[35] M115, Timothy Stobierski

This season has been a bad season for wheat.

My lot fell to stem rust after Johnson’s lot next field over; Department of Agriculture said he’d purchased contaminated seed—they’d run tests on some he hadn’t sown—and all it took was a strong wind to spread the spores down my way and infect my fields. I wanted to see what I could do with the plot (it wouldn’t yield much, but it could still yield) but the suits said it was policy to burn infected crops, so they slashed and burned their way to fungus-free soil that could be tried again.

In their defense, they saved four adjacent fields from the scourge, even if at my and Johnson’s expense.

Two years later, word got around that we’d developed a weapon that could end a war in a season—just one season. A special bomb that didn’t explode, just distributed minute spores of a pesky little disease that made it so the enemy couldn’t even feed their soldiers, let alone mount an attack. Strike the breadbasket and the troops go hungry, was the general idea. Starve them out like rats, or Trojans—it just took one bad season, one season I tell you.

That was years ago, and there was never any need to drop that bomb and starve entire populations into submission, so as far as we know it was never used.

But Johnson, now that guy’s a real character. Thinks me and him were guinea pigs for the bomb. Says he hadn’t even bought seed the Year of the Rust, just used some he’d saved from the harvest before, and that year he’d had record yields. Not a spot of red amidst all his stalks of green. And since when did the Department of Agriculture ever hear of a town like ours, population 250 including the horses.

You call ‘em?

Me neither, and Roy down there doesn’t even have a phone. They took his cabbage this year. You hear? Real bad case of blackleg. Burned the whole damned lot. Policy and all.

Wonder when word’ll get out about that bomb. Can’t keep an army if you can’t serve ‘em kraut, isn’t that so?

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