When them black clouds come, you best pinch salt and drink whiskey from a boot.
It’s that time of year again. Sun’s eclipsed. Them windmills don’t cackle one bit. Rooster atop the church gone still, don’t make a peep. Ain’t no rattle or creak from them wooden barns and houses. Not a whisper from the corn.
Only mean one thing: Darcia’s coming.
Townsfolk got them noses flat ‘gainst windows. All they sees is my lantern and reap hook. I comes close, I hear them suck breath. Some, they hold crosses tight. Pray. Them children buried ‘neath beds. Not a peep. Them folk don’t like it when I come creeping. They ain’t got no choice. See me—I’m Sheriff of this here town. If I says so, then it better damn be so.
Street be empty if you don’t count them dead white cattle bone and me. Only sound is my boots crunching gravel till Sal says, “Charlie, you come bearing or taking?”
“Just looking for them lights, Sal.”
Sal, she clever. She move away from window. Hold her breath and keep to the dark.
Hear scraping metal? Don’t light no lantern or candle, don’t be looking. Them folk that do, they the first to go.
Ain’t no wind, but the fog come crawling. Darcia rumble. Sound like thunder. Me, I go on creeping. Them folk who don’t do right by her—them I put in empty fertilizer bag. Dirt near them witch posts need a feeding.
Me, I done right by Darcia. Ain’t no corn if I don’t.
Hinges squeak. “You get gone quick, Charlie. Ain’t nothing here, you hear?” Hacking Joe says.
I moves on. Darcia, she like them who come looking where looking ain’t wanted. I sees small flame. Open fertilizer bag. Scratch lines in dirt.
See, them folk who light lanterns and candles, they don’t bury rat tooth or wear onion skin. They don’t listen when I tells them. They don’t believe none.
Them clouds come close now. “You miss me, Charlie?”
I don’t says nothing.
“Don’t you love me no more?” Darcia says.
Ain’t no use lying, she done know the truth. I ain’t swallow whiskey in long. When them clouds come, I done git myself some dirt, suck on pebbles. Spit east and toss pig urine west. Then I git down on mine knees and says them three words Darcia need a hearing: “Time to eat.”
Them clouds rumble loud. Folk come looking. Me, I fill fertilizer bag, gone drag it through them corn field and feed the dirt.
Hacking Joe, he don’t like it none. “Ain’t you tired creeping and feeding?” he says. Got himself a torch—one of them devil lights—and double trigger shotgun. “I’m tired hiding, Charlie. All them damn Corn Mother do’s killing. Don’t you want more?”
“You best shut your mouth,” I says.
“There’s more out there. I seen it, Charlie. We ain’t gotta eat corn no more.”
“See them clouds, Joe?” I says. “Every year, they come. Every year, they stay.” Hacking Joe, he look at me with wide eyes. “They ain’t going nowhere soon.”
“I’m telling you, Charlie. I seen it.”
“Best git gone quick now,” I says.
Next day, black birds come over. They take tongue and eyes, leave Hacking Joe mute and blind. I open fertilizer bag, feed him to the dirt.
Them townsfolk gather. Got themselves flaming torches and pitchforks, screaming, “Where Hacking Joe?”
Sal, she clever. She don’t look, she don’t see. Me—I goes on feeding. Come harvest, them corn’ll be darn high.