Haying Season 

The system to the north was taunting me, offering me the better part of a day to fret over its arrival.

Page 3 of 10

"Why can’t you like the swallows instead?"

Ella marched out the front door and strolled amidst her black flock, scattering her burnt offerings over their bobbing, pointy heads. I leaned out the doorway. "Quit messing around, Ella. If we can’t sell the hay we won’t make the farm taxes and you know what that means."

"We’ll have to move."

"So get going, okay?"

Ella drifted off towards the two walnut trees, rubbing her hands free of crumbs over the overgrown lawn. The crows sprang after her, flapping at each hop across the tall grass.

"Ella! For God’s sakes!"

"What about those guys who were gonna help?" she asked. "Tim and his friend?"

"I hired them for Sunday. They can’t come today. It’s you and me."

Ella crouched down and held her hand out to the black birds. The boldest stretched his neck out to her long, slender fingers.

"Jesus, hurry Ella!"

"I’m coming," she said, and stood up. She wandered back to the house and watched over her shoulder as the crows flew off, up into the walnut trees.

We turned the horses out into their chewed-down grass paddock before we set off down the field in the truck. The smell of fresh cut hay swirled about the cab and I wished I only ever needed to breathe in, that I could inhale the sweet and spicy air in one sustained, lifelong breath. I wondered if Ella tasted the sweetness of the air too, but she was leaning out the window to examine her face in the side view mirror. She planted her hand over her mouth and slumped over the windowsill, jerking up and down whenever I hit a rut.

"Can I drive?" she asked from behind the hand.

"Later."

"Don’t you trust me?"

"You’re not very experienced, that’s all."

"Dad let me drive last year."

"Your father’s not here to help us get unstuck if we bog down."

"Why didn’t you call him? Tell him to come and help."

"He wouldn’t have come, Ella."

"Why not? We’ll never do it all ourselves."

"We’ll just have to manage."

"He would’ve come if you asked him. I could’ve drove."

"Driven."

"Whatever."

I steered the truck toward the driest section of blunt stubble grass and jammed it into Park with the engine running.

"You better wear some gloves," I said, handing Ella a pair of leather and canvas work gloves, before I slipped on a pair of my own. Last year was our first summer on the farm, and I’d learned the hard way that sharp cords of binder twine could make a bloody mess of your palms. Out in the field I stretched over the first hay bale, grabbed its two cords in my hands and wrenched it off the ground onto my thighs. The stalks of hay needled my skin. At the end of the day my legs would be itchy with scores of red prick marks. I hoisted my second bale onto the truck and felt the muscles in my back strain against the awkward weight.

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