Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sample Saturday - The Zion Trail - 3/14/2015

This week's sample is from a new novel I'm writing: The Zion Trail. In the first scene, we meet Elijah Marshall, out working in the fields, when a pair of men come down the road who will change his life. Enjoy!

As I made a half-circle turn at the end of the row of corn, I pulled the horse to a halt, swept off my old hat, and wiped the trickles of sweat from my eyes with the back of my wrist. I ran my fingers through my dripping black hair to train it back from my eyes. Settling the hat once again on my head, I ran a glance over the field, checking my work. In the tail of my eye I caught movement on the road from the west.

I turned to look directly at the road. Across the rows of young corn stalks dust rose slowly into the air as two figures walked along the dry surface of the lane. By their dress, I knew them for strangers, for no one in our part of Erie County, Pennsylvania wore a black suit except on Sunday, and this was Tuesday.

Curiosity being part of my makeup, I leaned on the plow for a while, watching their progress and wondering about their errand. By and by they saw me. When they came alongside my position, they hopped the ditch to approach the fence.

At fifteen, I had reached nearly my full growth, and I wasn't beyond considering myself a man. I did as much as my father on the farm, except for the planning and the worrying, so I wasn't surprised when they hailed me as a man.

"Hello, Brother," the taller of the two men called. "Can you give us a drink?" He indicate my water bucket under a nearby tree.

I wrapped the lines around the plow handles and strode to the fence.

"Plenty, and welcome," I said, giving my father's standard reply, then bent to shoo away a drinking yellow jacket, and lifted the pail to the top of the fence.

The man who had addressed me drank first. I saw that he was older by three or four years than the shorter man. As they slaked their thirst, I wondered how long since they had tasted water, for they drank with great gusto, and an air of thankfulness.

Their suits were covered with the fine dust that abounded on our roads, but they seemed not to mind, giving all their thoughts to dipping water from the pail and letting it slide down their dusty throats.

While the younger man drank, the other one looked at me and smiled. "We're grateful for the water," he said. "Thank you, young man. It's been a long, dusty walk."

I nodded to acknowledge his thanks. "You're welcome to all you can drink."

"I'm Nathan Caldwell," he said. "My companion is Matthew Long. We're ministers of the gospel, come to your neighborhood looking for an opportunity to preach."

I stuck out my hand and pumped his. "My name is Elijah Marshall, and my pa will be glad to see you. He's a God-fearing man, and men of the Lord are welcome in his house." I squinted up at the sun. "It's nearly dinner time. Come and eat with us."

Mr. Long grinned his acceptance as Mr. Caldwell let go of my hand. "Much obliged," he said.

"Just follow the road to the first lane on the right," I directed them. "Tell my ma I sent you. I'll be along with the horse by and by."

They waved their thanks and jumped the ditch back to the road. I hauled the bucket off the fence and turned back to the plow. Old Tom still stood where I'd reined him in, flicking flies away with his tail and standing three-legged in the sun. His ears twitched at my approach, and I patted his flank before I unhitched him from the plow.

"Tom, boy, we've got company. Won't that make Ma's eyes dance!"

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