You hadn’t been out to the family’s corn fields in years. Now, while it’s burning, you decide to drive out to see one. You know Daddy will be out there, watching over things. He would want to make sure the fire didn’t spread to the woods across the one-lane country highway.
There he stands. Daddy. The statuesque corn farmer, thumbs hooked in denim belt loops, a well-worn hat on his head, and a stoic proprietor’s gaze.
It had been heavy on your shoulders. The guilt. You didn’t offer much sympathy to your parents last week when they had broken the news about an entire crop being infested with a devastating fungus. But you were so consumed with your own problems with your husband. Who could blame you?
“Goan be a big gut punch to the ole wallet, let me tell you,” Daddy had said. You knew that was an understatement; it was his way of avoiding the reality that he may need to put the farm up for sale.
You get out of your truck and stand next to your dad, facing the smoldering field. The fire is still there, but on its way out.
“Looks like you got it under control, Daddy. A regular fire marshal.” You’ve always found it hard to get too serious around your dad. Keeping conversation light is the only way the two of you have ever communicated.
“Yep. Maybe them boys at the fire station will hire me on. Might need a new job now.”
You both force a chuckle. Daddy is worse for the wear.
It suddenly hits you how hard it must’ve been for him to have set fire to his own field intentionally. You wonder how he got up the nerve. A slash-and-burn of this year’s corn was his only choice. There’s some vague recollection from your junior high school education about this agricultural method. Sure the fungus would be killed off and the ground would be left with nutrients from the dead plants, but the soil exhausts quicker this way. You can’t get it off your mind that corn may only grow in this field a few more times before it won’t grow at all anymore.
It was your intention to come here to comfort your father, but you break down instead, overwhelmed with what your husband had done. The tears don’t stop once they’ve started.
“Why did this happen, Daddy? Why did he do this to me?”
Daddy tries to be supportive about the fact that your husband left you, abandoned and pregnant. Though Daddy doesn’t touch you (neither of you have ever been particularly affectionate with each other) he offers up some profundity that surprises you. It isn’t like him.
“I don’t know, darlin’. Why did this crop get slapped with a fungus out of the blue fuck after decades of clean corn before it?”
You sob harder. He reaches over and puts his arm around you for the first time since you were a little girl. Daddy continues, softening his tone.
“I guess sometimes things just need to burn down completely to take the bad and leave what good is left there to thrive,” he says.
Featured Image by Puttee