Tobias Walton, a man of seventy years, lived on twelve acres of land farmed by his grandfather but which sat fallow since the end of the Second World War when his father returned from the Ardennes with shrapnel in his brain. The locus of the farm was the original homestead, built in 1872, a small cottage with peeling paint, a leaking roof, and several outbuildings. The area between the house and the barns was littered with rusting appliances overgrown with grass and creeping morning glories, car parts, ceramic odds and ends that held small mosquito breeding pools, and rotting upholstered furniture. The barns were filled to the rafters with sagging books and board games, bicycle rims, butter churns, reclaimed lumber, and half of a dismembered ferris wheel. The house itself was filled with egg cartons, plastic food containers, the corpse of a dog, and heaps of clothing purchased from the second hand store in town. The only usable room in the house was Tobia's bedroom, and only barely. Tobias wore paths between the barns and the house as he puttered between columns of ephemera, shifting objects from pile to pile.
"You keep making me do this," he often said, before spitting on the ground (not caring if he was indoors or out). "You always want more. And somehow you convince me to give it to you. I'm tired of this," he'd say, before throwing a limp tire to the ground, or pushing over a stack of egg cartons. "I should have a say in this. This is filth. Filth! You can't keep it clean. You want and want and want and want, but you don't give. You don't care. You don't care a thing about me. You taker. Taker. Taker. You've got a rope around my neck. I'm tired of this. You won't let me relax. Taker."
One day, when the temperature was fine and the air smelled sweet, Tobias traveled to the end of the path that led to the mailbox at the side of the road. He found no mail, but did find that the pull to the house and its spilled contents felt a little less tight around him. He tightened his belt, glanced back with narrowed eyes, and set off down the road, practically jogging, keeping next to the overgrown gully where the water ran in the spring. The farther he got away, the happier he felt, even with a stone kneading itself between his heel and his sole.
A half hour later a police car pulled up next to him, pacing him. It was driven by officer George, a bland young man who worked part time with the Sheriff's department.
"What'c'ya doing Mr. Walton?" asked officer George.
"None of your business," said Tobias.
"Are you lost?"
"Of course not. What do you think I am, an imbecile? I've lived in this town all my life. I know my way around."
"No, I don't think that Mr. Walton. But I was wondering where you might be going this time of day, on foot, away from town."
"Are you deaf or are you stupid? I said it was none of your business."
Officer George sped up slightly, then swerved ahead of Tobias's path, then stopped, blocking him. Tobias stopped and spat on the ground while officer George got out of the car.
"You get out of my way, you hear? You haven't got any right to stop me. I'm a grown man."
"I'm just worried about you Mr. Walton."
"Why should you care what happens to me? Huh?"
"Your wife called in, and said you might be wandering."
Tobias looked at him with raised eyebrows, then burst into laughter.
"What's so funny, Mr. Walton?"
"Oh that's rich. She's calling herself my wife. I've never been married. Couldn't find a woman to put up with me, not that I ever wanted one around. Too much trouble. Too, much, trouble!"
"I'm quite certain you're married."
"Nope. Never. Course you wouldn't believe that, because she's wily. She is definitely wily."
"Well, in any case, she's worried that you've wandered off. It's almost supper time Mr. Walton. She asked me to get you back home."
"I'm not going back there!"
"Don't you want your supper? Where are you going to sleep tonight? Won't you miss your wife?"
"No. Now please let me pass."
"Come on, Mr. Walton," said officer George, opening the back door to the car and beckoning Tobias inside. "I can't let you wander and get lost."
"I have my faculties," said Tobias. "You're mistaken."
"I don't want to handcuff you."
"Hmmm," said Tobias, looking down the road at the setting sun. "Maybe today wasn't the day. Maybe there's another way." He looked at the backseat, then quickly slid inside and buckled himself.
"That's it Mr. Walton. See, that was nice and easy. Nothing to worry about."
Officer George closed the door than got back into the driver's seat. He turned the car around and started back down the road to the homestead.
"She's evil, you know," said Tobias after a moment.
"I'm sure she's not."
"She keeps demanding things. I have to go buy them for her, or scrounge around. Its a lot of work. And she hides things. She hid the phone from me three years ago and I haven't seen it since. She hides food from me too when she wants specific things."
"Does she, would you say she's abusive?"
"Well, I can't get someone to look into that for you, if you want to file a complaint."
"That would be pointless. You government pinheads wouldn't understand her true nature. I've heard it all before. You think I'm always talking to myself but I'm not. I'm not touched. I'm normal, just trapped. Can't ever get out. Nope. Can't ever."
"If she's mistreating you, I can get someone to intervene."
"Won't work. Like I said, you wouldn't understand."
"Try me, Mr. Walton."
"She's not a woman, that's why. She's the house, and the land."
Officer George looked back at him from the rearview mirror and swerved a tiny bit.
"My grandfather pledged a blood oath to the land. He was so distraught when my father came home from the war with his brains scrambled, that he wept on the ground, pleading with it to help him out, asking why it had happened, and asking for any kind of help to make it better. That night my father passed away, and we buried him on our land. It was a solution of a sort, but after that, the land started demanding things from us, and we couldn't help but appease her, or she'd make us miserable. But I'm done. I'm miserable all the time."
"I-I...I don't know what to say Mr. Walton. That's an awfully tall tale."
"It's not a tale, it's the truth."
"Uh, of course."
Officer George reached the entrance to the homestead.
"Stop here. I'll get out here. I don't want to give her the satisfaction that she was able to manipulate you."
"Are you sure? I don't want to pass back this way in an hour and have to repeat this."
"I promise I won't repeat this."
"Well, that's good enough for me. Have a good evening, Mr. Walton. Give my regards to the missus."
Tobias slammed the door shut.
"Pinhead," he said, as officer George pulled away, waving congenially from behind the windshield.
Tobias started back down the lane towards the house. He slid his hand into his pocket, and pulled out a book of matches. He struck one, and looked at the flame, grinning. He let it die down to his fingers, before letting it fall to the ground.
"Don't know why I didn't think of it before. Nope. Should have done this years ago." He smiled gleefully with the thought of finally breaking his bonds, and jogged towards the homestead.