When Duncan finally woke up, he rubbed his gritty eyes. Glancing at the clock, he realized that he had overslept. When he got down to the kitchen, his father was sitting at the table.
"Good morning, Duncan, he said. "I'm getting a late start, too. Go on out to the barn and get the cow ready for milking. I'll be out soon." He took another sip of his coffee.
"Okay, Dad." Duncan walked outside. Taking a good look around the chicken coop, he was relieved to see everything intact. He walked around to the front of the barn and entered, turning on the light. What he saw staggered him.
Putting his hand up to his tight chest, he muttered, "Oh, NO! I'm in deep shit, now. This is bad. This is real bad." He walked through the rubble. One of the stalls had been completely ripped apart. Broken boards were everywhere. Stepping over them, he approached the busted-up stall. There was a portion of the stall wall still standing. He examined it closely. He felt his stomach drop when he found a torn piece of flannel stuck on one of the exposed nails. Bubby's shirt. I know that's his shirt. But HOW?
In the back of his mind, he registered the sound of the screen door slamming shut. Knowing his father was on his way out to the barn, Duncan turned around in a panic. He can't possibly blame me for this. I was sleeping all night. He won't think I did this, would he?
"Duncan, Daddy said to go ahead and start milking the cow. What happened in here?"
Spinning around, he saw Sal running into the barn. "No, Sal. Stay out!" He put his hands up, but it was too late.
"OWWWWW!" She screamed. "My foot! Oh, my foot."
Duncan carefully ran over to her. She had stepped on a broken board and the rusted nail had gone right through her shoe and was stuck fast. Getting down on his knee, he looked closer. The point of the nail had come right through the top of her foot. "Don't move, Sal. Here, let's sit you down." He held her elbow as she sobbed, and he lowered her down to the barn floor. "I'll go get Mom and Dad." He started toward the barn door. Looking back over his shoulder, he repeated, "Don't move."
As he ran for the house calling for his parents, he glanced out into the cornfield. Bubby was wavering back and forth. But there's no wind. He bounded up the porch steps and took one last look. Where did he go? He stared at the empty cornfield for a moment, then jumped back and screamed when he saw Bubby's head pop back up. What the - That's impossible.
Sal's screaming brought him back to his dire reality. Pulling the screen door open, he yelled again for his parents.
At the urgency of his voice, his parents came running down the stairs. "What the hell, Duncan? You're going to wake the dead," his father scolded.
"Dad, I didn't do it, I swear. The barn - Sal -" He pointed out the door. As he followed them outside, he stammered. "I don't know how it happened!"
He hesitated outside the barn doors for a moment as he heard Sal whimpering. When he walked in, Duncan saw his father picking Sal up, as his mother supported the foot with the board stuck to it.
Dave Becker turned to Duncan. "Go open up the door to the truck. Then run inside and get my keys. We need to take her to the hospital."
Returning to the truck with the keys, Duncan saw his father in the driver's seat. His mother held Sal on her lap in the passenger side. As he started to climb up into the back of the cab, he stopped at his father's glare.
"Oh, no, you don't," his father said. "You need to clean up that mess in the barn."
He shook his head. "I don't wanna stay here alone," he said. "I ain't a baby, but I don't wanna stay."
"Duncan, you need to get those boards picked up and get the cow milked. You can do this. We need you to," his mother said. "Please, Honey. Then feed the rest of the animals."
Feeling small, he stood in the middle of the driveway and watched them drive away. With a gulp, he turned and started walking back toward the barn. Not being able to help himself, he walked to the corner of the barn and peeked around, looking out into the cornfield. He's there. I must have been imagining that, before.
He went into the barn and started stacking up the broken boards. As he worked, his mind raced. This is MY home. Sal is MY sister. He killed our chickens - he dirtied the sheets - he keeps getting me in trouble. That stupid scarecrow. I'm not taking it anymore.
He whirled around suddenly and headed for the barn door. As he passed out of the barn, his hand thrust out and grabbed the small hatchet. That scarecrow is coming down.
Rushing around the corner of the barn, he stopped. Bubby was nowhere in sight. Where'd you go? "Bubby?" he yelled. He stood on the back of the wagon. "There you are," he whispered, staring at Bubby's head wavering up and down in the corn. "You just fell over. I'm coming, Bubby."
With his knuckles white as he gripped the hatchet, he ran through the corn, as if he was afraid to slow down or he might stop completely.
Two hours later, Dave Becker pulled his rusted, old pick-up into the driveway. The dust flew as he rumbled toward the barn. Coming to a stop, he hollered for Duncan as he walked around to help Lena and Sal out of the truck.
When he stepped up onto the porch, he glanced around again, looking for Duncan. Hearing a raucous chorus of caws coming from the cornfield, he sneered. Did those little punks steal our new scarecrow? Where the hell is it? And where is Duncan?
"Daddy?" Sal said. "Look at all the crows in the field!"
The largest of the crows perched on the high branch of the oak tree. The straw man was nowhere in sight. Looking out over the corn, he watched his brothers and sisters feast. Spreading his mighty wings, he gave two strong beats and then soared over the corn. Approaching his family, he saw the young boy. He almost pulled up and abandoned the meal until he realized that this boy would never throw rocks at them again. The feet were still and the arms jutted out at odd angles. As he gently landed on the ground, he examined the boy's face. It was blue - the eyes bulged, unseeing - and the tongue was swollen and sticking out. There was a frayed piece of rope wrapped tightly around the boy's neck. A hatchet lay on the ground beside him.
The crow looked up at the cross where the strange straw man once stood. It wavered in the wind, empty.
Looking back at the boy, he hopped closer and plucked an eyeball out. As he flew back toward the oak tree with his succulent treat, the crow saw movement at the edge of the cornfield, just heading into the forest. His sharp eyes stared at the straw hat and flannel shirt as it disappeared into the trees.