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Man of Straw


David stood out in the corn field, looking toward the setting sun. He sighed heavily and leaned against the wooden pole propping up the scarecrow he’d made just last week on his 11th birthday. It worked perfectly, but he found he missed seeing birds flying past the farmhouse. Or rabbits, or foxes, or any living thing, really.

He looked up at the scarecrow, squinting to get a better look at the features he’d drawn on. A wide, smiling black mouth grinned back down at him, and dark, shaded circles stared out across the swaying stalks of ripening corn.

“Look,” David said matter-of-factly to the scarecrow, “I know you’re good at your job. But do you think you could take a break maybe? Please, let’s just talk about it.”

The scarecrow was silent.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate it,” David continued, “and I really like hanging out with you. You’re a good friend, but why don’t you let a rabbit or two visit? We could all chat together and – ”

“David?”

David jumped, and looked over his shoulder to find his father standing there, scowling.

“Who are you talking to?” his father asked.

David shrugged.

“No one.”

“Were you talking to that scarecrow again?”

David looked away so his father wouldn’t see his face flush in shame. He stuttered as he tried to find words.

“I guess maybe,” David said at last.

His father sighed.

“Look, I told you, kiddo. That scarecrow is no more alive than the post you propped him up with. It can’t talk to you, and it’s not a real friend. Rabbits, too. You gotta go out, find kids your own age. OK?”

“But –”

“OK?”

David was silent for a long while. Eventually, he swallowed hard and spoke.

“OK, Dad,” he said hollowly.

“Good, now come inside soon, it’s dinner time.”

David listened to the sound of his father’s footsteps as he marched back across the corn field toward the farmhouse. Once he was sure his father was out of earshot, he looked up at the scarecrow and let out another heavy sigh.

“I guess you were right,” David said softly, “he doesn’t think you’re real after all.”

The scarecrow was still. Then, slowly, it turned its head with a rustle of straw and scrape of burlap.

“I told you,” it whispered.

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