A Storyby Austin Smith
and for a while no one noticed
except for a few farmers, who shot themselves.
But in the time I’m talking about, the sun always remembered to rise, and now it is dusk and a farmer, who has not shot himself, is driving home through his fields. He is exhausted in a way that is rare these days, the kind of fatigue that feels like fever. He drives with his hands draped over the wheel like shot quail, too tired to keep the tires in the washed-out lane. His eyes are closing: fortunately there’s nothing to hit out here but corn. His truck drives him toward the white farmhouse where he’ll sleep. His eyelashes are just about to touch when he sees a certain slant of light falling over the rye, glowing the heads golden. The light reminds him that it’s Friday night, and he wakes like a bright seed in dark ground and is overcome by a tenderness toward every living thing. He forgives the deer that tear the ears from the cornstalks. He reconciles himself with the bloody pulley system of the mouse and the hawk. He apologizes to the three-legged barn cat he kicked out of the way today. All because of the light on the rye.