I OWE IT MY SOUL Tumbleweeds. Tumbleweeds and dirt, with an occasional starving crow or two. That's all that were left on the Myers farm. The dust flew along with the tumbleweeds and skipped over the sparse weeds and rocks. An oak tree looked over the barren land with pity and disgrace. It seemed to droop, and cry out for water and fertile land. It's leaves swayed in the dust - clad wind and it's brittle branches cracked under the strain. Even though it was so underdeveloped, the farm had a certain air about it. Something strangely mystical, something, even so ugly as the land was, that made the Myers farm a place you could lovingly call home. "I can't let it go." Daddy put his hand on the forgotten trunk with all the compassion any one could ever give a tree. "I just can't let this farm go, Gray." "You're going to have to, Orrin. The mortgage, the bills. The farm is too much to keep, and it hasn't grown an ample crop in three years." Daddy whipped of his red cap and wiped his head. He furrowed his brow and put his hand in his pocket uneasily. Uncle Gray threw up his hands and sighed. "Orrin, it's a dump! You have a daughter and wife to support! Gray, trust me, I'm a real estate agent, and I'm also your brother-in-law. This place is a rubbish heap. I can't let my sister live where she can't get a decent meal." "I... I d'know, Gray. 58 years, Gray, 58 years my family farmed this land. It was so good to them. It was good to me." I watched them bicker through the trailer's rusty screen door. I rolled my eyes in agony. I knew Daddy loved the farm, and I did too, but this was too far. It was TV dinners every night if any at all. There was no way this farm would ever be fertile again. Daddy knew it. Uncle Gray knew it. We all did. "Daddy..." The screen door opened with a vibrant clang. "Will we have a crop this year?" I put my arms around him and felt the scratch of his plaid flannel shirt. "Uh...Sure, pumpkin. Corn, potatoes, everything. It'll be our most plentiful crop yet. Yull see. Yull see." Uncle Gray crossed his arms and narrowed his charcoal black eyes into tiny slits. "Zelda?" "Yes, Uncle Gray?" "Could you go get your mother, honey?" "Sure, Uncle Gray." I retreated toward the trailer in haste. I almost tripped over the misce llaneous rubble surrounding the yard. "Momaaa!" "Yes, Zelda?" She entered the living room with a rag and a dish in her weather - beaten hands. "Uncle Gray and Daddy need you outside." She stepped out the trailer to where Uncle Gray and Daddy still bickered next to the old oak tree. She didn't look too happy as she let the rag and the dish dangle from her hand as she tried to stop them from lunging at each other's throats. I couldn't hear them well from where I was standing, but I could guess what they were saying. Uncle Gray would ask Momma to "talk some sense" into Daddy, and she would tell Gray that is was Daddy's decision to sell the farm or not. Daddy would just stutter and lament, and would occasionally wipe his sweat soaked forehead. It happened every time Uncle Gray came over. I didn't like it when it happened. Sometimes I wished that Daddy would just sell the farm to make room for some mini-mall. They were both so stubborn. I decided to stop this. There was only one way to get Daddy away from Uncle Gray. I ran out to the oak tree, panting like a dog in heat. "Daddy! Daddy! I saw a gopher near the bean crop!" The bean crop was Daddy's pride and joy, small and unsuccessful as it may be. It was the only crop left that grew well enough to reap. "Not again... someday I'm gonna teach that gopher a thing'r two." He jogged over to the bean crop and crouched down on his knees. Uncle Gray put his arm around Momma and lead her into the trailer. "Daddy?" I stepped toward him. "Yes, pumpkin?" He searched the field with his eyes and didn't look up to respond. "Why won't you sell the farm?" "*sigh* Well, y' see pumpkin, this farm fed and sheltered many generations of our family. You, me. Grandpa. Grandma. Great - Grandpa. It'll grow again, you can be sure' o that, pumpkin. If this farm weren't here for my ancestors, none of us would be here today." Yeah. I thought. We'd be in a good house, and Daddy would have a good job. "The fact is, pumpkin... I owe this farm my soul." ******** It was late at night. Through the bug-stained window the oak tree stood like some great and noble wise man, watching the empty farm to pass the time away. A silver shadow cast upon the bean plants and the oak tree while the stars glistened like spattered paint along a deep black canvas. I woke up with a start as I heard soft voices in the living room. I recognized one as Daddy, and I thought the other one was Uncle Gray. I sneaked out of my bed on the ball of my foot. The soft wood creaked under my feet as I crept into the hallway, being careful not to wake up Momma. As I crept closer to where Daddy was and I saw that Daddy was talking to a shady figure robed in a black trenchcoat and hat. He had burning eyes like coal and a fire red handlebar mustache which spread over his face like an inferno. His clenched fists were dropped at his sides as he whispered to Daddy, "Well, Orrin. I'm here. What did you call me for?" "Well," Daddy used the voice that he used whenever he talked about the farm. That soft, fond voice which dropped like his mouth like honey. "I need you to give my family at least Twenty years of good crops. That's all I ask. That's all I ever asked for my family." "You know I can't promise anything, Orrin. It's your duty to ensure this." "I understand." What is Daddy doing with that man? I asked myself. I was terribly scared. That man sent a cold chill climbing up my timid spine. What was this about the crops? Twenty years? Daddy was delirious. "Are you sure you can do this for me?" "I already told you, Orrin. I can't guarantee squat. Of course, Orrin, I make deals like this every minute. I'm very adept in my profession. Daddy fidgeted nervously. "Twenty years?" The man nodded. "Twenty years." "Can I really leave my family?" "I can't consult you like that. It's your decision. Just remember. Will they prosper more like this?... Or when you make your deal with me?" "You have... a... a point." Then come, Orrin, out to the field." Daddy and the man slipped out the screen door which opened seemly without so much as an unoiled squeak. I followed them out to the middle of what should have been the corn field that year next to the looming oak tree. Daddy put his hand on it, as if to say good-bye. "It's not necessary to feel like your leaving it, Orrin, in fact, you'll be closer to it than you've ever been before." I had no earthly idea what the heck that meant. I crouched behind a nearly deceased shrub and strained to hear what they were saying. Daddy spoke up. "Do you have... the... have the..." "This?" The man held up a small brown bag tied with a white, frayed string. "Over here, Orrin." He surveyed the scene and picked what I would have guessed was a random spot. "Here! Make it here!" Daddy took the bag from the man's hand and opened it. If I had been any closer, I'm sure I would have seen a solitary tear roll down his frail white cheek and land on the dismal ground below. He reached inside the bag and pulled out a pinch of white powder, like sugar or salt and let it escape his fingers and the wind carried it through the air to where it would never be seen again. He turned to look at the trailer - the last look he'd ever give it. He took the powder in the bag and sprinkled it in a less than adequate circle. "Orrin?" "Y... Y... Y... Ye... Yes?" Daddy only stuttered like that when something was really wrong. "Are you ready?" "I... I... I geh... I guess... so." "Well then, Orrin, it is time. It is time to reach deep within you, and pull out the darkest reaches of your psyche. Say a sad good-bye, Orrin... then say a joyful hello." Daddy stepped into the ghost white circle and raised his arms toward the soft sky. The man raised his arms in synchronization. FLASH! A burst of lightning cut through the air like a knife through butter. FLASH! More lightning and thunder claps. Then with a dry rip, the earth opened up between Daddy and the man. "Dadddddyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, but Daddy was too far away and too involved in this strange happening to hear. I wept solemnly. The darkness spread as the dirt and tumbleweeds cracked away and fell into the abyss that opened up around them. Between the splits of earth lava flowed and spilled over crag and rock. Lines of yellow ran over the blazes' magma and bubbled with frightening pops. Lights punctured the sky like spotlights and swam over the ground and molten fire. The greatest sight I had ever seen grasped me with fear and a sense of unrelieving horror. The flames reached their apex and whipped over the precipice of every valley and cave created by the destruction of our farm. Of all the things he loved in the world, why was Daddy destroying the thing that meant so much to him? The smoke rose from the ash and enveloped the peaks and cliffs in mist. The wisps circled the men and covered them. Soon the only rock standing was the abnormal circle dotted with white powder. The strange man seemed to float in midair, both men still had their arms raised toward the night. The fog and smoke began to get thicker and the lips of the flame higher. Despite the blazing pyre, it got colder and colder. The wind howled throughout the oak tree and around the farm. A wall of dreary gray enclosed the night and his the field in smoke. It cleared almost instantly, and when it had, both the man, and Daddy were gone. I tried to scream. I tried to run. I stood there in mortal terror, thinking that any minute I could simply wake up. I wish it were that simple. I, astonished, backed away and stumbled through the screen door. "Mommaaa!!" I wept uncontrollably. "Oh, Momma." "Honey! Whatever is the matter?" She rushed down the stairs with her dull pink housecoat flowing behind her. "Oh, Momma, Oh Momma. Daddy... is gone, just gone. The fire, the man. It was horrible." Momma kneeled down, consoled me in her arms, and rocked me. The moonlight hit the pastel rug and reflected off the trailer windows. She rubbed my head and tried to quiet mw down. That night I slept in her arms on the plush couch. ******** Next morning the placid moon had disappeared and the warming sun had taken the sky. The day could not have been more beautiful. I woke in early morning and saw the sunlight stream in on my face. I felt the greatest urge to go outside, so I rose from the couch. Something pulled me toward the screen door. I opened it with it's usual screech. I stepped off the porch and dropped my jaw. I heard the screen door open again behind me followed by a hollow gasp. Momma stood there in the clearing beside me and put her arm around me. In the previously destitute farm was the most amazing crop I had ever seen in all my life. The land was covered in every vegetable imaginable. The lush plant life reached as far as human eye could see. The potatoes... the carrots... and the bean crop was more prosperous than ever. In the sun the leaves of the plants seemed to grow instantaneously and open their leaves to welcome the colossal deity. And the oak tree? It stood fully erect, not like some graying wise man, but like an even wiser general draped over by red and yellow foliage. The leaves scattered on the ground assembled like troops in a ring. No more tumbleweeds, not a sole crow or gopher. Birds crouched in the oak tree and twittered about the farm. In the base of my head I heard the soft-spoken voice of Daddy. "It's like I said, pumpkin. I owe this farm my soul." ******** Momma never admitted Daddy had disappeared that night. According to her, he ran away with another woman. I tried to tell her about what I saw that night. Next week it was sessions of child psychiatry. ******** It's been twenty years exactly since that day. Exactly twenty years. And here I am. Relating this story to you. At my childs' bedside. Watching her. In the same trailer. On the same farm. Every thing exactly like it was that brisk day. The same moon glaring through the window of the same room. The same man standing in the living room waiting for me to rise and finish my obligation. "Zelda? Are you ready?" "Yes." I told the man. "I am." "One last question, Zelda. Are you sure you want to do this?" Looking at the man for the second time reminded me of Daddy. His gentle, stuttering voice, his kind devotion... and the way he deserted us for our basic needs. Deserted is the wrong word. He became part of the Myers farm. He had always been there in spirit, but not body. He had been part of every rock, tree, plant, and bird on the farm. I could feel him all the time. Now, I would be closer to him. I would be part of him. Part of the farm. To keep my family prospering. I wish I had time to say good - bye. "Yes sir. I certainly am. Like my father said those twenty odd years ago. I owe this farm my soul."