The spade leaned at an impossible slant, yet somehow I remained upright. My hair was tangled by the wind into a mat of snarls, and grit, mingled with sweat, trickled down my cheeks.
I poked feebly at the soil, then dropped the spade. I burrowed into the soil with grubby fingers, pulling out the object of my search: a single potato.
Holding it up like a precious jewel, I turned it end for end, rubbing at the skin with the heel of my hand. With strength suddenly borne of anger and fear, I hurled the tuber across the churned dirt. I growled, a formless wail that rose from the pit of my stomach and spewed out through my toothless gums.
The brown skin of the potato had been marred by small scabs, tiny blisters doomed to quickly spread and ooze with slime and an unbearable stench. The stench of death.
Carefully, I stepped over hardened clods of overturned dirt, and headed back to the crumbling stone hut. No curl of smoke beckoned warmly.
A thin mewling greeted me, and I bent to the cold hearth where two dark eyes in a skeletal face pleaded with me.
“Tá brón orm. I’m sorry.”
I drew the child onto my lap and pulled back the tattered bodice of my dress. My child fumbled weakly for my shriveled breast and latched on, sucking raggedly, desperately. Disappointment and accusation glowed silently from his begging eyes.
I wiped at his dirty cheek and stroked back the wispy hair.
How long, God, until we die? Please soon, so I don’t see my child wither away. His bones press against me like dry twigs, like thin bird bones. He is light, as if his spirit is just hovering, waiting to fly away.
I didn’t have the tears to cry. They’ve disappeared with my dwindled milk, vanished, like fairy dust, like dew in the morning sun, or the fog that had settled over the land, then blown away, leaving evil-smelling potatoes. The telltale brown spots on the leaves turned black, but with hope, always hope, I prayed and I dug. Maybe the curse had missed one potato. But it was never so.
My baby boy slept, and I was spared, for the moment, of seeing the pain in his eyes, his own baby prayer for comfort and release. His breathing was shallow, his chest barely rose under the filthy rag of a blanket.
Maybe the English are right, that we lack wits. That our faith is of the devil, weak and pagan.
My eyes were heavy and I longed to drift into the haze of unknowingness which so often threatened to overwhelm me lately, even overpowering the burning hunger.
The sun glowed red through the cracks in the ancient wooden door, causing dust to glint in the fiery rays. How can such beauty exist in the same air that is laden with the poisonous fumes of the rotting potatoes?
How can God cause the potatoes to grow, with lush leaves and delicate blossoms, and then allow us to reap a harvest of decay and disease? From hope to hellish misery. Faith to fear.
My boy gave a harsh gasp, then a long shuddering sigh.
I could feel the life seeping from him, like a vapour released.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee... pray for us sinners now...
There was still enough light for digging. As long as I can move, I will search, for surely a God of paradox and mystery could leave one potato in a sea of blight.
The Lord is with thee...
The promise surged through me, like the blazing sun descending into the far hills.
Show me, Lord, in this field of dirt, where to dig. One potato, please, Father.
It was as though the spade pulled me, like a magnet to iron, to the spot in the furrow where a potato stalk was merely wilted, not blackened and withered. Eagerly, with renewed strength, I sunk the spade into the packed dirt and lifted. Nothing. Again. Then I saw it, like a gem in the ground, gleaming dully in the last golden beams of the sun.
I held it up, beholding the fine soil clinging to it, and beneath that, pure brown skin, unblemished, unmarred, and perfect. No mould, no scabs, just extraordinarily and wondrously brown.
One potato. One more day to live.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.