Adam had been dilligently digging roots from a carelessly tilled plot at the edge of Bremer Creek
when the rain had begun to fall, and he remembered that he had left a few baskets of the valuable roots sitting out from a
previous load. On his ten-minute walk back to the Irvine farm house, he had seen the creek rise a significant amount, and
it had finally dissipated any hope he had of a short, quick spit.
Sera Irvine was seated in her small parlor when he carried the baskets two-at-a-time down to the
cellar. At each pass, she looked up politely, the thin and plentiful lines of her face drawing together in a pained smile.
When he had finished stowing away the thick roots, he approached the parlor door, wiping his dirty hands on his work pants
and returning her practiced expression.
"There are more than I first thought," he commented on the roots he had found. "It seems that
whatever man tried to farm that spot grew frustrated with its depth and moved on."
Sera rocked in her chair slowly, contemplating his conjecture. She spoke little, and usually let
her face do all of the talking. She seemed to be pleased that her employee had decided to do more work than he was asked,
and in essence had found a surplus of strong roots that she could boil into tea or cut into reeds for heavy stews.
"Did you bring them all in?" she finally asked, her warm smile doing little to mask her impatience.
"Yes ma'am," he had replied, equally impatient to be back at his work outside.
She stood in a series of rehearsed and careful movements, her posture remaining alligned and intent.
He was turning to leave her to herself when she asked him, "Would you mind going into town for me, Dear?"
He nodded unconsciously, then corrected himself to the specifics of her actual question and shook
his head. "No, Ma'am. What is it you are needing?"
Then, she had walked him to the door on her way into the kitchen- explaining her need for two
sacks of grass seedlings for the muddy plot to the South of the barn.
"I was thinking that I don't do enough for the townspeople," she began, her expectations surely
filled as Adam interrupted, arguing her constant virtue and kindness with the people. She smiled at his obedience and patted
his shoulder. "I'd like to offer my assistance in teaching the young children of the town their lessons. I think that empty
room in the back of the barn would be perfect, don't you?"
He didn't understand her desire to take on that extra responsibility, but nodded at her conceived
"So you would like me to pick up two sacks of grass seed so that the ground around the barn will
not be muddy, and so you can be a proper hostess and teacher for the children." She handed him an empty sack and offered him
her best smile of encouragement as he repeated her plan back to her.
"Yes. Here is the exact type I would like. Find two bags that look like this one at Frally Winter's
shop- the Bittersweet Crossing. Frally will not ask you for money if you tell her it is for Lile. We can pay her when Lile
returns with the new fowl."
"Yes ma'am," he repeated for what seemed like the hundredth time that day, letting himself out
into the stabbing rain and getting quickly on his way.
Now, as he passed the Sun House and the street was narrowing, Adam knew to begin looking for the
Crossing. The stores in the square were all so much alike, and it was only a rare day when he could be pulled from his work
to visit one. He had complied with Mistress Irvine's request out of his usual sense of duty, and had done so with obedient
nods and dialogue. As usual, it left him feeling slightly second-hand... he was grateful for the chance to get away for a
while. He could be assured that the pantomime would continue as soon as he returned with her seed.
The flowers he saw tipping their heads through the small back gate of the Sun House garden were
some of the brightest he'd ever seen. He knew that almost all hours of the day there were women, young and old, tending that
garden and everything therein. Though he would never admit it to anyone else, he often wondered what the big deal was about
a garden hidden from sight- its valuable innards likely going to waste. Some of the flowers and trees rumored to be kept there
had great medicinal value, and so considered sacred and not to be tampered with.
The square was more or less empty of people, and Adam nearly fell out of his boots when he saw
a stirring in the pile of grain sacks next to the door of the Bittersweet Crossing. Expecting a stray cat, he was surprised
to see the bony arm of a child emerge from the pile into a standing posture. Some of what he had seen as grain sacks were
actually her ragged clothes. A few other people sat sprawled on the plank walkway, leaning against the shops and out of the
rain. They all had clothing made of discarded and worn materials; one even seemed to have rotting skin on his thin legs. These
are the people, Adam thought to himself before entering Frally Winter's shop, that Mistress Irvine should have in her