He was falling apart, working too hard. In September his friends warned him. “You can’t do this for long, son,” said the oldest one, shaking a head of steel wool and a hooked index finger. He thought they underestimated him. He was young, robust, ambitious. He resented their warnings, went back to work harder, unleashed his inner chainsaw, tractor, pickaxe. Powered by internal combustion, backed with steel, he returned to the field.
He didn’t notice, didn’t listen, to the pressure in his lower back, didn’t heed the warning of a throbbing head. And when he couldn’t feel his own toes, in October, he thought they were numb from the cold. He put on an extra pair of socks, bore down, braced up, stitched his eyebrows together, and laughed mockery into the wind. The wind gathered it up and carried it away.
One day in November he couldn’t remember where he’d set down the hammer, so he sat down, himself, at the edge of the field on a stone bench he hadn’t noticed before. His back ached, his head split, and he let out a sigh that echoed yesterday’s laugh. The wind gathered it up and carried it away.
He couldn’t get up so he admired his handiwork—the fruits of his labor. His toil, his soil, was steeped in his sweat. Remarkable, really, what he had done as just one little body. As he sat still for the first time in months, that body relaxed. His eyebrows unstitched and crawled off his face into the corn. He inhaled the beginning of winter all the way into his hair, which became white in an instant. And when he exhaled, each white hair floated away. His spine unzipped, releasing the pressure that had built there for months. His shoulders slumped and tumbled off, down his legs, over his feet, and into the field. What was left was fragile—feathers and twigs. The wind gathered it up and carried it away.