A Time for Lying Fallow

Carol didn’t care for spring. Never had, as long as she could remember. The sky seemed too high and overly blue in spring, as if the world were shrinking away from the sun’s warmth. She sat quietly on the concrete back step of the farmhouse sipping coffee, and watching the birds cultivating their wriggling breakfast. Beyond the old well house and the walnut tree she’d married Sam under, the fields lay empty and fallow.

“I miss you, Sam Templeton,” she said, but the fields didn’t answer.

The boys she’d hired through the farm service in town came out for the first time in early April, and she made them breakfast. They seemed surprised, arriving before dawn to find eggs and fat slices of ham waiting for them. She even made a few buckwheat cakes for each, which they ate thankfully. It wouldn’t do to have them out there plowing and planting with just coffee and cigarettes to keep them going. Carol knew how to prepare a man’s stomach for working in the fields. She’d done it for her husband for thirty-four years, God rest his soul.

She did the dishes and listened to “Swap Line” on the radio. Out by the barn, a tractor roared to life, and she smiled unconsciously. Those three boys seemed like they’d do just fine. They’d been polite and thankful for the food. If one hadn’t been, she would have called him aside once they’d finished eating and let him go. She might just be an old widow, but she’d have things her way. It’d be easy for some of the older farmhands to think they’d just take over and tell her what was best for her land. That’s why she’d hired these younger ones. They’d make more mistakes, but she knew they’d argue less.

“I’ve got fifteen five-gallon buckets, looking to trade for two laying hens,” the radio crackled.