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Thorn, in the thumb, thin prick. Blind pierce, but then blood, a slow bubble climbing into the air. Jason sucks the digit, places the thumb in his mouth without thought, and leaches the metallic taste. After a few seconds he removes it, glances at the surface, sees the sliver of punctured skin and the second wave of blood. He offers one more vampiric suck before giving up and returning to the garden infestation of vines.
Behind the wound, Jason can hear the voice of his father, a voice from his youthful days when yard work was slave labor and not for personal gain. The words called to him, “Here, wear some gloves,” but Jason always offered the same froglike grunt of no. Today, he considers buying gloves for the first time. Internally, his mind already knows the answer, knows he will not—if only from the pattern of experience. Better to feel the burn, the scratches, the destruction.
Dropping to one knee for leverage, the moist ground kissing his skin, Jason grabs at the vines and feels the thorn defenses being raised, the men called out to the vine walls to attack the thick calluses of Jason’s palm, spears raised and digging in out of fear. “No, we won’t go,” the vines chant, “No take this. Feel that.”
Anger welling, Jason digs in for battle, his knee sinking into the ground, his body lurching against the rows of vine pikemen assaulting his skin, and once again his father’s words, “Why don’t you put on some gloves?”
“No,” Jason says, “No. I don’t need a crutch, I don’t need protection.” Eyes shut, he pulls against the advice of his father, hears, feels the snapping, and falls backward vine in hand. The shouting stops, his ears discern only his own panting. His hands bleed in jagged streaks.