Edie poured the coffee in dark channels into the coffee cup. She sat down at the table and started to sip the cheap hot liquid, her first cup of the day. She glanced over at the coat rack running along the South entryway, spotted with her and her son Aaron’s jackets, and that was empty otherwise. She turned to look at the sink and the dish rack next to it which only told of so much work with several empty plates that signaled a small company of eaters. At first, after her husband, Ed McIntyre’s death in a grain elevator explosion, she had been devastated. The empty places signaled hard work deep down inside so that the missing jackets no longer spelled emptiness inside. As time went on she saw the number of coats on the pegs and dishes in the strainer as just the numbers that needed to be there. Her love had aged and become a much quieter, more complicated part of her. As far as the outside world? Well, they had always been poor, but they were surviving.

The farmyard was enormous and dark, and she made her way along the morning chores, slightly frightened of the cattle and their size and the lowing they made in the barnyard. She climbed a small stepladder and digging a tined pitchfork into a pile of hay, began to distribute it evenly in the feeding troughs. The cows edged forward with interest at the morning’s serving, and didn’t seem so invincible to her atop the stepladder. Edie then made her way across the farmyard to the compost. A midnight presence like the cows, the darker earth seemed an open maw and pit, though as she neared it clumps of black earth started to show in it, so that her imagination of it diminished. She pulled a spade-like shovel from the side and started to turn the earth so that the organic components blended with the dark soil that waited to spring alive. She would use it later on the full acre on the edge of the fields garden that managed to feed both Aaron and her, the remainder selling at the farmer’s market in the college town sixty miles away. She anchored the spade in the earth again so that it stuck up like a fence post, and made her way to the chicken coop. She hadn’t seen the rooster, but noticed the weathervane on the top of the shed, a statue that caught in the wind’s touch. Entering the dark shed to collect the eggs laid over night from the brooding and sleeping chickens, again her imagination downsized as she reached under the first hen and pulled two eggs. She knew that the sounds from the coup would wake Aaron, for whom she would make breakfast, and so the morning chores came full circle.

Edie made her way toward the gray, ramshackle farmhouse that had stood ninety four years, and noticing that Aron was awake by the lit window on the second floor. She stepped through the doorway into the front entry pushing the door to clatter slam shut after the screen. She walked into the kitchen, catching her arm on one of the coats hanging there and nearly sending the eggs flying. She reached the old, rounded corners refrigerator and settled the eggs in the holder inside the door.

Aaron stepped into the kitchen, hair still unkempt from the night’s sleep, “Hi mom,” he said in a voice that had deepened in the past several months.
“Hi sweetie,” she said, pulling a frying pan from a cabinet above the stove that stood next to the sink. “How do you want your eggs?”
“Sunny side up…is there bread in the box?”
“Uh huh, go ahead and make yourself some toast.”

Aaron stepped to the counter and dropped two slices of whole wheat bread into the toaster. Edie thought of her son’s presence as he moved around the kitchen. She had watched him grow older and had watched the lines of caring that she had etched into his features carefully. She knew he was his own person but sometimes leaving him to his own life was as difficult work as caring for him. Lately it seemed she had stepped back a little, so that her love abided for him, within his reach should he need it. It was sign to her again that she was growing in that precious feeling.

“I’m going to be pulling the weeds in the ditch today, if you’re interested.” Edie found that when she could leave the choice up to Aaron, they got along pretty well, though sometimes he needed to skip the farm work when he was doing homework for school or was working on the neighbor boy’s car.
“I might have some homework,” he said, “But I’ll try to get out there when I’m finished.”

Fifteen minutes later he was out the door and making his way out the lane through the windbreak to the mailbox where the school bus stopped.

Edie opened the door to the front breezeway and bent, feeling her back muscles for the first time that day, and searched through a wooden box for a loose pair of rough, light blue leather gardening gloves. She stepped out the door and made her way across the yard, the distance to her object becoming further as she walked further, a prediction of the work ahead of her. She stepped into the machine shed where she found a green wheelbarrow and a long wooden spade with a metal tip. She flipped the gloves into the wheel barrow and laid the hoe across the top. She leaned into the wheelbarrow as if it already carried weight and realized she was getting old. She wondered in a mental smirk whether she would be alone for the rest of her life. She dropped the wheelbarrow back on its rests, straightening her back and looking for the wild roses that perpetually cropped up alongside the lane, the prelude to work ended.

She pulled on the gloves and grabbed the hoe, making for the first spined plant with lavender flowers that she saw. It uprooted easily, and she didn’t need to use the hoe, standing it stubbornly at her side as she chucked the plant into the wheelbarrow nearby. She cleaved to the work with her wiry frame, taking only seconds to wipe the sweat from her forehead or adjust the straps on her overalls. They had told her that when her husband died, that work could help, and she had dug in with both hands raising a weedless and larger garden. She had fallen in love with work and it seemed to return the feeling. She had learned to shape the world, and had allowed the world to shape her, mostly with grit and determination, and sometimes a fleeting moment of tenderness. It was something she couldn’t understand, but seemed to throw a mantle of perfection over the pauses. She had seen statues of saints that seemed shaped by the wind, like the statue of the silhouette iron weather vane that seemed to also know wind.

As she neared the end of the windbreak, a red pickup turned into the lane, honking, and she stood straight again, waving and smiling at the driver. She pushed the wheelbarrow out of the way, and the truck pulled up alongside of her.
“Hi Gus!”
“Hi Edie!”
“The breezeway is open, go ahead and let yourself in, there is coffee on the stove and I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she said, gesturing at the wheelbarrow and the tools she needed to put away.
“I’ll be there,” he said.

Gus was most often known as Theo and had a brother, Ernie, that co-owned a farm with him that was a rural mile west of her. He was about five years Edie’s senior, though the weather had taken his face more than age.
As the truck pulled away, she shook her gloves off and threw them on top of the weeds in the wheelbarrow. She laid the hoe on top of them, and started making her way down the lane, and although the rise in land she descended was miniscule, she could almost feel the wheelbarrow gaining momentum. At the compost patch, she pulled the gloves and the hoe and allowed the wheelbarrow to roll onto its side, spilling the weeds onto the fresh earth that seemed to pull at its surround with its potential for life. She straightened the wheelbarrow and pushing against empty weight felt further momentum in the cart as she neared the machine shed. She parked the wheelbarrow and leaned the spade up against the wall of the corrugated aluminum shed.

Stepping into the house, she dropped the gloves in the box at the side of the door. She walked into the kitchen and caught Gus’s eyes. She glanced at the table, a little ashamed or something, she couldn’t explain it to herself, and noticed Aaron’s plate on the table in front of him.
“Oh, let me…” her hands reached down for the plate as Gus raised his hands to nay say her, and for several endless seconds, they almost touched.

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