Haying Season 

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

Page 5 of 10

"This is good," I said. "The secret is to pace yourself so you’ll last the whole day. That’s how the farmer does it."

Ella grunted. "Newsflash Mum. We’re not farmers." She climbed back into the cab of the truck and drove to the next patch of bales. A cold breeze hustled up the valley. It blew across the tops of poplars that stood tall along the fence line, inciting their dry, stiff leaves into bitter chatter.

We continued for an hour until the bales were packed three high on the back of the truck. I was sweating all over. Bright beads stood out on Ella’s forehead.

"Over there," I said, pointing to a patch where we could salvage the greatest number of bales. There were several natural springs on the property, and in the winter fresh water from an aquifer bubbled to the surface, forming shallow pools where watercress thrived. In the summer the springs dried up, and could only be identified by the weak depressions they left in the ground, and the thick, green clover and timothy grass that grew there. I checked the sky for encroaching cloud, but couldn’t see the horizon past the poplars, shivering silver and green in the sunlight. Ella drove ahead slowly but the truck leaned to the right. She had steered into a boggy section.

"Pin it!" I shouted.

The tires sunk into the soft ground under the weight of several tonnes of hay.

"Hit the gas!"

The wheels spun and the rear tires sunk deeper, spitting chewed grass and mud into the air. The truck stalled.

"What did I tell you? Don’t drive over the green spots."

"I didn’t see it," said Ella, giving me a sour look.

"You should’ve used the cushion to boost you."

We exchanged places. I revved the gas and found traction, grinding upwards an inch. Then I released the pedal and the truck rolled backwards. Gas, forward again, until the wheels had almost crested the rut. The truck rolled backwards, even deeper into the muck. The tires spun. I got out to have a look. The wheels had carved two deep trenches.

"We’re stuck," I said.

"If we had one more person we could push the truck out."

"Your father doesn’t want to deal with this stuff."

"I can’t do anything right," Ella said, her voice thin and tight, on the verge of cracking.

"It’s not your fault." I leaned against the tailgate of the truck and felt the energy drain out of me. My arms were sapped, useless. I ached all over, felt the needling twinge of a spasm in my lower back.

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