By Ritta M. Basu, editor and publisher, FewerThan500
A trickle of sweat ran down the middle of Peggy’s back as she stooped to fill the battered stockpot. She put the water on the back burner to boil and slipped last night’s meatloaf into the oven.
They really ought to dig a well, she thought for the hundredth time. But Jimmy wanted to save money for a place of their own. As far as he was concerned, they were getting by just fine with the water Peggy hauled from her momma’s every afternoon.
Peggy wanted their own place too, but her momma was already doing a lot by keeping Amber after school every afternoon. Asking her to supply their water seemed like too much trouble. And that five-gallon water jug was awfully heavy, especially after she had worked all day on the kill line at the chicken plant.
Peggy stepped onto the front porch to take some pork chops from the freezer. She needed something to put in the Crockpot before she left for work tomorrow, and she had to make room in the freezer for the two hogs they’d been fattening since last August.
It was about time for those ornery things to meet their maker.
She called to her daughter, “Amber Ann, would you come slice some tomatoes for supper, honey?”
As she mashed the potatoes, Peggy noticed that Amber had clearly been picking at the bites on her legs again.
“Anything exciting go on at school today?”
“A new girl started. She’s from Connecticut! Can you believe that?”
“Oh yeah? A Yankee, like your Aunt Rachel, huh?”
A new manager had just started down at the plant. This girl must be his, Peggy thought. Newcomers were rare in these parts and somewhat suspect, especially people from up north.
“Did you like her?” Peggy asked.
Amber lowered her eyes,” I didn’t talk to her.” Then, more excitedly, “She sure was pretty though.”
“Well, young lady, you’d be pretty too if you’d quit scratching those legs! Now go get your daddy’s nose out of that TV and let’s eat.”
After supper, Peggy squirted detergent over the plastic tub of dishes and covered them with boiling water.
The smell of Palmolive wafted into the air, making the old house smell fresh and clean.
Peggy smiled as she peered through the dingy window at the Ozark hills that lay just beyond, thankful it wasn’t quite dark yet.
She wondered what her sister might be looking at right now and what she might have eaten for supper. It was hard for Peggy to imagine.
Peggy poured herself a glass of milk and headed toward the living room hoping to watch a little TV before bed.
Amber burst through the screen door, squealing, “Momma, come quick, the pigs broke the fence and they’re wreckin’ the garden.”
Jimmy’s shotgun split the calm evening air.
Peggy sighed. So much for TV, she thought, praying that there was enough daylight to deal with a dead pig and enough water to flush the toilets in the morning.
Ritta M. Basu is the founder and publisher of FewerThan500. She is a former newspaper journalist and a communications professional who began writing fiction in 2008. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago.