I Played the Farmer

My brother invented a game where he played a hobo named Brittle Bones Magee. He wore a flat cap my dad never used, tied a towel around the end of a golf club and headed off into the corn field behind our house. He’d steal two or three Oreos, mash the cookie residue on his teeth and push the cream behind his bottom lip like dipping tobacco. My brother would find some secret, hollow place where the corn forgot to grow, pretend to live there. I’d act like the farmer moseying through my field, admiring the deep green of the leaves when I’d stumble on his campsite. We picked this up from Little House on the Prairie, the only television we were allowed. It happened like this every other episode, Michael Landon chancing on a bum to feed, be kind to. 

“There there, Brittle Bones. Have some soup.”

Except Brittle Bones Magee was a violent hobo. My brother would roll his eyes like a drunk, swing the golf club and spit black loogies at my feet. Chasing me through the rows, he’d smash ears of corn until they were nothing but yellow goo and pulp. And when I’d run too far—half a field away—I could still hear him crashing through stalks and breaking his voice with

I’d find him laid out in the weeds. Brittle Bones Magee sobbed and rubbed his big arms. 

We nestled among the corn, silent for hours until dad came, yelling and thrashing leaves. Then I wiped my brother’s eyes, pet his coarse hair.

“It’s okay, Brittle Bones. It’s okay.”

Caleb Tankersley is a PhD candidate at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers, where he is an Associate Editor of the Mississippi Review. His work has appeared in Cutthroat, decomP, The Knicknackery, Midwestern Gothic, and other publications.