The farmer had never told anyone his secret. For decades, people came from miles around to admire his farm, and purchase his harvests from the shack by the road…the ones they could carry anyway. His blueberries were the size of apples, his apples the size of pumpkins, and his pumpkins the size of automobiles. The 150-foot tree in the meadow struggled to hold onto pecans the size of watermelons.

As he lay in bed, a spring breeze gently blew the curtains near his head. His only son was kneeling by his side, praying. The old man slowly lifted his hand, crooked his gnarled index finger, and started to whisper…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

My grandfather died in spring, after the corn was planted. My father told me how he crooked his finger, knuckle bending so the wrinkles stretched flat, temporarily reversing time and age. I was not yet born, but I know what he said. It’s the same thing my father said to me as he clutched his chest in the sugaring shack and curled his own finger like a fiddlehead.

A seedling’s life starts beneath the surface. The pod splits and the roots broach the dark earth. Every farmer knows this. Every farmer has brushed the topsoil to see the coil of two early leaves, twisting around the split seed, reaching skyward.

That, my grandfather said, was when you had to do it. That was when the magic had to happen. When you did it right, the seedling popped upright like a catapult through the earth and never stopped growing. My father performed the motion for me one of his last. His finger shot up to the ceiling where the boiling sap left a veneer of smog and sugar on the beams.

That’s when you do it, he whispered, and then his heart gave that final tick.

I was eight at the time.

That first summer my uncle stayed with me and the crops were bad. The tourists who usually crawled our fields come harvest season rolled up their van windows and carried on. I began to make sense of my father’s spring walks those mornings when he woke before the cows needed milking, when he broke the misty dusk between rows of tilled soil in the predawn light, speaking softly to the coiled spouts beneath the surface.

I did the same, come May, and that year our pumpkins won a gold ribbon at the Barton Fair. My uncle said it was in my blood. I filled my bladder with two-buck lemonade and said nothing.

These are memories I look back on fondly, though I’ve lost the romance for the work. I shovel shit into troths in the winter. I dig pitchforks into hay bails in the summer. When the sap lines start to run I cut kindling for the boiler. My hands have weathered into those of an old man, which I recognize, but not as my own.

The tourists still come, but I like them less and less. Their suburbanism encroaches more each year. When their electric SUVs pull ruts in my drive, their oddly shaped trunks weighed down with the apples and squash they’ve blogged so much about, their imprints last longer. Their voices echo out open windows, wondering at the price of land around these parts, and asking God, or whoever was listening, whether they’d look good in a straw-brimmed hat.

I spoke to one the other day as I sipped cider on my porch. His car ideled as he leaned on my steps in his polyester athleisure wear.

Must be hard work, keeping up with all this at your age, he commented, looking out at the spring fields of unblemished dirt.

He thought the blueberries were in season. They were stocked in the corner market where he lived. Shipped in from Columbia, no doubt.

He had heard about the magic, like all of them. Adults clinging hopefully to the fairy tales of their youth. A zucchini the size of a hammock. Radishes you could play softball with. He asked about it, as they all do, scraping the marshmallow heel of his running shoes on my steps. He asked about the magic.

“It feels more urgent these days,” I said, rubbing my old knees.

“What’s the secret, then?” He wanted to know, and I disliked him so much I was tempted to tell him.

“You’ve got to share yourself with the land,” I said and sipped my cider quietly.

“That’s it?” he asked, and five minutes later he let himself be carried away in a self-driving car, waving, disappointed, and blueberry-less.

I walked alone then, out into the fields. It was still light, but there was no one to see. As I rounded a marker in the soil, I brushed the earth to see the seedlings coiled perfectly at the crust.

The sun folded into hues of raspberry gold, and my bladder groaned.

Urgent, I’d told the man. Each day a little more so. Did my father feel the same, towards the end? I suppose every man does at my age, in his own way. The magic bursting from him, sometimes trickling, a little less, a little more.

Cars passed on the main road, called back by the city lights. They’ll return in a few months, fists full of dollars, mouths agape at the produce stacked like giant boulders along these very fields.

Unphased, I unzipped my fly and did as my father told me. A stream of yellow and the patter of magic hitting airated earth. Like my father in the pre-dawn light. And my grandfather before him.

The seedlings tightened, buckling inward as they said goodbye to all below, and then, like a finger unfurled, burst freely from the earth.