I thought he was a scarecrow, the man in the field in the blue sweatshirt.
When I felt brave enough, I whistled the dog and we ventured through the long wild grass towards him. Pepe’s fur filled with sticky seeds; my jeans, sodden at the knees from the dew.
When I reached him, I saw the metal detector. ‘Shush,’ he said, with no eye contact or break in his pendular motion.
Pepe took off, flushing tiny birds from safe places in the rippling green waves. The man stopped, momentarily distracted by the furious tweeting.
‘Have you found anything? I asked. All the time thinking you’ve found me.
That night, propelled by joyous hope, I pushed through velvet folds of darkness, bending inside shadows. The earth, soft and yielding, cushioned the bare soles of my feet. The great oaks bowed, creaking their mighty trunks; their sinewy branches swinging low, rustling leafy fingers against my skin. From hidden pockets the foxes gekkered. ‘It’s me.’ I whispered, ‘don’t be afraid.’
The morning the field is empty. Pepe and I trudge across the emerald spears. Ahead, pierced by a fence post and swinging like a flag, is the man’s blue sweatshirt, the fabric is grubby, cotton threads grazed, tainted. I force my face hard into the folds and breath him in.
High above, the sky resounds with a honking skein of geese. Their calling ebbs away and in the distance, I hear the lonely sunflowers begin to cry.