A Short Story About A Field

field3
U.S. National Archives

  1. The thing sits in the middle of a field.
  2. And the man wants the thing.
  3. The thing could be, and is, something lovely: a girl, a flower, a radiantly panting baby fox that has been abandoned by its mother. The flower, a single violet in the middle of the otherwise particularly flowerless field. The girl reading a book of poetry, absentmindedly and repeatedly tucking her brown hair behind her ear. The fox, panting in and out. Why? Why a fox? Never mind. It is probably the girl in the middle of the field anyway.
  4. Whatever the thing is, it sits in the middle of the field.
  5. But the man fears to enter the field. But the man wants the thing. In wanting the thing, the man asks himself the following questions:
  6. Is the thing beautiful?
  7. Is it joyful?
  8. Is it necessary?
  9. Is it ____________?
  10. The last question is a question that is hidden even from the man himself. But he knows that it is a question, and he knows what the answer is. The answers to the questions are: Sure, Yes, Why not!, and _______! As he thinks Why not! the man’s hand goes up to his forehead, almost in an involuntary salute.
  11. But the man fears to enter the field.
  12. It is not that he is afraid to disturb the (probable) girl who sits in the middle of the field. It is that he is afraid to enter the field at all.
  13. How to enter the field.
  14. How to do it?
  15. By aeroplane? By hot air balloon? By folding himself into a letter and mailing himself, via parcel post? The man considers these ridiculous speculations, as the (probable) girl licks her (probable) finger, turns the likely page of her book and folds her brown hair behind her likely ear. Ridiculous! And anyway, even for the letter thing to work, one would have to wait for a post office to be built in the middle of the field. A single post office, employing a staff of say twenty, for a single girl, or fox, or flower.
  16. Time passes.
  17. Time passes.
  18. T… ime passes.
  19. TIME PASSES.
  20. tIME pASses!*
  21. And yet still the situation does not change.
  22. The man greatly wishes to enter the field, to encounter the thing at the center of it.
  23. And yet he still does not enter the field, as time passes and life maneuvers.
  24. Why can he not enter the field?
  25. He does not know.
  26. But still in spite of this not-knowing he recoils from the edge of the field as if from an electric shock. To place the rubber soles of his shoes on the springy grass of the field — to him, this seems unthinkable. A sacrilege. A terror. An outrage. A blasphemy. A thing that he cannot bring himself to do at all, goddammit. Mother-fuck-it.
  27. But perhaps—?
  28. Perhaps…
  29. The man unbuttons his jacket. He is wearing a light navy windbreaker, sensible slacks, sensible shoes. He lies down. Makes himself low and flat. He cannot bear to place his feet on the field. But if he lies down and stretches himself out?
  30. He lies down and stretches himself out, carefully, very carefully. He is being very careful not to let his shoes touch the grassy edge of the field. In doing all of this — stretching himself out — he moves perhaps eight feet closer to the thing at the center of this field. (We are including in this calculation the fact that the man has extended his arms fully above his head — making himself look like a man who is about to dive into a swimming pool with an attempted minimum of splashage: his forehead muscles taut; his shoulder muscles taut with exertion, a diver who is in fact lying flat on the grass.)
  31. Lying flat on the grass, feeling the premonition of ants about to tickle his forehead, staring at the utter, utter, utter greenness of the grass that is pushing itself into his face, feeling the stretched-out-ness of his body; while doing this, the man feels the utter futility of all things.
  32. And now he can no longer see the girl. Or the flower. Or the fox. Or the book or whatever it is. And yet still he does not forget him/her/it.
  33. He should have brought a walking stick; that way, he could stretch himself still further towards the girlfoxflower. He could reach several feet closer to himherit if he was only carrying a walking stick today.
  34. …But who cares a walking stick these days?
  35. What a ridiculous affectation that would be!
  36. “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” the man thinks, for no huge reason, while staring straight into the goddamn grass, which is pressed so close to his face as to appear kaleidoscopic; a tincture of various incredible slightly varying shades of green.
  37. The man wishes again for a walking stick.
  38. In point of fact, viewed from above, the man is at least seventy feet away from the girl/flower/fox, his body fractioning away and eating up only a tiny percentage of the field. At no point does the man call out to the girl/fox/whatever. It never occurs to him to do so, to spoil the silence like that.
  39. Behind him, the silence is spoiled.
  40. The man hears the tread of heavy footsteps behind him. Then, a voice:
  41. “Why hell–o there, little lady.”
  42. The voice is not directed towards the man, of course, but towards the Thing in the Middle of the Field. (It turns out that it was a girl! After all!)
  43. “And how are you this very fine afternoon.”
  44. The voice! The man does not turn his head to see the owner of the voice (he feels this would be cheating, in the same way that stepping onto the field, he sees now, would also constitute a form of cheating, although “cheating” does not convey the gravity of the violation that his stepping on the grass of the field would be); the man does not turn his head to see the owner of the voice, but he can imagine him vividly.
  45. The voice is firm, husky, everything that a man’s voice should be.
  46. Things that come to mind upon hearing the voice: vintage cigarette ads in magazines from the 1970s; cowboys; cigarillos; cheroots; baby back ribs being sloppily basted over an open pit; cornonthecob-redwhiteandbluewavingflags-picnictables-baldeagles; Americana; a nicotine-stained pale blonde mustache.
  47. “Whatchyer doin’ there, little lady?”
  48. The girl laughs unmelodically at this.
  49. And with that, the man, the cowboy as he now thinks of him, enters the field.
  50. He hears the heavy foot-treads as the cowboy enters the field.
  51. …How!!!
  52. How?
  53. How can the cowboy enter the field — when he himself finds it impossible to do so, when he fears entering the field as a more normal more sensible person would fear setting foot on the surface on the sun, and yet, there is no time to think about this, for already the cowboy’s voice in breaking into his thoughts, interrupting his thoughts, manly and full, full of dross, the voice is, and it is breaking in, spoiling everything, ruining everything, everything, everything, as the cowboy’s footsteps progress to the center of the field and “Beautiful day!!!” the goddamn nightmarish cowboy says to her.
  54. The man stares furiously at the surface of the grass.
  55. “Beautiful day!” The girl titters at this. He sort of fucking hates the girl now.
  56. Question: is the man’s inability to enter the field (A) a sign of head-in-the-clouds type of temperament, which itself is so dreamy-weamy is as to render one ineffectual; especially when contrasted with the cowboys-qua-cowboys who populate the real world, or (B) is it just fucking cowardice?
  57. The field. The field…
  58. “Whatchyer reading there.” The laugh of the girl; the rustle of paper. “Poetry!” the cowboy says, and the word comes out unnaturally, like a cud of chaw being deposited on the neat grass of the field. “A purty damsel” (pronounced dame-sell or ˈDÂM-ˈSEL) “like yourself shouldn’t be poking her nose into a BOOK of POETRY,” god the cowboy’s voice is ruining everything, covering the entire earth, shrouding it in darkness, everything, “–I say, shouldn’t be wasting her time with a book of POET-RY, not on a BEAU-T-O-FUL day such as this one! I say; I say!”
  59. The unmagical titter of the girl.
  60. The man shivers, grinds his teeth together. He hears the girl rise, her laughter, interrupted only once by a strangely bronchial cough, could she be dying? No, laughing again.
  61. “Little lady, you an’ that book are by way of reminding me of a story. A story of a donkey wearin’ a barrel held up with suspenders. And WHY is the donkey wearin’ a barrel held up with suspenders. Darned if he knows! Darned if he knows where he got them and darned if he knows why he needs them!”
  62. Affectionate chuckles.
  63. The man hears the book flop to the ground. Spires, castles, crystal castles in the air falling; Rome Vienna Paris burning. The utter absolution of all art.
  64. He hears the girl speak the only words he will ever hear her say: “Shall we go skinny-dipping in the pond. The pond what lies adjacent to this here field.” The what and the here nearly kill him.
  65. Footsteps, moving towards him. He stares furiously at an ant.
  66. He thinks, thinks, thinks!
  67. He thinks to himself: these people never do anything beautiful or useful, and yet, and still, they populate the earth! They tread to and fro with their feet. Goddamn it. Goddamn uncaring gods, leaving treadmarks on the earth, janitors’ heels scuffing a just-cleaned hallway. Buried in darkness, him. What a monstrosity. What an abomination. What a—! What a… What a
  68. On her way out of the field, the beautful girl’s foot steps heavily on the man’s head. Fucking ow. The end; justice, resolution. The field vacant now, memory’s home. TC mark

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