“He HERE! He HERE!” Andy was beside himself, but Cessily, in her haste to get outside, simply mowed her brother down; unfazed, Andy popped up and ran after her. He had no hope of catching up, but with each passing year the gaps that separated them—all save intellect—narrowed.
The screen door slammed behind the children before Claudia could catch it; now she nudged it open with her right hand while she wiped the left against her apron. She could see the dust billowing up from the packed dirt in the drive before she heard the truck engine; it was a shiny, new machine, but looked oddly top-heavy resting on its narrow wheels, like a gentle nudge could upend it. To the children it was simply magical, like any motor car—the invention that already promised to change the world at a dizzying pace as yet unbeknownst to this pair whose purview was still so narrow. The Freeman children saw the occasional car or truck rumbling down the road on Sundays when they walked to church, but spent the balance of their days living a life sheltered by household chores, a modicum of schoolwork, and in what moments remained, close scrutiny of the hillside meadow directly behind the house, and the woods around it. Already they knew the land’s every contour, as surely as their senses had forgotten the pungent fishy stench that wafted up from the Tennessee River below it after a heavy storm, so familiar was it to them. The flower truck suggested a brave new world beyond their borders, filled with mystery and excitement, even if their daddy saw it solely as an indispensable tool for the commerce that put food on his family’s table.
Outside the house, scores of metal buckets waited in rows, filled with water but spilling over with daffodils, separated neatly by type—the big, yellow trumpet daffodils, the smaller ones with white or yellow petals and minuscule cups in fiery orange, and even the double daffodils, so full of joy there was no room inside their cups for the embarrassment of flowery folds exploding out of them. Mr. Hope gingerly backed in his truck and cut the engine as it rolled to a stop; hopping out, he pulled work gloves onto his hands and ruffed up the top of Andy’s head, and turning to Cessily, bowed dramatically and announced with royal affectation, “The carriage is ready for the queen and the young prince!” The children collapsed in giggles, but knew this was their signal to hop into the cab and play while their father and Mr. Hope loaded the flowers.
The two men worked quickly and efficiently transferring the long stems from the buckets into boxes and wood bushels; in spite of this early hour the temperature was already climbing and humidity hanging in the air around them. The day would be hot. Before they pulled out and started the long journey into town, Claudia would have finished packing food for the road and then implored the children to get out of the way and come inside; she would have to beg them more than once.