Farm Guy quickly got up from the table, went to the refrigerator and yanked open the door. He was pretending to look for something, but he was really trying to avoid her muddied golden eyes drilling into him for an answer.
“Why would you ask me something like that…? Why don’t you die?”
“I want to know,” Gracelyn said.
He pulled himself away from the blue-white glow of the refrigerator and closed the door, a small plastic bottle of cranberry juice now in one hand. He twisted the cap off and drank some. He made a face like the juice was overly delicious. “You’re too young to die,” he blurted out, and he took another gulp of his juice. “You’re too damn young.”
“But what if I’m not?”
He stared at her, unable to immediately give her an answer.
“You know something, don’t you…? About why I have so many birthdays.”
The man looked at her through the bottom of the plastic bottle of juice as he finished it off, her face painted the color of red wine. Then he asked her, “How long has it been?”
“Nearly 414 years,” Gracelyn said without hesitation. “I can’t make it stop.” The girl paused. “How long has it been for you?”
He looked at her like she was crazy, and then turned away like he was hiding something. “What are you talking about? I’m 74 years old. 74. End of story.”
“I’ve read a lot of books at the library… Things about reincarnation and other such oddities, but it’s not that. I’m always the same person. I’m never a bear or a tree or even someone else. It’s always just me. At least it seems that way.” She looked up at him, a refined sadness in her eyes. “It’s not fair. No one should have to live forever.”
Farm Guy let out a chuckling scoff. “Tell that to Noel Gallagher.”
Gracelyn crinkled her face. “Who?”
The man waved a dismissive hand at her and reclined his back against the kitchen counter. “He was in a band — way, way back and they had a song… You know, music. Oh, never mind. It’s not important.”
“You’re trying to avoid the subject, aren’t you?”
“You’re too gosh darn smart. Come outside with me. I want to show you something.”
Astron Puffin had been walking through the cabbage field for a very long time, and it seemed to him that he never got any closer to the big, yellow house on the horizon jutting up from the earth like an erection. At first, he thought he had simply misjudged the distance, but as he went along, he sensed there was something terribly different about this cabbage field. He stopped. He listened to his rapid breathing as he looked around. He started to panic. The cabbage was so vast, so deep in his sightline that he felt he was drowning in it.
“Hello!” he suddenly cried out. “Is anyone out there!? I seem to have lost my way in the cabbage!”
The house was still there, taunting him from a vast distance that never seemed to close. It was almost as if everything in the world was slowly backing away from Astron Puffin as he tried to get closer.
He lifted his head heavenward and looked for them. “I told you I never wanted to come back!” he screamed out at the sky. He wiped at his brow with a thick, hairy forearm. It was cool outside, like autumn slowly browning in the oven, but he was sweating. “Come back!” he yelled. “Don’t leave me alone like this!”
The sky remained empty. There was no answer, and Astron fell to his knees within the row, the smell of the rich soil smacking his face, the distance around him ever expanding.
Farm Guy and Gracelyn stood on the edge of the same cabbage field and looked out across it. The field was immense, a sea of bulbous and winged vegetation that nearly vibrated with energy.
“Cabbage?” the girl said, turning to look up at him. “You brought me out here to look at cabbage?”
“It’s not just any cabbage,” Farm Guy said with a serious tone. “It’s… Different. This field, it changes, it’s alive somehow.”
“Of course, it’s alive,” Gracelyn pointed out. “They’re plants.”
“Not alive like that… Alive like, it breathes, it has a soul, it speaks.”
“The cabbage talks to you?”
Farm Guy began to pace along the edge of the field, his hands moving around out in front of him as he tried to explain to the girl. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve heard voices out there.”
“Like… Like someone is trapped and they want me to help them.”
For the first time since she met him, Gracelyn started to doubt the stability of her new friend. “But what does any of this have to do with why I have so many birthdays?”
“The cabbage. It, it never dies… It just keeps living. Like you. Like us, I suppose. No one ever comes to pick it, no one ever tends to it… It thrives on its own.” He held out his arms wide before him. “And it just seems to keep getting bigger. It’s almost as if it’s expanding endlessly, like the universe.”
“I knew it. So, how long Mr. Guy?” Gracelyn asked with a firmness. “How many birthdays have you had?”
He looked down at her, worried and concerned, but willing to confess. “704.”
“Shit,” the girl said unexpectedly. “You must be tired.”
Farm Guy chuckled at her attempt at humor. He sat down on the ground with an old man groan. “Oh, my. Yes. I’m tired. But I keep waking up. There must be a reason… Don’t you think?”
The girl sat down beside him. “I don’t know, but I don’t think I want to be alone anymore.”
He gave her a comforting glance. “You mean you want to stay here with me?”
“Would that be, okay?” she hoped.
“Aw, hell. I suppose that will be okay.”
FINAL EPISODE COMING SOON