The switchgrass was just starting to sprout. If the warm weather held out, Ned wouldn’t have to squint to see it much longer.
In another month, by the end of May, it would be up to his knees
That was his favorite time of year, just before summer set in, when the nights grew long but the days weren’t yet sweltering. It was the season when the farm teemed with life, when even grown men wanted to run across the prairie like children.
Most times, the sight of his own young kin frolicking in the sun was too much for Ned, and he’d give in to impulse. An afternoon of lost work was a small price to pay for a lifetime memory, in his estimation.
Ned stepped away from the front door and turned back toward the dark interior of his farmhouse. Those sunny days would come soon enough, but he knew this year would be different. Loss hung around his shoulders, once again.
So many had passed over the years, and Ned felt guilty that he had to think so hard to even remember their names.
Worse yet, he knew there were some he would never remember, not without help.
He took three strides across the worn wooden floor and stood in front of the pine table against the side wall. He slid the book toward him, dusted the cover with a hand.
“Holy Bible,” the engraved title read.
Ned creaked open the cover and flipped a couple of pages to the beginning of the list of names: Sam, Billie, Freda, Bruno, …
Turned another page and traced his finger down the rest of the names, remembering each bright face in turn, and the days they spent together. Max was the most recent, gone nearly ten years now, just before Martha had left Ned a widower.
Since then, it had been just Ned and Pete.
Ned had already loaded ink into the pen, and now he scribbled out a single word there under Max’s name: “Pete.”
He left the date blank knowing he’d have to fill it in sooner than he’d like. He pushed the book to the back of the table but left it open so the ink could dry.
Ned stood up as straight as he was able and hobbled toward a dark corner of the cabin, propping himself on his cane.
“Come on, Pete,” Ned said. The dog moaned as he pulled himself out of a curl and wobbled to his feet. “Let’s get you some breakfast. Then maybe we can take a run through that big field out front. Looks like it’s going to be a sunny day.”
The two friends shuffled toward the kitchen, both remembering the rush of the warm spring wind against their faces.