I was barefoot, shirtless, soaking in the sun while my eyes tried to focus on the spindly carrot sprouts protruding from warm sand, deliberating to discern the carrots from crabgrass that should not really have germinated so early in the spring. The hoe I used was revolutionizing my carrot cultivating technique; it originated with my friend Cletus's grandfather who once planted produce in these dunes. The hand-me-down hoe tapers to a sharp point like a bird's beak, allowing for precise removal of tiny weeds.
Normally I abstain from working barefoot in the garden, even though the beach sand constitutes a thermal pleasure. I normally don't go barefoot on account of my Lutheran neighbors and friends who might possibly stop by to chat about the weather, etc., and these folks gossip enough about Spec's eccentricities. Bare feet would blow their minds.
A grown man planting carrots, weeding them with a hoe in the days of Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans, with dinosaur spray rigs flying up and down the country roads where horses once pulled buggies, weirds out my neighbors enough, so I really try to keep a damper on non-Lutheran exhibitions. I suppose bare feet would fit into the stereotype of the organic frarmer who spent more than a decade in northern California, but I normally refrain from such a sensual deviation, except this time I simply could not insert my left foot into my leather boot on account of the sprained, swollen ankle.
“How'd it happen, Spec?” they ask.
My son and I had been watching Seinfeld DVD's rented from the county library, one night after a grueling day running the zero-turn-radius mower, the weed eater, and gas-powered blower for my buddy Mort's younger brother, Jimmy, who manages a lawn care service in the town of Seymour. Still trying to get this farm up and running, I'd been trading hours of labor for use of Jimmy's John Deere tractor with the front end loader. With the apocalyptically warm spring, the heavily-fertilized lawns had prospered out of control, and somehow my son and I had ended up skipping lunch one day last week, running on vapors as they say. About dusk, we'd finally had tacos at this absolutely authentic, from-scratch taqueria in Seymour, returned home to chill out with Seinfeld's first season, and at bedtime I'd attempted to rise from the seventies vintage lazy-boy some dairy farmer had donated to our cause. I guess with my blood sugar still catching up, or my legs numbed from sitting on the mower all day, or something — my left leg was entirley “asleep,” and my ankle collapsed with a crunch.
Not only was my ankle swollen, but with bare feet I'd incidentally stepped on a a dandelion that had been in the middle of pollination with a honey bee, and the bee had stung the arch of the same left foot, which was now also swelling. Hoeing weeds out of carrot sprouts is a slow activity, though, so on Friday I'd taken a break from plowing ground and was limping in the sand when the text notification rang from the cell phone in my blue jeans pocket.
“If I may ask what pantyhose should I wear with my cutoffs[?] Sheer or opaque[?]”
“What's the occasion[?]” I had to reply.
“Walking aroiund trying to get noticed[.]”
I had no opinion on pantyhose. Ever since fleeing academic civilization in the 1990's, I'd been with hippie women who generally don't even shave their legs. But this one, Antonia, had caught my attention last fall with her witty, on-the-scene reporting from the original Occupy Wall Street protests, honest observations and interviews that had irked some of the more zelaous of my Mendo contacts in the heat of revolution frenzy, bursting a few paradigm bublbles. We'd become Facebook friends. Eventually that on-line relationship had developed into a crush on my end, and back in March I'd proposed that Antonia try a tour of duty as a “woofer” on my new farm.
“A Manhattan bitch,” she describes herself as. “No way I could live in — where? Indiana?”
“Well just for like a vacation. . .a break from the rat race.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I'm still in a relationship that's not Facebook-official,” she'd typed, “and I don't want to undermine it.”