To grow a man in cold weather, dig a small hole in the coarse dirt of the cellar, or, if you have no cellar, find an abandoned house in the woods, an old wooden house where the floorboards have rotted away; remember, however, your own dirt cellar is best. Use a trowel or an old spoon; if you have neither, take two large rocks and knock them together until they break into sharp pieces and use some twine you have or string or gut and wrap the gut around a piece of rock to attach it to a stick and dig with that until you have a hole. Put your man seed in the hole and cover it up quick. Do this on a late fall day, and let the man seed winter-over in the dark. Do not watch the man seed or it will not grow. Go about your winter life. Study eight hours a day. Spend eight hours on recreation, including eating and reading stories of battle and adventures on the high seas. Sleep eight hours a day and dream of pirates, of explorers, of the Battle of Actium—anything but the man seed. Part of man-making is forgetting. Let it be.
To grow temperate men, spread some man seed on a cold mossy log in the forest near the river in early spring. Feed it buttermilk and gravy. Afternoons, when you are done with your work, but before dinner, go to the log in the forest to check its progress. Keep checking. Nothing will happen. This is fine; man-making often does not look like much.
When the daffodils have all died back, and the leaves begin to shade the ground, remember the man seed in the cellar. After finishing your chores, sneak down to the cellar. If you are very lucky, you will find a man sprout growing. It will be palest green, shaped like a newt, with its tail firmly rooted in the ground. If you are lucky, you’ll see his little slit of a mouth open and close, his tongue and gums barely formed, translucent and slightly pinker than his skin. If you find him like this, chew up a piece of bread and some meat and spit some on your finger, offering it to him. He will bend his sprout head toward your hand and lick it off. His mouth will be soft, cool, and insistent. You may see his oddly plant-like veins and start to dislike him. Give him a prophet’s name, like Samuel or Elijah; call him Sam or Eli. Feed him as often as you remember, but do not let him eat too much. After a little while, when his stumpy arms and legs have grown and his rheumy eyes have opened, his hunger will force him to find food on his own, and he will drag his body, still bound to dirt by a ropey stem, and burrow in the dirt floor for worms and grubs.
To grow a warm-weather man, find a small meadow, a sunny summer clearing in the woods where no one will see. Dig a hole. Put in the seed. It will grow fast. In two days you will find a tiny, dark green boy sprouting from the ground. In a week, he will be a small, gangly young man. Wait until he is ripe. Finish your studying, take a handful of almonds or blueberries, and go to pick him. He will bleed. Sneak him into your room, let him rest on your pillow. Watch his tiny lungs rising and falling. Read him stories of sea adventure and battle until his breaths become shallow. In the morning, when he is dead, bury him under leaves in the garden. He will rot back into the ground, eaten by the worms that will feed his basement brother. These are the joys of man-growing, these things.
In the early fall, on a cool day, go to the moss covered log in the woods. If you are lucky, you will find a hundred, hundred tiny cream-colored men living and foraging on the log. Bring your magnifying glass and you can watch them going about their daily lives, working, gathering food, building their tiny homes, growing their own smaller men. Bring your adventure stories and tales of battle and read to them. Watch them crowd and clamber to be closest to your speaking mouth. By the end of fall, it will be clear these are not the splendid type of men. They will drink things they should not, they will fight among themselves, and touch themselves for recreation. They will knock tiny pebbles together to split them into sharp shards. They will beat their tiny, creamy chests, scream curses at each other, and cry for war. Fill a pail of icy water from the river. Before anyone can find out what you have grown, wash it all away.
When your summer man has died, and you have destroyed the men of the mossy log, remember Sam or Eli in the cellar. Go to him. He will seem slow and heavy and dumb. He may touch himself in places he should not. Hit him if you see this. If he is bigger than you, bring something to hit him with. Tell him if he wants to grow into a man, he has to stop touching parts of himself for recreation. Wonder aloud, why did you want to grow this man in the first place? Forget what is really his name.
Soon his mouth will learn words and he will call you a shit. Pale in the corner, bound by a stalk to the dirt, his body growing rigid, mottled grey like a wet bag of cement, he will call out to you, asking why you hate him so, he will curse you with his chalky voice.
Why? He will croak. Why, you shit, why?
You won’t know how to answer him, but don’t worry. No one goes into the cellar. Soon, you will grow into a man yourself, leave home, and all will be forgotten.
He will stay, his voice growing to be the barely audible, gravely voice of the abandoned, and years and years and years will pass. Your cellar will have turned into the floor of an abandoned house in the woods, and one day two teenagers will be messing around in the ruins and the girl will look at the large, odd, man-shaped rock peaking up through the floorboards of the house, and Sam or Eli will try to speak to her, and the girl will say “do you hear that sound?” and the boy will say “no, but come here you” and soon they will get to man-making of their own.