Here is the next bit of my Write-a-thon novella:

The creekside plots were cukes and pumpkins this year, although Leigh had little use for the former and had asked that they not be grown. Bloody useless little peckers. But the vegetation here was turning lush quickly; this was still some of the best ground they had for cultivation. There just wasn’t very much of it, especially with the boulders here and there and the rock formation that jutted out from the bridge and came down the shore from what used to be the big lawn, when the Falls were a park. Now that was a precious little grain patch, barely enough to feed a few people for a season. Too little, too little. . . . .

She realized that she could hear music now, some twangy guitar notes. She came over the hump and saw Eoin standing at attention, hands behind his back, watching Gracie play on the big boulder. The maple gave them both ample shade. It was still warm under the canopy but lulling and sweet. Leigh felt herself smiling. She compressed her lips, lingering for a moment until the tune ended, then turned and headed back to the homestead.

* * * * *

When she got up to the top of the bridge she heard something scream, and her smile returned, but this time she let it spread out over her wide face and wrinkle her eyes. As she topped the road she saw the chugger backed into the main driveway, and a small open-topped trailer with its gate open, empty. The screaming stopped as soon as she crossed Lake St. By the time she took the short-cut behind the houses and got to the sort-of courtyard they crowded around, it was all over, and a burly older woman and a tall, rangy teenage girl were grunting as they pulleyed a blood-spouting pig to swing from the thick branch of an elm tree. Most of the blood was falling into a filthy plastic bucket.

“Ah, protein.” She waved to the other two as they secured the rope. Their sun hats had been pushed back, and their hair, short and gray for both of them, was soaked with sweat. They both wore light ponchos and blood-stained aprons, but the older woman’s clothes were dark red and slick. The girl brushed a few droplets from her face and smiled at Leigh.

“Good size. Meaty.”

The older woman nodded. “Hello Leigh. We have a prize pig here for sure!” She laughed; the other two women smiled and nodded politely. “Like El said: good size, plenty of flesh. We’ll have him butchered in no time. Smokehouse most of it, have barbecue for the rest tonight.” She tromped past Leigh and opened the hatch to the small house’s cellar, disappearing inside.

“What’s the word?” Leigh asked El.

“I talked to Heather; they have enough pasture for the season, but they may have to convert next year.” She undid the apron tie behind her neck and slipped out of the blood-spattered garb. “Levy on pasture might up to triple, with all the food drop delays.”

“That’s stupid. Who’s going to work it? Brad, Heather, and their grandkids?” Leigh heard something clang in through the open basement hatch and cursing erupt. “Too much field. It’s ridiculous.”

El nodded and tossed her apron over by the tree. “There might be more Unemployed by next spring.”

Leigh wrinkled her nose. “You’re kidding.”

El gave her a funny look. “Of course I’m not. Brad saw some tax revenue projections, and even with the shopping bonus the Employed got, still not enough coming in, he says.”

“Fuck the Employed,” Leigh replied, “I told them that horseshit plan wouldn’t work.”

Words for tonight: 607.

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