Friday, February 15, 2008

Walking Beans

I was in view of my parents’ road, Gorham Road – maybe a mile and a half away when I noticed that the Cat’s fuel gauge was smugly pointing past the letter E. A minute or two later, the machine lurched and sputtered jerking me forward in it and I downshifted the gears with one tired arm, but the machine let out a death rattle (….so much death…) before stalling on the right side of the road between two soybean fields. Exhausted, I undid my seatbelt and assessed the landscape in all direction. Nothing. No movement. Just a few buzzards swarmed in the sky up ahead. I was so close…dammit. And now I had to go the rest of the way on foot. Ugh.

I peeled my sweating back from the black leather cab seat. I turned around in the small space and pulled a lever to move the seat forward; searching for anything I might want to take. I had my crowbar, but if I could double up on weaponry, all the better. A glass jar, nearly full of water was tucked miraculously behind the seat. My mom and dad were notorious for re-filling large glass organic juice jars with the reverse osmosis water from their house and taking a couple jars with them in their vehicles wherever they went. They didn’t trust drinking the water anywhere. And in that moment I thanked God for their alarmist precautions that I had so often made light fun of. I took the jar and guzzled down half the warm water, the combination of water-force and gravity nearly choked me. The sun was high and hot. I grabbed the water jar, grabbed my crowbar, for some reason I also took the keys…and so gingerly I opened the cab door. I leave it open.

I clearly see now that the once yellow body of the Cat is patterned with the blood of my neighbors. It had already started to stink. I knew the safest way to do this was to walk on the side of the road in the field. The brown soybeans were knee high and sparse. It felt good to stretch my legs and as I walk I start to feel a little more awake and alive.

As farmers rotate crops, last year these fields were hay. I recall running into the fields in the cool of summer evenings as a kid at the end of the season. I remember taking a running leap, trying to jump up on the huge bales that were so fragrant and earthsweet. I miss that smell as I miss the woods. The sun mercilessly beat down and I could hear the calls of the buzzards ahead getting louder during their circling ritual.

Keeping vigil in each direction, I continue straight ahead, soybeans slowly smacking at my legs as I crunch them under foot. I am getting close to the Burns’ farm and their Polled Herefords sign in the shape of a brown Hereford cow. This farm meets the end of Gorham Road. Several red pole buildings and sheds dot the farm lot around a white-sided house and initially I detect no movement. Only about a half mile to go now as I prepare to cross over to Gorham Road.

I must have been overly focused on reaching the road because I look up one last time to see that the buzzards were swarming directly over Burns’ farm. My eyes meet with a figure beyond the half acre cow pasture. It is Mr. Burns. He is standing in his bluejean bib overalls and John Deere cap. He is missing an arm tore off at the shoulder and his red plaid shirt hangs shredded where the joint once was. He is holding a pitchfork in his remaining rotting hand and stands with his head oddly tilted. He sees me and begins to moan and move slowly forward in my direction. I don’t get panicky because a good 75 yards separates us as does an electric wire fence. What I failed to hear soon enough, though, was the “clunk, clunk” of the farmhouse’s wooden screen door as it swung open in the midday sun. Farmer Burns’ three young children -- two girls and a boy between the ages of 8 and 11 – undead, foaming at the mouth, irate, growling and hungry emerge from the white farmhouse.... just a few yards away from me.

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