Reece woke to the sound of tiny feet scurrying across the heart pine ceiling boards. He had been fighting a month-long battle with the unrelenting hoard of rodent invaders in his attic. Since moving back into the family homestead, Reece had pulled all the insulation from the attic in hopes that removing any nesting materials would deter the onslaught taking place. He felt sure this would have worked, but to no avail. The twilight brought with it another assault of the enemy.
Reece thought back to his childhood, seeing the occasional field mouse, but only remembering one or two occasions of rats getting into the house. The rat, as he recalled, preferred the sprawling country acreage, and stuck to timber piles, straw, and other debris left from the day to day toils of the farm.
Reece's attention returned to the attic as the endless banter of orders barked from the one he referred to as 'The General'. The General had become loquacious over the last couple of weeks, and had Reece learned just how loud he could be after removing the insulation. He'd have left it for another week or so in hopes the poison would take effect, but now it seemed Reece had supplied The General with a bullhorn of sorts. The heart pine ceiling offered an acoustic-enhancing quality to the attic activity Reese hadn't planned on.
Reece turned onto his right side, pulling his pillow up tightly around the back of his head as he stared at the alarm clock. It was two-thirty in the morning, and his make-shift ear muffs, though uncomfortable, at least somewhat dulled the clamor taking place above his head. Just as he began to doze off again, Reece was startled awake so suddenly that his body rolled off the edge of the bed slammed hard to the floor.
Loud snaps, pops, bangs, and cracks rang out, followed by the sound not of furred paws, but of the kicking and scraping claws of dying rats, and then the scurrying of a frenzied exodus from the space overhead. Reece jumped to his feet shouting, "TAKE THAT, GENERAL! I GOT YOU THIS TIME YOU S-O-B!"
In a corner of the attic, The General reluctantly withdrew his surviving troops for a moment. He sat upright on his tail sniffing the air and listening to the jeers from below. As the scent of blood and death wafted in the coolness of the night air blowing through the gable vents on either side of the roof, The General shrilled furious orders, and from below, it sounded for a moment as if the horde had returned to drag multiple heavy objects across the attic floor. Then, blessed silence. Reece returned to his bed, where he lay as a welcome hush fell across the house.
At daybreak, Reece awoke to the sound of Red, his dad's prize rooster, crowing in the yard. Towards the end of his father's life, Reece often wondered if his father had been more proud of Red than of Reece, mainly because Red had stuck around. His father had always dreamed of him and Reece running the family farm together, but Reece chose his own path. Now, the son regretted not at least attempting some kind of partnership with his dad.
Reece got up, still weary from the previous night's events, and stumbled his way to the kitchen where fixed himself a cup of hot coffee and sat down at the small kitchen table. He thought about how he was sitting in the same chair where he would watch his father drink his first cup of morning coffee before heading out onto the farm for daily chores.
Reece contentedly took a sip of his own coffee, thinking it had tasted as smooth and rich as the aroma had been as it brewed and how fitting the name 'Carolina Morning' was. These were his first few weeks back home in South Carolina in years, and he had found the coffee an irresistible purchase from a local shop in town, Coastal Coffee Roasters.
Reece was the sentimental type. As he finished his coffee, he began to reflect on days spent with his father on the farm. He remembered how people used to refer to him as Old Man Brown, even before he was actually an old man. He had helped his father for years, early on school mornings and during the summer, to collect dozens of brown free- range chicken eggs. He laughed to himself, remembering how disgusting he thought it was to eat brown eggs. Now it seemed everybody wanted organic, free-range eggs. Even that coffee shop was one of his late father's customers.