Peanuts grow underground

A project by Jammie Nicholas with an accompanying commissioned text by William
Kherbek


The new kid was good, but he struck me as a bit overeager. We’d been sent to take care of a shipment of sorghum—they use it in molasses, in case you don’t know. Joe Farmer had hired a couple of trucks to bring it to the railhead and the kid, Crazy Larry and I had all the stuff we needed to set up a convincing roadblock. The driver was a Mexican, I don’t think he had any idea we weren’t actually police. I’m always very careful to explain what we’re doing to drivers, but in his case, it wasn’t really necessary. The kid just wanted to get it over with.

“Look, fuckin’ Carols the Jack Off doesn’t understand a word you’re saying. Just give him the fucking money and let’s go, some of us have lives.”

“Perdon, mi amigo esta en una prisa. You may be right, but the people who hired him are going to wonder what happened, this way, our friend doesn’t lose his job.”

“Whatever.”

Personally, I think this is a job that only someone middle-aged like myself can really do properly. You need to understand the full context and consequences of your actions. It’s basic Newtonian mechanics as far as I’m concerned, every action has an equal and opposite, yadda, yadda, yadda. You pick up a shipment, you cause trouble, the guy you’re taking it off of shits himself and tells his boss that there’s been a problem and the whole thing goes kaput. Same thing if there’s violence, you hurt somebody and then the shitstorm really gets blowing. Some people might take those chances, but you need to look at the big picture, what the people who hire us want isn’t randomness, they want predictable randomness. A modified stochastic process for the statisticians among us. Our employers target a commodity, give us a ring and we make it fluctuate. It’s better if they don’t know too much, they give us a call, say maybe “cotton” or “wheat” and we do the rest. Today it was sorghum. I work in the Iowa branch, but we cover an area the company calls “Red State Sector 1” which covers a lot of the lower Mid-West and South, so it was me and Lawrence and the Kid, Clay. Ten other “interventions” will have taken place today. All pretty similar, though probably less multilingual. We provide the drivers with cash, receipts, whatever they need to tell their bosses down on the farms they did their job. We give them an honourarium as well, just to make sure things stay quiet and everybody’s happy.

The way I see it, it’s a completely virtuous circle. Our customers make their investments, make a few coins, the drivers and haulage people we “cooperate” with get their honouraria on top of their payment for the job, and the price of whatever Farmer Joe or Minter Joe, or Producer Joe produces actually goes up on the market. Needless to say we’re not going hungry either.

After we sent Carlos on his way with a few more pesos to Western Union back to Veracruz, Larry, the Kid and I trucked the sorghum down to our depot dumped it on the burning floor and took care of it. It’s kind of hypnotic watching the flames as they gather and flail all around. I think of them like the markets our bosses work with, dangerous, beautiful and best kept under a watchful eye and steady hand. Before we got on the road the Kid and I had a beer by the depot (Crazy Larry’s not allowed to drink after the thing that happened in Montana with the cows).

“Shit job burning some guy’s work up.”

“You’re looking at it wrong. He’d burn it too if he knew how much he made off us.”

“That a good thing? Burn everything so some guys can make money off the back of it?”

“Well, it’s gonna burn sooner or later. Got to keep the big picture in your head, Clayton.”

“Yeah, whatever. We done here?”

“Yeah. On to Georgia. We got some peanuts to deal with.”

He finished his beer and put it in the rusty old oil drum where we keep the rags. I watched him get in the truck. Nice kid, I thought, but he won’t last.



Harvest by William Kherbek, 2014

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