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Back Forty

“It hasn’t rained in a week, Thomas.” Molly touched her husband’s elbow and lay her head on his shoulder. “It’s our best chance.”

Thomas gazed out on fields at the back of the little farm. Half of the crop was gone, smashed by the July thunderstorms or rotted from the bottom by unseasonable August torrents.

But even half the the crop was too much for him to bring in by himself.

“This was a mistake,” he said, shaking his head. “We never should have left Indiana.”

Molly rubbed the tension in the middle of his back. “How could we have known the summer would be so harsh? Or that we’d be blessed again?” She touched her bulging belly. “I can still help you.”

“No!” Thomas pulled away and faced his wife. “No, Molly. I’ll not risk you or the baby. Maybe …”

He looked down at the ground.

“Maybe what?” Molly said, her voice pressing. She knew her husband well enough to read the defeat in his body and face.

“Maybe we can go back,” he said, voice deflated. “Fall and Christmas are busy times for Mr. Franklin. He can put me to work.”

“And what?” she said. “Just leave this all behind? Forget our dreams, and all the work we’ve put in?”

Thomas shook his head and began to speak, but a shrill voice cut him off.

“Yoo-hoo! Is anyone home?” The call came from the front of the house. Someone banged on the front door. “Hello? Robinsons? Are you here?”

Molly and Thomas looked at each other, then walked around the side of the house toward the front of the property. Molly popped around the corner first, and Thomas tried to slow her down, but she was too quick.

“Emma?” Molly said. “What are you doing here?”

Thomas pulled alongside his wife just in time to see Emma Blake turn their direction. The older woman beamed when she saw the couple.

“Well, there you are!” Emma said. She held out a large covered basket. “Are you ready?”

Molly and Thomas exchanged glances again. “Um, ready for what?” Molly asked.

Wagon wheels and clomping horse feet sounded nearby, maybe just around the the bend.

“Well, ready for the harvest party, of course!” Emma exclaimed.

“Harvest party?” Thomas aksed.

By this time, several other women had appeared from beyond the other side of the cabin, each carrying a basket.

“Well, sure,” Emma said. “It’s tradition around here for us to make harvest season into a party, and we always start at the newcomers’ farm. Are you ready?”

A convoy of about ten men, each with horses and plows and other equipment, materialized from the dusty road a hundred yards to the north of the Robinson homestead.

“You men should have those crops in by lunch, and then we’ll eat,” Emma prodded as the other neighbors gathered around. “So … you ready?”

Thomas touched the brim of his hat and nodded, then walked toward his waiting neighbors.

Emma watched him go, and smiled.

They were ready.

Ready to make a home.

Published inFlash Fiction

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