Bev Vines-Haines
Dallas Hitchcock hauled a bag of oats into the kitchen pantry. Ten children ate a lot of hot grain every morning. Trudy, in her last month, refused to tote bags heavier than fifty pounds. They'd soon have eleven children. He'd been taught women counted better than that.  Sweat poured down his face and into his eyes. Shirtsleeve swiping them, he dislodged an armload of dust and straw. Pure fire. He shouldn't even be doing this kitchen work. Modern women were useless and frail. Pitching the bag to the floor, he hurried outside. Waxahachie was hot even for Texas. He wished he could go back to his old childhood chores in the ice house on his parent's farm. Once the ice man delivered, Dallas had been made to cover it all with loose straw. The ice house smelled earthy, strong aromas of ham and bacon, impaled on hooks overhead. Deer meat and beef hung there at times, until they got moved to the smoker. Ice House chores were coveted work. As the youngest boy he had enjoyed them more years than his brothers. As he worked he'd planned a different life. Moving to a cooler climate and having any job on earth that wasn't farming. But a pretty girl can railroad more dreams than a war. And Dallas swore after one or two babies, every woman looked just like her mother.

Pink sunset curled around the outbuildings and barn. Trudy, large with child, rubbed her back and moved slowly toward a rocking chair on the porch. Her husband was in the bathroom, a gift from her parents when their ninth child was born. He'd wanted to take the money and buy a used tractor from his brother but her family had come and done the installing and the building. The hot water heater enraged Dallas. He believed women were spoiled. His mother boiled vast tubs of water for cooking and baths and never complained. Still did it to this day. That hot water was a miracle. Trudy swore by it. Dallas improvised a little once it was in. Cutting the pilot light way back to save on the propane. In her single act of rebellion, Trudy often opened the gas valve a bit more, hoping extra gas would override the dismal flame. Dallas warned her not to do it; said she could make the thing explode. She wrung her hands. She'd forgotten to close it today and he was sure to catch her. He could be difficult. Actually, a man could kill more dreams than a plague. She called the children out to the yard. As the pink sky turned dark, the house shook with a muffled sound.

Quiet prevailed.

First published: August, 2014
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