Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Peter's Winter Miracle

Answer to writing prompt : "This is what was left when he was gone..."


This is what was left when he was gone, when the place was empty, when there was no one here to light the fire or feed the cat. Peter didn’t like the feel of it. This was his home, the only one he had ever known, and he wanted to be here. But at this point it felt like only half of him had been here at all for so long. The other half had disappeared when Pop died…

That was a worse kind of gone, the type that doesn’t go anywhere, it just exits into the aether and waits for the rest of you to come. He didn’t want to disappear entirely, either. He sat down at the long smooth table, and Cricket slid her long furry body and full whiskers up under his chin. With a large flop, she presented him her belly. He sat there, petting his cat, and wondering how he was going to turn this failed crop season into a winter’s worth of fuel and supplies.

The wheat had been an awful disaster, and even the garden had mostly failed. The watermelon hadn’t had a chance, the corn had gotten fungus from that rain just after it silked and every one of the pumpkin vines had been eaten through by some small blue-bodied bugs, making the fruit wither before it ripened. He had gotten in as much harvest as there was, a few tomatoes and a decent amount of black-eyed peas.

But it wasn’t enough, not to feed himself, much less the animals. Cricket here wasn’t going to eat black-eyed peas unless they were inside a mouse. And Parcival, his mule, was going to need much more than the few bales of hay he had made at the height of the summer. He wished he had been thinking about this, then. But at that point, he was still mooning over Louisa, and hoping things would turn out all right. He had gotten the short end of the stick this year, and he was going to have to find something to hit it out of the ballpark with, go begging, or freeze to death.

There was an axe sitting in the corner, and he had a pull sled and a mule waiting out in the barn. There were a few weeks left of good enough weather. It was either that, or he would have to board up the place and move Cricket into town. Mercy Mae would take good care of her, but wouldn’t want to give her up in the Spring. Cricket probably wouldn’t want to give her up, either. He scratched her chin and leveled his gaze to hers. “How about that, kid? Should we fold our cards or try to stick it out?” he asked. “We'll need a lot more wood stored up to feed that stove all winter.  Do you think it will help with our other troubles?  I wonder how much Joe is paying for firewood this year. I wonder if he’s paying at all.”…

Peter laced up his boots, got up from the chair and grabbed up the axe. He gave it a test swing in the air and looked at the blade. There was a grind stone in the barn. And at least he had the beginnings of a plan… ///

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