Night Work; A Kind of Farmer (Flash Fiction)

First, a note. There is darkness inside. Sometimes it comes out. That’s what writing does. It lets darkness out so light can keep coming in.

I was listening to PJ Harvey’s “One Time Too Many” and Belly’s “Low Red Moon” when I wrote this quick piece. I’m not sure what it is about, who the man is and or what kind of farmer he might be.

Don’t let this ruin your mood. The moon is beautiful. Our appetites are cruel, but they keep up digging.


He digs the hole, deep enough to bury a man. Then he digs the hole deeper still. He works without thinking, pushing the shovel through the crust of ground, lifts each scrape of dirt and rock, builds a pile, a slowly escalating mound as the hole gets deeper and deeper, sinks farther and farther into shadow.

Sweat is running down his face. His shirt and pants are heavy with it. They cling to his arms and legs, weak and trembling from exertion still working and working with the steady, relentless rhythm of an automaton.

The hole is deep enough already. Still, he continues to dig.

He glances over his shoulder once, twice while he works. He wants to be certain this is really happening. He wants to be sure the body is still there.

It lies behind him, nearly hidden in darkness. Only the open curve of the face silvered with moonlight, the eyes staring up at him expressionless.

There is no guilt in those eyes. No accusation.

He is a kind of farmer. Just as his father was a kind of farmer before him and his father before him and so on back too many generations to count. It is what he is. It is what he does.

Farmers dig. They turn over the soil.

He looks down into the vast, empty space between his boots. There are secrets down there if you know where to look. Wriggling, writhing things that move silently through the soil. Unspeaking, voiceless things that wait with the terrifying patience of stone.

The earth is our mother, he tells himself. The earth is our father.

We are made for the earth, from the earth.

The moon is high in the sky, watching with its cold, appraising stare.

The work of a farmer is merciless. The earth gives us to life. We give life to the earth.

Best not to dwell too long with the philosophy of things. There are always ways to cast questions. Philosophy is useless. Best just to dig, hands grip the shovel handle tight. Best not dwell too long with thinking. Thoughts have strong fingers, they can find a niche of doubt, a single moment of uncertainty and pull everything apart.

He has worked too hard to give room for doubt. His father before him had worked too hard. And his father and his father.

The hole is deep. Certainly deep enough to bury a man. And yet, still he works, making the hole deeper, darker. He digs, tries not to notice how the grave yawns, a hungry mouth without teeth that pulls a man to dig deeper and deeper still.

Best not to think, he reminds himself. That is the catechism. Best not think. Keep your eyes at the edge of the hole. Keep the shovel moving. Do not look up. Do not look down.

Try not to notice the way the moon peers over your shoulder, an eager, greedy face.

The ground is hungry. The moon is merciless. There is no respite.

He digs because he is a kind of farmer. He digs because it is the nature of shovels to dig. He moves the dirt with a singleness of attention. He pays no mind to the body on the ground behind him. The corpse is inconsequential. There is no life. There is no death. There is only the work. The soft, steady sound of dirt accumulating. The happy sighs of things that live in dirt.

The shovel moves. Best not to dwell. There is just the work. Nothing but the work. Only the work.

The work fills the world.

The ground is hungry.

The moon is merciless.

Night has its appetite. It swallows and swallows and never is it satisfied.

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