"FIELD OF DIAMONDS"
A man rushes past, his back stooped and crooked. A cat trots behind, the sagging belly dancing side to side before her inner kitten sends her sprinting. The man tumbles over the cat, screams like a cartoon character and falls to the ground.
"Sir, are you okay?" I put my hand on the bent back, help his shoulders to rise.
His body shakes, laughs under my fingertips. "Damn cat knocks me down five times a day!" He pats the dust off his flannel shirt, chuckles the whole time. The cat settles into her pouch of fat and licks a front paw. "I think she does it on purpose. Got a sense of humor, this one." The man shakes his head and scratches the cat's arched back.
"Can I take you somewhere?" I ask while inspecting him for injuries. "You seemed to be in quite a hurry."
"Ahhhh!" his mouth stays open even after the sound ends. "I am indeed. Off to see my favorite place." He cocks his head. "Come with me and I'll show it to you."
"I don't know..."
But he was already moving, waving me forward. "Come on, dear. Ain't far. You'll see beauty there, promise. Raw and pure beauty, I tell ya."
The cat rubs against my calf, squints at me. I can tell she wants to trip my feet, send me flying into the dirt just like the old man. A flea bounces against my skin. I follow them just to keep the bugs off.
The three of us walk over a moss rimmed path, through a splash of pines, down a slope until we reach a weather-beaten picket fence. "Here it is!" The old man waves his hands as if diamonds sprout from the field.
My stomach doesn't feel right. The farm is in decay. Brown hens peck muddy ground. Chicken poop drapes every worn post. Seed shells litter in moldy clumps. An old tan can overflows with fetid water. Behind the broken corn husks, a robot stands, rusted red, freckled in white bird poop. Twisted wires hang from the limbs like spider veins.
"Here, take some." The man holds out his hand and sprinkles yellow kernels into my palm.
I want to turn back, but now I have handful of chicken feed and a swarm of hens around my feet. I toss the corn one at a time. The birds crowd, cluck until the noise takes over the world. A feather climbs the air and tickles my nose. I sneeze. The cat rubs against my ankle, plops on its back, the fatty rolls melting over her ribs. The wind blows through the robot, makes his joints sigh, then shudder as if in ecstasy. I laugh then. My new heels are filthy. I'm standing next to a crazy man and his fat cat. I laugh harder. The robot's neck is bent, the open sockets stare at the sun like he can see it. A chicken pokes at my pinky toe. My sides hurt, tears stream down my face. A flea bites my foot. I laugh so hard I nearly fall forward as I scratch.
The old man looks at me, his eyes wide and wet, his skin radiant, his laughter so fierce that it's silent. "Didn't I tell ya?" he waves a finger at me. "Didn't I say you'd see beauty here?"
The man's face stretches with smiles from his eyes to his chin. The sun's rays poke under his skin, push outward, eclipses the chicken poop and metal man behind the corn. "Yes." I answer, my own face warm and shining as I stare across a field of sprouted diamonds. "Raw and pure."