Looking at the stack of chopped wood, he smiled sadly. Two years ago he would never have dreamed he’d be here, chopping wood for food and a dry place to sleep. He shook his head at his thoughts, his shaggy, ill-cut black hair falling unevenly across his forehead. Two years. It seemed like forever.
Two years earlier, he had lived with his parents and baby brother on their small farm up north. His parents worked hard to put food on the table and to pay off the farm. Philip’s main job was to watch baby Benjamin while his mother helped his father in their small field. When Benjamin fell sick, Philip helped his father clear the old stalks and rocks from the soil while his mother nursed the baby. He helped his father carefully plant the winter wheat and barley for harvest in the spring.
As autumn slipped into winter, Benjamin hadn’t gotten better. His tiny body burned with fever. Those last few days when Philip held him, the heat coming from Benjamin threatened to slowly engulf him like the embers of a dying fire.
Then one day, the heat drained from Benjamin’s body, and cold took its place. Philip didn’t understand at first why his mother and father cried. For days they’d waited for the fever to leave, and finally it had. Then he noticed the stillness of Benjamin’s body. His small chest didn’t rise and fall; he wasn’t breathing. Along with the heat, life had also left the tiny body.
They buried Benjamin under a layer of straw in the small ditch next to the cottage, dressed in his little clothes, his body wrapped tightly in a blanket. Philip wept openly beside his parents, not ashamed to show his grief. Unknown to him then, it was just the beginning.
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