The Cure of the Crop

Kline submitted his request inside the exact second the enrollment for the miracle was open. Despite this, he got a return email telling him that his request was number 438 in line. He removed his glasses and stroked his temple, as he looked over his desolate acreage, which cried out in despair. It’s the very thing that nearly kills you… The land outside his window seemed to have heard the news already. The news that, if it could get the help it needs, it would be years before it came, based off its place in line.

The gray, which had begun losing its position to the slightest of colors since the announcement of the crop cure, seemed to regain its advantage as quickly as MeteorPlant had responded to Kline’s submission. In response to the fields, his full, brown hair had begun turning the same shade of gray near those well-massaged temples. He said nothing about it to his children for a long time. His 12 year old was struggling in science, and that was what he would focus on at the moment.

It’s not that Kline was angry. There was hope again for the future, the era of cultivation would return for many farmers. He was happy for the first 150 accepted requests that would get the official large scale trial in the first year. He was excited for the return of enriched, healthy seed propagated, brown soil, and the toil that’s worth the day that is sure to come with it. He was happy that everyone could once again feel the satisfaction of true food from the ground and not dust from a factory. His stomach could even feel the excitement of digestible, field grown nutrients and sugars just within reach. His taste buds could feel the homemade meals for which they had long yearned over the past many years. Every bit of his body still brimmed with excitement over the hopeful prospect that Dr. Reels’ team had brought back to humankind, and every creature of earth, for that matter. This hope, however, carried, on its own back, the fear of other matters. The fear that this hope is only a camouflage for something worse, the fear that the worst is yet to come. There’s a personal, selfish fear it brings to Kline; the fear that the miracle will be, indeed a miracle, for the first few, and in the waiting, the rest of them will be forced to sell their lands to the formidable force those lucky few will become in only a matter of a couple of years of production.

Kline’s computer chair was allowed more toil than anything or anyone else on his land that year, as every article written about every participant in the trial was read and re-read, in anticipation of the news. The chair grew old in a year, it’s bones creaking more than Kline’s, it’s back bowed from the pressure of the nervous rocking that was put upon it and from the nights that Kline would forgot his poor bed. It’s the thing that nearly kills you that you end up needing…

That first year gave out no more (and no less) than the exact fearful hope Kline had felt at that first moment. Whether from misuse, or from bad luck, or even from a strange, scattered territorial response, he had heard that the results varied from better crops than any time in history, to complete decimation of life in the experimented region, and every possibility in between.

The stakes were now higher than ever, and there were talks from the UN about shutting down the joint force venture, to which Switzerland proposed to take full financial responsibility for the program moving forward. Is that the only place that will get the trials? Kline echoed the question he’d heard booming around Nebraska. He asked that question of anyone he ran into in town. Unfortunately, they all had the same words on their own lips.

He saw request after request drop from MeteorPlant’s site after that first year. He would have done the same, except for that hope his stomach held on to tighter every day, like a snake tightening its coils around its next meal. By the time it was reported that every submission would be considered for the next trial, no matter where the farm was, Kline had hoped his way to number 11 in line. His gut wrenched in an excited fury as he told his children the news. Only his 12-year-old had the perception to excitedly receive the good news with jovial jumps and whoops, while the 4-and-6-year-old’s smiled happily, knowing that there was some incomprehensible reason to smile. Until then, Kline continued to spend time with his children, talking and helping with homework, and getting the house ready.

Finally, it was time to put his hope to the test. There were hundreds of signatures to be signed, dozens of truckloads to be unloaded, and 8 eyes to be bewildered by the amount of product. Two acres were filled with bags piled as high as Kline himself. A fear took over the hopeful man as soon as the last truck pulled out. It was the first time he regretted agreeing to this. What if he doesn’t do anything? What if he just leaves the product there, and covers it with tarps and then tells them it didn’t work? He’d get the 150k payout, after all. It’s better than the alternative. It beats poisoning the air or creating the super-termites that had been brought back to the south. The fear grabs him and holds on for 2 weeks, as the whole family sits, watching nothing happen to the bags piled up beside their house. Kline continued to help with the children’s homework, afraid of the chance he would have to take to make it possible for his children to help him make a home cooked meal.

Hope can be powerful with the right stomach, though. Kline gathered the smallest amount of courage from his bile and his taste buds, only enough courage to take his utility knife to one bag. He caught what fell into a small, burlap pouch, and mixed it in with some soil in a large terra cotta pot. Grabbing 3 blackberry seeds he’d stored in the cellar, he dropped them in one by one. This would be his personal, Kline miniature test within Dr. Reels’ universal test. It only took days for germination, and Kline witnessed sprout-like shoots push themselves into the air. For weeks, they all grew at a steady pace, slightly quicker than Kline had remembered from his earlier days. One morning, the fear reclaimed his hopeful stomach, as his eyes saw only one shoot barely hanging on. The roots had not strangled each other, it was clear. Kline knew, as soon as he saw the new red color of the soil, that the cure had changed chemically inside the soil. The cells of the organic enzymes had warped into oxygen and iron holding transports, not allowing the plants enough of the correct gases, and essentially suffocating them.

Some people get lucky, or some people like to say that it’s simply their perseverance paying off. Either way, Kline was one such person that day. There are three points to be shown to explain this. First, when this all started, when the lands went barren, and the soil became sick, cyanide from multiple pesticides and growth formulas had found its way across all of the lands, and, though it was all expelled, had left a lasting mark. Cyanide was now an outlawed substance in all of Europe. Secondly, in connection, in having a 12-year-old son, Kline had just gone over a few chapters of grade school biology. The last point is a lesson he had learned as a boy; Sometimes, his father would always say, it is the very thing that nearly kills you that you end up needing to stay alive. All these lessons rushed into Kline’s consciousness like a flock of crows rushes to newly planted corn. He went straight to work.

Kline’s poor bed had very little employment that entire spring and the summer brought only dirty pants and sweat-soaked shirts for a few hours each night. Every night also brought a more and more bowed back and creaking knees, as Kline continued to forgo his own health, even forgetting to grant the shower its own task some days. Autumn finally brought back some familiarity between Kline and his bed and that winter made up for any lost hours the bed had accrued. Though the next spring brought the same routine as the last, it was a man who was surely more than only a year older, who went, forgetting his rest. He was older than the days he had seen by now, and slowly, the summer rests grew longer. That autumn, however, brought new reasons to ignore the almost forgotten bed.

That early Autumn day, when Dr. Reels came to Nebraska to see, for himself, the most successful of his experiments so far, Kline saw a deeper understanding in the scientists face than he himself had about what had happened. The next few months made Kline a celebrity. Despite his lack of experience in science, he was hounded by Dr. Reels to join his team. Every day he got offers of millions of dollars for his land, or even just his expertise, the latter of which he was sure he did not actually own. Years later, however, Kline was out in his fields, now with more hands than he needed, and more land than he’d dreamed of, working on bowing his back further and keeping the creak in his knees. Every night, his children chipped in to make a home cooked meal before Kline’s bed welcomed him back.

Barely Not Technically Flash, but Short Stories

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