Introduction: You don’t push people too far especially people who are dead serious about their potatoes.
It was hot, so hot that even the birds were absent from the sky as Potatoman stood up and smeared the dirt from his hands onto his overalls. He was 23 years old and at 6’4” weighing 290 lbs. was a formidable man.
He was a simpleton, a town clown that everyone made fun of although he didn’t really understand this. Potatoman was singularly aware of one thing and one thing only. His potatoes and they meant everything to him.
It was harvest time and he needed the money this year badly. That’s what the nice lady had told him when she came out to his place. The farm could be taken away. He didn’t understand the why’s but he couldn’t lose the farm!
His father had dropped dead in the potato field when he was 2 years old leaving his mother to work the farm and raise him by herself. Potato farming was backbreaking work even for two people, the dirt in the field was hard and the hours long.
When his mother noticed that he wasn’t developing the skills that most children had at his age she took him to the doctor for the first time since birthing. When the doctor told her the bad news she hardly reacted and quietly took him home.
That night she shot herself in the head leaving him alone in the world without even a proper name. As he got older the town dubbed him Potatoman.
Potatoman didn’t have a tractor but he had a draft horse to pull his plow. A gentle giant of a plow horse muscling through a potato field with a simple giant of a man lumbering behind him.
As they reached high ground in the field they were silhouetted on the ridge by the setting sun. It was time to head back to the barn and supper.
When he got near the barn Potatoman noticed his small field of prize potato’s for the County Fair was disturbed. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he stood there, mouth agape and rubbing his eyes. Could he trust his eyes?
He closed them and peeked through his eyelashes, but no, it was true! He quickly tied the horse and ran over to the field as fast as he could as the dust scattered around his feet.
He dropped to his knees in the dirt wildly looking around. He hurt himself falling hard but he didn’t care. His heart was pounding and he shook with rage.
Usually, Potatoman had no use for words but he managed to moan; “My potatoes, what happened to you?” He didn’t expect an answer but talked to them all the same.
Someone had dug them all up and piled them into a shallow hole just like a grave and he knew who. It had taken him awhile to come to this conclusion, after all, he was slow and he figured he had spent some time on his knees in the field as it had gotten dark. But it had to be Ed.
Ed was a townie who drank too much and his farm was falling apart but Ed made money working at the local plant and didn’t care much for the farm. In fact, he despised farms and farmers, his father had been a farmer and he hated every minute of growing up as a dirt pusher.
Being the only son, he had inherited the farm anyway after his father had died penniless and it was just miles away from Potatoman’s farm.
He was constantly harassing Potatoman driving his truck past the farm and throwing beer bottles at him, scaring his horse and calling him names. He had even hit his poor horse with a bottle once and Potatoman threw it back expertly taking out a tail light as he pulled away.
He was a mean, foul, smelly man and Potatoman was positive he had done it. His hands clenched into fists and his stomach hurt as he felt the anger surge through him once again. He had never felt this way before and it was a powerful feeling.
Hearing the horse whinny broke him out of his spell. It was late and the horse was hungry but could wait. He stood up surprised at feeling no weariness in his legs for he had been kneeling for so very long.
He felt surprisingly calm as he walked the short distance to the barn to get his ax. He decided to sharpen it for good measure. Tools are to be taken care of!
Potatoman headed off to Ed’s farm to confront him. He white-knuckled his ax handle seething as images of his ruined potato’s danced before him along with images of Ed bloodied and limp. As he was passing the ruined pile he swore he saw a light underneath it.
He stopped in his tracks confused and blinking. It was a light and looked to be under his ruined potatoes. Keeping his ax handy he ran back over to the patch and resumed his kneeling position over them taking in the sight of it. His rage stymied as he was mesmerized.
He set his ax aside and ran his hands over them lightly. He felt afraid, yet great excitement as he picked one up. “Put me down!” A voice screamed out.
He jumped out of his skin dropping the potato with a thump as he heard; “Ouch! That hurt, you dummy!”
He sheepishly looked around searching the ring of darkness for the person speaking to him. There was no one that he could see. It was a new moon and in his rush, he didn’t have a lantern.
It sounded like it was coming from his pile of ruined potatoes, something to do with the light? By now he was stumped and his mind was not grasping much more.
“Who is there?” He asked searchingly. There was no answer except for his thumping heart pounding in his ears.
Suddenly the light went out and the darkness closed in around him as he heard snickering in the darkness. He felt the breeze as a bottle flew by his head-it was that close.
Now Potatoman was slow but he still felt the same emotions as anyone else and he was terrified. He knew it was Ed and his no good townie friends and at that moment the full impact of what they had done finally filtered into the right part of his mind to reconnect with his earlier anger just as a bottle hit him in the head.
When he came to, he was lying in the dirt where he had fallen. He felt his head and found a large throbbing lump on the side of it. He remembered a light under his potatoes. He was foggy about the details when he heard his horse and it was screaming.
He spied his ax where he had left it and grabbed it. He rose to his feet slowly feeling his head injury start to bleed as a ribbon of blood ran down his face and into his eye. Blinking it away he tried to clear his head. His horse was in the barn, no, he had left it tied up…
Then he heard it again, only this time, he sprang into action closing the ground between them quickly, so quickly that they didn’t have a chance to react. They were drunk by now, so full of hard liquor that they could hardly stand, but that didn’t keep them from beating his horse as they tried to make it pull the plow over the unforgiving ground and his remaining potato crop in the field.
The lantern light showed his poor horse floundering in the mud they had driven it into and they were whipping it into a frenzy as foam poured from its mouth. Potatoman was livid. First his prize potatoes and now his poor horse!
He snapped like a dry twig grabbing the first man by the jacket and spinning him around; “Who; oh, it’s Potatoman!” The drunken man sputtered as Potatoman nearly split him in two with his ax.
“Ed! Potatoman is awake!” Someone cried and the lantern went out.
Potatoman didn’t need lanterns as he knew every blade of grass on his property. They had abandoned his horse and he comforted it as he listened to them hide. He looked around the field at his potato crop and as he took it all in, buried his head in his horse’s mane and sobbed like a baby.
Not for long because a tiny thought was working its way into the creases of his very simple mind. A thought with a hint of anger, no more than a hint, then like a flood!
Without drying his tears he gripped his ax tightly and feeling every inch the monster they thought him to be he went after them. He’d kill them all but he really wanted one person.
Potatoman had the upper hand whether he knew this or not because Ed’s car was parked nearby and they had not found it to get away. They were drunk and with no place to really hide had been stupid enough to hide in the barn.
Ed was busy hiding behind a large barrel wondering where his friend had gone. Their plan had been to stay together. He wanted to call out and was mighty drunk, but he wasn’t stupid. He waited.
Potatoman entered the barn and stopped, listening in the darkness. He already knew where one man was he could hear him as he stumbled around in the unfamiliar territory.
Ed could hear him too and cringed inwardly. Potatoman was on the unsuspecting man in an instant and Ed heard every whack of the ax as he was cut and then pummelled into a pile of his former self.
Ed moved quietly under the cover of darkness as the noise subsided. He peeked at the scene. He could just make out a large glistening pile of something…he crept forward trying to see where Potatoman was. He had to make it to his car but he had lost his keys!
Suddenly a large hand sprang from the darkness and grabbed Ed from behind. He found himself looking into the eyes of Potatoman.
Not the childish, stupid, clown of a Potatoman; the one he grew up with. No, because Ed had awakened something bad in Potatoman, and he could see it on his face.
“Potatoman, you know I was just kidding around like always.” Ed had that old twinkle in his eye and for a moment Potatoman hesitated.
Then he remembered, he had no use for words or people and Ed was one of the worst people! Ed was screaming, just like the rest of them screamed but not for long as Potatoman axed him into tiny little pieces.
For good measure, he stomped on his remains until they resembled his drunken friends in the other puddles and Potatoman finally felt better.
When he was finished without a sound Potatoman walked out of the barn. He returned with Ed’s car parking it near the puddle of blood that was once Ed. He had a can of gas just for emergencies like this and distributed it evenly around the straw on the floor. He made sure his animals weren’t hiding anywhere inside and lit it.
Without looking back he walked outside over to his horse and patted it. The barn fire was huge and only the rising sun peeking over the ridge could demand more attention. In no time it was engulfed in flames his farm was lost and so were his beautiful potatoes!
Potatoman unhooked his horse from the plow rigging and led him across the ruined potato field they had been plowing just the day before. He walked towards the ridge and the rising sun.
© Rebecca Sanchez 2013
This was a strange picture prompt to write for. It was a story or poetry prompt and as my story took root it started to grow on its own. If I had planned to write a story like this it would have never worked liked this one does. Not the heartwarming story you’d expect either. Enjoy!