Author: Ian Hill
Farmer Hoggins stood bent in his field, working over a particularly embedded knot. Sweat dripped from his brow and mixed with that of the ground as he repeatedly scratched at the sinuous snarl with the jagged end of his plow. The fibers before him were so terribly intertwined, and already he could feel his tool protesting; the cable that ran from his plow’s handle back to the house pulsed with quick trembles, and each scratching strike to the knot felt stiffer than the last.
Then, with a terrible rending sound, one of the tool’s four prongs snapped. Farmer Hoggins swore and straightened up. A withering sigh escaped him. The sun was high overhead, and he could already see the flabby lowlands beyond his property flooding. Soon, the ground on his hill would be too wet to work at all. The farmer bent his eye to and fro, scouring the lumpy hills about his estate. Plenty of puffy red lines indicated that the tilling process had seen some success, but it still wasn’t enough.
After he had rested enough, Hoggins hefted the plow and brought the working end close to his face so he could appraise the damage. The poor tool had convulsed into a fist, and it remained spasmodically clutched, digging nails into its own seized meat. Drops of blood trailed down the bony handle, and the sustaining vein that snaked back up the hill was weak, almost dry.
“Alright, then. Easy does it,” Farmer Hoggins soothed as he teased the hand open. Slowly, his coaxing prods and kind whispers relaxed the overworked muscles, and the plow opened up. The farmer winced when saw that one of the four fingers had been denuded of its nail, leaving an inflamed, soft bed behind–totally incapable of disentangling the cramped knot of flesh at his feet.
“That’s no good,” Hoggins murmured. The fingers twitched before him and then, as if eager to prove his disappointment unfounded, returned to the crooked-knuckle plow posture. The farmer was impressed with its tenacity. Still, it would never do.
“More like this,” Hoggins said, holding his free hand up. He made a claw with three of his fingers, but bent the pinky to his palm to protect it. After a moment, the tool matched the shape as best it could, shielding the raw, nailless appendage against its palm.
“Hold fast there,” the farmer encouraged before hunching back to work. With greater caution, he lowered the rigidly bent plow to the unruly sinews below. He carefully maneuvered the three tearing points between two sheaths of meat, twisted, felt for the hooking bite, and then tore out with a great heave. All at once, the bunched node broke apart with a rupture of mucus and sweat. The farmer reared back as the swollen flesh at his feet voided and paled to match the rest of the field.
“That’ll do,” Hoggins said at length. He held the plow aloft and admired its drained, slack hand, all smeared with blood and pus. A muscle along its heel twisted painfully, and ribbons of shredded flesh dangled from its almost dislodged nails. It hurt, but the farmer was pleased.
As the irritated lesion continued to damply unwind, Hoggins set the plow down and watched as its innervating vein retracted back up the hill to his bony house. The tool slid wetly over the humped ridges of his property before disappearing into one of the many pores at the sloping, skin-stretched base of his home. Hoggins mopped his brow. It was hot work, but someone had to do the planting.