“Come on, dammit,” I growled and kicked the large cannister. I tried again and managed to get the lid on. I twisted it, making a mental note I was going to have to fix that. The average person was not going to kick and fight to get the lid on.

I stepped back and surveyed the project. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

It was going to work. All the components worked. There should be nothing to cause any explosions. The small motor in the cannister was powerful, but it shouldn’t explode. I hoped. After the automatic ladder incident, I was really trying to back off anything to do with compression and pistons. Nothing with hydraulics. The shit was flammable. My family would literally kill me if I burned down the ranch.

I kept telling myself that one of these days something would actually work. I would make it happen. I would sell an invention and things would be good. I could buy Dad the bull we needed to freshen the herd. I could maybe buy myself a new trailer. For now, I was in Cash’s trailer. It was nice to have my own space. Living at home was great but growing up in a big family had me craving my own space.

We were all getting a little stir crazy. Living on top of each other in the main house had worked for a long time, but we were all longing for freedom. And our parents were probably looking forward to some privacy as well. Economics and common sense had us all living on the ranch to help keep it up. Cash, my younger brother by a year, had recently moved in with his girlfriend but spent the bulk of his days on the ranch helping out with the chores.

“Okay,” I muttered. “Here goes nothing.” I reached forward to turn on the vacuum that was going to change the world.


I jumped, jerking my finger away from the on button. My immediate reaction was I had just created another explosion. Then it dawned on me it was a voice behind me. I was alive. I wasn’t burning. I turned around to find my brother Austin standing just inside the old barn that doubled as the workshop. He looked pissed. Austin was the oldest and the guy that was always very serious about life.

“What?” I asked with a frown.

“What is that?” he asked without stepping into the barn. Few of my family members were brave enough to step inside. I had a tendency to blow shit up. Not intentionally. It just happened. I took plenty of precautions, but things just tended to explode. If I could bottle and sell my ability to blow shit up, I’d be rich.

“It’s an automatic vacuum,” I said, smiling.

“It looks like a trash can,” he said.

“It kind of is,” I said. “It’s a robot vacuum.”

“Hasn’t that already been done?”

“Not like this,” I said, grinning.

He shook his head. “Mom said dinner is ready.”

“I’ll be in,” I said.

“She didn’t send me out here to tell you dinner was ready for you to let it sit on the table and get cold,” he said with a sigh. “Now.”

“I just want to test this thing,” I said.

“Why are you making something someone has already made?” he questioned with the exasperation obvious in his voice.

“This isn’t like one of those little floor sweepers with a tiny little catchment container,” I explained. I tapped the can-shaped vacuum. “This bad boy can go in an office building or even a big house. It doesn’t have to be emptied every ten minutes. It can suck up things bigger than the size of a needle.”

“Again, why?”

“Because it will save companies a lot of money on cleaning crews,” I reasoned.

“You spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel,” he muttered. “Why not spend your time inventing something people will actually buy?”

“People will buy this,” I insisted. “It’s a super-powered vacuum. It’s like a Dyson on steroids.”

He groaned and shook his head. “That’s where you go wrong. You super-power everything, which ends up with something exploding.”

“Not this,” I said, grinning. “There will be no blowing up.”

“Whatever,” he said. “Just get your ass inside for dinner.”

“I’m coming,” I said. “Right after I do a test run.”

“Don’t touch anything until I’m a safe distance,” he warned as he walked away.

I pushed the button for the low speed. I had put together the motor with the idea of quickly vacuuming an area. It was slower than a kid’s power wheels, which was where I got the idea, but faster than the little Roombas all over the market. And my vacuum would not smear dog shit all over the floor. It would actually suck it up. It was a Shop-Vac on wheels and automated.

I pushed the button to start the vacuum. It whirred to life with the sound of suction kicking in. I pushed another button to set it on its way. “Oh shit,” I murmured. The vacuum took off across the barn floor. “Wait!”

I chased after the thing that seemed to be stuck in high speed. It zagged left and then right. I reached out to turn it off but the thing was on the move. It was faster than a power wheels. The remote part of my invention wasn’t set up yet, which meant I had to catch it.

Smoke started to barrel out of the top of the can. “Oh no,” I groaned, already predicting what was going to happen next. “Come on, don’t explode.”

I almost caught it, but something told me to take cover. Maybe because I had done this more than once. I wasn’t wearing my protective gear. I didn’t think I had to for something so simple and relatively safe. The vacuum whizzed back and forth across the barn floor, which was technically the way I designed it. It knocked things over before shooting back the other way. All the while, white smoke was spilling out of the can. I sighed and watched the destruction. The battery would fry eventually. Or the motor. I didn’t want to be in the blast zone when it did.

The vacuum, that resembled a silver bullet at this point, shot across the floor. It slammed against the old wood of the barn that was probably close to a hundred years old. There was a loud bang, followed by a puff of smoke and another horrific cracking sound. I shielded my face with my arm and turned away from whatever was happening.

Silence followed along with the sound of tiny bits and pieces falling to the floor. I slowly turned to investigate the damage. “Shit,” I murmured when I saw the hole in the wall.


The sound of footsteps had me wanting to hide. Austin appeared in the doorway first, followed by the rest of my brothers and both sisters. My father sauntered up behind them with a fire extinguisher in hand.

“What the hell?” Austin asked.

My sisters Delaney and Montana were not trying to hide their laughter. Shane and Heath were shaking their heads. Flint looked just as pissed as Austin. My father looked like he was staring at an old shoe. There was no reaction. It was more of an acceptance.

“Oops,” I answered with a shrug.

That sent Delaney and Montana into fits of laughter. Austin walked into the barn and stared at the hole. “You nearly did it this time,” he said. “You almost took down the barn. With a vacuum cleaner.”

“It’s just a hole,” I said.

“Just a hole?” Flint walked in and cautiously stared at the cannister that was still smoking. “What the hell is that thing?”

I was actually pretty happy to see it was still in one piece. A little dented for sure, but it didn’t explode. That was a pretty big bonus in my book. Typically, there was always some kind of destruction and my inventions were damaged beyond repair. All was not lost with this one. I could still fix it. With some tweaks, I knew I could make it work.

“Don’t,” Austin warned.

“Dinner’s ready,” Pop said and walked away.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Austin said again. “Just don’t.”

“Maybe you should tell me what I’m thinking,” I said.

“You’re thinking you’re going to try and fix that thing,” he said. “You’re thinking you could redo it and try again.”

“Duh,” I said, shrugging. “Do you really think Henry Ford or Thomas Edison gave up after the first try? Inventing new things comes with a little trial and error. This one was actually not that bad. It could have been worse.”

“Could have been worse?” Austin asked. He pointed to the hole in the side of the barn. “Yes, Bowie, I suppose it could have been worse. You could have brought the whole fucking barn down on your head!”

“But I didn’t,” I pointed out. “It’s a small hole. The product isn’t a total loss. I need to think about a smaller motor, but the idea is still good.”

“That’s always the problem with you,” he muttered. “You think big. You think huge. You take a sledgehammer when all you need is a gentle tap.”

“Glad you’re not dead,” Delaney called out. “Mom made tuna casserole. I’m going to eat.”

Everyone except Austin drifted away. “What?” I said defensively.

“One of these days you’re going to kill yourself,” he said. “Or you’re going to give our parents heart attacks.”

“Pop looked pretty chill,” I said, shrugging. “And Mom didn’t even come out. I think they’re pretty used to this stuff by now. They weren’t worried.”

“One of these days,” he warned. “I swear, if I have to clean your guts or brains up, I’m going to be pissed.”

“I’ll try and keep the guts and brains inside my body,” I said.

“Hurry up and get your ass inside,” he growled. “I’m hungry. I’m not going to wait on you.”

“I’m coming,” I said.

I cautiously approached the vacuum. It seemed like it was good and dead, but I didn’t want it to go buck wild while I was inside eating dinner. I carefully removed the top and disconnected the battery that was fizzing. That wasn’t a good sign. I made sure nothing was going to move or spark and headed into the main house to clean up for dinner.

We almost always had dinner together. My mother had been preparing dinner for all of us forever. The thought of leaving home was appealing sometimes, but I would miss my mother’s cooking. She cooked breakfast on the days we had big cattle drives or were going to be doing any really labor-intensive work. She packed lunches for us and always made dinner. I sometimes wondered if she wanted us out of her hair. Her workload would be a lot lighter if her little chicks would just leave the damn nest.

But if we left, Pop’s workload quadrupled. I supposed it was a trade-off. We all stuck around because the ranch needed all of us. We all had our own things, but our priority was the ranch. Cash would get up crazy early and drive out to the ranch, ready to work at sunup with the rest of us. He didn’t live out on the ranch anymore, but he was not shirking his responsibilities.

The ranch wasn’t profitable enough to hire help. That meant it fell to all of us. I didn’t think any of us minded. Sure, we all had our moments of restlessness. I was thirty-five and still lived at home, which was abnormal for a lot of families, but not working families like ours. Some of us were in our late twenties, early thirties. Families just like ours were scattered across farming communities everywhere. It just made sense to work toward one goal while saving money on housing.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *