Title: Westward Hoe

Author: Mundungus42

Email: mundungus42@yahoo.com

Category: Humor, Parody

Keywords: Severus, Hermione, Agriculture, Spoof

Rating: G

Summary: This is a parody of the literary metaphor-heavy prologue to TextualSphinx's amazing "Decoding the Heart" for the April Foolapalooza on Schnoogle.

Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Severus and Hermione, TextualSphinx owns the story arc,  Shakespeare could claim Farmer Lawrence if he weren't public domain (bwaha!), and I own the word "mazegoer." Thank you.

* * * * * * *

There is a Corn Maze outside in South Bend, Indiana, not far from Notre Dame.

For years the twenty-acre field lay fallow, the delicate balance of nutrients destroyed by years of erosion and single-crop yield. Only when the family who had owned the land for generations could no longer afford to keep it did Farmer Lawrence make his move. The first year he planted soybeans, to revitalize the denitrogenated soil. The following year it was milo, to neutralize the acid that had accumulated near an abandoned oil well on the corner of the property. After five years of calculated crop rotation, it was ready.

The neighbors had laughed when Farmer Lawrence announced that he was planting corn. It was common knowledge that neither the Zwillings nor their close relatives the Zubers had been able to coax corn from the unforgiving ground because of the poor soil quality. Lawrence was a right fool, they had said. A waste of good seed, they said. But Lawrence persisted; he steered his John Deere precisely, leaving only deep parallel trenches and the cloud of objections behind. He sowed at dawn and dusk, much to his neighbors' confusion. When the green shoots began poking their heads out of the soil, the neighbors smugly noted that large sections of the field were not growing at all. It wasn't until the stalks were nearly knee-high that they noticed the pattern.

It was like nothing ever seen before. Good crops used for entertainment? The decadence! Such things were done in California, not in Indiana. Word of the maze spread like wildfire through the surrounding counties. When Lawrence opened his field to the public that July, there were over a hundred people on hand to challenge the maze.

The pattern is deceptively simple, all right angles and paths wide enough to accommodate three people standing side-by-side. But those who endeavored to take on the maize maze

often find themselves compelled to cut through the thick green stalks, just once, to get closer to the center. It is an ugly side of human nature they encounter being only three

close-planted rows of corn from the center. Many cheat, never realizing the damage done to the maze by their actions. But every evening Farmer Lawrence goes through the maze from dead end to dead end, pulling up weeds and staking the bent stalks that have been the victims of dishonesty. He is not resentful of the damage.

Those who cut their way into the center often complain that they have wasted five dollars but the ones who have by trial and error found the correct path emerge from the maze with the pride in having overcome the obstacles in their path shining from their faces like the golden tassels on the corn itself. It is rare that he's unable to tell by their faces.

That, in Farmer Lawrence's opinion, is his payment. He stands stoically at the entrance, acknowledging the mazegoers with infinitesimal nods of the head. When they emerge again, he fixes them in the unblinking stare of an honest man who has spent his life coaxing new life from the earth. He is not a judge, but a mirror in which people see their sins, shortcomings and shortcuts.

There are only two people in the maze today- no surprise. The August air is hazy with stagnant humidity and smothers like a wool blanket. The river of prospective Notre Dame students has dwindled and the current students won't be returning for a few more weeks. The visitors are obviously a couple and share the same accent. He figures that they're from Europe or New York. Even on opening day nearly every couple navigated the maze hand in hand, each checking with the other before deciding which way to turn. This couple is not holding hands, but their familiarity with one another's bodies makes it unnecessary. They are dressed entirely too well, as if they had somehow arrived in his field by mistake.

On the pretext of touching up the paint on the sign marking the entrance to the maze, Lawrence watches the couple from atop a ladder as they navigate the maze methodically and in complete silence. He's lousy at guessing ages, but the man is clearly older and looks as if an honest day's work would snap him in two. He's rail-thin and would be pale as a toad's belly if not for the flush lent his cheeks by the oppressive heat. The girl is of a sturdier sort whose freckles remind him of his niece who'd just had her first baby. If not for her sedate clothing, new-fangled hairstyle and older companion, he wouldn't have guessed her old enough to be in college.

They've almost made it to the center. In the time he's watched them, they've not made a single wrong turn. They didn't even need to look at one another to know which way to turn. Farmer Lawrence figures that he just missed the questioning glances that all couples give to each other when navigating the maze. Soon they'll be in the middle and reveling in the privacy. He hopes he won't need to turn on the sprinkler to get them out.

As the sun is beginning to set, the farmer decides to start his walk through the maze to undo any damage inflicted by the couple. He doubts that the well-dressed couple needed to cheat their way into the center, but feels compelled to check anyway. Along the way, he reties a few stakes to ensure the stalks stay upright. It's been a dry August, and already the proud green leaves are starting to wither. There will be no maze next year, since two consecutive years of corn would exhaust the soil and he doubts that anyone would come to a maze of soybeans. Besides, he understands that a maze is the kind of thing a man can only do once, if not just for financial reasons.

When he reaches the perimeter of the center space, he clears his throat loudly to warn the couple of his approach. There is no reaction. He peers through a hole in the corn that he has valiantly tried to mend. The center of the maze is empty. Odd. Knowing the multiple solutions to the maze like the back of his hand, Farmer Lawrence can think of several ways that their paths might not have crossed. He will check to see which path they took when he reaches the center.

The center of the maze is a large rectangular square in which he has placed a raised wooden platform so that those who made it to the center could see the maze in its entirety. He climbs to the top and looks out into the maze. It is empty. He turns his gaze to the area of the field he'd set aside for parking. It, too, is empty. No telltale dust clouds from the driveway. Nothing. No sign that the couple had even been there in the first place. Farmer Lawrence shakes his head.

Inspired, he feels in his pocket for the ten dollars admission the girl paid. It is there. He has concrete assurance that he did not imagine the strange tourists. He begins to climb down from the platform, already thinking of normal, everyday explanations for their disappearance, when he notices it. On one of the supporting rails is carved an intricately detailed representation of his maze, over which is superimposed the figure of a snake wrapped around a lion. The way in which the serpent encircles the lion's limbs is not overtly sexual, but the intimate relationship it entails leaves very little to the imagination.

The mundane explanations drain from his mind as he examines the subtle textures of the carving. No ordinary people could have carved such a thing in the half hour it had taken him to inspect the maze.

Impossible.

You, readers, may imagine more easily than Farmer Lawrence's descendents how such a beautifully carved object d'art came to be owned by such a salt- of-the-earth family. Even the wildest imagination when given free rein could not dream up a story stranger than the truth.

Even I, the verbose recorder of these strange happenings could not possibly make up something like this. If I had, the couple in the maze would have been me and my dashing high school Government teacher.

* * * * * * *

Author's Note: Enormous thanks to Sphinx for allowing me to play with her prologue. If my gentle satire hasn't turned you off too terribly, check out the real prologue and subsequent story. "Decoding the Heart!" Read it!