters from you. Write! You'll get--
But the real reason I'm telling you all this is! A letter! From a rooster five kilometers away! Yesterday! With an upside-down stamp! I'll read it to you! I really will!
No, I won't read it to you. I just never knew how wonderful a rooster could be. He has a long neck!
But then again, I should read it to you, because otherwise my brother will find it and take it away, and then you'll never get to hear it. Where is it now? Oh oh no! It's gone! I really did want to answer him. Sorrow! Maybe I can remember some of it, oh, how could I ever forget it? Here it goes:
How c-c-coooould you not notice me before? I darted a glimpse at you when you came to pick up eggs from my wife Riekje, and I've been thinking peck thinking peck about you ever since.
But rooster, I didn't know that was your wife! Do you have kids? Please say yes or I'll never have peace in my soul!
And so, Guusje, I invite you to contemplate entering a beautiful friendship with me, a strut friendship strut strut where we would walk side by side and talk about girls and hens and the beauty of eggs and the joy of life!
But rooster, how could I ever say no to that? Has anyone ever said such a nice thing to me before? Not my brother, no, you are not like my brother at all. I wish my brother was a rooster, yes I do. And he makes his eggs upside down! And!
Part 3: Central personages make a comeback, recognizable though altered. Primary and secondary conflicts are resolved.
My brother went to Groningen, I pick the same old bone again.
And so, roosters, I forgot the rooster, or so I thought. And it's probably a good thing, because his crowing was starting to sound a little Gronings. So I was spending my days on the farm, teaching the goats to cook, when one day I got something in the mail. It's an invitation! It says, "Roosters of Drente Unite! Meeting and Rally Soon! Topic To Be Announced Shortly!"
Oh, how my old feeling swelled up! The thought of seeing my friend the rooster again! The thought of being invited to join a brotherhood of roosters!
I guessed the day right, and the place too. It was at an old farmhouse that the birds were using as a church. There, across the farmhouse, a big red banner was strung, and all around, for miles and miles, there were roosters and roosters and roosters. The banner read:
and below, in smaller letters:
WHOSE GOAL IS TO NARROW THE GAP BETWEEN SIGNIFIER AND SIGNIFIED
How dare they write in Gronings? Who did this?
Then my friend the rooster struts up to me, and I see that he is not my friend! He is my brother! And more roosters come up to me and surround me, and they are all my brother! And the snake slithering through the grass is my brother! And even you, cows, you are all my brother! My moment of revenge has come! So back to your stalls, you animals, back to your stalls, one and all!
About the author:
Diana Senechal is currently polishing her collection of short stories The Dog Park, and Other Tales of a Wounded Ego. She is editor-in-chief of the new literary journal Si Senor, and has a solo cd, a book of poetry translations, a few rock ‘n roll credentials, a Ph.D. in Russian literature, and an assortment of lighters running out of fuel and pens running out of ink. She lives in Brooklyn.