Liza listened to the drone of the cotton-picker on second pass as she cooked dinner. It’s a distinctly southern thing that one takes for granted, like the sprawling kudzu that takes over every inch that it can claim. She had noticed at the bar that the security light out back was covered up to its’ tip top exactly like the entire left side of the property up to the bridges. Forked Deere river water plus God’s planting had made it a fertile breeding ground.
The hill up in front of the dairy barn on the lane was covered with it and it remained lush green in mid-November. A family of groundhogs resided there in the recesses of the hill camouflaged by the climbing vines. The squirrels were bold this autumn…runnin’ like crazy. She only hoped this didn’t bode a bad winter. Propane was at an all time high due to the war.
Lumpy had taken a notion to burn some shit on his weekend off. Knowing that pyromania is a dominant trait, he gladly stoked the fire for both Lacey and Liza every chance he got. This was the first fire at HIS house. Country living affords one the luxury of unloading and lightin’ a match to it, whether it’s the contents of the attic or the back of a pickup or a years’ worth of leaves and limbs.
“Whatcha doing?” he asked Liza. “I’m watching a movie…just started”. “Is it a really GOOD movie? The fire came back to life this afternoon.” “Be right there” she quipped. Faith hopped in the back seat and they followed the smoke signals down the lane.
Fortunately, the wind was blowin’ the right way today. She and Lacey bonded with Faith while Lumpy piddled with the fire. Many of the trees were bare, but the ones that still had leaves were magnificent. Bright golds and oranges and reds reflected off of the setting sun in the woods over the riverbed. Faith’s auburn coat with blonde highlights was a beautiful contrast to the green of the pasture as she sniffed her way around and fetched treasures from the field.
This was Liza’s element….outdoors enjoying nature. She watched the flames lick the rotten wood and rambled on about the war. Many of Lacey and Lumpy’s friends were serving and these days almost everybody that anybody knew had been affected by it. She had believed from the first day that this war was wrong and the goals blurry. Each and every day served as a reminder that Americans were losing their lives 11,000 miles away to extremists with nothing to lose but their lives. And in their book, that was the prize. Self-sacrifice for Jihad, the Holy War. That guaranteed praise and glory from Allah.
Tending the stove, her mind wandered down her “to do” list for the coming week. She had noticed with much regret that the downtown hardware store was announcing its’ closing, with a big sale preceding. Forked Deere Hardware was the last family owned business on Court Square in her small town. All of one generation of the family had died leaving the quaint little store in the hands of baby boomers that had operated it for the past few years. This was the kind of store where you could find one of ANYTHING, if you could only find it! It was a welcome alternative for Liza to traveling to the super-centers for a nail or a light bulb. The character of the place was defined by the rakes and shovels and red wagons displayed on the sidewalk and by the elderly gentleman who swept there every morning and waved at the passing traffic. The old store looked rather odd next to the modern sandwich restaurant right next door. One by one the stores around the square had been replaced with lawyer’s offices circling the county courthouse. There was an upscale furniture store, a couple of banks and drug stores and a few other businesses, but for the most part the historic downtown district had been remodeled and occupied by the legal profession that did business in its’center. Liza preferred that route to work because there was rarely any traffic.
The main street into town was actually a business route from the US highway that linked the town to the rest of the state. It cut off south of town and ran past the Dairy Queen and the double bridges over the Forked Deere river, across the railroad tracks and straight through to the Methodist Church. A typical southern town.