The Waterwheel

Juniper branches brushed their legs, and darkness was coming. Smoke wafted, a sweet burning like pine smoke drifting through a chimney into the air. As Corin and his brother, Jacob, walked on, the smell thickened, and Corin figured the house wasn’t far. They would crest a rise or go around a bend and find it squat in the trees like some hermitage anchored to the hillside and the man and the woman inside sitting closely in front of the hearth—the man whittling a short piece of pine that he’d broken from a mantel log into a mule or a bear, the woman sewing shut a hole in the man’s flannel shirt that had been sewn already many times before—and their child (not children), maybe two years old, maybe twelve, lying across the wooden floor on a blanket playing with a ball or a wooden trinket.

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