by Liam Scheff
11 of 15×15
“And what’ll we do for water?” Jolie stands frozen in place, her eyes shocked open, tears forming on a thin sheen of burning dry heat that she feels all over her eyes, that she started complaining about 18 months ago, that everyone told her to ignore, that the allergy doctor said was tomatoes, then corn, then wheat.
It hadn’t always been this way. Once they were a couple, she wasn’t as fat. She was almost appealing, from certain angles, in certain dresses. And Dale loved her, her natural roundness, and she loved him for loving her, and for being hard-working and good, and not drinking too much. It hadn’t always been this way. It had been… what was the word? Natural. Yes, but, something else. Uncomplicated.
Well, never entirely, not with her father and his mother, and the beer and whiskey they pulled down between them. They had to be separated at parties, seated apart at the wedding. The father of the bride, the mother of the groom, getting on all too well, bonding over booze, and a penchant for self-destructiveness that had infected most of their children. But not Jolie, and not Dale. They had taken the shocks and risen above the morass; they had done so through humility and determination, and a willingness to try, and try again.
And then the Company came to visit. There had always been companies. There were Dow and Monsanto down the road in the Twin Cities, but they’d left this little tract of family farms alone. This hundred acres of huddled cul-de-sac of family farms – Dale, Jolie, her brother and his, growing squash and pumpkin and corn and tomatoes, and two kinds of wheat – all heirloom plants, handed down through generations, surviving the dust-bowl, never buying into chemical progress.