Jonas Hanson struck the log hard, splitting it in two. He picked up another and set it in position.
"You're not going to forget, are you?"
His eight year old son was standing behind him, lunch pail in his hand.
"No. I won't forget."
The boy smiled and ran off to school.
Jonas wondered what he'd been thinking. He'd promised his son he'd take him into town after school, but he had a long list of things to finish on the farm.
Jonas lifted his ax. He knew why he'd made the promise. He'd been raising the boy alone since his wife died, and a voice inside had been nagging him, telling him he needed to do more for the boy.
He would keep his promise.
Every day, Anna Miller would go to her fabric store and measure out material for her customers. Three yards of a nice green fabric with a floral design, four yards of a blue cloth with stripes.
And at the end of each day, she'd return home. She would fix herself some soup or a plate of noodles, then she would listen to the radio or read a book, and go to bed.
The years had passed by, slowly at first, but then more quickly as her life became a routine with too little deviation. Her debates became small, pointless ones. What book should she read? Should she have sherbet after dinner? Should she wear the faded green skirt or the blue sundress?
Wear the blue one, she thought.
As if it mattered.
"Move that box of detergent to the right."
Everyone knew that Jester Hankle was strange.
People thought that Jester was obsessive and, in truth, he was.
"Just a touch more."
Things in his store had to be just so.
"Perfect," said Charlie.
That's why Charlie chose him. Too few people listened to Charlie, nowadays, and signs and wonders are harder to come by than most realize.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Grable," Jester said. "How are things?"
"Slow, Mr. Hankle. Very slow." She shook her head. "If this depression continues much longer, I don't know what we'll do."
"The Lord will provide," Charlie whispered.
"The Lord will provide," Jester said.
"Yes. Yes, he will." Mrs. Grable sighed. "I came to pick up some things, but you know, I think maybe I'll hold off. Money's so tight." She looked at him hopefully. "You don't know of anyone who needs some mending done, do you?"
"No, Mrs. Grable. I'm sorry."
"Yes, well, thank you anyway."
Mrs. Grable turned to go, but hesitated as she saw the bright orange box on the shelf.
"Is this the new detergent I heard advertised on the radio?" she asked. "It's such a good price. Does it really clean?"
"My wife swears by it," Jester replied.
"Maybe I'll try it."
She took the box to the counter and pulled out her coin purse. As she fished for her change, a man and his son walked in.
"May I have some candy?" the boy asked.
"Yes," said Charlie.
"No," said Jonas.
"Just a little?" the boy asked.
"Just a little," said Charlie.
Jonas sighed. "Alright. Two cents worth. That's all."
"My, Mr. Hanson, your boy's getting so tall," said Mrs. Grable.
The boy was growing.
"Yes, he is." His pant legs were above his ankles.
"Your wife, God rest her soul, she was such a fine seamstress. But now, well...if you need any sewing done...."
"The boy needs new clothes," said Charlie.
"No," Jonas said. "Thank you."
"Don't be so stubborn," Charlie insisted.
"Well...." Jonas rubbed his neck. "Maybe some new britches."
"And a shirt," said Charlie.
"And a shirt."
Mrs. Grable smiled.
"Let's walk down to the fabric store, Mr. Hanson, and pick out some cloth."
Anna measured out three yards of a sturdy brown corduroy, and two yards of blue.
"She's pretty, isn't she?" asked Charlie.
Anna wrapped the cloth and gave it to Mrs. Grable.
"Ask for her name," said Charlie.
Anna smiled as Jonas paid for the material.
Jonas turned to leave.
"Don't just walk out."
"Thank you," called Anna.
"You're all alone on the farm," said Charlie.
Jonas opened the door.
"The boy needs a mother."
"Ask her name," said Charlie.
He looked back at Anna.
"It's time to live again."
Jonas took a breath. He walked up to the counter.
"My name's Jonas," he said.
"I'm Anna," said Anna, so grateful she'd chosen her light blue sundress that day.
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