A Day in the Impala, 1987
Just outside of Paris, Kentucky
June 29, 1987
"I want to say bye to the goat!" Sammy yelled, banging on the window after Dean practically wrestled him into the car.
"You've said bye to that damn goat five times already," Dean grumbled, holding him by his Oscar the Grouch t-shirt and belting him in.
"He's my favorite goat!" Sammy yelled.
"Yeah, of the one goat you've ever seen, he's the best."
Sammy glared, but within the next moment he was wiggling happily. This was the first time he was getting to ride without the carseat. Mostly because he was too big for it, but it's not like they could afford another one. Dean didn't even mention it, though he wondered if Sammy was big enough for just the seatbelt. Dad would make the face he always made when anything that costs money came up.
They had been living at the Farrell's farm now for three weeks while dad did some hunter work there. And Dean had felt for the last two days that dad was in a hurry to get moving. He could always tell. Dad got antsy.
Dean went to get in on his side in the back when his dad called, from the front porch, for him to sit in the front.
Dad wanted to talk to him about something. That's what sitting in the front meant.
"Uhhh-oh!" Sammy sing-songed. "Dean's in trouble!"
"I didn't do anything," Dean muttered and slammed the door, walking around.
He slid into the front seat and sat there for a minute, pleased that his toes could touch the floorboard now without him having to scoot forward too much. He was looking at his reflection in the mirror on the visor. Weeks upon weeks of playing out in the summer sun outside of hotels and here at the farm had given Sammy a deep tan (Mrs. Farrell kept saying he was "brown as a berry") and had given Dean lighter hair, pants that kept trying to fall off and what his dad told him were freckles. They were on every patch of skin that had seen the sun: his face, his neck, his arms… all over. Dean had only ever seen them on redheaded kids or cartoon characters on television, and they hadn't looked like this.
Mrs. Farrell said they were adorable, and Dean knew right then that he wanted them gone. Dad said to get used to them, 'cause they weren't going anywhere. The biggest mess of them were across his nose and cheeks. He scratched at them self-consciously while he watched dad on the front porch.
Dean really didn't want to leave here. He didn't think Sammy really did either.
Whatever monster thing bugging the Farrells must've only come out at night, or on some other part of the farm, because he and Sammy had been able to go tearing all over until nighttime. When it got dark, dad would tell them to get back into the little guest house and stay there 'til it got light.
Sammy had fed chickens and the goat and gotten to pet the cows. He ran through the corn and learned quickly that running through corn was a bad idea (Dean could've told him that, those leaves looked pointy). Sammy had helped Mrs. Farrell's daughter pick tomatoes and squash and gathered eggs from the chickens. Sammy was so happy that it would make Dean laugh just looking at him.
Dean had learned quite a few things himself. For one, he now knew that it would be awhile before he could lift a bale of hay on his own. It hurt like a mother when you fell off a three-wheeler. Horses liked apples, cows were a lot bigger than he thought, milking things was disgusting and he might never drink milk again. Changing the oil in a tractor was a lot like changing the oil in a car, only smaller and it was harder to get in there and get it done.
Also, he could've gone a lot longer without knowing what chickens looked like when they were "in love." Yuck.
Mrs. Farrell was nice, though. Dean asked lots of questions: What does this do? (It shells the corn.) Can I play on it? (No.) How do you pick all this corn anyway? (With the combine.) How does that work? (Here, I'll show you.) Do you kill these chickens? (Yep, sometimes.) Does it hurt? (You'd have to ask the chickens.)
Most people found Dean's questions annoying, and eventually told him to shut up and go away, but Mrs. Farrell always answered honestly and patiently and joked that he should come back someday when he was older 'cause he'd make a good farmhand.
Between riding on the three-wheeler and running around with Sammy, he found himself mostly hanging around the back porch to see if Mrs. Farrell had anything for him to do. Dad had joked that if Dean kept eating so much of their food, they would want him to work it off in chores, and Dean (who couldn't remember the last time there was so much food) had taken it to heart.
Mrs. Farrell had him getting buckets of well water, brushing the horses, helping to muck the horse stalls (which was just as disgusting as it sounded) and let him ride on the tractor three times. By their last day there, Dean knew lots of stuff about horses and could name all the parts on the farm machines from memory. He'd used a shovel, pushed a wheelbarrow all over the farm and he'd lifted a very small bale of hay. He was pretty sure that Mr. Farrell made the bale smaller for him on purpose, but it was still 20 pounds, and he'd carried it over halfway before he had to give up and drag it behind him. After he made sure no one was watching, he speculatively curled his arm and made a muscle. It felt like he had one.
But yesterday, Mrs. Farrell put him at the kitchen table and put a bowl in front of him. Inside was a warm, but messy-looking piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream melting on it. She called it "cobbler" and it was delicious. She leaned around the doorway of the dining room and asked if he wanted some milk, and Dean got upset because it made him think of something else, but he didn't know what. But he didn't want the cobbler anymore and had gone to ride the three-wheeler again, for a few hours, until he knew dad was gonna come looking.
He was frowning, remembering this, as his dad walked back to the car carrying two big bags. He handed them through the open window to Dean who put them between his feet in the floorboard and started snooping through them. In one, there were all kinds of little packages with apples and cornbread and lumps of things that were wrapped in foil. Dean lifted the corner on a little packet of oatmeal raisin cookies and grabbed two. One he crammed whole in his mouth, and the other one he held back and over the seat without looking. Within a second, Sammy had reached up to grab it. The other bag had a bunch of clean, folded clothes, all the ones that he and Sammy had worn up here, except for what they had on.
"You just ate, Dean," John scolded, eyeing the crumbs on Dean's camouflage shirt, which didn't help hide things like crumbs.
Dean shrugged, chewing noisily. It was in his mouth now, nothing to do about it.
"I want to say bye to my goat!" Sammy yelled again through a mouthful of cookie, banging his chubby fist on the inside of the window.
"Roll down the window and say 'bye' then, for crying out loud," dad said wearily. Dean hadn't thought of that.
Sammy cranked the window down, and in the time it took him to make all the turns with the handle, he forgot what he wanted to do and just played with the window instead. Dean rolled his eyes at him in the side mirror and grinned.
Dad started the car and looked over at Dean. Dean sat straight and still. He wasn't sure if he had done something wrong or not, but if he had, he was ready. He wondered if Mrs. Farrell told dad about the cobbler thing. He hadn't meant anything by it, really. He just… wanted to go.
Dad waited until he had taken the car out to a long stretch of paved road, after making it past all the dirt paths and gravel. "Dean, remember that thing we talked about a week or so ago? About how you might have to take care of Sammy on your own for awhile?"
Oh, he remembered. And they'd talked about it more than once. They'd talked about it a lot, to where Dean felt like he was in school, knowing there'd be a test on something. "Yes, sir."
"BYE GOAT!" Sammy screamed out the window, suddenly remembering.
"Sammy!" He and dad yelled at the same time.
"Your goat's about a mile that a-way, Sammy," Dean said, jerking his thumb back.
"He heard me," Sammy insisted.
"Sammy, I need to talk about something important with your brother. If you can count the next ten green mile markers and keep quiet through all ten of them, I'll stop and get you both an ice cream. Do we have a deal?"
Sammy had just learned to count to ten, which he showed off by counting ten of everything, even when there wasn't ten of it to count. His foot tapped the back of Dean's seat thoughtfully. "Deal!"
"All right." Dad turned to Dean again. "You remember what we talked about?"
Dean did. "Does this mean I get a gun?"
Dad almost hit the brakes. "No you can't have a gun! What kind of question is that?"
"Why not?" They had lots of them.
"Because you're eight years old and you'd blow a hole in your goddamn foot, that's why."
"You could teach me."
Dad scrubbed his hand down his face, in a way that always made Dean think of someone trying to erase something they said or heard. "Dean, if this hunt goes right, I'll never have to teach you that, ever. Okay? If I can get this done, things will be different. This whole thing is just temporary."
Dean nodded. "Okay."
"I mean it," Dad insisted. "We could... we could get a real place, nothing big but… I could get a job somewhere, you could go to the same school for more than a few weeks, huh?"
This didn't really sound all that appealing to Dean, but he knew it was important to dad, so he nodded again.
"So let's go over it, one more time."
"Yes, sir." Dean concentrated and thought back on all the stuff dad told him. "We go inside, and we stay there. I lock the door, and I put a chair under the knob. I keep the windows covered up, I keep the TV turned down, keep our voices down and I keep Sammy away from the windows."
"Both of you, away from the windows."
"Both of us," Dean corrected.
" And if something comes after you, what do you do?"
"I'm asking the questions right now. I need to know what you know. If something comes at you, what do you do?"
"Take Sammy and a chair into the bathroom. Lock the door and put the chair under the door."
"What's the order?"
"Sammy in the door, chair in the door, me over the chair, close the door, lock the door, push the chair against the door and tight under the doorknob and sit in the bathtub." Dean moved his hands when he said this. It was how he remembered. Push Sammy, push chair, jump over chair, pull door, lock door (turn), push chair, wedge chair. Like dad said, no wasted movements.
"And don't come out."
"What if you hear my voice tell you it's okay to come out?"
This, more than any other part, had made Dean feel like there was a hard knot in his stomach. It had kept him up a couple of nights, wondering what it might mean. "I wait for the watchword."
"Where do you sleep on the bed?"
"Closest to the door."
"What if someone knocks or calls the room?"
"Listen for your knock if it's the door, and then the watchword. If it's the phone, two rings, and then listen for the second call one minute later. Pick up the phone and don't' say anything until I hear the watchword."
"That's right. Because anyone who's supposed to get in will know the knock and have the key. What If you hear the key without the knock?"
" Sammy and the chair, then me, into the bathroom, just like the other way. Dad –"
"Dean, we're going to finish the drill. What if you have to leave the motel?"
"Find a church."
"What kind of church?"
"A Catholic church." They'd been over this too: stained glass, big cross, spires, St. this or that on the sign. Dean knew how to spot a Catholic church.
Dad nodded, as if satisfied. "I'm putting you about 10 minutes away from one, that's 10 minutes on foot for me, it'll be slower for you with Sammy, but that's the closest motel to it I could find."
Dean watched a mile marker blur past them, wondering how many Sam had counted. "Dad, what's coming after us? Why us? Is it werewolves or vampires or –"
His dad cut him off right there. Dad had said there were monsters, but he hadn't told Dean all the kinds. Dean was just guessing from monster movies he'd seen on television. But dad's hand, to stop naming them (where Sammy could hear) was enough for Dean. "I don't know yet. I don't know that anything is, but if something does, I need you to be strong and I need you to be ready. I need you to pay attention. In fact, if you hear weird sounds outside, or you get a bad feeling about something, you assume the worst-case scenario, just like I told you."
He didn't need to say that part. Dad talked about worst-case scenarios last week, too. Dad said "there are things that can take you, things that can kill you and things that won't kill you yet." And the yet, Dean knew, was the worst-case scenario, but they were all bad. This, along with something that could throw its voice to sound like dad and not be dad, had made Dean's head hurt trying to figure it out.
Dad's voice was hard like a finger snap, but Dean didn't know what he'd done to make him angry except let his mind wander a little. "Dean! I'm not kidding around. I don't have time to find someone I can trust in every place we go. If you think you can't do this, you need to tell me now. Right now. But if you ever want this to stop, this riding around and never knowing where we're gonna be, and always dealing with a bunch of new people, you need to back me up. You need to help me. Mrs. Farrell told me you were always anxious to help out, always wanted to be busy doing something. Well, here's something you can do for me, forthe three of us. I need you with me on this, or it's not going to work."
Dean felt his face flush with anger, and he wondered. He wondered what he had been doing, if it wasn't helping. When he was teaching Sam to tie his laces (he knew what it was like to be the only kid in kindergarten who couldn't tie his shoes), when he was keeping him from running out into the street, when he was putting bandages on cuts or ice on bruises or pouring milk on cereal or reading Goodnight, Moon for the bazillionth time…
"I thought I was helping," Dean said sullenly.
Dad scrubbed his hand down his face, erasing again. "Right, I'm not… of course you help, Dean. You do. What I'm saying is, this is the next level. You're older now, and I need you to step up. You've been doing all that other stuff, like a good big brother. But I need you to be something else now, on top of all that."
Dean nodded, raising his chin. "Yes, sir. But –"
Dad's jaw was immediately hard under his beard and his eyes went hard with it. "But what?"
Dean shrank back. "How long?"
His dad seemed to relax, just a little. "Three days, maybe a week."
"Three –" Dean stared at his father. He'd watched Sam for a few hours here and there, while dad went out to get stuff. Once he'd watched him overnight and until morning, but they'd both slept through most of that. Even for a few hours, Sam was crazy. He was loud and he ran around and he wanted Dean to play with him, whatever it was he wanted to play and he yelled and kicked when he got bored. Sometimes he just wouldn't listen to anything Dean told him to do, even if Dean told him really loud.
"Is there a problem?" Dad's knuckles were milk-white on the steering wheel. Sammy had started to kick his seat. Dean thought they were probably coming up on mile 10, and reached around the side of the seat to hold Sammy's ankle, hard. Not now, Sammy. Be good. He's mad enough.
"Can't we just go stay with Pastor Jim?"
"Pastor Jim's gonna need to be with me, Dean. Otherwise, yeah, that's where you'd be. Why do you think I'm asking you to do this? Because I'm too lazy to drive up to Minnesota? Come on!"
Before he realized what he was doing, Dean said, in a voice he knew dad wasn't gonna like, "I just wish – " Right away, he wished he could pull the words back in.
"You just wish what?" Dad hit the brakes then and turned the wheel sharp, taking them out onto the dirt shoulder of the road, dust rising up in a thick cloud around them, little rocks flying out from under the tires, car still shuddering, engine thumping under the hood.
Dean got still and quiet now. Now there was trouble.
"Tell me, Dean," dad said through his teeth. "Tell me, 'cause I can't wait to hear what you wish for."
Dean raked his teeth over his bottom lip, taking a deep breath, trying not to whine or do the eyes-too-big thing that dad said he hated. "Dad, I can't make him be good for that long –"
"Can't, or won't?"
Dean sucked hard on his teeth, feeling his face go red as he stared at his hand, at the new freckles on the knuckles, twisting up in his shirt.
"I wish it was different, too, Dean. I wish I didn't have to ask you to do this. But I don't have the luxury of sitting around and wishing for something that's not gonna happen. I don't have that kind of time. This is what is, it's reality, it's what we have to deal with. And if I can't go out and do this job, because you're too scared or because this is too hard for you, then we're gonna be trapped in this car forever, because I don't know when there'll be another chance to catch up to –" He stopped quickly, probably about to tell Dean something he didn't want him to know.
"Yes, sir," Dean said stiffly, quickly.
"Yes, sir, what?"
"Yes, sir, whatever you need me to do. I'll do it. I'll deal with it." Dean looked at him now, raising his chin, raising his chin the way dad did when he had to talk to other hunters, looking him right in the eye. "I can handle it."
"All right," dad said, just as stiffly. "That's what I need to hear."
Dean stared straight ahead, trying to keep his face as still as possible and not fidget. Soldier-still, except for the fingers wrapped around Sammy's ankle. As still as the parked car.
"If you haven't heard from me in a week from today, Pastor Jim or someone who knows Pastor Jim'll come up, and they'll know the watchword and everything, okay?"
"Why wouldn't you be coming?"
"If," dad said shortly. "If I can't come, they'll come for you. Someone you'll know from his group, but you still have to listen for the knock and the rings and watchword and be on guard, am I clear?"
"Yes, sir." Dean turned Sam's ankle loose finally and said, "Is there anything you've seen out there that can get through a door?"
Dad got quiet then, and Dean knew it with a kind of throwing up feeling in his stomach, that he'd asked a good question.
"We'll deal with all that when we get to it. Look, Dean, it's probably nothing, but I need you to act like it's something. I need you to behave as if something's coming, all the time, from now on, whether it does or not. Even if nothing happens, you need to feel like it might. You need to stay ready and keep your head and pay attention to everything, even if it seems small. But, listen, I'm not… I'm not trying to make you scared. I'm trying to make you strong for Sammy, for all of us. I've been up against a lot of stuff now, and I'm still here. As long as I'm around, you and Sammy are gonna be fine. I'm just asking you for some extra help, because it can't hurt to have you backing me up, okay?"
Dean swallowed down whatever he was thinking, whatever he might be about to say. "Yes, sir."
Dad stared at him for a minute while Dean carefully didn't stare back. He turned the keys in the ignition and put the wheels back up on the road.
When the next mile marker passed, Sammy yelled out for ice cream. Dad was talking different now, about food he could get them that Dean could make for him and Sammy without having to get a room with a stove or a kitchen. Peanut butter and jelly, crackers, peanuts, cold Pop-Tarts and beef jerky. He was asking Dean what kind of board games he could get them and Dean let Sammy call those out. He was just gonna sit still and be quiet for awhile, watching everything, listening to everything and thinking about what he needed to do.