"Chilmark Hay" by Thomas Hart Benson, via Magpie Tales
The sun out here was nothing like that he used to feel in the arms of his mistress. It was duller, it lacked brass, thought Ezra for the thousandth time in the day. The air wasn't quite right, either. Tang, it lacked the tang the ocean gave. Warm breath of a lover, he so missed her. His penance for the sin of minor misfortune. The ocean was a cruel mistress, no doubt, when a man becomes less than whole.
Ezra shoved the pitchfork into the hay on the wain, with more force than necessary. The cart rocked forward, wheels creaking in a small way. The horse nickered and flicked its ears in anxiety. Ezra took a rag from his pocket with his good left hand to wipe away an afternoon's worth of grime and sour feelings. The leather harness on his right arm was dark with sweat and speckled with chaff. The iron claw on the end glinted dully on the sunlight.
Ezra shook the claw loose from the iron cleat riveted to the slick, dark hickory of the pitchfork handle. The claw trembled. He was breathing hard, shame and bitterness etching his face. He spat. Jonas was a mighty fine blacksmith, and a clever fellow, but Ezra still had trouble swallowing the huge lump of pride that burned in his chest. He knew he wouldn't be able to do even the work that galled him if it hadn't been for the big man at the anvil.
His arm throbbed. Overhead he heard the shrill call of a gull, smelled the ocean just a few miles away. He swayed as if he were back on deck, hauling hard on the rope as the ship tilted under a hard wind. It was a bright day with a high sea, and if not for a head turned in error, his wrist and the pulley would never had met. He never would have felt the burn of hemp fiber tearing his flesh, breaking the bone, never would have heard the sickening thump as his hand hit the boards for all the world like a flying fish leaping from the sea.
He never would have heard the pain ripping his throat in a scream that reached the uncaring sun. It was a bright blue day, that Ezra lost his mistress. She cared little for the land, and he knew it. He was never the same, she wouldn't take him back, and Ezra felt his heart break again, surrounded by the sweet dustiness of newly-mown hay. The former man of the sea wrenched the pitchfork out of the load, and stabbed it deep into the anguish mounded up on the ground.
It's been way too long...this is my lagniappe to you, dear readers, for that wonderful little gem called Magpie Tales...