Knitted sticks and stones made up the bridge over the Yahoola and in a way Lilly’s life. Both the bridge and Lilly were a delicate balanced work of art from afar, up close the bridge and Lilly were both in shambles. But even a slight disturbance, one too many loose sticks or one short paycheck, and the bridge and Lilly would be ruined, washed away in a rush of April showers and broken.
When the Yahoola bridge squeaked, Lilly lifted her nose.
“Just what I need!”
She glanced at the clock. Quarter to four. I’m gonna be late!
The hot paraffin had leveled, cooled to an opaque, sealing in the blueberry slurry she had poured in jam jars. She peeked at Yoyo and Travis, both old man and young boy were asleep in front of the TV. She wiped her hands on her worn jam-making towel, pushed open the screen door, and tossed the stained towel over her shoulder.
“No way in hell!” she whispered, watching an old Ford slink up the drive. She pulled a fleck of cooled splattered wax off her thigh, worked it into a ball, ready to run-off whoever was driving that Ford.
Lilly could see two occupants—a dude and a dog. She could tell by the way the dog’s tongue was wagging and the dude’s rubber-necking, checking out the blueberry farm, that they had not yet spotted her.
She knew the routine. Every year Yoyo would hire a man for the blueberry patch, but this year Yoyo would not be able to get the better of her. She would not allow him to hire another bum to work in the blueberry patch. The cost of a worker had been too much, both in pay, food, and Lilly’s frustration. The Ford, the dog, and the bum who was driving both, were as unwelcome as a wagon load of mummy berries.
She inhaled and hurried out of the cool shadows. Her sweaty hair flying like a race horse’s tail behind her, and she flagged the driver with her stained jam rag.
“Get out! Go!”
The dog yipped.
The man braked.
She yelled, “I don’t want no camper!” coming at the Ford. And when the vehicle rolled to a stop, she barged right into the driver’s window.
“Whoa! Ma’am! I found this on the gate—” the dude said, putting a damp ink stained paper plate in Lilly’s face.
The Ford predicted he would be dirty, bearded, and too crippled for the summer work at Sally’s Pick-Ur-Own blueberry farm. She faltered, taking the dude in—younger by a couple of decades, dark too-long hair, five-day stubble, dirty plaid shirt with the sleeves cut-off, beat-up ballcap.
She recovered fast enough to continue screaming before he could say anything. “I don’t care what you found! Get back across the Yahoola.” She nodded a sharp chin toward the bridge.
The Ford shimmied, sputtered, and died.
“I’m out of gas!” His crooked snarl of a smile finished off the Ford’s dying scene.
“Yeah! Right!” Lilly snatched the plate out of his fist, stumbling backward.“I’m pretty sure I know what this says!” She ripped it in two pieces with the same gusto as she would have used to rip the yellow pages in half.
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