The tale of an old scarecrow. 2nd in No Dialogue Contest, October 2020.
|The Mooker Man
An old scarecrow once lived in a field west of the sun and north of the moon. His maker was an elderly farmer by the name of Ephraim Potts. In the days when Potts was young, he made the scarecrow to protect his crops and, thirty years later, Madeline Potts, the farmer’s granddaughter, named it the Mooker Man. When asked how she chose the name, she shrugged and said nothing.
The Mooker Man stood in that field for more than forty years. He wore the cast off clothes of his maker so that, at any given time, he seemed like a younger version of the farmer himself. Many times, those who had been away from the area returned and mistook the Mooker Man for Potts, so like the farmer did he appear at a glance. It was only when they saw the Mooker’s pumpkin face that they realised how wrong they had been.
Throughout those years, the Mooker Man stood out in the field through all weather, drenched and wretched in the pouring rain, powdered with snow in the winter, baked and faded to a drab lack of colour in the summer. When the wind blew, his arms would move as though he lived and, sometimes, the broomstick that formed his only support moved in the ground so that he leaned and twisted to gaze in another direction. But he never fell over, the farmer making regular trips to mend the latest evidence of his creation’s decay.
When Potts died at the age of seventy-four, the farm passed to his daughter who now lived in the city. She had never liked life on the farm and moved away as soon as she was able, just occasionally sending her daughter, Madeline, to stay for a few days in the fresh air of the country. It was on one of these visits that the daughter had named the scarecrow.
Since her mother was not interested in settling the farm and its affairs, it was Madeline who arrived one day in the autumn to attend to the matter. She stayed in the old farmhouse and supervised the sale of livestock and equipment. Eventually an auction was held and the farm itself was sold. In all that time, however, Madeline never went down to the field to speak to her old friend, the Mooker Man. He watched her coming and going from the farm and reasoned that she had forgotten him. His heart of straw became bitter and disillusioned as he realised that his trust had been betrayed. Never again would he speak his name to a human child.
He watched as Madeline left the farm forever and the new owners moved in. That night, October 31st, at midnight, the Mooker Man uprooted his broomstick and set out on his travels. Up and down the length and breadth of New England he roved, always on moonlit nights, so that tales and rumours of the wandering scarecrow began to spread. Somehow his name became known and mothers would warn their children against staying out late, especially on the last night of October.
But the Mooker Man never hurt anyone in all his long travels. He was searching for the one who had forgotten him, the little girl who knew his name.
Of course, that little girl no longer existed; she was now in her mid-thirties and had long ago dismissed all thoughts of scarecrows for other, more important matters. She met a salesman who proposed and, in time, they married and moved away to Florida.
The Mooker Man knew nothing of this and kept searching, travelling the cold and empty hillsides, visiting the farms and peering through midnight windows. His old farmer clothes disintegrated over time and the straw that formed his innards came loose and began to drift away in the wind. As his legend among the farming folk grew and became ever more sinister, the dregs of the Mooker’s consciousness went with the last wisps of straw and he became no more than a few sticks and the blackened skin of a pumpkin, lying at the side of a lonely country road.
Word Count: 689
For No Dialogue Contest, October 2020