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(Power by Joseph McFadden cont.)


Her vigil at the window has become an everyday event. She surveys the farm while working over the kitchen counter, and she lives through these hours, when Willard is home, with mounting dread. Afternoons, weather permitting, he dynamites. In the beginning he went to the fields, and in the ominous silence of those afternoons she would see another stump rising fifty feet straight up out of the earth, and a cloud of scattering debris and clods and mud and roots burst and turn high in the air like exploding fireworks, showering down on him and the children, all of them standing too close. "Oh, God!" she cries inside herself silently each time he sets off an explosion. Then the sound reaches the house, the flat blast and rumble, and the shock rattles the windows and dishes. After awhile the fumes drift up on the winds, and then the headache begins. She gets it too, but the children suffer the worst pains. They are closer. Snakes, cottonmouth moccasins and copperheads and a host of harmless others blasted out of the ground, plop down with the mud. Last year, one fell, stunned, and bounced off Little Will's hat, a big three foot fat-bodied moccasin.

And Willard is faithful in his intentions. He comes home regularly in midafternoons from his paying job ten miles away in town where he is the custodian at the Oxford Post Office (hours 6:00 to 2:00). He arrives humming some war tune or gospel hymn under his breath, a faraway look in his eye, his mind way off yonder, skidding the wheels when he stops in the dusty yard. Mabel knows the look, and even out of range she knows when he is humming, off dreaming, off key, while making himself believe the unlikely if not the impossible. He won't come in the house before going on to the task when he is plotting one of his projects, not even to change clothes, because she will have something to say about his ways. And the heat and dirt will soil another shirt and another pair of overalls, the nicer ones he wears to work at the post office. This gives her another set to scrub and iron.

She worries about the children ... what she would do if he killed himself blowing up things. He won't think about the possibility. He whistles or hums instead, bent on the success of this latest undertaking, imagining the results, the way he dreams.

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