Scarecrow's Apprentice

            It was motionless, hung crucified on a wooden frame amidst the corn.  Occasionally a breeze ruffled the faded, tattered edges of its red, flannel shirt, or tugged at the wide-brimmed hat that was stitched to the burlap skin covering its head.

            It was stoic in its crucifixion.  The crude stitching of its mouth never moved; the mismatched buttons of its eyes revealed nothing.

            But Andrew Devereux watched the scarecrow closely, knowing that it was bound to give up its secrets if only he was patient enough.  The sun-bleached denim of its overalls was like a ceremonial robe, the garb of the master…master of what?  That’s what Andrew was determined to find out.

            It was hot.  The sun was just past its zenith in the cloudless sky.  The heat of it baked the dirt and corn, and those smells wafted up towards Andrew, carrying also the smell of his own sweat. 

            School had only been out for two weeks, but Timothy and Kevin had already given up on the heat and resolved themselves to watching cartoons in the air-conditioned playroom until September came and dragged them back out. 

            But Andrew would continue to learn, he was determined to.  His classroom was the cornfield and his teacher the figure who presided over it all. 

            Andrew heard the footsteps on the path of dry earth and knew it had to be his father.  The footsteps were muffled by the fibrous hushing sound of the parting corn. 

            “Andy, why are you sitting out here all by yourself,” Paul Devereux asked.

            “Don’t want to just sit in the house all summer,” Andrew said.

            “Where are your brothers?  They eating junk food and watching T.V. again?”  Paul started getting red in the face, as much from the heat as his frustration.

            “Don’t get mad at them, Pop.  They just don’t appreciate the same things I do.”

            Paul looked down at Andy’s brown hair, the blonde flecks already highlighting it, and his face, the tan bringing out a band of freckles stretched across both cheeks and the bridge of his nose.  He was still a boy, but he wouldn’t be for much longer.

            Andy was Paul’s oldest, and he was his father’s son.  It wasn’t just their appearance, which was almost exactly alike.  It was the essence of their personalities, the fact that Andrew really did appreciate being outside, just like his father.

            It was all new for Paul, watching his first born approach manhood.  He watched it with curiosity, realizing that, while he may claim otherwise, he couldn’t really remember what it was like to be that age.  “What do you mean?  What are you appreciating?”

            “Feel of the sun.  Smell of the hot earth.  I don’t know.  Just being alive and not sitting on my butt watching T.V.,” Andrew said.  He was still looking at the scarecrow.  Watching it.

            “Well, appreciate or not, I don’t work so damned hard so they can waste their lives away on the couch.”  Paul looked at the scarecrow himself, wondering what Andy saw that had such a hold of his attention.  “I’ll start giving you all jobs to do,” Paul said smiling, expecting a rise out of his son.

            Andrew never looked away from the scarecrow.  “Sure, Pop, whatever you want me to do.”

            Paul stopped smiling.  “Aw, Hell, I was just kidding you, Andy.  You okay?  You getting too much sun out here?”

            “I’m okay.”  Andrew looked up at his father, his blue eyes squinted against the sun.  They were older eyes.  The confusion of adolescence had given them a distinctly more adult depth as they peered out from his still childish face.

            Paul thought it must be girls that were on his son’s mind.  He had reached that age, reached it a while back now that Paul thought about it, and this new introspection must be a result. 

            “Come on, buddy.  Let’s go back to the house and see what your mom made for lunch.”   

            Andrew shrugged and stood up, wiping dusty dirt from the seat of his pants as he did so.

            Paul threw his arm around Andy’s shoulder as they headed for the house.  “You friends with any of the girls in your school?”

            Andy looked back over his shoulder and watched the scarecrow recede until it was lost in the corn.  “No.  Not really.”