Bone Plants by Trevor Abbud
There was once a farmer named Judas Spool, who was a lonely man with a rotten soul. This is the story of how his obsession devoured him.
Judas worked his beloved fields every day of his life. One day, while he had been busy working the land until the sun was but a shadow of a light, a fire had struck the small Spool home. And a fire was lit in the heart of Judas.
Molly, the youngest Spool daughter always loved helping her mother with supper for her daddy. However, like most evenings, her father was late that night. The dinner bell would ring from his wife’s hands but he wouldn’t come. Working his “precious fields” were more important to Judas. Focused on goals in his head and a family to provide for, his precious fields became his obsession, his life. The fields grew more and more abundantly as his family slowly faded from his vision.
Two nights before the flames took his family, Judas was in a raging uproar over his cold food for dinner. His wife tried explaining that the children needed to eat and if they waited for him the food would have gone cold for all of them. Mrs. Spool’s comment didn’t go over well with her tired, hungry, and angry husband. Judas wasn’t sure if he was more hungry or tired from working in the heat of the sun all day and into the night. As his stomach ached for food, Judas thought it was only fair that his wife also spends the night with an ache. “I’ll teach you to spoil my supper woman!” Judas barked and a solid slap was delivered to his wife’s cheek.
“Please, not in front of the children,” she begged. “just calm down.” Her voice scratched with crying tears. But the pleas never help. Her other half had changed from the gentle loving man he once was. The obsession of his farmland had dirtied his heart with mud and soil.
On the night of the tragic fire, Judas was working the fields extra hard and with each drop of sweat falling from his forehead, dripping its way down his eyebrow before crashing to the dirt, his temper gained another degree of anger and rage. I’m just trying to work and provide for my family, what more do they want from me, he thought. Growling through clenched teeth, “A nice hot meal isn’t asking much!” The plow turned over and over.
As darkness veiled the Spool home, Molly decided she would start dinner. Molly stood three feet tall on tippy toes and lighting the stove without her mother’s help wasn’t easy. But she was determined to help her mommy and make her dad happy with dinner. She struck the match to life and stretched the small ember to the stovetop. She strained to light the fire and the match slipped from her tiny fingers and landed into the sleeve of her pretty blue striped dress and caught fire. The little girl panicked, thrashing her arms and knocking over a pot of black oily grease and drenching her dress. She tripped over the pot and knocked the corner of her head on the edge of the counter. Her burning sleeve and oil combined and the fire began to spread quickly. The crackling of a raging fire erased Molly’s screams. Her mother and two sisters became trapped in the scorching flames while trying to save her. Judas was too busy and focused on his precious fields that night. His family was cooked to ashes and he was left alone with his fields.
Sometime after the accident, Judas built himself a small cabin closer to his fields. A working man like him only saw fit to make use out of the land he owned and after the fire; he plowed down the remains of the old house. After it was plowed he set the crop and readied the land for harvest. But the soil where Judas’s family burned to death remained barren.
The small amount of grief that Judas might have had turned into anger and the memories of his family faded and were replaced with his precious fields. He made an excuse to use his work to forget the painful memories of his neglected family. Those sweet heartfelt memories of his family were now buried with their burnt bones in the soil. Judas became worse than ever.
After the work became routine Judas realized he was missing something. Every day after his work on the fields he came home to nothing. Eventually, he remarried a saloon dancer. Trixie Dale was a young handsome gal, Judas thought. But he also thought she was uneducated, dumb, and a brainless tramp. But she could cook a decent meal and satisfy his other needs. He wasn’t looking to raise a family now. After a good hard day’s worth of work, he wanted to all liquored up. Trixie grew up without a daddy so she tried to replace that empty hole with an older man like Judas. But there was no end to his rage. Judas would drink and then he would punish her.
Another year passed and the actions that caused his family to burn alive had also driven the young dancer to develop an obsession to alcohol. She had tried to run away once but Judas had caught her and he fixed her up real good. If a sheep keeps running away, the shepherd will break its legs. Well, that exactly what Judas did. He used a ten-pound sledgehammer to fix Trixie. She wouldn’t be walking right ever again, let alone running away. So the day Judas came home to the vile stench of vomit and a small glass vial with the poison warning of a skull and crossbones on it next to Trixie’s dead body, Judas wasn’t too surprised. He would take her the next morning and bury her in the same spot that his long forgotten family lay, deep in the roots of the land. “Good, bitch’ll be some great fertilizer.” He said in a tired, rough whisper. Maybe she’ll be just the right thing to make that field grow. He told himself.
That year’s harvest was turning out to be an enormous and most gracious one. There was just the right amount of sun, with the rain coming in perfect sessions. Though years older, Judas felt much stronger, which he thought was because he no longer had the burden of coming home to anyone. But still the graveyard was vacant of growth.
There was a heavy downpour of rain one night, which after a few straight days of the blazing sun was much needed. Knowing things were lining up perfect this season on his land, Judas Spool fell asleep with a delightful grin to the sound of the pattering rain, thinking to himself, My crop and land are rich and so too will I be.
The following morning he woke up extra early with from thrill and excitement. He quickly put on his boots and tied them tight with a double knot to finish. Slipped on his flannel button up shirt and his broken in work gloves. With a jug of water in one hand and a shovel in the other, Judas was prepared for another solid day of work. He was truly in his glory, another day spent in his precious fields.
Judas took his first break as the midday sun cast its hot gaze over the land. Judas leaned on the handle of the shovel and admired his property. As his eyes scrolled across the soiled graveyard he thought he saw something sticking up from the ground. He squeezed his eyes shut and then reopened them. Nothing. Must be the heat, he thought and went back to work.
He took a late lunch that day; if it weren’t for his growling stomach he would have worked right on through till dusk. Judas felt happy for a second while taking a bite into his turkey sandwich. But when he glimpsed something protruding out of the barren plot of land, he almost choked on the chunk of meat. A handle of a tool he thought. He used a ratty old washcloth to wipe sweat and dirt from his eyes. He strained the edges of his eyes and blinked rapidly. The handle of the tool disappeared as if it was sucked into the ground. “It’s that damned sun, playing games with my mind.” He snarled while tearing another bite of his sandwich like a wild dog. After all, what could be sticking out from the ground across the field? “Enough nonsense!” He growled and got back to work.
The following morning was the harvesting day. A curtain of gray clouds suffocated the morning sun. The sky was a depressing canvas. A dreamtime storm had turned the soil into a nightmare of mud and muck. But Judas refused to lose the day due to the poor conditions.
Judas made the muddy trek towards his precious fields. As he marched slowly to the first field to harvest he once again caught a movement to the side of him. The sun couldn’t hide the white stick that was poking out one foot from the ground. Judas walked closer. Bones he thought. And at the same time, something grabbed his ankle like a vice. He glanced down and screamed “Bo … Bo … BONES!” It was louder than he had ever yelled at his wife.
Another skeleton arm punctured the surface of the soil in front of Judas. The sound of a dinner bell rang, it pierced Judas’s ear like acid.
It rang louder and louder. Another arm caught his other foot and tripped him. Judas hit his face on something soft. It was the ashy remains of a blue striped dress. Judas clawed and thrashed senselessly at the earth.
More sets of white arms and hands emerged from the ground. The bones began to juggle Judas over and over. When they seemed to be satisfied with his lung erupting cries, they left him face down. The dirt muffled Judas’s screams.
Judas begged for his life until his lungs and throat gave out. He lay there, motionless and mute. A grim thought occurred to. Just as he never heard the dinner bell while working, no one could hear his plea for help. Just as he refused to listen his beautiful spouse’s plea to stop hitting her, or the agonizing wails from the saloon dancer as he swung the steel fist of a hammer over and over again, breaking her legs, no one could hear his own hopeless moaning. The elegant but strong grip of Trixie’s fleshless, gritty white hands dug into his back. The skeleton arms of his dead daughters had his legs and thighs held down firmly and were beginning to tug. Another horrifying thought stabbed his mind. My daughters are a lot stronger from being watered and cooking under the seething sun all these years. Then, the hands that he had once taken in marriage were now wrapped around his scruffy throat.
The vengeful garden of bone plants took him underground, beneath the soil, below the farmland that he had sold his life too. The poor souls that were plowed over in both life and death finally sank to a peaceful rest.
Judas, however, was kept alive, devoured by his precious dirt; he was trapped in the belly of his land. Judas was now just where he belonged, with no family, just him and his precious fields. There, Judas would stay, unattended, unwatched, and forgotten about. He would rot and decay along with his crops, spending the last of his miserable days with his oh so special fields that he had sold his rotten soul to.
… Judas Spool died with a smile.