Beauchamp, Plain and Tall: 5



The storm passed. The fields were damaged. The roof held.

“Told you I was handy,” Claire said. Da’s only response was to smile back at her.

Claire learned then to ride.

Da didn’t argue with her at all. Claire didn’t ride Donas. They went out into the far field and practiced together, Da on Donas and Claire on mild-mannered Losgann. She learned quickly and soon he was showing her how to hitch the horses to the wagon and drive it. How to drive the wagon into town.

“Maybe she’ll fall off Losgann,” Willie said hopefully.

“She won’t,” I said, sullenly.

“Or maybe she’ll get sick and she’ll need to stay here!” he attempted again.

“Mmm,” was my only reply.

I could pretend to be sick so that she’d stay. She’d stay to take care of me, wouldn’t she, Bree?”

And then Willie began to cry and I took him inside the barn where we could both cry.

Da left Claire to practice on her own and came and told Willie to chop some wood. He didn’t see Willie’s tears. Or mine. I stood watching Claire manage the wagon. She learned quickly I thought again. I went back into the barn to be alone. To be alone with Claire’s chickens.

“Why?” I asked them. They stared at me with small, glassy eyes and no answers.

The next morning Claire rose early and put on her blue dress. She went to the barn and gave some hay to Donas and Losgann. She put on her yellow bonnet. The bonnet she had worn when she came to us.

“Remember to use a strong hand with the horses,” was what Da told her.

“I’ll remember, Jamie,” she replied.

“It’s best to be home before dark,” he spoke again. “Driving a wagon by moonlight can be difficult.”

“Yes, Jamie,” she said.

Then she kissed us all, even Da, who looked surprised.

She looked to Willie and me and told us to watch out for Adso and take care of her. Then she climbed into the wagon and drove away. Willie and I watched her go from the porch where we stood when Claire had come to us.

I remembered a time long ago when a wagon had taken Mam away. It had been a day just like this. And Mam had never come back.

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