Wind Town 5.4

            Still coughing and wiping at his face, Dad nodded. The pressure of the kerchief felt strange on Matt’s face, and the day was suddenly hotter. Stifling. Wrinkling his nose (which made the kerchief shift oddly), Matt turned back to the endless field.
            The scythe felt heavy and awkward in his hand. Hesitantly, he gripped it the way Dad had shown him. Putting his left hand on that weird handle made it easier to hold all those blades up, but the weight pulled at him like current in a river. He could resist it, but he couldn’t stop it.
            “Use the weight to help your swing,” Dad reminded him mid-cough. “But keep it controlled.”
            Matt nodded without looking back. Swallowing, he squared his shoulders and lifted the heavy blades up and to the right. They pulled back down the whole time, greedy to cut and slice. At the top of the swing, he reversed it and drove them through the wheat. Too high. The scythe cut the wheat in short strips, not long stalks like Dad had done. And it wasn’t a full row. Frowning, Matt took a step forward and tried again. This time, he hit low enough. It wasn’t as neat a cut as Dad’s had been, but it left enough wheat to bundle.
            “That’s it, Matt!” His dad called encouragingly from behind him. “You’re doing fine.”
            Licking his lips, Matt took another step forward and another swing. Then another. And another. With each one, his control got better, and he slowly began to move faster, falling into a rhythm as his world narrowed down to the wheat and the scythe. Swing. Step. Swing. Step.
            There was no sense of time. No awareness of his family behind him. He didn’t even hear the wind or the birds crying out as they passed overhead. At the same time, he felt the beat of the sun stronger, like it was branding the back of his neck and arms. The kerchief that had felt so strange at first now stuck to his face like a second skin, and each breath drawn through it and the chaff stuck to it was a struggle. And the pull of the scythe seemed to reach further across his shoulders and back with each swing. At first, it had felt kind of good, satisfying. Then, satisfaction had turned to an ache and an ache to a pain.
            His arms trembled, and he had to work harder each time to keep the cut where he wanted it. His lungs began to burn, and his heartbeat rang through his ears. Sweat stung his eyes, and he stumbled. Catching himself, he let the scythe rest briefly on the ground and gasped for air.
            “That’s enough for now, Matt.” His mom laid a firm hand on his arm before he could raise it again. “Get some water.”


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