The name's Bertram Sparks, and I reckon you should call me Bert or at least Sparks. I'm the man what's got power over yer life an' death right now, and you best be workin' to keep me happy.

I'm gonna tell you 'bout th' worst thang thet ever happened to me in my whole life, and I reckon you'll sit quiet and listen, or you gonna end up with either yer ears boxed or just plain gutshot, dependin' on how much fuss you make. I reckon you don't want either of them outcomes, so you listen close and don't stir up no shit. You hear me, right?

I bet you wonderin' how you come to be here. Well, I brung you, that's how. I bet you wonderin' whar you is. You in mah barn. I bet you wonderin' if you kin get out o' thet rope and beat me down. You cain't. Thet's good nylon rope. I got it down at the TruValue up in Hefferbrook. Might as well be steel cable fer all you kin git out of it. And you been tied up long enough so I bet you couldn't even stand if you got out. I ain't got shit to worry about from you, boy.

And I bet you wonderin' why come I ain't already blown yer fool brains out. Why come I'm tellin' you all this shit you half too scared to even pay attention to.

It's 'cause no one gonna find you, ya damn idjit. Th' sheriff and his boys reckon you lyin' out somewhar drunk and sleepin' it off with some of yer fool friends. They lookin' fer yew, but they lookin' in the wrong place. Yer pals was all camped out on th' lake, all raisin' hell and actin' like you dumbshit Hefferbrook kids always do. Sheriff thinks you either wandered off and passed out in them hills or drowned yerself. They draggin' the lake, they wanderin' up in the hills hollerin' fer ya. But you ain't up there. You in mah barn.

So agin -- I'm gonna tell you 'bout th' worst thang thet ever happened in my life.

I weren't a hell of a lot older'n you are now. I'd had thangs rougher'n you, you can bet yore bottom dollar on thet. You been pampered and protected most of yer life, but I didn't have yer luxuries. My daddy gived up on us, and momma drank herself to death. I had to run this farm when I was younger'n you, and I reckon I didn't always do it right, 'cause I didn't have nothin' to eat more times than not.

I didn't never have no truck with churchin'. They like to talk about goodness and holiness and blessin' yer fellow man, but as far as any of the churches up in town was concerned, I was white trash who didn't have money to pay for a fancy new suit, much less to put in th' collection plate. All them fine, proper people sneered at me when I'd come in for services, and they'd sneer at me when I'd come in to ask for food.

I don't like gettin' sneered at, and I don't like gettin' preached at. But cheap beans and cornbread is better'n no food at all. So I made the trip a few days a week, and I looked around to see if there was anything else I could use. Maybe a little extra food I could sneak out, maybe a book or some silverware or some trinket that nobody else'd miss. Somethin' I could use, or somethin' I could hock.

So one day, I go into their bathroom and I stick a roll of toilet paper into my coat pocket. Weren't nothin' else that day, and th' old hag that run the church supper was watchin' us like a hawk. I go wash my hands, and I see this old boy, musta been one of the associate preachers, standin' behind me in the mirror. But the thang is, I couldn't see him standing behind me anywhere but in the mirror. He ain't in the room, see, just in the mirror.

He gave me a big smile, and his eyes are solid black, like oil or somethin'. And he says, Bert, you steal from a church, you goin' to Hell.

And I say, fine, fine, I'll put it back. And he says, naw, son, take it, I don't care. But I can give you somethin' better for yore welfare than a roll of goddamn Charmin.

And he gives me this necklace right here. Here, boy, take a look at it. I ain't much fer jewelry, but I could tell this was special. I can't rightly say what this thing is supposed to look like, but I reckon it's either a bug or a whale, or maybe some kind of bird or animal, I dunno. Can't tell what it's made of neither. Looks like plastic, feels like steel or a sponge, smells like a dead deer in the road. Quit yer cryin', you big baby, it's just a goddamn necklace.

And the man says, take thet thang home and build yerself some scarecrows for your field. Wait for th' full of th' moon, hold that trinket in yore hands, and you call on mah name. You have me somethin' to eat, too, somethin' big like a cow or a horse, or somethin', you know, two-legged, you git me? At least a big dog, you can do that, right? You do that, and I gonna brang you plenty.

And he walks out the door. The door in the mirror, you see, 'cause the real door, the one behind me, don't even move.

I walk back out, and I see that associate preacher, and I can tell it weren't the same man. And I think I don't even know that man's name, how can I call on 'im? And I realize deep inside that all I gotta do is call on his name, but it ain't a name nobody knows 'til they need it. And I git mah ass home, and I start buildin' scarecrows.

Scarecrows is a damn stupid thang to put in a field. It don't really scare much of anythang off. Maybe it works for a day or two, but bugs don't care, crows is too smart, and even dumb animals like rabbits, they finally figure it out, too. Only reason to put up a scarecrow is 'cause you got time you can waste stuffin' old clothes with straw.

But the man says to make scarecrows, so I make some.

And on the night of the full moon, with th' October chill in th' air, and the leaves cracklin' like bones up in the trees, I get this big St. Bernard dog I found wanderin' out on a backroad, and I tie him up good to a tree, and I hold the necklace in mah hand, and I say, well, I say the name that felt like th' right one, and I say, come forth, 'cause it sounds like something from the Bible, and I say, come forth, I couldn't get no horse or cow, but I brung this dog.

And the wind kicks up, and dust blows, and there's a howl like the dead's risin', and thet St. Bernard dog goes nuts and screams like a baby, but it can't get off thet rope, just like you cain't.

And the man comes forth.

But he ain't no man no more. He's like a scarecrow, but he's big, bigger'n a house, bigger'n a mountain, bigger'n anythin' anyone can ever see. He got squirmin' skin made outta burlap and cloth, straw pokin' outta him like a thousand poison spines, an' idiot starin' button eyes thet reflect th' dyin' lights of the whole goddamn universe.

An' he says FEAST, and he says WORSHIP, and he says again FEAST, and I didn't remember nothin' else.

When I woke up, the dog was gone, the rope was bloody, and all the power in th' house was out. I had blood on my face and in my mouth, and I don't think it was mine. There was a voice in my head sayin', do that again once a season, and next time, make sure you get somethin' better'n a goddamn dog.

My fields had new green shoots all over, and they ended up being my best crop ever.

So I been doin' that for the last few years. He likes cows and horses fine, but you wouldn't right believe how good the crops do when he gets a person. Don't even matter who -- preacher's daughter or stray baby get the crops just as charged up as when I give him one of the town drunks or some wanderin' hippie.

Or, ya know, some drunk-ass high school idjit from th' lake.

Aw, hell, boy, did I say it was the worst thang thet ever happened to me? Naw, it's the best thang thet ever happened to me. But you -- well, it don't matter whether it's yore best or worst or whutever. You ain't nothin' but food for the scarecrow, and food for me, and food for my crops. Cry all you want, it don't matter.

The harvest moon's in the sky, boy. Let's you and me go talk to the Lord.


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