Peyton flashed his palms…then deliberately linked them behind his back and spoke in the Old Language. I hereby offer you a rythe. I do so in recognition of my disrespect and disregard of your status as a bonded male unto the female Paradise, with whom you have been mated. It is not my intention to justify this behavior in any fashion, and I wish to make up for my lapse in judgment according to the Old Ways.
He never talks about it, I comment.He can’t. He’s not what you’d call a military man. He tells me stories sometimes, though. He was in charge of the horses for his platoon. One million men were wounded and died, but eight million horses also perished. It was awful. I think he felt worse for the animals than his fellow soldiers. At least the men knew what they were fighting for, or thought they did.
The horses in the parade come last, all decked out with red, white, and blue ribbons in their manes and tails, and the vet, perking up, points out the ones that he knows or has treated. Little Danny is amused by their droppings.Now it’s almost dark and you can hear the old-timey fiddle music from a few blocks away where Sycamore has been blocked off for a square dance.How about here, ladies? It’s Daniel, spreading a quilt out among the other blankets on the lawn around the courthouse where people are picnicking.
Looks good, Patience agrees, and we lay out our small meal of cold baked beans, biscuits, and new potato salad.A few minutes later, our meal is interrupted by cruel words. Sit down, bitch! I can’t see through you.
All heads turn, and in the growing dusk, I see Willa Hucknell, tending her blond brood, a few blankets away. That must be Mr. Hucknell! I’ve never met him before, and his words rip like a razor through the peaceful families eating their Fourth of July suppers. I said sit down!
The man, a handsome freckled-faced guy wearing a white fedora and white shirt open at the throat, sways above the picnic blanket like he’s two sheets to the wind. Are you listening, bitch? Are you listening? He gives the woman a whack across her head. Daniel jumps up, as do several other men, even Blum and, yes, even Patience. Danny covers his ears and I pull him into my lap.Don’t. I gave her a small smile. I had the best time with the kids today. I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.
Good, she murmured, but the concern in her eyes remained.Ye’er here, Jan, the staff nurse, said as she approached me in the corridor en route to the children’s common room. As supervisor, Trish was usually busy on the days I visited, so Jan was the one who I dealt with mostly.
Jan grinned at me. I’ve never met a more dedicated volunteer.I wanted to smile but after my last visit, I was worried I’d be told not to come back. And the parents are okay about me visiting?