Word Prompt: Hope | Story Prompt: from the book “All Over Creation” by Ruth Ozeki

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“”I don’t know,” he said slowly. “There was a time I laid down my life for my government and was glad to do so.” He took off his cap and raked his fingers over his head, combing back the loose hair from his face. He looked exhausted, and even though most farmers looked tired at this time of year, it struck Elliot that there was something else, as if his worn face were at war with his basic good nature. Even his ponytail looked dispirited.

“In Vietnam, the government said spray and we sprayed. Never gave it another thought. Now I got this numbness in my arms that the doc says may be Agent Orange, only he can’t tell for sure because of the exposure factor on the farm. It bugs me Cyanco made Agent Orange for the army. They make GroundUp and now the NuLifes, too.”

He held out his hand and accepted his change. His brow was furrowed, giving him a faintly puzzled look, as though he didn’t know where all these words were coming from, but he just couldn’t stop them.

“The wife’s had a bout with cancer,” he said. “Mother-in-law died of it. Old Fuller down the road had part of his colon removed.” He put the bills into his wallet and then stared at the coins in his palm. He shook his head. “Maybe it’s related. Maybe it ain’t. And maybe if I was a scientist I could give you a better answer. But I’m just a farmer, so I can’t say. What it boils down to is we’re sick of chemical inputs, and they say with NuLifes you can cut back. But you ask where I stand? Damned if I know. So what the hell? We’re gonna try a few acres. See what happens.”


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