Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Zion Trail: An uncomfortable lunch

Lije Marshall and his siblings try to have a normal lunch in the absence of their parents.

Lunch was a strange affair, with Pa and Ma absent from the table. I looked over at Sarah, sitting at the head of the table, and waited for her to say grace.

She sat with her eyes downcast. After a long interval in which she made no indication that she would speak a prayer, I glanced around at John and Mary Eliza, cleared my throat, then bowed my head and gave my best imitation of Pa's blessing over the meal.

We ate in silence, for the most part. Even my little sister seemed disheartened by our father's injuries. When had he ever failed to be up and working throughout the day? I sensed that we all felt aimless, lacking the guidance of our good parents in our daily activities. Yes, we knew our chores, but the absence of he who cared how well we did them left us with a feeling akin to doom.

At least, that was how I felt.

Mary Eliza began to whimper, wiping her tear-filled eyes with the back of her hand.

"What's the matter, Pumpkin?" I asked.

"Is Papa," she paused to sniff. "Is Papa going to die?"

"Of course not," I replied, trying to muster an enthusiasm I didn't have. "Ma is the best nurse there is. She'll help him to get well." My dubious little sister stuck out her bottom lip. "Are you sure?"

"Cross my heart," I said to the accompanying action. I didn't add the rest. I didn't hope to die, and I didn't want Mary Eliza thinking any longer of death.

Sarah stirred in her chair. I barely heard her whisper. "It's my fault."

I turned and pegged her to her chair with my frown. "We'll talk later," I muttered. This wasn't the time nor place. The little one was too upset as it was.

"You're sure he'll heal up?" asked John from across the table.

I stifled a groan. Was I sure of that myself? "He's down for a couple of days, John, but his life isn't under threat." I hoped my words were true.

I sopped up the remains of the soup with my last morsel of bread, stuffed it into my mouth, and looked at my siblings as I chewed. Sarah stirred her uneaten soup. John tapped his bowl with the edge of his spoon. Mary Eliza pulled on her still-protruding bottom lip. I swallowed and sighed, my mind racing for something to distract them from their unhappy state.

Sarah should take charge, I thought. She's the eldest.


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