In the foothills of Mt. Rainier, spring arrives slowly and is usually cause for great celebration. So in April of 1951 when the tenacious hoar frost at the bottom of Jonas Hill began to thaw, seven-year-old Mercy Haddock let out a long sigh.
In the meadow, tender shoots of grass stood close to three inches high and she watched her father release the family's bony cattle and matted horses from the naked and trampled field close to the house. They'd only lost one skeletal heifer back at the end of February who, when her eyes glazed over, pretty much stumbled into their cooking pot. They survived off her these past two months.
Things would be better now. Had to be. Just this morning they had spread heavy loads of manure throughout the garden while her mother planted the fencerow with peas.
Maybe with the promise of warmth and food, her parents would smile again, stop glaring across the table as if each thought the other somehow responsible for all the suffering.
When first they'd moved onto this land her father still played his banjo and read to them each night from The Elephant's Child or the Wizard of Oz. The banjo disappeared the first winter. Didn't matter, she supposed. Her father had stopped singing anyway.
Instead, he worked on the car day and night. Now Mercy heard it start, the motor sputtering before it caught. Without a word or a wave, her father jumped in and drove away.
First published: February, 2007
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