Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Forty Two

Story time began at 9:13 pm on September 11, 2006

Harvests are always full of challenges and unexpected rewards.

This year was no different. For the first time, John and Paul worked the harvest together as adults, and Andy got to see his father in action.

A quick bend, twist, turn and lift and a sheaf of hay was ready. Row after row, field after field, the grain was gathered in.

The youngest children helped bring water to the workers in the fields. The older people prepared the meals.

The school-aged children helped drive the teams and cared for them when they stopped for breaks.

A few women worked in the fields, but the heaviest lifting was reserved for the biggest and strongest.

Otto and Owain, John and Daniel, other young men from the village, and Peter and Paul did the hardest work, raking, lifting and stacking after the mowers did their job.

It was the first year that Andy was allowed to drive one of the mowers himself, and he was very proud of being able to handle the team on his own.

On the third day of the harvest, Sebastian appeared, looking ill at ease and out of place. He was nearly as big as Otto and Owain, but not as muscular.

Indeed, Sebastian was unused to extensive physical labor, and his hands were barely calloused enough to split kindling.

Still, Peter was pleased and proud to see his son show up to work, and let him drive one of the teams that morning.

While Andy was careful and serious about his task, his (only slightly) older cousin was anything but.

Sebastian started singing boisterously, which startled his team and they broke stride.

By the time he had them back together, he had miss-cut a noticeable bit of his row.

Peter came up to him as he came back down and climbed up beside him.

"Son, you'll need to come back and cut that section by hand when you are done with this row. We can't stop our rhythm to re-cut by hand."

Sebastian's face turned sullen. Peter immediately put a hand on his shoulder, "Other than that one section, though, you're controlling your team well and I am glad you are here to help. We can use you."

Sebastian shrugged and his father hopped off and walked back to his own task.

Andy, meantime, had been carefully making his passes and row after row of fresh-mown hay lay waiting for tying up.

Sebastian finished his row, handed the team to his grandfather, who had arrived with lunch and grabbed a piece of roast chicken.

Peter and the other men came up, hot and tired from their work and started to wash up in the buckets Nan and Doris had set out in the shade.

Peter took a look at his son, sighed and walked up to him, drawing him away from the others.

"Sebastian, I am sorry, but your tasks are not done. We don't eat until we finish the rows, and that patch back there still needs proper mowing. I know it's hard work, but I think you are up to it."

Nan brought a ladle of water to Sebastian, who drank it without a word and shoved it back at her.

She stood, holding the ladle, and watched him stomp off with a scythe in his hand.

Silently, she walked back to her grandfather. Peter watched his son and his niece sorrowfully.

Adam watched Peter closely. Paul did, too.

Soon enough, people and animals were refreshed and it was time to return to work. A high, thin haze was moving across the sky, the kind that presages frosty nights and coming rains.

Sebastian finished mowing the patch as the rest of the teams were heading back out. He was hot, and he was tired, and his temper was rising.

Adam was packing up the remains of the meal. Doris was putting the dishes and towels back in the cart. Nan had was putting the water buckets in neat stacks when her cousin came storming up.

Peter was standing by the head of the team for his son's mower, looking very solemn.

Sebastian didn't see his father, so focused was he on the absence of food... he walked up to Adam and gave him a shove. His grandfather fell against the cart and slid to the ground.

Doris turned on Sebastian, with a large wooden platter in her hands. Her eyes flashed, and she brandished the platter before her.

Nan cried out and ran to her grandfather's side.

But the commotion startled the little donkey, and as Nan ran in front, it bolted.

Peter could not reach Nan in time, and she fell under the wheels.

Sebastian and Doris watched in horror as first Adam, whose arm had fallen under the cart and then Nan cried out.

Adam sat up almost immediately, groaning.

But Nan did not move.

Paul and the others came racing back from the field.

Doris sat by Nan, hovering, but afraid to touch her.

Nan was pale, and her skin was clammy. Doris grabbed a large towel and put it over her sister, then looked helplessly at her father.

Adam was rocking back and forth, holding his injured arm, but refusing any help.

Paul and Peter concentrated on Nan.

They sent John to fetch Esmeralda and Gilly, and Daniel to get Helena.

Carefully, Paul lifted Nan and wrapped her in the towel. She struggled for breath, but looked clearly at her father.

"Is Grampy okay?"

Paul nodded, "Yes, Grampy will be okay. Do you hurt?"

Nan tried to smile, but it was too much effort. She nodded, yes --- and closed her eyes.

Peter was looking at the ground. The image of Nan's body was clear in the soft ground.

Adam tried to stand, and Doris was at his side, scolding him. "Grampy, don't even think of moving until the doctor gets here! We know it's broken, but we can't give you anything for the pain unless we know that's all it is!"

Otto and Owain were unharnessing the teams with Andy and the other young helpers, leaving the mowers in the field and leading the animals back to their pasture.

A few birds flew overhead as Helena came racing up, followed by Daniel.

She was pale and out of breath, but assessed the situation quickly.

Adam she had moved to a more comfortable position by a fallen log so he could lean back. She gently propped up the broken arm with towels and told him to stay put.

Nan had not spoken again, and was even more pale. Paul was pale too, and shaking with grief, but he held her gently, having found a position that made her breathing easier.

Peter was busy with the other men, bringing the tools back from the field and putting them on the wagon to go back to the barn.

Suddenly, Peter stopped and looked around.

"Where is Sebastian?" he thundered.

But Sebastian had vanished.

Esmeralda and Cathy, followed by Gilly who was carrying a large basket hustled up.

Cathy went straight to Adam with a small vial of pain reliever.

Esmeralda and Gilly stared at Paul, holding the child who only a few hours before had been so lively.

A cry escaped Gilly, and Esmeralda silenced her with a look. "No need for that, see? the ground was soft. She'll make it."

Paul's face untwisted at those words, but he held his breath.

Andy hovered at the periphery, and Esmeralda looked straight at him, "I need fresh, cold water as fast as you can bring it. And don't worry, she'll be fine."

She reached into her box and pulled out a metal flask which she handed to Paul. "Drink this. It'll calm your nerves."

Then she directed him to set Nan on a board she found, and they carried her to Peter and Helena's home.

A long, sad procession it was; Peter was fuming, Helena was stern...

Overhead, the birds were circling, and Esmeralda glanced at them every so often as they walked.

Andy drove the little cart home with his aunt, behind the twins and Doris in the wagon. Dinner on both sides of the farm that night was a solemn affair.

But whenever anyone asked, Esmeralda replied, "Nan will be fine."