WHEN THE BUS DRIVER DROPPED JOSH OFF at the foot of the drive to the farm, the sun hung low, just touching purple mountains. Two signs, neat and hand-carved from wood, swung from the mailbox: Oglala Clay Works and, below, Anselm Guitar and Repair. The drive twisted ahead, hard packed dirt through knee-high yellow grain that went forever.
Josh walked for almost fifteen minutes, more than a mile, through wheat that rustled in a breeze Josh did not feel. Patches of uncultivated meadow interrupted the wheat, splotches of green wild with daisies and Queen Anne’s lace. He turned a corner and there it was, the white two-story house he had only seen in photographs. A covered porch wrapped around the side. Smoke smudged the sky from behind the house. In the center of the small front lawn, a weeping birch tree with round, black stones circled the base. Two rocking chairs set on the porch, and between them, on a table, a glass pitcher glistened with water droplets. When Josh saw the pitcher, he realized how thirsty he was, and how hungry.
A sheepdog ran towards him, soft yelps of greeting. Josh squatted and offered his hand and the puppy sniffed him before bounding away.
Beside the house was a shed of grey withered timbers. A low ramp led to a wide door cut into the side. Wood shavings curled at the threshold, on the ramp and grass. Josh stepped into the dark room and inhaled the punky richness of wood just cut. Guitars hung from hooks in the wall. Two instruments covered the long table, surrounded by thin pieces of different colored wood and slices of mother-of-pearl. The afternoon sun slanted through the open door and dust floated in the warm air, sparkling. The room felt familiar, someplace he had been before or wanted to be. A radio played, muffled, an overtone of static, and something in Josh’s chest tightened.
Smoke billowed past Josh. He left the shed, passing cords of wood stacked higher than him against the outside wall. A woman bent over a smoking pit. She was tiny and slight and her long black hair was pulled back in a single fat braid. She prodded a long metal rod into the pit and orange-tinged ashes danced in the smoke. Beside her, a man in a wheelchair, his back to Josh. All Josh saw was the back of his uncle Jeremiah's, golden-brown curls that fell over his shoulder. The puppy ran past them, chasing some imaginary prey, and the woman looked up and turned sideways, her belly swollen, round and hard like a nut. Without moving, she nodded.
The man wheeled around. All Josh saw was the missing leg, gone from above the knee.
“Hey buddy,” his uncle said. “We’ve all been so worried about you.”
Josh looked up, past that hole in his uncle’s body to the smile, broad the way he remembered, and the arms opened wide. Josh stepped toward him, then ran to the man so big, so strong, and for the first time since he and Nikko left Maryland a lifetime ago, Josh let himself cry.
So, the end of THE RUNAWAY. At last. Of course, revision is next, but only after I have written the others' stories. For a peek into Jeremiah's story, go HERE. As for that mysterious woman stirring up ashes, her Christian name is Sheila, but among her Oglala Lakota tribespeople she is called Maka Proud Tree. I'm writing her now, as part of my annual NaNoWriMo adventure.
Thank you kind readers--I always appreciate you taking the time to care about my stories and, most of all, my characters. Peace...