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“I don’t want to go to school tomorrow,” said Henry. He grabbed another handful of chaff from the edge of the wheat field and sifted it through his fingers.
Harriet crossed her arms in front of her face. “Don’t do that again. My eyes are still itchy from the last time.” She ran her fingers over the foxed pages of an open book on her lap. “And you got it all over my book.”
“Dusty old thing. I’ll throw it behind us this time. Like I can predict the wind, Hettie, jeez.”
Harriet scowled at her brother. His brand new blue sweatshirt from the Thresherman’s Jubilee was covered with dirt and flecks of dried cellulose. Mom would be mad. Again.
Henry held his arm behind him, and as another breeze blew over the empty field, he opened his hand, scattering the chaff and a cloud of dust over the ridge. The children watched. The sun crept down behind the mountains.
“It’s getting dark,” said Harriet.
“And I still don’t want to go.”
Harriet fiddled with her shoelaces. “Yeah, me neither. Nothing yet.”
“Ten more minutes?”
The road that wound between Pop Heb’s fields was quiet, and had been for the past hour. A handful of crickets chirped, hidden in the yellowing grass, The peepers began their evening song by a nearby pond.
“What do you think Steve and Mr. Grayson talked about?” said Henry.
“Work stuff I guess.”
“He said he might have to go to the city.”
Harriet nodded. “For a little bit. Like last year.”
“What do you think it’s like? The city? I’d like to see it sometime.”
“Noisy. You’ve been there before.”
“Yeah,” Henry scoffed. “I know. When we were young though. Do you remember any of it?”
“I remember it smelled weird.”
Boom! A sound like thunder echoed through the valley. Startled, the children scanned the sky.
“Thunder?” said Henry. “I don’t see any storm clouds.”
“Not thunder,” said Harriet with a smile. She pointed. “Look!”
An orange glow pulsed under the mists atop Jeffery’s Mountain. The mist thinned. The light burned against the twilit sky and disappeared. The mists gathered once more.
Foom! Like a rushing wind, the light ignited once more and the mists scattered. Dark shapes, twisting and flailing, appeared silhouetted against the blaze until the mists settled again, obscured the figures and extinguished the light.
Henry laughed. “Wow!” He slapped his sister on the arm. “What was that?”
Harriet hit him back. “I told you,” she said. “Jeffery’s Liturgy. Just like the book said.”
“Whatever that is,” said Henry. “Fine, okay. The book was right this time.”
Harriet slapped the book closed. The title read, “The Settlement of Fretter’s Creek: A History, by John Archibald Daniels” in faded gold leaf over a woven red cover.
“They thought Mr. Daniels was crazy,” said Harriet.
Henry pulled himself up and stretched. “If he’s crazy, then we are too I guess.”
Under a purple autumn sky, the children headed home, pondering the fresh scolding they’d get for being out so late on a weekday. The stars were out by the time they reached the front porch. Anna stood like a shadow at the screen door, hands on her hips.
Next week Red Panda and Crow continue their adventures in DC. Stayed tuned!