In the lengthening shadows of the forest, a whip-poor-will darts to catch its meal, its path briefly showered in the present mist of a veiled waterfall. It flits to the overhanging branch of a budding maple and flutters its dampened wings. Pausing, it tilts its head and calls into the approaching dusk.
Across a nearby pasture, a man looks up from a row of dirt recently turned by his hoe. The soil is black and moist with spring’s thaw. He listens to the bird’s murmured sound, welcoming it. “Quittin’ time,” he says aloud.
Abby, his wife walks out from their hen house to stand at the edge of the vegetable field he’d been hoeing since early morning. “Adam,” she calls out. Her voice dips and falls in the dark furrowed acres of his labor.
He smiles and waves. “In a minute, Abby.”
Behind her, smoke rises from the chimney of their cabin. The wind sweeps it in lazy gray swirls, blending it as one with the deepening shadows of nightfall. “Dinner time, too, I’m thinking. Come on, Rex; let’s see what Abby’s made for the two men in her life.”
Rex, a Golden Retriever, asleep in one of the channeled troughs, came to life. Tail wagging, woofing in apparent delight; the dog bounds around his master, playing havoc with the newly hoed rows. “Rex!” Adam commands. Rex takes no notice. Adam shakes his head and follows his loyal companion home.
Half-way across the field the whip-poor-will calls again. Adams pauses to listen. Abby, at the edge of the field, tilts her head, watching him. As he approaches, it appears she is hiding something behind her back. “Another dry year ahead?” she asks.
He kisses her cheek. “Looks as much. I’ll have to start early to dig that irrigation ditch from the creek in the forest.” He cocks his head. “And what would you be hiding behind your skirts?”
She ignores his question. “Adam, how did you know it was quittin’ time?”
“Heard the whip-poor-will. It’s always a sure sign of dusk.” He grins and reaches behind her. “Now what’s that behind you?”
She pulls back. “And last winter, when you were lost in that blizzard. What did you depend to show you the way home?”
“Rex, and of course God’s divine mercy.” He pauses. “What’s all this twaddle; and what is it you’re hiding?” He reaches behind her again to reveal the forked branch of a willow tree. He sighs. “Abby, we’ve gone over this before. Diving is nonsense.”
“It’s not. No more than you depending on a bird to tell you when to end your day or a dog to show you the way home in a storm.”
“Those are different.”
Adam watched Rex move to sit next to Abby. Rex looked up at him, tail wagging. “Traitor,” Adam murmured toward the canine. Then to Abby: “I don’t know; they just are. Besides, God gave instincts to living things and it’d be foolish not to give heed to them.”
“And this willow branch is green with sap. It’s still quickened with life.” She bent it easily to prove her point.
“Your logic baffles me, woman. Besides, I’d look a fool twitching a well.”
“To whom? To Rex? I think not. You see which side he’s standing on; he seems more in agreement with me, than you.”
“He’s not standing’ he sitting.”
“You give good judgment to a dog, but not to your wife? For shame, Adam.”
“I did not give Rex good judgment.”
“But you did - saying on which side he sits.”
He frowned at Rex. “Then judgment, but not necessarily a good one.”
Rex wagged his tail.
“Please, at least give it a try. It will bless us now and in the months to come.” She lowered her eyes. “It will twitch, I promise.” She kissed him warmly.
Later, just before sleep, Abby added. “And don’t tell me we don’t depend on our rooster’s crow to wake us – even when there’s no sun on the horizon.”
Adam left it at that and grimaced as he woke the next morning to the sound of their rooster out in the hen house.
Towards dusk, Adam was not to be found in the field, but rather digging a well, striking water. “Rex,” he admitted, “maybe Abby’s more insightful than we thought.”
Rex, standing guard over the willow branch, merely wagged his tail.
Abby came out to the porch just as the whip-poor-will murmured its call.
“Quittin’ time,” was all she said.
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