To The Harvest God

It took Father a week to build him, if you don't count the planning and the drawing and the laying in of supplies. Mother kept us out of the way with activities and stern looks and the odd reproach. Don't go out there, he'll only shoo you off; you remember last year.

This year's giant was a marked improvement: all wire and scrap wood and brown butcher's paper, nearly thirty feet tall, feet planted and arms outstretched as if defending against an onrushing enemy.

When Father lit him, the flames coursed up his body and leaped from his head like a flood escaping the earth for the sky. We ate while he burned. It took him half a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich to crumple into a nondescript heap of fiery remains.

"There. It's summer now, all official and everything," Father said with a nod and a twinkle. "Go on, now."

And Away

Nine in the morning, tickets in breast pocket, change of clothes stuffed into briefcase, taxi hailed, time checked on phone lock screen, deep breath taken. The cab driver makes small talk about the weather, about politics, about traffic, and I half-hear and am only half-aware of my responses.

The terminal and the concourse and the gate areas are churning seas of humanity into which I wade fully-clothed. I speak politely but perfunctorily to the ticket agent, to the security officer, to the gate attendant.

I wonder if they know — or if they have guessed — that I won't be coming back.

By Iron Horse

I have decided to return to the country estate for my convalescence, dearest Mathilda, and should arrive there close behind this letter. I expect you to have a heaping plate of your famous lavender cookies ready for me when I arrive (get Harriet to help you if needed) and a pile of books picked out as I will immediately dragoon you into reading to me in the garden.

Do not tell mother I am coming as I would rather like to be a surprise (unless she was there when Carlton gave you this letter, in which case the jig is up.)

You will be proud to learn that I have been mentioned in dispatches, though I am only just hearing of it now as I was quite insensible while in hospital in France. There may even be a decoration to be had, perhaps even a VC, though of course one affects not to care about such things. The lads caught the worst of it as one might expect, but their morale is high, and should I be returned to the fighting I believe we may be done with this ugly business by winter.

See you soon, dearest sister.