The Scarecrow

A Short Story by Rachel Bybee


Photo by: Alexander Acker

Alexander Acker captures the essence of a lonely scarecrow.

In a field of wheat and sorrows, the crucified scarecrow watched the sky swirling with creams, grays, and tired blues. Among the dull colors, flecks of black flew in formation. A raven dropped, too low, knocking the scarecrow’s ragged hat to the diseased ground. The scarecrow cursed the raven, then hung his head, wishing for his straw hat. A fatigued breeze sighed, its breath tossing the hat on its side. Raven mocked the straw-filled corpse with a cackle. Scarecrow’s torn, fabric smile ached more than usual.

The pitch bird circled, flapping onto the scarecrow’s shoulder. “You poor thing. How long have you been here?”

Scarecrow shook his head, moaning a moan that cracked and hitched.

Raven tsked, “You don’t deserve this life. Us birds don’t fear you. You have no point living here.”

Scarecrow groaned louder, tugging against the nails digging into the arms of his sleeves. Raven hopped from his shoulder to the nail, giving the metal a few pecks before pouting, “You got a name?”

The farmer always walked by without a moment’s glance. He’d never given him a name. Scarecrow’s features drooped.

Raven clicked his beak. “I’ll call you Decrepit because that’s what you are!” He cawed with laughter, throwing his head to the dull sky. “If it makes you feel better, I’m called Shoo. That’s what people say when they see me.”

Decrepit wanted to peel his smile into a laugh. The thought hurt his face.

“Why don’t you free yourself? All you have to do is rip your clothing, and you’d be free!” clicked Shoo.

Decrepit concentrated on the nail. He didn’t feel the nail, but would he feel it later?

Scarecrow glared to the bird. Why are you bothering to help me?

As if Shoo could sense the question, he opened his wings while singing, “I’m an avaricious bird. There’s lots of things I want to do before my lifespan runs out. Right now, I’m curious to see what a scarecrow looks like when it runs. Are you escaping or not?”

Decrepit thought back to the first time he’d come to the farm. The farmer set him on the ground while he lifted the old scarecrow off the post. Its eyes were pecked off, and its smile had melted into a frown. Fungus grew on one side of its body. He shuddered. If he stayed, he’d be like that scarecrow.

If he left, wouldn’t other dangers get him too?

Day after day, he’d watched the farmer walking. He swung his arms happily after a good day’s work.

I want to swing my arms like that. I want to be happy.

Decrepit looked to his nailed hands. Would his arms even move?

One way to find out.

Decrepit yanked on his straw arm, sending Shoo into the air. Raven cawed his approval when scarecrow tugged, strangling against the piece of metal. The red flannel ripped, his insides popping and spilling to the earth. His arm tore free. Straw flew out along with a piece of cloth. Decrepit held the limb to his chest, fear thumping through him. What if the rest of him spilled out?

“That’s it! One more arm, and you get to see the world, Decrepit!”

The sun peeked from the clouds, rays glimmering upon the idea. See the world? Go somewhere beyond the wheat field?

Decrepit looked to the distance, surveying beyond tedious yellow. Bright greens reflected the gemstones on trees. Red and pink exploded from the sky and seeped past the branches, like heaven shone on the wretched scarecrow.

Beyond the field…

Determination pulsed in each straw of Decrepit. He wrenched on his arm, watching the sleeve tear. He pulled his limb back and yanked, grunting. Shoo cawed, flying to give him space while encouraging him.

One final pull.

Decrepit did not feel pain when he flew off the post, collapsing onto his back.


“Oh, Decrepit… I’m sorry.” Shoo hopped to the ground beside Decrepit, staring at the wooden post.

The cross itself was a rotting memory, nothing but shadows leaking from its cracks. Nailed to the dying wood, dragging in the softest breeze, was Decrepit’s arm. Straw billowed away, blending into the wheat. Decrepit stood, wobbled, and fell. Never in his life had his feet touched the ground. He rose, trembling.

His arm.

Decrepit watched his insides blow into the distance. He poked his ripped open shoulder, sighing. Looking back to his whole arm, he lifted it. He rolled the shoulder. He swung it.

Decrepit watched it swing and wished he could laugh.

At least he could swing this one.

Taking a shaky step, he stooped to pick up his hat and slapped it on.

Shoo’s tail feathers twitched. “You’re not mad?”

Decrepit shook his head, his smile, for once, the truth. He took a few more steps; his arm spread out. His smile broadened the slightest. Shoo crowed, flapping into the air and singing, “Look at you, Decrepit! You’re not so… decrepit!” The bird fluttered to scarecrow’s torn shoulder and clicked.

“Now run.”

Decrepit bolted, unsure at first before eating more and more ground, his arm moving rapidly with his body. The smile scratched into his face couldn’t grow wider, as he raced for the cherry sky.