There were so many things that needed to be done before the spring planting.
Tilling, fertilizing, cleaning, repairing, prepping. A man and his land, struggling to make a living for his family. Self-reliance of the best kind. It was hard work, all of it, preparing the land. Everything in its allotted time, seeds, water, everything.
But before he planted the corn, Jonathan Kent always burned his stumps.
There was something almost poetic about it, cutting down and burning another in the line of trees that divided the corn plots. His father had planted the trees as a windbreak years ago, long before Jonathan had taken over the farm. Unfortunately, the ground didn't support them well, so they were more a hazard than a helper when they grew to a certain height. So every so often, Jonathan would have to cut and burn; then plant two trees to replace the one he had taken down.
Two lives for one.
When he did this was variable, never in winter, but he tried to do it with the spring planting.
He put the chainsaw aside and stacked the wood he'd bring home for the fireplace and wood burning stove in the trailer, and took out his ax. There were some things you just couldn't do well with a chainsaw, horror movies be damned.
He had a flat surface on the stump when he made the first cut, bringing the ax down, muttering when the cut wasn't complete and he had to do it again. This time the cut went through and he threw the pieces in the direction of the wood chipper and cut another chunk off. Took two more whacks to get the right size for the chipper. Needing a break, Jonathan went over to the truck and took a swig from the cold cup of coffee on the tailgate.
Wiped the blood off his watch and checked the time.
He still had hours until he had to be at the school to pick Clark up from his field trip. Wiping his sweating and bloody forehead with the sleeve of his sweatshirt, Jonathan went back to the stump and folded the rest of the reporter's body over it, then swung the ax to make the cut. Two more whacks to separate the pelvis, which tended to clog the chipper if it wasn't cut before, and he was done with this part.
He carried the parts to the chipper, stacking them neatly. Wiping his hands off on his sweat pants, he turned the chipper on and turned it to wide spray. It was already facing out toward the field, and as Jonathan fed in a leg and the chipper sprayed out first small chunks, then a fine mist out over the soil
Another leg and he shifted the chipper, grunting with the effort this time. Fed in another piece and moved it again. All in all, it was done quickly.
It hadn't been so quick the first time.
Michael Danvers had been Clark's fifth grade teacher, an okay guy -- a good teacher. Until the day he came to the farm in May and told Jonathan what he had seen: Clark, lifting the truck up with one hand. Danvers had wanted to know everything, demanded even. Then he threatened that he'd have someone investigate Clark if Jonathan didn't tell him. Jonathan hadn't even thought as he rammed Danvers into a wall, and was shocked when the blade of the scythe had come out his chest, just the tip, poking out from the man's white oxford and tweed jacket.
A second push and Danvers was dead, reaping what he'd sown.
Jonathan had sat on a hay bale a few feet away, trying to figure out what to do. He hadn't meant to kill the man, but this was his son, and there was no way he was going to let anything happen to Clark.
Finally making his decision, Jonathan had taken the body out to the windbreak and had put the body on the stump as it burned, but the fire wasn't hot enough. Luckily, he had thought enough to dismember the body before he put it through the wood chipper. As he liked to say, preparation is the key. He hadn't wanted to spray the remains on Martha's roses; the whites had already started to bloom, so he had chosen the corn plots.
The corn had been surprisingly robust that year and the organic produce had sold very well.
Two years later, Jonathan had learned his lessons, and when Max, the field hand who had replaced Earl, had discovered Clark lifting the tractor. Under the guise of a payoff, Jonathan had fed the corn again, burned another stump. Learned some more things, that instead of burning the clothes at the farm, burning them at the stump was a better idea. Learned to thin out the spray pattern, rotate the muzzle.
It had been awhile since he had had to do this, but some things were like riding a bicycle.
The chipping finished, Jonathan turned his attention back to the stump. On the ground next to it, he had a metal washtub full of gasoline, in which clothes were soaking. Taking the clothes out, piece by piece, he wrapped them around the stump. Once all the clothes were out of the way, he took a hoe from the bed of the pickup and made a little channel leading out into the field. He emptied much of the gasoline around the stump, then dragged the tub along, slopping gasoline into the furrow. Walking out to the spigot, Jonathan attached the hose, his nose wrinkling at the mingling scents of gas and blood. The last thing he did was to take off his clothes, throwing the sweats onto the pile wrapped around the stump.
Going back to the spigot he turned the water on and rinsed off, just to get the gas off his skin. Keeping his hold on the hose, he walked back to the field. Jonathan lit a match and threw it into the furrow, moving back quickly at the feel of the intense heat on his naked skin. The fire was well contained, thanks to other lessons learned those first times, and it burned steadily, the stench of the reporter's sharkskin suit as it burned brining tears to Jonathan's eyes.
While the well-dressed stump blazed, Jonathan washed for the second, but not last time in the cold water, scrubbing at the dried blood, watching it flow down his legs; watched how his cock tried to hide inside his body at the touch of the cold water.
As he washed, he thought of the reporter, found in his storm cellar, and his threats against Clark. There had been no choice; a man protects his family above all else. The man had chosen the sword himself with that threat, so there wasn't any other option. Lex Luthor was behind it of course, and Jonathan would have to watch carefully, make sure that if he needed to, he was ready to burn the stump next year.
The fire was burning down, the clothes pretty much cinders as Jonathan hosed down the chipper, pulling a bone out, probably a thumb, he deduced from the piece of flesh with the nail still on it. Shrugging, he threw it on the fire and finished up. When the stump was char, he turned the hose on it, then used the rake to grind it all into the soil. Used the hose again to totally saturate the ground to prevent flare-ups, and finally washed again, getting rid of the soot.
He dressed quickly in fresh clothes out of the cab of the old pickup, glad for the warmth the fabric provided. He turned off the water and coiled the hose neatly, then attached the trailer and the chipper to the back hitch. With one last look at the trees, Jonathan picked out the place where he and Clark would plant the saplings tomorrow.
He'd have to plant four trees this year, two lives for each life today.
Driving back to the farm, Jonathan thought it would be a good year for the corn.
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