Fields of Gold

Fields of Gold

Beloved Child re-plants the bundled nursery stalks one at a time, seven inches apart, six inches tall, two rows from the paddy’s verge. This will be monsoon rice, third crop of the year. She drinks from an old Coke bottle, squatting down to rest her back. Her husband, Plentiful, hacks at the water channel, clearing it of sticks and dung.

 

Tracts of jeweled green bounded by darker paths and channels unfold across the valley to the mountains beyond. The green is not one thing of itself but countless strands of life nurtured by volcanic loam and river water, tended by the people of Plentiful’s village. A lick of wind makes the grasses swing together and swell like hair under water. Beloved Child smiles. This field of jade is nothing compared to what she is making.

 

Even as she works, Beloved Child silently makes every hair of her baby’s head, the taste buds in her mouth, ten toe-nails, two kidneys, every egg she will ever have. Plentiful’s mother says Beloved Child was made to work the fields. She is wrong. The fields make rice to build this baby.

 

Last night, Beloved Child dreamt again of the fields of gold. She’s dreamt this dream since before she had words. The man in it was a stranger to her until her wedding day.

 

In the dream, Plentiful waves from the channel and points to the sky. The sky lights up with bands of glowing amber lapping toward them like waves at the river’s edge. The line of village trees sighs and swivels toward the distant hills and the yellow-misted mountain beyond. Beloved Child’s feet are tickled as honeyed fronds of rice plants flow to where the trees beckon. She looks in the water and sees it turn to liquid gold. She turns to share her wonder with Plentiful, but her hair loosens and flies forward, covering her eyes.

 

Plentiful’s mother says the dream is a good sign.

 

“Your new son will make you rich.”

“This child is no son.”

“He will go west to Bandung or Jakarta and become a rich man.”

“Perhaps. I will go to the field now. There is no wealth without work.”

 

Beloved Child screws the top back onto the Coke bottle. The air smells of burning. She stands up quickly and sways a little as her blood catches up. The field and sky have turned the tawny hue of the water her father passed when he was dying.

 

Plentiful is not waving. He is running wildly. She starts toward him, into a sulphurous gale that slaps her onto her back in the hotly draining paddy. Beloved Child is trapped beneath her body’s weight. She grasps her belly and arches her neck, pulling harder on the rushing yellow air. But the air has gone to the mountains, too. Holding her head out of the brackish water, Beloved Child sees the sky turn brown. When the hot air returns, it will take them all away.

 

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