by Gregory Adams

Something is wrong on the Lemmon farm—and it's not staying there.

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



As the road curved and the last, lonely post of the split-rail fence that had once marked the borders of the Lemmon Farm came into sight, Jessup was surprised to see that there were no animals waiting to meet him.

Jessup disliked being sent to the Lemmon Farmhe disliked it immensely.

The bright September sun, shining down from a sparkling blue sky, did nothing to ease his trepidation, and he had dawdled in a way that would have incensed his father, had Ronald Blair been there to see his son picking at the remains of summer wildflowers, or climbing the dead and leaning lightning-struck oak that crowded the county road.

But Ronald Blair was not there, and in his idyll Jessup wondered if his father found the Lemmon farm as distasteful as he did. The Lemmon farm was badbad like a fallen apple swarmed with summer hornets, bad like a loose hog gone feral. Jessup Blair was only eleven years old and he understood that the Lemmon farm was not at all like the other farms that speckled the countryside of Burberry County, Maine.

He supposed that the wrongness of the Lemmon farm had not escaped his parents, but the difference was that the strangeness of the place did not frighten them. Jessup's father had fought in the Great War, and nothing frightened him. Jessup knew that his father wanted the same for him, and he suspected that this errand was another effort to toughen him up.

But for Jessup fear was not so easily dismissed by reason, and it was with dragging steps that he let his feet carry him to the post where the county road and the Lemmon Farm met. The lack of any Lemmon livestock did little to relive his anxiety.

There were always Lemmon animals standing by the post, watching the county road like sentries. Sometimes there would be a Lemmon goose, or once of the dozens of Lemmon dogs or even a solitary Lemmon sheep, the animal's thick, unsheared wool dragging on the ground. Instead Grainger Lemmon, youngest of the Lemmon children, stood beside the post, leaning forward on his rough wooden crutch and watching Jessup as he made his slow-footed way towards the farm.

Jessup shored himself up for their meeting, for while the youngest of the Lemmon children was not troubling in the same way that many of the Lemmon livestock were, neither was Grainger normal. Jessup's parents had explained to him that Grainger was deformed, and not by birth, but by harm. The child deserved pity, they said, and not fear.

So Jessup hid the fear he felt at the sight of Grainger's twisted forma thing he was fast learning to do, for his father had no patience for that emotion. Standing straight and true, Jessup greeted his neighbor and explained his reason for coming. In his slurred, croaking voice, Grainger returned the greeting and told Jessup that his own father was in the barn, and turned to lead the way.

The boys set off together in silence, Grainger making good speed on his crutch and one good leg. Jessup had long ago given up the idea of making friends with Grainger, although the boys were close in age and lived on neighboring farms. The Lemmons were private people, who discouraged casual visits to their farm. This disappointed Jessup, despite his discomfort at Grainger's physical condition. His father had kept him back from school this year, saying that Jessup had learned enough from books and needed to study practical farming now. This meant Jessup would only see boys his own age at church on Sundays. Also Jessup knew that Grainger's father, Emmett, was college educated. Jessup often wondered what Grainger might have learned from his own father that he himself might never know.

The boys followed the narrow cart path that bisected the Lemmon farm, through the ragged Lemmon fields, past the dilapidated Lemmon farmhouse that squatted atop a small rise like a stunted church. Jessup saw many Lemmon animalschickens, sheep and even a horsewandering the farm, going where they pleased, or lazing beside the paths that sprung from the main trail in many branches. All of the Lemmon livestock seemed to glare at him, and the attention of the shabby Lemmon animals made Jessup so uneasy that he began whispering prayers below his breath.

The boys soon arrived at the Lemmon barn, a massive, decaying building that from a distance resembled a ship sinking in a sea of shabby corn. Smoke and steam billowed out of the gaps in the rough walls, and a tremendous cacophony of grunts and wails could be heard within. Jessup understood at once what was happening inside: the autumn slaughter of the spring hogs, bloody, noisome business that always gave Jessup nightmares, and he dreaded the approach of the chore at his own farm.

To Jessup's surprise, Grainger rapped on the door of the barn, as one might the front door of a house. At once, the grunting and the squealing ceased. Grainger waited a brief moment, seeming to sweat as the steam that drifted steadily through the planks condensed on his skin and clothes, before he took the edge of the barn door in his shriveled hand, and swung it wide.

Jessup had expected to find the barn arranged for slaughterlong iron scalding troughs hung over glowing coals, men stripped to the waist wielding heavy stunning bars or long knives, and nervous hogs penned up together, waiting their turn. There would be at least one hog hung up by its rear legs, swinging headfirst over an iron tub filled with blood from the animal's cut throat.

But the interior of the Lemmon barn offered nothing of the sort. There was a trough of hot water, slung above a smoking brazier, as Jessup expected. There was even a hog in the trough. But the hog was not dead. Rather, the animal stood in the steaming water and stared intently at Jessup, its dark eyes puffed to slits by the abundance of flesh it wore. Other hogs were roaming freely about the barn. In fact, Jessup could see that the far door of the barn was open, allowing the animals to come and to go as they pleased.

Emmett Lemmon stood just behind the tub, his overalls undone and the sleeves of his long underwear pushed back to the elbows, a stiff-bristled brush in one hand, and an expression of expectation on his thin face.

"Can I help you?" Emmett Lemmon asked, his voice snapping Jessup out of his confused trance. Grainger had already disappeared into the steam and smoke, picking his way carefully through the gathered hogs.

"My father sent me to come to see if you want to borrow the haying rake again this season," Jessup said, his shameful worry of unpenned animals clear in his voice. Emmett considered Jessup for a long moment and said nothing. The silence dragged out for so long that Jessup thought Mr. Lemmon might be taking issue with his manners, and added, "If it pleases you, sir," to his request.

"The hay rake?" Emmett asked. Jessup nodded.

The hogs, about a dozen of them, exploded into a chorus of grunts and cries, and then fell once more into silence. Grainger's misshapen frame began to twitch nervously. The hog in the tub, still glaring over the rim at Jessup, coughed out an abrupt grunt, and the other animals fell silent.

"Yes," Emmett said, when the hogs had quieted. "We'll be needing that rake, if you're already through with it." He paused to absent-mindedly scratch the back of his neck with the stiff-bristled brush. "Your Pa will want something in way of payment, I don't doubt." Jessup nodded. The hog in the tub, a massive, black-backed Poland-China Boar, considered Jessup with an almost appraising eye, and then uttered another short cough of a grunt. The other hogs took up the call, sounding like a roomful of hoarse men speaking all at once.

"Quiet!" Emmett Lemmon shouted at the top of voice, as if he expected hogs to understand, but of course the animals kept on squealing and grunting without a slip in volume. Jessup watched Emmett Lemmon's face darken with frustration and anger. The farmer moved to step around the tub, dropping the brush to the straw-covered floor and fastening his overalls as he came. As he passed the front of the tub, the large boar soaking inside turned its head and clamped its jaws down on Emmett Lemmon's left hand.

Emmett Lemmon screamed and tugged at his captured hand with all of his strength, but the hog kept its grip. At the sight of his father's distress, Grainger hobbled forward from his corner and savagely bit the boar's ear. The hog squealed in pain, releasing Emmett's fingers. The farmer stuffed his bleeding hand beneath his armpit, and, stepping quickly forward with his good hand on Jessup's shoulder, shoved the boy out of the barn.

As Emmett Lemmon closed the door behind them, Jessup heard the iron trough crash to the ground as the hog inside freed itself. He spun and caught a quick glimpse of Grainger being driven to the ground by several of the angry hogs. Then the water from the trough reached the fire, raising billows of white steam that obscured Jessup's view. Emmett Lemmon quickly closed the barn doors and kneeled beside Jessup.

"Jessup, lad, do as I tell you," Emmett said, his voice coming in a rush. "I need"

The loud creaking of the barn door swinging open interrupted him. Emmett jumped at once to his feet and stepped away from Jessup, leaving the boy standing alone in the middle of the path.

The hogs stood motionless along the doorway, their breaths coalescing into a great cloud of vapor above their heads, staring out at them. The whole world had gone suddenly silent.

"Tell your father this, then," Emmett Lemmon said in a loud, clear voice. "In return for use of his haying rake, I will provide him with one boar of my finest stock, to be slaughtered or bred as he sees fit." As the farmer spoke, Jessup risked a glance towards the barn, and saw Grainger's pale yellow eye fixed to the crack in the hinges of the door. The eye, visible but for an instant, squinted nervously through a pall of blood, and then disappeared into shadow. "Is that clear, then?" Emmett Lemmon asked.

Jessup, too frightened and confused to speak, nodded.

"Well then," Emmett Lemmon said. "Do I need to show you the way back to your own property?" Jessup shook his head, and turned back towards the path that Grainger had led him down.

Jessup became lost, of course, in the strange and featureless roll of the Lemmon fields, and it was some time before he discovered the broad strip of county road that separated the Lemmon farm from his own. He had time in his wanderings to ponder that while he saw no hay in any of the Lemmon's fields, he did see a perfectly good hay rake tucked away behind a sagging shed.

* * *

The Lemmons collected the Blair hay rake the next day. A week later when Jessup again crossed the county road to collect the piglet owed in payment, Grainger was once again waiting at the post. Jessup hadn't seen Grainger since the hogs had set upon him, and he wasn't surprised that the boy had his right arm up in a sling and wore a splint on his good leg. A full-grown hog might go more than three hundred pounds, and, from what Jessup had glimpsed, he believed a dozen or more had attacked Grainger Lemmon. That the boy was alive at all was far more of a surprise than the sling. Grainger's usual twisted appearance masked any other wounds or traces of the attack. Remembering his manners, Jessup stopped staring at his neighbor and waved. Grainger, who was unable to return the gesture, dipped his misshapen head in reply.

"Come for the boar, have you?" Grainger asked. Jessup said that he had. "Well, come up to the house, then, and collect it." Hogs in the house? thought Jessup. The only way a pig would come into Jessup's mother's house, regardless of that animal's age, was butchered and smoked.

Grainger led Jessup to the Lemmon's peeling, ramshackle farmhouse. The porch roof was held in place by thick beams stuck onto the overgrown lawn, and the front door, Jessup was surprised to see, had been taken off of its hinges.

The condition of the front parlor of the Lemmon house was such that Jessup, an orderly, meticulous boy, nearly swooned. The floor was caked with dirt, and what furniture there was, was broken and covered in animal hair. Some of the chairs had what looked to be bird droppings smeared on their backs. Even the ceilings were covered with flyspecks and spatters of filth. Jessup could see that all of the doors had been taken from their hinges, allowing the wind to carry leaves and other rubbish throughout the house.

A curtain hung in the door that separated the parlor from the remainder of the house. Motioning for Jessup to wait, Grainger hobbled into the next room, allowing the curtain to fall closed behind him. At once, a bellow of grunts and rough shouting erupted from behind the curtain. The noise of it reminded Jessup of Russian villains he had heard on various radio programs. He wonderedand not for the first timeif perhaps the Lemmons were communists.

After several minutes Emmett Lemmon emerged from behind the curtain, holding a small white piglet wrapped in a dirty towel in the crook of one elbow. There was a look of fear or even panic on Emmett Lemmon's face as he leaned in close to Jessup. "Tell your father," he said, speaking in a whisper as he handed Jessup the piglet as if it were an infant, "that we need to talk, about several matters." As Jessup took the piglet, Emmett Lemmon slid a small slip of paper from the folds of his bandage on his right hand, and pressed the note firmly into Jessup's palm. The piglet began to squeal, its tiny black eyes screwed up and fixed upon Emmett Lemmon. "Now take your pig and go," Emmett said, rising to his full height and pointing at the doorway that had no door.

* * *

The animal was pure white, with clever, intelligent eyes. Jessup thought the piglet demonstrated a wide range of expression for such a little pig. It was certainly calm for such a young animal. Despite having been only recently weaned from its mother, and just separated from its littermates, the piglet exhibited no signs of distress.

Jessup carried the piglet to his barn, where his father was already at work building a new pen for the piglet. "Mr. Lemmon sent a note," Jessup told his father.

"Did he?" Ronald Blair asked as he took the piglet from his son. He raised the small animal up an examined it. The boarling looked back at him with a steady eye. "Quiet little nip of bacon, isn't he?" Jessup's father said.

Jessup agreed. The piglet hadn't so much as squealed since he had taken it from Emmett Lemmon.

"Well, we'll look at Mr. Lemmon's note later. There are chores to be done before dinner. Fetch a bucket and a bowl, slush him some pellets and water, along with some of those vitamins we've been giving the breeding sow. Then come and help me feed out the rest of the stock." He patted Jessup on the back. "Come on, son. Step to."

Jessup set the piglet down in its new pen, where it would be protected from the larger hogs born in the spring. The little boarling snuffed disdainfully at its new home and looked up at his human masters with that same cockeyed smirk that all of the Lemmon hogs seemed to wear.

In another hour, they had the cattle, hogs, and sheep all fed and closed in for the night. Jessup's last chore was to close the pop holes of the hen house and to check for any eggs. Jessup gathered what eggs there were, checked the water and grain supply, and counted the chickens. Confused, he counted them again. There were seventeen mature birds, where yesterday there had been fifteen. He counted once more, and identified the two newcomers: a pair of thin, dark hens with the scaly ragged look of Lemmon stock. One of the Lemmon hens was awake, and she considered Jessup with a calculating eye. Feeling a little nervous, Jessup stepped back out into the gathering night.

* * *

By the time Jessup reached the farmhouse, his father was already seated at the dinner table, his overalls undone, and the sleeves of his flannel shirt shoved up past his thick forearms. Jessup's mother was at the stove, tailoring the gas flame beneath the heavy iron pot of stew. Jessup wanted to mention the note right away but his mother told him to go wash his hands. When Jessup returned to the table, there was a bowl of thick stew waiting at his place.

Jessup's father asked how the hens were laying, and Jessup told him of the two Lemmon hens had joined the flock. His father smiled. "First a hog and now two hens," he said while blowing on a pale wedge of stewed potato stuck on his fork. "The Lemmons are generous neighbors. That boar should bring us a few litters of good chuffy gilts come spring."

"We must tell the Lemmons of the hens," Jessup's mother said. "That they don't pen up their stock is nothing for us to gain by." Her husband reluctantly agreed. "It is natural for their animals to wander, however. The Lemmons practice such a strange method of farming," she said.

"Emmett Lemmon's an eccentric man, I will say that of him." Jessup's father said. "Doesn't take to the typical notions of farming. Doesn't even call it farming. Calls it an experiment." He pronounced the word with evident distaste. "Something about making the animals partners in the keeping of the earth, or some such nonsense." Jessup's father paused to strain the black waters of his stew through his the tines fork, until he discovered a thick cube of beef. He stabbed it, and raised it from the broth. "Well, I think the last ten years or so that he's been at it, he's done more learning that teaching." He shoved the steaming beef into his mouth. "If I can say so without sounding too high and mighty, what Emmett is working towards lies outside of God's plan."

"All things are within God's plan," Jessup's mother said, serving her husband more stew.

"Did God plan for Grainger Lemmon?"

"Ronald Blair!" Jessup's mother exclaimed, dropping the ladle back into the pan with a clatter. "You will not say such things, not at my table." Jessup's mother composed herself, and lowered her voice. "The lad suffered an accident, is all. A terrible accident. That we have had the grace to be spared such tragedy is a blessing we should not belittle with such talk."

"In 1926, Emmett Lemmon came to that farm with two sons and a wife," Ronald Blair said, his dinner forgotten in the importance of the point he was about to make. "Now, after ten years, all that's left are himself, and that youngest boy of his. The rest either left him, or, as in his oldest son's case, are buried in the yard of a church that Mr. Lemmon himself is too well educated to attend. That such misfortunes have not come upon our household is, I will not deny, good reason to turn towards our neighbor with the kindness of Christian charity." He paused to cut himself a slab of bread with a long silver knife. "But Emmett's condition is no accident. A man gets what he works towards. Emmett Lemmon has been working towards misery and disaster most of his grown life."

"He sent a note." Jessup said. "Mr. Lemmon sent a note with the piglet."

Jessup's father didn't look up as he smeared butter across the bread with the same sharp knife. "Read it, then."

Jessup hitched his chair back from the table and fished into his pocket for the note. He unfolded the paper. "Help," he said.

"Do you need help reading it?" his mother asked.

"I can read it," Jessup replied. "I just did. It says 'Help', is all. Maybe a little bit after meant to say 'Me'."

His father stood, and took the note from Jessup's hand. He squinted as he noticed the dark stains that covered the paper. "What's gotten all over it?" Jessup's father asked.

"Blood, I think," Jessup said. "One of Mr. Lemmon's hogs bit him. He keeps them in the house."

Ronald Blair smiled at his wife, and said nothing.

* * *

By the end of November, the behavior of all of the pigs on the Blair farm had changed. Where before the animals had clustered aggressively at the pens, squealing and shoving at the troughs to get at the pellets and slop, the pigs were now quieter, almost restrained. An eerie sense of calm attended feeding time. Equally peculiar, Lemmon stock began to wander onto Blair property with greater frequencyat first the two hens, then a goose and a turkey, and finally even sheep. The Blair's two farm dogs, Sampson and Damascus, would run the interlopers off, but in early December, the two dogs disappeared.

By Christmas, all of the animals on the Blair farmthe sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, horses and geesehad taken on the same disturbing manner that the pigs had first demonstrated. It seemed to Jessup to be almost an attitude of waiting.

Meanwhile, the Lemmon hog grew, gaining as much as a pound and a half every day. Jessup's father set a date to slaughter the last four gilts left from the spring litter, and the mild winter turned cold. The wind came constantly from the northeast, and clouds threatening heavy snow gathered in the sky above the farm.

* * *

On a morning in early January, when the snow of a Nor'easter had just begun, Jessup's father went across to the Lemmon farm, and didn't come back.

Ronald Blair had been planning the trip for a few days. At church the previous Sunday, Jessup had overheard his father and a neighbor discuss the strange, almost unnatural silences that had infected their livestock this winter. Jessup's father had been more than a little surprised to learn that Emmett Lemmon had also traded his other neighbor a boarling for the use of their hay rake. Determined to learn what was his neighbor was up to, Jessup's father had promised to cross the county road, and discuss the odd goings-on with his neighbor.

The following Sunday, Ronald Blair changed out of his church clothes, and, saying that he would be home by lunch, walked over to the Lemmon farm. Jessup did the chores alone that morning, and then trudged back through the deepening snow to the house, to take lunch with his mother. She set a plate out for Jessup's father, but he did not arrive.

Jessup waited for him, reading the family bible until it was time to do the afternoon chores, and then he did these, once more in the falling snow, once more alone. The snow continued to fall, drifting against the fences, and filling his footprints almost as soon as his boot had pulled free.

* * *

By dinnertime, Jessup's mother had become more concerned for her husband. Neither the Blairs nor the Lemmons had telephones, so there seemed to be nothing to do but wait. Also to consider was that Ronald Blair was not the sort of man who would take kindly to being hurried by his wife and son, if he had taken to talking, or was delayed by helping his neighbor in some chore.

The sky had been dark all day, and when the sun quit after just five hours of weak radiance, the world fell to black. Peering out of the parlor window, Jessup could only just see the end of the front porch. Snow clung to the railings and completely covered most of the deck. He turned in the chair when he heard his mother enter the room. She was holding Jessup's coat, gloves, and snowshoes in her hand.

* * *

Jessup found his father just past the post that marked the Lemmon's property line.

The night was the blackest that Jessup had ever seen. The wind was against him, and the blowing snow hissed along the drifts. Jessup was wrapped in nearly every piece of clothing he owned, and he brought the driving stick with him, using it both as a cane and as a probe with which to check the depth of drifts.

As he neared the Lemmon Farm, Jessup almost stepped on his father, who lay huddled in the snow. There were animal tracks all around him, and patches of snow were black with blood. A Lemmon dog, shot dead, lay steaming in a snow bank. Ronald Blair sat nearby, nearly covered in snow, a shotgun in his hands. Emmett Lemmon, his face blue, lay nearby, unconscious, or dying, but not dead. Even in the poor light Jessup could see the swirls of condensed breath that proved Emmett Lemmon still lived.

"Pa!" Jessup shouted. The wind snatched the words from his mouth even as he formed them. Ronald Blair turned his head, and Jessup nearly collapsed in the snow at the sight of his father's face. His father was wounded, perhaps permanently disfigured. One clear gray eye peered up at him; the other was closed or perhaps gone altogether, hidden behind a caul of blood and ice. With a deliberate manner, Ronald Blair raised a gloved finger to his lips. Jessup did not call again, but shuffled as quickly as he could to his father's side. Jessup's father took hold of the driving stick, and raised himself up with it. The wind howled around them, and carried with it grunts and growls, half-human moans and animal murmurs.

Ronald Blair broke the shotgun, dropped the spent shells into the snow, and drove two fresh twenty-gauge rounds into the breech. He then handed the gun to Jessup. "Lead us back to the house." Jessup's father said while raising Emmett up on his shoulder, and using the driving stick as a cane. "Shoot anything that comes near. Fire one barrel at a time. Squeeze the trigger. Don't rush it." Jessup looked at the gun in his hands, heavy and cold, and then up at his father. "Go on," his father said. "Step to."

* * *

Jessup's mother stood waiting for them in the doorway. Jessup's father had stumbled several times, and once Jessup had slapped the butt of the shotgun to his shoulder at a noise that turned out to be their own front gate twisting in the storm, but otherwise they had traveled unmolested. Jessup's mother ran out and took Emmett Lemmon from her husband's shoulder. She was asking what happened, when Jessup noticed a light far off down the field. He recognized that the barn door was open. He could see the glow of the lantern they had hung above the Lemmon hog's pen to keep the piglet warm. "Pa, look! Someone's been in the barn!" He pointed with the shotgun, and his father took it from him. "In the house," his father ordered. "Lock the door."

Working together, the Blairs brought their neighbor into the parlor, and set him before the fire. Jessup's father held the shotgun in the crook of one arm, while he dug through the pocket of his overalls. He took out his key chain, and handed it to Jessup. "I want you to go into the gun cabinet. The key's this one, here," he said, dangling the chain by a single key. "Unlock it, and bring me the rifles and shotguns. Bring all of the bullets and shells as well. Careful with the shotguns, don't scratch them." As Jessup left the room, he heard Emmett Lemmon laughthe first sound the farmer had made since Jessup had discovered him in the snow.

When Jessup returned minutes later, his arms full of guns as if they were cordwood, his mother and father were pushing all of the furniture against the front door.

"That won't work," Emmett Lemmon said. He was pitched out on the floor in front of the woodburning stove. His arms fluttered weakly, his big hands flapping at the air like wounded birds. Ice and snow melted off him, running in thin streams down into the parlor carpet. "They're too smart for that. And too strong. That table won't stop a grown boar."

"They'll not enter into this house," Jessup's father said. His face, now free of ice, looked more terrible than before. His cheek had been torn open, and blood was caked upon his scalp, but Jessup was relieved to see that both of his father's eyes were still there. "Well, set them down," his father said, motioning towards the guns. "Go and fetch the rest. I want all of them, the black powder rig, and the pistols, all of them. And all the ammunition." Jessup's father stooped and picked up the carbine he had brought back from the War. Despite his injuries, he loaded the weapon with a grace that amazed his son. Jessup ran for the other guns.

When he returned with another armful of firearms, his father and mother were nearly finished loading the guns from his first trip. Emmett Lemmon remained on the floor, not moving.

"They made him trade the piglets," Jessup heard his father say to his mother. "The piglets were born with the sense he had taught the others. The piglets, and the hens, were sent out to corrupt our own animals, to teach them. They had already killed the wife, and were holding the boy prisoner."

Jessup's mother suddenly looked up from the Winchester she was loading. "Grainger! Lord have mercy, where is Grainger?"

"The Lord should have no trouble looking over the boy now," Ronald Blair said. "The animals killed him. Rather, he let himself get killed, when he brought me the shotgun."

There was a sudden crash. The table they had wedged against the front door jumped six inches across the floor, but the lock and deadbolt held. Jessup's father shoved the table back into place, and stacked a chair on top of it. "Is that all the guns, Jessup?" he asked. Jessup said that it was. There was another crash, from another room. The air in the parlor went cold with a breath of wind through the open kitchen door. "I want one more thing," Ronald Blair told his son, as he handed him a loaded double-barrel shotgun. "Fetch me the bible, from the study. Go quick!"

Emmett Lemmon laughed again. "And God blessed them," he said, speaking up into the air, his arm flung across his eyes and a broad, sinister smile on his lips. "And God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

In answer, a horrible voice, born of no human throat, blew in with the wind through the kitchen doorway. "And by thy sword shalt thou live, and it shall come to pass when THOU shalt have the DOMINION, that THOU shalt BREAK his yoke from off thy NECK!" There followed the sound of hooves on the hard tiles, and grunts like laughter. Jessup, nearest to the door that joined kitchen and parlor, took two quick steps towards it, and swung it closed. He heard the latch click. There was no lock.

"I taught them that," Emmett said. "How to speak as men do, how to read words and to understand them. It took me years, but I taught them." Jessup felt the door shudder as something heavy struck it from the far side. He turned and looked at his father. The door rocked again.

"They never could figure out doorknobs, though," Emmett Lemon said. "No thumbs." Ronald waved his son away from the door.

Jessup joined his parents with their backs to the wall, and watched as his mother and father brought their shotguns to their shoulders. Jessup did the same. The fear he was expecting still had not returned. He was instead borne up by a feeling of purpose, the same instinct, he realized, that his father felt every waking moment. The next few hours, live or die, would be nothing more or less than another chore, a thing he must do to keep the land God had given them. He would defend his home with the same purposeful calm he demonstrated every day in caring for it, for the duties were one in the same.

Jessup exhaled, and felt his heart slow.

"The first thing I taught them was the bible," Emmett said, as the door was struck again. "But I do believe that they interpret it somewhat differently than us."

Emmett Lemmon continued to speak, but the sound of his voice was lost in the sudden crash of the door, and the thunder of gunfire.




Copyright © 2008 Gregory Adams

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Gregory Adams lives and writes in Roslindale, Massachusetts.

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