Friday, November 28, 2014

Where the Night Finds You, Part 2

Beginning of story

Satchel asked, "I need to pick up some stuff, you wanna come along?"

"I guess," Toby answered.

"It's just a couple blocks to the first stop."

The pair walked in silence at a fairly brisk pace.  This gave Toby a better chance to observe Satchel, which was part of the point of the silence, as well as not making Toby feel like he was being interrogated.  Why he was called Satchel was obvious, the big bag under his arm was so well-worn it almost looked like it was a part of him; he must have carried it with him wherever he went.  It was what he had pulled the miniature loaf of bread from.

Satchel was a fairly young man, too: not a single white hair showed on his head or his beard, and while his beard was obviously kept trim, it was not very full to begin with; had he been so inclined, he probably would have only started shaving a couple years earlier.

Despite this, Satchel's face still had a weathered look, and even without many wrinkles he didn't have a youthful expression or exuberance.  He was quite short and wiry, too; despite their difference in age, Toby found he could almost match Satchel's stride.

"Okay, we're here," Satchel announced.  Toby was confused.  They were at a vacant, sunny, weed-filled lot.

"I need to harvest some pigweed."  Satchel pulled out a two-foot tall plant -- one of the smaller specimens -- and handed it to Toby.  It looked vaguely familiar to Toby; he had seen it around before, but he had never paid any attention to it.

"See how the root is red? And the stalks of the leaves?  That's one of the defining characteristics.  And look at how the leaves near the bottom are diamond-shaped, but they get narrower near the top.  Check out how the leaves are attached, alternating back and forth.  And feel how hairy the top of the stem is."  Toby followed along as Satchel pointed out the plant's features.

"This big spiky seed head at the top is what we're interested in today.  We want the ones that have started to ripen and are no longer green.  You can grab some of the smaller ones and I'll grab some bigger ones.  Just grab whatever you feel comfortable carrying."

They spent the next 15 minutes each gathering up an armful of the pigweed.  Satchel noticed Toby struggling after 5 minutes and let him know it was okay if he couldn't pull up the plant to just break it off.

When his bundle got big enough he could barely get his arms around it, Toby came over to Satchel and asked "Is this good?"

"That's great, Toby!  I wasn't expecting you to pick that much.  And it looks like you did a good job of picking out the ripe ones, too."  Toby smiled.

"What do we do with these now?," Toby asked.

"We need to dry them out.  I've got a place about five blocks away for that."

They walked for a minute before Satchel asked, "Have you gone to school?"

"A couple years."

"Did you like it?"

"Well, the first one I went, yeah, I kind of enjoyed, but I hated the second one."

"You seem pretty smart, Toby.  What was the problem?"

"We didn't really do anything at my second school, except occasionally some stupid boring drills and tests.  They taught us fun stuff at my first school."

"That's too bad you couldn't stay at your first school."

"Yeah, they made me move after... well...."  A tear started to well up in Toby's eye.

"That's okay, you don't have to talk about it."

After walking another minute, Satchel announced, "This is the place."  Again, Toby was a little confused, though not as much as last time.  The house was obviously vacant and looked like the kind of places Toby had been staying in.  He was a little disappointed, he had expected Satchel to have a little nicer place.  What really confused him, though, was how to get in; all the first story windows and doors were well boarded-up.

Satchel took him to the side of the house, in fairly narrow passage with the next house over.  They stopped at a basement window between two large evergreen bushes which pretty well hid them from the street.  Strangely enough, there was a combination lock on the window.  Satchel set down his bundle, dialed the combination, opened up the window, and slid himself in.  He motioned for Toby to follow as he grabbed his bundle and pulled it through.

Toby set down his bundle and followed.  There was a platform under the window to ease onto.  When he pulled his bundle inside and turned around, he got scared.  It was quite dark in that basement.  Satchel sensed Toby's anxiety.  "It's okay Toby.  Here, sit down and close your eyes.  Now breathe in deeply.  For 10 seconds. 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10.  Now exhale slowly, again for 10 seconds. 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10.  Okay now open your eyes."

His eyes had begun to adjust to the light, so he even though the only light came from the window behind him and another on the opposite wall, he could see that the basement was empty except for a set of stairs.

As they both headed up the set of stairs, Satchel let Toby know they were headed for the second floor.  When they opened the door at the top of the stairs, they walked in to what must have been the kitchen.  The main sign were the holes for the pipes and a couple broken cabinets and kitchen utensils; all the appliances and just about everything metal had been taken.

They headed around the corner into the living room, and Toby headed for the stairs going up.  Satchel yelled "Stop!  Those aren't safe."  He opened a closet door to reveal a makeshift ladder that had been nailed to the wall.

It was a little awkward climbing the ladder with the bundles of pigweed.  Satchel had Toby go first, since he had never done it before, and he did almost slip, but Satchel was right there to catch him.

Turning around at the top of the ladder, they were in a fairly large room -- perhaps a master bedroom originally.  The room was quite bright, because the sun was streaming in through the windows, which were intact but not boarded up.  There was something strange about them, however, and Toby went to take a closer look.  He walked around several blankets spread out on the floor which were covered with a number of different plants, most of which he didn't recognize.  Some looked like they had been picked yesterday and others were complete dry.  As Toby got closer to the window, he saw that a heavy green mesh had been put up in outside the windows, a little distance away from them.

While Toby was checking out the windows, Satchel pulled another thin cloth out of his bag and spread it on an empty spot on the floor.  He carefully placed the plants in his bundle on the cloth, giving them as much space as he could in between.  "Toby, could you hand me your bundle?," he asked.  Toby did, and Satchel finished filling up the space on the cloth.

Satchel then moved over to one of the cloths that was filled with dry plants.  "Could you help me push these towards the center?," he asked Toby.  In a couple minutes they had freed up about 6 inches on the top and bottom and a foot on the sides.  Satchel then folded the top and bottom down over the dried plants and asked Toby to hold them.  Satchel proceeded to fold the one side over and started to roll it into a bundle.  Satchel pulled two pieces of twine out of his bag, tied up the bundle, and stuck the whole thing back in.

"Thanks, Toby, you were a big help.  That is so much harder to do by myself."  Toby smiled.  Adults thanking him for anything was something he wasn't used to, but it felt natural coming from Satchel.

"The next thing I have to do is drop this off to be threshed.  You okay with meeting someone else, Toby?"

Toby shrugged and said, "Yeah, sure."

"Great!"  Satchel smiled.

Next part

No comments:

Post a Comment