Thort came home to his wife and told her he’d been fired. Evanor had had to quit her job at the factory to stay at home with Lem because there was no one else to care for him. There was no other work in the village for Thort besides the mine.
He could have stayed home with Lem while Evanor went to work as a seamstress but there wouldn’t have been enough wages to survive on. Besides that, Thort didn’t have the soft kind of intimacy with Lem that Evanor seemed to have. Thort loved Lem but it was a gruff sort of love. It was as though Evanor and Lem shared a single heartbeat.
“We have to leave,” Thort said finally. “There’s nothing left for us here.”
“I know,” Evanor said and forced a smile on her face. “It will work out for the best. You’ll see. We’ll make a new beginning.”
Thort picked up her thread of hope. “Maybe we’ll leave this grey and dreary sector altogether. I hear there’s farming work to be done over in Sector 87. It’d be nice to breathe fresh air and see a bit of blue sky … to let the sun warm my sore bones.”
Lem was also caught up in this net of hope. He said with a big smile and eyes like search lights scanning his parents’ faces, “Maybe I’ll find some friends who’ll play with me!”
Then it was decided. Thort used most of his wages to purchase a wooden cart with decent wheels and axles to transport their few belongings. Their house belonged to the mining company so there was not much they could convert to money or barter script, so a drac to pull the cart was out of the question. Thort would have to pull it himself. Thort removed the fiddle and bow from the pegs in the wall. Lem’s eyes locked onto Thort’s, but he looked away saying, “I’m sorry Lem. We’ll need the money to eat.”
Lem said nothing but imagined the scales running parallel in four keys all the way up to a note that nobody else could hear. Thort walked out the door with the fiddle and bow under his arm.
When Thort returned empty-handed, he explained to no one in particular that he was only able to get back half what he’d paid for it.
Evanor said, “That’s alright. We’ll get by. Don’t you worry.”
The rain had been falling steadily for the last several days. The winds whistled through the naked branches of the trees along the row of similar houses. Thort had rigged an oil-soaked blanket over the cart to protect their cartons of food and clothing. He picked Lem up easily, swung him over the side board of the wagon, and told him to sit under the blanket to keep dry. It would be hard enough to pull the wagon through the mud of the road so Evanor walked beside Thort as he trudged along gripping the thick handles of the wagon meant for drac pulling.
They didn’t look back or anywhere but forward as they advanced up the row road past Dorca and Javid’s house and the houses of other neighbors who watched them from heartless windows. Thort pulled the wagon past the Church of God’s Forsaken in the middle of the village. He pulled it past the midwife’s cabin and then the last house on the outskirts of the village. The ruts in the muddy road crisscrossed and deepened from lack of maintenance and the pulling became more difficult.
The daylight was ebbing. Thort pulled the wagon off the road behind a clump of young skagwood trees. Thort helped Evanor climb into the wagon and slip under the oiled blanket with Lem. Then he climbed into the wagon and slipped under the blanket so that Lem was warmed and secure between them. Thort reached into one of the food cartons and pulled out a half loaf of bread Evanor had baked that morning. He tore off hunks for Lem and Evanor, and a small piece for himself. They chewed slowly in silence contemplating, each according to his own ability, the path that lay ahead of them.
The pain in his shoulders and legs overlaid the other pains from the brawl at the tavern two nights ago. The unfamiliar sounds of the forest also made it difficult for Thort to drift off to sleep. What would be tomorrow? He tried to calculate how far he could spread their meager food supply…
Thick rain drops thrummed and thumped the oiled blanket over their heads. Soon Thort slipped into a blessed dreamless sleep beside the soft snoring of his wife and child.