The sun shone bright, the sky a deep shade of blue with wisps of white brush strokes. A light breeze rustled the leaves. Birds chirped a happy tune. It was the kind of day that makes you smile just because. Henry wore a scowl. He alternated between pulling weeds and winging rocks at black birds that landed on a fence post.
“I need you to stay back and get some work done around the place, son.” Henry mocked. “I don’t know why I needed to stay here. It’s not like there’s anymore work to be done than usual. I reckon he just didn’t want me along.”
The periodic trips to town added highlights to an otherwise uneventful routine. They spelled adventure not high adventure but better than the routine milking, weeding and fence repair. This was the first time since Henry had come to live with Farmer that he wasn’t allowed to go. Henry picked up another rock and sent it sailing toward the fence. “Get!” The black bird flew off a little distance and landed back on the same post.
For a time, Henry had stumbled over what to call Farmer. At first, Mr. Reynolds seemed to suit but when you when you work side by side with someone long enough it begins to feel a mite formal and yet, Henry didn’t feel comfortable calling him by his given name, Clay. It was a quandary until finally he settled on ‘Farmer’. The truth ,if told, was that it sounded like father. Henry often imagined that Mr. Reynolds was his real Pa. He had been better to him than a father.
When Henry first came to the Reynolds farm he had slept in the barn, the first night he had cried himself to sleep, whether from loneliness, exhaustion or the sudden realization that his mom wasn’t returning. It all had come bubbling out. That had been almost a year ago. Henry had long since moved into the cabin. You get to know a person pretty well through a long, cold winter. Henry discovered that Farmer was a right good cook and that each day started with reading from the bible. Farmer discovered that Henry didn’t know how to read. He set out to remedy that right away.
“I thought we were getting on pretty well.” Henry pulled at a weed with new fervor. The day drug on and as it did a new feeling settled on Henry. What if Farmer doesn’t want me no more? Maybe this is his way of telling me I should be moving on. Henry pushed those thoughts away fast. Fear gripped his heart and a flood of emotion rose to his chest.
He spotted Friend poking around the corn bin. “Friend don’t you be eating up our corn. Go rustle up your own grub. Farmer worked plenty hard bringing in that corn. Go on, get!” Friend flicked his grey squirrel tail and climbed into the corn bin. “Fine! I’ll just have to work twice as hard to make up for you.” Henry carried the weed clippings to the compost pile. The remainder of the day he worked as if driven, barely stopping for lunch.
As dinner time approached, Henry gathered a cucumber, green pepper and a tomato from the garden. “I can’t cook as good as Farmer but I can at least manage some bacon and scrambled eggs.” He sliced the vegetables and tossed them with a little vinegar dressing.
When Henry saw Farmer approaching the cabin, his mind swam with questions and his stomach ached with an unsettling fear. Farmer climbed down off the wagon and let out a low whistle. “It looks like you did the work of two grown men today. I should have bought you two bags of peppermints.” He winked and tossed Henry a bag of candy. Relief and pride washed over Henry.
“I fried up some bacon and I was just waiting to see you coming 'fore I started the eggs.”
“Sounds fine and I’m hungry so don’t go burning those eggs” He said with a smile. Then in a more serious tone he said, “Got something that I want to talk to you about, son”
Henry braced himself.
“I talked with a judge today about the possibility of adopted you.”
Henry threw himself into Farmers’ arms nearly knocking both of them to the ground.
Farmer laughed. “Would you like to hear what he had to say?” Henry clung to him. Tears rolled unashamedly down his cheeks.
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