Sunlight shimmers through the trees, casting its flickering light on a child who is happily skipping through the grass with bare feet. A light breeze carries the first few leaves of Autumn gently down around him. The quiet of the country seems to hold a peaceful sort of magic in the air at this time of year. Suddenly the child splashes down into the cool creek, mud squelching between his toes. His giggling rings out, startling some birds from a nearby tree. Carelessly tossing aside his bag, he heaves himself up, up through the tree as far as he can reach.
The view from here is spectacular – farm fields edged with trees, great big blue sky, and in the distance a small town of barely over 100 residents. The boy scans the horizon then enthusiastically yells, “This is great!”
He can barely hear his mother’s reply, though she isn’t too far away, “Get your sample and come on, we have to get home before dinner!”
Scrambling back down to the Earth with ease, he stops and pulls a jar from his bag. He heartily scoops up some local flora and fauna, perfect for science class. Then, grabbing his bag again, he tucks the jar and it’s contents inside.
None too worried about the jar, he bolts for the roadside where his mother is waiting.
Inside the tiny grocery store in the middle of town, Carrie tossed a last couple of items in the top of her small basket before grabbing a gallon of milk on her way to the cashier. As she set her things on the counter, a small older lady shuffled out from a back room. Her gray-streaked dark hair bounced as she came, and a smiled cracked onto her lightly wrinkled face. “How is your mother, dear?”
“She getting along, Ellen.”
“That’s lovely to hear,” Ellen nodded slightly as she began sorting through the contents of Carrie’s basket. Her quick fingers tapping out the prices into an old fashioned cash register.
“Surprised I haven’t seen anyone out this morning.” Carrie pushed her loose braid of brown hair back behind her.
“Mmm yes, old Sanderson’s cows escaped their fence again. You know how that goes, half the town goes out just to chase em all back in.” Ellen laughed.
Carrie smiled. She could indeed imagine that scene, as she’d been a part of it plenty of times. Every small event in this town turned into a major social gathering. Last time she’d joined in, they’d ended up roasting a whole pig at the Hart’s farm. One way or another, dozens of people turned up all manner of food to join in the buffet. Sometimes it felt positively magical; one minute there was a mad chase through muddy fields on 4-wheelers, and before you knew it you’d be relaxing in the grass under a giant oak tree, being handed a plate absolutely heaped with piping hot food.
“That will be $20.47 dear, unless you need to tab it.”
Carrie realized she’d been staring out the large front window with a goofy grin on her face, she blushed a little and pulled out her wallet. “Oh, not at all, Ellen. Here you are!”
After handing over her cash, Carrie scooped up her groceries in her arms and turned toward the door. “Put the change in your tip jar.”
“It’s lovely having you back, take care now!”
Carrie nodded in Ellen’s direction as she pushed open the door with the side of her arm. She trudged across the dirt lot, small puffs of dust being stirred up by her boots. The lot was small, but she’d parked on the edge under some sparse shade. The sun was warm for November and even in the short time she’d spent inside, her dusty blue truck was hot to the touch.
She pulled open the passenger side door quickly and tucked the groceries securely on the floorboard. After shutting the door, she began to walk around the back of her truck when the ground gave an unsettling lurch. Grabbing the edge of her truck bed she managed to keep her feet under her as the ground rolled a few more times.
In just under ten seconds the ground settled again, though dust was now thick in the air. Carrie jogged back to the store front, just as Ellen stepped outside. “Are you all right?”
Ellen nodded, “Fine dear, no harm done to me. Bit of a mess inside now, though. That was strange, wasn’t it? Never have felt the earth quake in all my years here.”
“Do you need my help?”
“Oh certainly not, you go check up on your mother. The boys will be along soon, I’m sure,” she waved behind her “and we’ll get this sorted right out.”
Carrie patted Ellen’s arm and headed back to her truck. The dust was settling back down slowly as she pulled out and turned towards home. Her hands had started shaking as she gripped the steering wheel, so she forced herself to breathe a few deep breaths.