In a rhombus of chaff and sunlight perched a gray-haired, old man on a metal stool, his eyes were closed and his head bowed reverently, like some parody of a backwoods preacher in his dusty coveralls and open palms resting on a sprawling conveyor contraption as if communing with the very soul of the beast.
Daddy? Edith said. She was standing at the barn door. Herself in a swirl of sunbeam and dust motes. Daddy? He looked at her. Please listen to me, she told him. I am listening, he said. Edith pointed. Then look at her.
Outside the barn door in the gravel stood a young girl with her two migrant parents. The girl was clutching a Hello Kitty lunch box in one hand and in the other, crushed to her chest, a stuffed panda bear. She was watching the two of them argue while her mother and father stole worried glances from one another. She belongs in school, Edith said, not the back seat of a car.
You think I dont know that? her father said. He took a rag from the pocket of his overalls and wiped his hands.
Then how is it that’s where I found her?
A yellow barn cat sidled up next to Edith and rubbed it’s head against her leg and she shooed it away with her boot. She looked at her father. Little girls belong in school, she said. Period. End of discussion. You know that. So does Miguel.
Leave him out of it, Frank said. Miguel has his hands full.
Of course he does. We all do. It’s the middle of harvest. But, Jesus, what if she’d gotten hurt or wandered off?
The phone buzzed in Edith’s hand and she looked at it and looked back at her father. There’s a card on the counter, she said. For John David. Please sign it and drop it in the mail. Preferably before the carrier comes.
A card for what?
For John David.
Benji’s birthday party.
Why not just call him?
Edith rested both hands on her hips. Do you ever listen to anything I say? His number doesn’t work anymore. He must’ve changed it or something or discontinued the service, I dont know. Just sign it, will you. And get it in the mail today.
Have you tried the number in my phone?
Of course I tried it. I’m the one who put it in there. The phone buzzed again in her hand and she silenced it and looked at him and said, Can you please just do as I ask? Benji really wants him to be here. Now, what time are you leaving this morning?