Author’s note: After writing the last post, I’m not super thrilled with how it turned out. I liked the idea, but I didn’t like the storytelling, so here’s another take. Consider this to be a bonus post!
“Hey, y’all hear about what happened to ol’ Ed, up north?”
I pulled my beer closer, took another drag. I had been one of the first on the scene, but the flames had already been too high, too strong.
“Can’t believe he got caught in that brush fire,” the voice blithely continued. “I mean, it’s been a dry season, yeh, but I always thought Ed was one of the smart ones, he wouldn’t be nabbed by something like that.”
I finally turned in my seat, saw Jergenson was the one speaking. Jergenson and I had never gotten along well; he had always seemed too eager to gossip, to speak ill of his neighbors as soon as their backs were turned. A couple of the other farmers were turning in their seats, though, and they looked ready to share.
“Yeh, he talked with me a bit the other night, before the fire,” one of the other farmers commented. Benjamin, I thought it was, beneath a trucker’s cap. “Wuz sayin’ something about his hay bales, that they were movin’ around and such.”
Another man, one I didn’t recognize, nodded in agreement. “Yep. He was asking me if I had seen kids up there, moving them or something.” The man scoffed. “Now why would kids want to go haul around hay bales, even if they could?”
“If so, maybe I could get ’em over to my fields, do a bit of work for me,” another commented to a round of guffaws. I took another drink.
Benjamin hadn’t let go of the original idea, though. “He thought there wuz somethin’ inside the bales,” he insisted. “He wuz out stabbin’ them, before this. Said he kept trackin’ em, they kept moving around his fields. Had me out lookin’ at my own bales, he did.”
Jergenson sneered. “Yeh, right,” he said. “Only things living inside the bales are weevils, if you’re unlucky. An’ weevils don’t move the bales. Or set ’em afire.”
At this, I slammed down my beer so hard that it splashed over the lip and spilled on the bar. The others turned and looked at me. “You leave Ed out of this,” I said angrily. “He might not have been quite right, at the end, but he died, and we don’t speak ill of him.” I glared around at the others.
One by one, their glances dropped. They turned back to their drinks, busied themselves in their alcohol, pretended that the conversation hadn’t been started. Jergenson tried to give me a hot glare, but it cooled and died. Besides, I knew that, though they shrugged it off, laughed at poor ol’ Ed, it had gotten to them.
Ever since Ed had passed away, I had been out, counting my bales, trying to see if they were still in the same places. I had seen Wilkes, across the way, doing the same thing. None of mine had moved yet. But I was ready. We all had a few gallons of gasoline sitting around.