There was this farmer who badly needed to plough his field for maize. But his plough had rusted over, parts were broken, it was useless. He couldn't afford to buy a replacement. Money was tight. But his neighbour had a very good plough. It was just a matter of asking him when might he the best time to borrow the plough for a day, maybe two days.
He phoned him up one night and said, "Don. Arthur here." "How's it going, Arthur." "Good. Yeah. You know." "Had the new vet in today." "Miriam?" "Marion, I think she said." "All right?" "I was impressed." "Mmm." And then he said, "I was just calling to see if you were going fishing on Sunday." "With Bill?" "Yeah, with Bill and them." "No. Don't think so. You?" "Yeah, maybe. Righto, then." "Righto. See you, Arthur." "Yep."
Three days passed. He had plenty of other work to get on with on the farm. His wife Olwyn said, "You'll be wanting to plough soon", and he said, "Yeah", and left it at that. He climbed the ridge and watched Don ploughing his field. I just have to ask him, he thought. He won't mind.
There was a working bee at the community hall on Friday night. Twelve families turned up, including Arthur and his wife, and Don and his wife, Dot; their children took their togs, and swam the school pool next door. The adults could hear shrieks as they painted walls, built trestle tables, swept the floors, fixed the drainage, and put up a stage ready for next week's theatre evening - there would be skits, and a sex farce.
Arthur kept to himself. Afterwards, they ate barbecued steaks, with potato salad and fresh lettuce. Olwyn didn't like it, but Arthur drank seven bottles of beer. He had rehearsed scenes all week where he would casually ask Don for the use of his plough.
Now he just wanted to drink, and forget about it. All that would happen was he would say, "Can I borrow your plough?" and Don would say, "Sure", and that would be that.
But Don and Dot left the hall while Arthur was in the toilet. He saw their car go round the bend, and disappear; it was dusk and his son John was wrapped in a wet towel and crying, and Olwyn was putting their plates in the boot of the car.
On Sunday, he drove Olwyn to her mother's house for lunch. Her uncle wanted to talk about his garden, and how the Greens made him sick; Arthur nodded at everything the old man said, and looked at his watch. They drove away just after 2.00 pm and stopped at a roadside fruit and vegetable stall that they both liked. Arthur was leaning against the car when Don and Dot drove up.
"Arthur," said Don, and waved. "Don." "Been out to Olwyn's parents?" "Yeah. You?" Oh, went fishing with Bill and them this morning. Caught some snapper. I'm just off with Dot and the kids to town for dinner. It's Dot's birthday." "Didn't think you were going fishing." "You know how Bill is. 'Come out, you b*****d!' He's good value, Bill." And then Don said, "How's your plough?" Arthur threw his cigarette on the ground, and turned to face Don. "Good as gold," he said. "Good, " said Don, and then he waved out to a young woman carrying a bag of cauliflower from the stall. "Hi Marion!" "It's Miriam," said the woman.
Olwyn was still choosing fruit, but Dot came back out to the car. "Oh, hello, Arthur," she said. "Hi," said Arthur. "Well, see you," said Don, and Dot said, "Bye, then, Arthur", and as they drove away he could hear their two daughters singing in the back seat: "A little bit of Monica in my life." Dust from the wheels scattered in the air and Arthur watched as it fell onto his cigarette butt.
Arthur said he was too busy sorting out tax to do the milking that afternoon. "I'll do it, then," said Olwyn, and Arthur lay on the couch, and watched a yacht race, and heard someone on the news say something about Burma. Olwyn made him light soup for dinner. He hunched over the table and spooned it into his mouth without talking. He went to bed early, but couldn't sleep; at about 9.30 pm, he could see Don's headlights poking through the valley.
I've just got to ask, he thought. It can't he that hard. We've known each other for years. I'll do it tomorrow morning, first thing after milking.
But after midnight, he got up, dressed, and walked to Don's front door. His dog barked. A light came on. Don opened the door, and said, "Arthur. What's going on? What's the trouble?"
Arthur looked at him. There were moths flapping against the outside lightbulb above Don's head. A shiver ran up Arthur's back, and he said, "Why don't you stick your plough up your arse?"