The Last Night
Fourteen-year old Martin sat slumped on the hay bale, his head rested heavily in his hands, his elbows propped on the dirt stained knees of his work pants. He heard footsteps but didn’t want to move.
Just a few more minutes. I just need a few minutes.
“Come on, son,” Dad encouraged. “We’ve got to keep working.”
Weary eyes found Dad’s tired face. “I—I know but I don’t think I can.”
“You have to. It’ll be dark soon—” Dad paused, bit his bottom lip at some thought. “—and they’ll be back. I can’t do it on my own, son. I need you.”
“How do you do it? How do you keep at it when you know you can’t move another muscle?”
Dad shrugged. “Because it has to be done and I’d rather do it while I’ve got my best chance at success.”
Martin shook his head. “But it don’t matter. We still have to keep at it even at night—when they come. We ought to just rest up so we’ll have more strength.”
Dad’s look was caustic. “Think about what you’re saying, son. You ain’t never gonna have more strength then they do at night. You know that. You might be working hard but it won’t amount to anything next to what they can do.” Fear tempered Dad’s words. “Now get up and help.”
Martin pushed himself up. His leg muscles screamed in agony, his mind numb. “You may be right but it don’t make it any easier.”
“Just grab that bail of hay and bring it outside.” Dad picked one up too.
The next few hours dragged on. The sun was sinking lower in the sky. “It’s getting dark Dad.” There was no disguising the apprehension in Martin’s voice. “They’ll be here soon.”
“I know but we’re almost done.”
“I’m scared, Dad.”
Dad’s expression mirrored his son’s worried one. “You can’t be any more scared than I am.” He then gazed at the maze they’d created with the hay bales, looked toward the main road. “They’re coming,” he bemoaned. “Be ready.”
“How many more nights do we have to do this?” Martin didn’t look like he could take much more.
“This is the last night, son. I promise.”
At that moment, a sea of overly excited four-year olds spilled out of the confines of the church buses they’d come in. Their high pitched chants of can-I-go-first, he-pushed-me and I-gotta-go-to-the-bathroom filled the night air. Tomorrow evening the Bailey’s were to host the fall festival.
A desperate word to encourage, “I promise, Son. This is the last night.”
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