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47

A Lone Farmer At The End Of The World, Day Two

Front Loader And A Pallet Fork

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Last time: One man. One farm. NO HOPE.

This time: A demon payphone. An immortal lawn. Tractors that love too much.

“DO YOU WANT TO LIVE (OFF THE LAND) OR NOT?” the payphone bellowed.

“I just… I can’t… oh god. I think I’m gonna be sick!” I retched in reply, barely choking back a throat full of bile.

“CUT IT. SLICE IT OPEN. EMBRACE YOUR WARRIOR SPIRIT. PRESS THE Q KEY TO ATTACH THE CULTIVATOR TO YOUR TRACTOR.”

“But I can’t just take the life of an innocent plant for no reason. This is madness!”

“IT’S EITHER YOU OR THE WHEAT FIELD. CHOOSE.”

I slumped to my knees.

“How did it even come to this? How?

I remembered.

It all began back on my farm. And it wouldn’t stop beginning there. No matter what I did or how I tried to quit, I’d start back in the same spot on my sidewalk. So I figured I had no choice. It was time to get down to business. It was time to buy a pallet fork.

A pithy $800 later, I had everything I needed. To find out I didn’t have everything I needed. This bizarre agricultural purgatory – in spite of ostensibly being constructed solely for my enrichment/entrapment – was a minefield of assumed knowledge. Also, the pallet fork was stuck in the ground. Like some kind of modern bale-hefting Excalibur, it wouldn’t budge no matter how many times I ran over it with a tractor.

So in order to use my pallet fork, I apparently needed a front loader. And in order to get the vehicle store – which was apparently owned and operated by a charming couple of cardboard cutout tractors – to fork it over, I needed $26,000. That kind of money, unfortunately, doesn’t just grow on trees. Or maybe it does? Farming, at that point, wasn’t my strong suit. I was lost.

Then, a seductive rasp called out to me. That’s how I met the payphone. In its sultry monotone, it told me how to mold the land in my own image – how to bend even the hardiest of crops to my will. I would become a master of my domain, it whispered in gentle, comforting tones. Oh yes. I’d just have to get my hands dirty.

I would have to make life. And then take it.

With the grim deed done, the payphone’s banshee-like shrieking quieted to a dull dial tone of absentee approval. I felt sick, but that was only the beginning of my troubles on this day. Man, after all, cannot live on bread alone. And neither, apparently, can intangible ghostly apparitions of men/women, so my wheat crop left my piggy bank decidedly unprepared for its eventual sacrifice to the deities of loading in a forward fashion. But what else could I do? With my trailer freshly emptied, I drove back toward my farm lost in thought.

That’s when three things struck: 1) opportunity, 2) misfortune, and 3) a car.

As I accepted a golf course lawn-mowing job from my PDA, one of the mindless machines careened head-on into my tractor. Somehow, this happened.

NO, DAMN IT. DOWN. BAD TRACTOR.

Unfortunately, my tractor – fresh out of previous love affairs with rocks, trees, walls, and spaces it seemingly should’ve been able to maneuver away from without any trouble – stuck to the overturned automobile like glue. With its gargantuan tires incapable of gaining any sort of traction from atop its automotive affection perch, I was forced to make a tough call: I had to abandon it. Time was ticking down on my lawn-mowing assignment. I knew it was wrong to cast tractor aside like some kind of tool, but what other choice did I have? Never again, I swore as I hoofed it back to my farm. Never again.

NO, DAMN IT. DOWN. BAD DIFFERENT TRACTOR.

With time dwindling ever more, I did the most humane thing I could think of: ramming both tractors into a wall until one of them came loose. Then I hitched up a cultivator and drove – heedless of rocks, trees, and mountains – to the golf course as quickly as possible. Miraculously, I made it.

It was a sloppy job, but I conquered that lawn nonetheless. I stood atop its smoking, immaculately smooth remains, and you know what? I felt good. Maybe that payphone was onto something. I’d accomplished a mighty deed of manly ingenuity. That moment felt important. Definitive. Final.

Before I even made it back to my farm, my PDA buzzed again. Turns out, the exact same golf course lawn needed mowing. Again. It had grown back completely in under five minutes. But hey, that meant more cash for my front loader fund, and I wasn’t about to question a horrifying, unnatural reality in which everything went out of its way to give me money.

So, of course, 15 minutes later, it happened a third time. Now, by this point, I had the mowing of that particular lawn down to a science. I knew its every arch, dimple, and curve better than I’ve ever known any theme park water slide. Or woman. And so, with plenty of time left on the clock, I’d done it. I’d made enough money to buy a front loader.

The vehicle shop spat out a shiny new front loader in short order, and then came the moment of truth. Fortunately, the pallet fork emerged from its concrete sheath without a hitch, and I was ready to charge ever forward into a new day.

And then my PDA asked me if I wanted to mow that same lawn again.

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Nathan Grayson

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