The Worm Farmer’s Wife
by Leslie Maryann Neal
The farmer’s wife stood in front of the bedroom mirror. Her dress looked empty, like real clothes on a paper doll. She couldn’t remember ever being this thin. They’d put it off too long this time. Outside, the farmer was bent over a windrow, his hands deep in the black soil. She stood clutching the curtain for a moment, watching. Over the neighboring fields, the sun burned a deep orange. Time to make dinner. She hobbled around the kitchen, boiling water for noodles and opening a can of stewed tomatoes to make a sauce. As she chopped an onion, she leaned against the Formica counter. Her spindly legs couldn’t be trusted.
The farmer closed the front door and pulled off his boots.
“You’d better wash your hands,” his wife said, wobbling as she pulled a bottle of beer from the refrigerator for him.
He stood at the kitchen sink and scrubbed. “Nightcrawlers almost ready.”
As he sat down at the table, his wife handed him a plate of noodles in a red sauce and frowned.
“I’ve lost more weight,” she said. “Look.” She held out an emaciated arm.
“We’ll get you fixed up,” he said.
She sat across from him. He glanced up with a forkful of noodles in midair. He realized that her face had become gaunt over the past week. In her eye, a brown shadow slid past.
“When?” she said.
“I suppose we could tonight. They’re old enough.”
The farmer continued to eat; the sound of chewing filled the room. His wife waited. When he pushed the dish away, she cleared the table and covered it with an oilcloth. He pulled his boots back on and walked outside. She undressed and climbed up onto the table, stretching out on her back. The farmer came in with two large buckets, one heavy and the other empty, then took a small pair of scissors from a kitchen drawer. He studied the long row of stitches that started under her arm and traveled down to her hip. He bent and kissed her forehead, then began to snip the knots and pull the stitches out. She closed her eyes and smiled.
The job took him almost an hour. When he finished, he walked out with the buckets, one empty and the other heavy. She glanced through the window. On his knees, the farmer spread the contents of the heavy bucket out on the herb garden. His wife admired her pudgy arms and dimpled knees, then walked to the bathroom to beam at her plump cheeks and round belly in the mirror. He found her there and put his arms around her new body, fragrant with earthiness. She tilted her head to look at him. Her throat moved beneath her skin, not unlike a pulse.
“Such a beautiful creation,” he said.
He ran his rough hands along her curves, marveling at the skin that held so much life. He pressed her body against the tile wall. When he pushed into her, the familiar squirming movement encircled him. When he kissed her, little tongues danced around his.