• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 02
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A Week Shy of the Harvest

The moment passes. I don’t rightly know what to feel.

My mother always used to say she could read the progress of my thoughts in my face, good or bad. Wirz calmly knots his wheat stalks and does the same.

“You can’t let it upset you, brother.”

He smiles and tucks the finished braid into my shirt pocket. I’m surprised how beautiful it is.

“For luck. Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

How could I think of my mother?

“Won’t be many more like it now, eh? Reckon we’re about a week shy of the harvest here. It’s a good healthy crop.”


“There was this old hand I got to know a while back. He was a scholar, a real one from one of the big universities. I forget which. He always came through without any of the carry-on you usually get when this stuff starts to wind down. He’d just pick his spot and open a book. I asked him one day how he managed it. Thought I might learn something. It wasn’t the laws or the orders he said. They were just words that changed with the thinking back home. We know all about that, right? No, he said. It’s where you’re at with moral consequence.


A Week Shy of the Harvest

That’s how you manage it. ‘Separate moral consequence from the mechanics and all you have left in the act is the action’. Like putting on a shoe he said. Not the straightest of answers I know but they’re a thinking man’s words, eh? I never had half his learning you know. No-one ever talked like that where I went to school.”


“Well it worked for the scholar so why not me? Even with half the learning, eh? It’s like putting on a shoe. That’s all it is. Anyway, we can’t be the worst can we? All living things leave scars as they go. It really is a good crop. Look how well it knots together, see? All this’ll feed the ground again in time. It’ll be even better next year. Can’t see there’ll be anyone to take it in though. It’s a real shame.”

The firing has all but stopped now. Everything around me is below the level of the tall stalks, mercifully invisible. We don’t make the counts anymore. Wirz walks on with a fistful of beautiful braids for the shirt pockets down by the burning granary.

There are more fields further on. More shoes to put on.