“Coveting Fields” was that rare story that came to me like a tidal wave. I knew almost instantly what the story was about, how it would transpire, what the main character would behave. Even the first line hit me abruptly and survived countless edits: “Lila Cooper grew a watermelon, and Ella Dasch threw a fit.” That’s not how my stories normally go. Most of the time I start with a piece of it—sometimes it’s just a mental image—that I write from or toward, and I discover the final tale almost as a reader does.
Let’s clear up this one right away: I had no idea a global pandemic was approaching when I wrote “Coveting Fields.” In fact, I wrote the original story in 2012, back when “corona” was just a beer.
The prompt for this story was a statewide writing contest. “Coveting Fields” landed a finalist nod from a panel of judges, but the winners were chosen by online voting, which I found mystifying. Basically it came down to how many friends you had.
Coveting, the obsessive desire for something even if it costs someone else, is the primary focus of this story. Ella has the most successful farm in the heart of a virus-devastated land, yet she cannot accept another’s achievement. In just a handful of paragraphs, she executes a set of mental gymnastics to justify stealing the prize for herself.
Admit it: You’ve done the same. I certainly have. Not to justify theft, but to convince myself that I deserve something, even at the expense of someone else. That last Oreo? That close-up parking space? The car that costs more than I want to spend, but shouldn’t I get it before that other guy?
As you read my stories and ponder these blog posts, you’ll soon realize that I like to do parables, which are tales with a moral or spiritual center. No surprise that writers like Rod Serling, a master at morality tales, are among my inspirations. I love to spark a new perspective, a train of thought, a different way of looking at one’s assumptions and behaviors. Such is the case with “Coveting Fields.”
In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko declares, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” In Gekko’s view, it fuels a successful economy. But I’ll posit that coveting is at least as essential to his (disturbing) argument. It’s a facet we don’t often think about, and “Coveting Fields” is my attempt to explore it.
Interesting postscript: The Kool-Aid Contagion went on to make another, albeit unrealized, appearance. In 2015 I wrote “Torment of Destiny,” an episode for the web series Star Trek New Voyages, in which the villain (played by the amazing Richard Hatch) engineers a virus that liquifies both crops and people who lack certain genetic markers. Though most of it was filmed, the episode remains unfinished and unlikely to be released. The twisted side of me would have loved to see the Contagion do its nasty business on screen.