A n American caravan from New England struggles to move north for a better life, while a glad handler attempts to suck the life out of everyone before they reach their destination. Only Abner Oxford and the children recognize the danger. The adults won't listen.
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A bner moved his curls away from his eyebrow. He faced a line of Wrights across from him. A drop of rain splashed on his forehead. From Thomas Wright’s wife Mary, he heard, “Terrible, terrible. So young. So full of life.” She patted her tummy and said, “If this one is going to be a girl, we should call her Abigail. What do you think Thomas?”
Her husband caressed her arm. To Abner, it looked like he was looking at the thick earthworms that were trying to wiggle out of the sides of the deep hole. The burial pit separated their side from the Oxford’s side.
Abner stood to the left of his father. Rachael was carried and Annie held her father’s right hand. The children’s mother stood behind the two Wright brothers and along with their children and relatives. She held onto Philemon’s two youngest children. Three-year-old Ruggles was at her left and six-year-old Mary was at her right. Missa Philemon’s wife Abigail’s tummy was big and full of baby. Missa Wright tried to grab Philemon’s hand but he stepped closer to fifteen-year-old Philemon junior and patted his back. His wife pulled out a kerchief to sneeze. After looking around, Philemon shuffled back and patted his wife’s shoulder.
“Isn’t she going to get cold?” asked Abner.
“What? You mean young Abigail. She’s gone to heaven already.”
“But they’re burying a box. Why are we here if she’s already gone.”
“Cause we’re paying our respects. She’s gone but we’re here. There’s more to life than just dying. Well, maybe she doesn't want to go yet, I guess.”
Annie plopped down on her bum.
“Don't know.” her father said as he looked at her sitting there. “Must be a good reason. Just don't know.” He reached for Annie’s hand but she moved away.
“Oh,” Abner replied.
London saw others looking at him. He beckoned Annie to come towards him.
“Do you know?” Abner asked.
“Maybe she’s waiting to find out who did this.”
London reached down and pulled Annie up by her hand. While patting her on the back he said, “Abner, no-one did this. Got sick. That’s all.”
Annie looked up at him.
London expected an answer but his son didn't say anything. Abner stepped back and looked the other way.
“The minister is here Abner. This way please,” his father said.
When Abner turned he saw his mother scold young Ruggles. He was trying to get away. It reminded him of when she scolded his sister. Abner remembered when Abigail pushed him.
She deserved to be pushed back, he thought.
“Don't you dare young Abigail,” he whispered and shook his finger at the dead body in the coffin.
Bad bad, he thought.
Abner looked closer. His mother put her hand was on Ruggle’s shoulders, just like she’d done after scolding Abigail. Her hand was still on his shoulder.
Mam? Did my mam say a curse? He wondered.
He watched Mary who was being held with his mother’s other hand. She was crying. She looked grey and dried up like a ghost. Abner’s mam let go of her hand and caressed her hair and then pulled her tight to her skirt.
Abner put his finger in his ear and took out some ear wax and turned around. He wiped it on his pants. He saw eyes glaring at him. Abner shuffled while looking down. He looked back again. A man was talking to a bunch of strangers who were far back and separated from the others. He wore buckskin leggings, a leather vest and a long black coat. The long coat wasn't something you'd expect an Injun to wear. He had dark tattooed stripes on his neck. They looked like snakes. The squared black hat looked like it had a feather stuck in it.
Abner stared closer and noticed the men on each side of him. None of them looked like Indians. The coat on one of them was the same colour as the man that tried to take him. They didn't look well. Their eyes were black and they were slightly bent over The man stared at him again with eagle-like piercing eyes. His expression didn't change-just his eyes.
Abner quickly turned around and looked up at his father. London got his glance. He turned back and continued to look ahead at the burial ceremony.
The man behind him scared Abner. Why was such a man here? he thought. This is only for people that know Abigail. It’s not right.
Abner wrapped his arm around his father’s leg. London let go of Annie and moved Rachael to his other arms he could wrap an arm around his son. London let go of his hand and wrapped it around his shoulder and pulled him next to his leg.
Abner watched his mother caress young Mary’s hair again. His father did the same to him. He looked up and saw his father watching his mother.
The crawling sensation on the back of his neck was gone. He sensed that the man was gone. Abner froze where he was and didn’t want to think of being anywhere else.
After the minister’s prayers, a man shovelled dirt on the coffin. Behind him, Abner watched the silhouette of the Injun walk away towards the main road. He was alone.
"Stop it," he heard someone yell. Beyond his father, and five bunches of people after Abner saw a man swat a boy on the side of the head with his hat. The boy was trying to escape the man’s grip. The man put his hat back on and with both hands and pulled the boy back in front of him. "Don't you dare or you'll get a beating like..."
The boy, who was just a couple of years older than Abner, stilled and didn't say another word.
"Who's that?" Abner quietly asked.
"Joshua. Philemon's wife's youngest brother is the one doing the hitting. He’s a loose one. Drinks his life away. He couldn't persuade his woman to put up with either of them. Best you listen to the minister or I'll have to swat you myself, yeah here?"
To avoid his father staring eyes, Abner focused on the ground and nodded.
Abner would see young Joshua in another four years. Neither would leave the county with their mother.