Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction based upon characters created and owned by Ed Spielman and Ogiens/Kane Productions. Neither the author nor the webmistress claim any ownership of the characters -- except original characters -- and no money is being made by either from thiwork. This work belongs to the author and may not b used or posted without the author's express permission.
The Book of Ruth
The sky arched above as clear and blue as a robin’s egg. There wasn’t a cloud in sight to shade us from the beating sun. The only relief was brought by a hot wind that blew across the prairie, and even that wasn’t much. As miserable as it was, these were the best days. Everyone could walk by the wagon and stretch their legs. The kids were allowed run free. We chased rabbits, grasshoppers, and our dogs. Laughter rang through the air.
Sometimes I would stop and just stare out over the prairie. It was a strange place. There were very few trees, and they only grew close to rivers or streams. The rest of the land was bare. Well, I shouldn’t exactly say it was bare: there was grass everywhere. It reached to my chest and hid me completely if I sat down. I had never seen anything like it. Back home, we had trees everywhere. Trees to play in and swing from. Trees to block the heat of the sun. This place was the complete opposite. It reminded me of those pictures of the desert in Mother’s Bible. Mother said it looked like the ocean, especially when the wind blew across the tall grass. She said that the breeze rolled across the grasses making it look waves that rolled across the ocean. I wouldn’t know—I’ve never seen the ocean.
During the stop for lunch, Mother stood staring
off into the distance. She carried herself like a queen from some
far off story-land. The midday sun gleamed like fire through her
red hair. I couldn’t see her face, but I knew a smile played about
her mouth. She was always smiling. Mother was a tiny woman,
but full of spirit. Father would joke how amazing it was that she’d
managed to have one child much less four; she always sassed back reminding
him how it hadn’t been all her doing.
Jordan was the oldest and would be twelve with the coming of winter. Michael, being nine years old, came next. Between Michael and me was Christopher. Chris would be turning seven in two weeks. He enjoyed constantly reminding me of this fact. I, on the other hand, was the unexpected surprise of the family. Being only four, the others felt I slowed them down. They were constantly leaving me behind to strike out on the grand adventures that only children can make.
While the others all looked like a perfect mix of Mother and Father, I was always told I was the spitting image of Father. I looked like a child’s version of him, from my sandy blonde hair to the fact that I was tall and skinny. The only thing that kept me from being his twin was my eyes. I had Mother’s eyes: the exact same clear blue that matched the sky above. My brothers all had Father’s chocolate brown eyes. I was secretly glad to have something that made me different.
I watched as Father walked over to stand behind Mother. He wrapped his arms around her waist and settled his chin on the top of her head. Mother leaned back into him. I saw her lips move and a smile come to Father’s face. Watching them stand soon became boring, and I went off in search of my own adventure.
I climbed up into the tree by the wagon. The boys wouldn’t let me play with them, so I had to play with my stuffed dog, Jean. We sat high in the tree and pretended it was our house. The leaves were thick enough to be walls and shield us from view. The kitchen was on the other side of the trunk, and we were in the parlor. The branches above were the bedrooms; the branches below, the cellar. It was the biggest house in town and could fit ever so many people into it.
Today, Jean and I were having tea with Mrs. Merriweather. She was a stodgy old lady, married to the preacher in our old town. Strange hats with flowers in every direction always crowned her gray curls. Although she seemed fierce, she had a soft spot for children and always slipped me a cookie when we visited the rectory.
“Dear Mrs. Merriweather, would you like some more tea,” I asked politely.
“Yes, of course, Ruthie. You are such wonderful hostess,” a voice piped out of the side of my mouth.
“Jean and I always enjoy your company, especially your stories,” I replied as I straightened Jean’s dress. I always made her wear a dress when I had to wear one, and I tied ribbons around her ears to match those in my hair. “Would you tell us the story about-“
“Ruthie, get down from there! It’s time to go,” yelled Mother from the base of the tree.
“Just a minute.”
I checked the branches around us to make sure that I didn’t leave anything behind. Mother was always mumbling about how I would forget my head if it wasn’t already attached. The only thing I never ever forgot was Jean. Mother said that I would forget my clothes before I forgot her.
I froze in my descent as a scream rent the
calmness. Clutching onto the branches, I peered through the curtain
of leaves and saw arrows rain into camp. They filled the air like
a thick fog, and, when the fog cleared, its destruction littered the ground.