• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 04
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This Land

              This land’s so full of spikes like you wouldn’t believe. Saul broke earth this spring early and found rows of them, growing like dragons’ teeth under the thin soil.

              “Come out, Alice,” he yelled. “See this.”

              Then it was a lot of questions for me. Had I happened to drop them, while I was out walking so much? I said, now where would I get a handful of spikes like these from? They were two inches long, of a thin bright metal, no sign of rust. Much heavier than they looked. The blunt ends plain and the sharp ends enough to poke through a potato’s eyes with no resistance. I know, I did it at the kitchen table, after Saul was done trying to get his answers from me. Potato with spikes through it. It looked like some kind of witchcraft, so I pulled the spike out and threw the tater quick on the fire.

              He asked around the neighbours – each a half-hour drive away on the tractor – someone should know what the last leaseholders had been doing, if it was anything so strange. The neighbours said it was our land, our problem now. Saul tried to puzzle that one out a while.

              “They seemed like good folks,” he told me, “but they went cold when I mentioned the spikes. They wouldn’t even take a look at them.”

              “All of them the same way?” I asked.

              Saul looked to heaven, “Yes, all of them, like I said.”

              I was cleaning out the barn for the cattle coming. It was a fine place, no need of repair. But in the back there was a shelf, and on the shelf I found the spikes, raised up. Free standing like there was weights in the bottoms of each, but when I plucked one up, tried the same on the floor, I couldn’t find the balance.


This Land

I showed these spikes to Saul and he flung them off the edge of his property. Some of them got in the road, and I cleared them later in case they caused mischief with passing wheels.

              Another time I found a fistful of spikes in a corn meal sack we’d brought unopened to the house with us. I didn’t show these to Saul. Soon every place I found to look I saw spikes. They were malicious things. I cut my hand on one, lifting up a dead mouse from the pantry. I looked closer: the mouse was studded with smaller spikes, shining brightly all down the length of its spine, sharp ends pushing out from the inside. I shuddered and disposed of the creature quick. If I was a fearing woman, I’d have left that day. Out on the fields Saul stood at rest with his pitchfork glinting, dusk coming on across the expanse. I felt a necklace of the spikes clitter heavily against my throat. I stood silent, staring and staring through that window, one hand resting on this weight.