Legs

The first thing that anyone would notice was the sign. It was supposed to be a tourist trap, but nobody seemed to have put much effort into attracting visitors. The sign was just a rotted out piece of wood lying flat in the grass, a broken off stump planted in the ground next to it. The only way to tell where you were was the mailbox, which was strangely large and a bit rusted. It said “Leg Farm” on the side of it, which was the name of the place. There was no address that I could see.

I like farms. There’s something nice about places that are dirty, but where you’re totally unafraid of germs. I parked my car outside the front of the house. I got out, stumbled a little, and stretched vainly at a knot in my shoulder.

The house was a log cabin style place, the tractor shed was right next door but I couldn’t see the field. The friend who’d told me about this place said you could just go up to the door and ask the farmer if you could see the hay bale legs, and he would take you out back and show you, say something about them or not. So, I went up to the door; the knocker was shaped like a woman’s leg, rounded and smooth, even the toes were detailed. I pulled back the leg and let it kick the door. After a few seconds the farmer came out, he was wearing a wool shirt with no pattern on it and jeans. He had a deep tan and he was very thin and a little bit shorter than me.

“You must have come to see the legs.”

“Yes, I have… is that ok?”

He angled his head to the side, considered all of his words: “Oh yes you may, not too many people come to see those legs anymore.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hand, towards the inside of his house, and then he put the hand into a pocket. “In the realm of agri-tourism, I am a bit of a one-hit wonder.”

He drank from his mug, looked at me, and said we should get to looking at the legs. He walked me out the back of his house.

The house had cavernous ceilings, a big open kitchen, and a giant window facing the road.

He walked towards the kitchen and asked me if I wanted coffee; I said no.

“Myself, I go through, seven, eight, nine cups a day, thirty years of farming and you start waking up at three in the morning all the time, and I never could get myself to bed at eight p.m.”

“This is a really nice house.”

“Thank you. My favourite part is how the upstairs is only half a floor, leaves you the living room ceiling way high, a bit like you’re in a cathedral.”

He looked up at the ceiling, and then used his French press to make a pot of coffee, poured some into a mug that didn’t have a picture or writing on it. He took a deep gulp, and didn’t make any of the various sounds people tend to make when they finish drinking.

“One thing about these wooden houses is they catch dust like you would never believe. Once when my wife was still around, we had this dog died, so I buried it in the yard over there. It was winter and the ground was really hard, so I only got the dog buried a little ways in. Well, come spring, I’m up early, I’m taking a leak and out the window I see a god damned bear digging up my dog. So, I go get my gun and I just lean out the bathroom window, because I have a clear shot there, I shoot the bear. The noise of that shot, the vibrations shook about… I’d say ten odd years of dust off every surface in the house. So, it’s a fucking sandstorm. My wife she was sleeping, she explodes out the bedroom, bursts through this dust storm in her own house, she takes a running leap right into my chest, knees out, kicked my ass good.”

We both laughed, he continued: “I got the bear though, perfect shooting. Mind you, Kathleen was not exactly impressed by that portion of it.” He moved his mouth around the word “portion” like it was a piece of wood.

He drank from his mug, looked at me, and said we should get to looking at the legs. He walked me out the back of his house. Outside he had a white plastic table on his porch and dirty white plastic chairs all around it.

I just had to lift my eyes a little bit to see the field. It was littered with hay bales. The rounded hay bale parts were smaller because he’d used the rest of the hay to make legs coming out the top. They weren’t at all what you’d expect a leg coming out of a hay bale to look like. They were all rounded and somehow almost looked smooth, more like rock than hay. The only thing that was inaccurate about them was that the toes were farther apart than a person’s toes. The feet maybe a bit wider, but still feminine, volleyball center feet. You could tell it was supposed to be a tall woman’s feet, and through their strange and painstaking details you could tell that they were all supposed to be one specific tall woman’s left leg.

All the way to the back of the field, these bales with perfect women’s legs coming out of the top. I couldn’t count how many there were and I didn’t really want to. All of a sudden it felt like something was crowding into my eyeball and it was hard to see. I kept trying to look at the field but all I kept catching were fractured, blackening pictures, disappearing. My legs were weak, and there wasn’t a cloud within miles, and sometimes unadulterated sky crept into my vision. The leg farmer eased me into one of the chairs asked if he could bring me a water. He came back with two mugs, his full of coffee, mine water.  He put the cup down next to me. I said thanks.

He sat in a chair across from me, leaned his chair onto its back two legs. I didn’t know what was going on with me. Nothing unexpected had happened, I knew about the legs in advance, but they’d still managed to overwhelm me somehow, just the visual fact of them had. I decided to try to at least be social. I pointed at the space under his chair.

“My grade five teacher told me I’d crack my head open if I did that.”

He nodded. “You were probably sitting near a bookcase, and in case you haven’t noticed there isn’t an edge for miles.”

I remember thinking that he was right, and trying to look at the legs, losing them even as I did it. He said: “I got another gun story for you. Kind of funny that I’d tell you both because they really are my only gun stories. My kid, he dances ballet now, out in Europe. When he was about twelve I took him to the skeet shooting tournament some of my friends hold every year. Well, my kid he’d never touched a gun in his life, I just took him because his Mom was out of the house and I wanted to go. So, anyways he starts shooting, and the kid is a prodigy. They fire one up and he nails it. They fire two up, he hits ‘em both. They fire three and bang, bang, bang. He ends up winning the whole tournament, first time he ever touched a gun. Afterwards we’re all walking up to the house and my buddy Dale. I’ll say that if you think I’m a redneck farmer… well you get the idea. He’s lived around here his whole life. And he sort of hates kids, so, when we’re all walking back he kind of starts walking with my boy and tells him he shoots well, and my kid says thanks. Then Dale asks: ‘So how often do you shoot?’ My kid says never, this was my first time. Dale is pretty stunned, so he asks what does the kid do? My boy he looks right up at him and says ‘I dance ballet.’ We just left Dale standing there looking after us, mouth all hung open.”

And I sat there quietly with him, as he chewed on what was either his lip or just air for a while. Then he rocked forward in his chair and said one perfect piece of nothing.

Andrew BattershillAndrew Battershill recently completed his M.A in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto under the mentorship of Pasha Malla. He is the Fiction Editor of Dragnet Magazine.