The musty aroma of hay and manure permeated the air in the half-lit barn, surrounding Josh with a warmth and security he felt nowhere else. He was seated on a bale of hay with Sullivan, his Golden Retriever pup, snoring softly at his feet and the rats in their cage by his side, munching on carrot sticks and lettuce. The secondhand guitar that his mother had saved up a whole year for out of her small salary at the beauty shop to buy him for Christmas was cradled in his lap.
It was funny how he could express his feelings so much better by singing and playing his guitar than by talking to anybody. He knew he would go to a big city some day and become famous, although nobody had heard his songs yet. But for now, it made the pain he felt sometimes when his parents argued hurt less.
He was surprised that they hadn’t been mad at all about the rats and had pretended that nothing out of the ordinary had happened that day. He looked around at his animals and at Lottie, Bessie, and Gertrude standing in their stalls contentedly chewing their cuds. He sighed with a contentment of his own, and before his father came out to take his after-dinner swig from the bottle he kept behind a loose plank in the barn, Josh felt the beginnings of a new song coming on.
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