She looked out the window for the third time in the last five minutes. The rain continued on, unrelenting. The wind drove it against the wavy glass of the window pane. She shivered. Stepping away from the window, she moved to the stove. The beef in the pan was drying again. She pumped the handle and a splash of water spurted into the porcelain of the sink. She scooped some up with her tin coffee cup and poured it into the cast iron skillet. The pan hissed and steam rose.
She glanced out the window again. Stop it old lady, she thought to herself. He's been out this late before. Lightning flashed and she could see the yard. Rivulets of water streamed through the yard, small creeks forming between the house and the barn.
Thunder boomed. The windows rattled and the house shook. Darkness shoved in when the light faded.
She stirred the pot of beans, looked at the beef, and moved to the table. She moved the lamp closer to her seat and flipped idly through the catalog. The dresses looked nice this year, but two dollars seemed awfully dear for them. She smoothed the faded blue gingham of her worn dress. It would last till next harvest, she reckoned. Her good dress hung on its peg in the bedroom. When she bought her new dress, that one would become her day-to-day dress. That's the way things worked.
Things were better now. The boys had moved out, the youngest going only two years ago. They missed the help with the crops and critters, though. Pap wasn't getting any younger, and the work was starting to take its toll. He'd sold some of the cows, and they were down to just two pigs. They had enough for the two of them. Money was still tight, and they couldn't barter without goods. That's why Pap had taken the job over the mountain. The quarry was always hiring, and Pap could work a shovel. He'd been promoted once already this year, going from working the iron ore in the pit to unloading the hoppers onto the carts. He was hoping he'd get to run one of the wagons from the Grove down to Petersburg come spring. That would help his back out considerable.
Thunder rolled again. She shoved back from the table. The lamp was dimming a bit, so she turned up the wick a bit. She knew she ought to blow it out. Oil was too dear now days, but she hated the dark. The stove didn't throw any light at all, and the fireplaces had been banked to save on wood. Without the lamp, the room would be too gloomy. She was already in a funk, what with Pap being so late. She didn't want to sit around in the dark.
She opened the door. Ice was starting to ping off the tin roof of the porch now. Some had already accumulated on the edge of the porch. That trail from the Grove would be tricky. Pap knew it well though. He'd trekked it and hunted it many a time, fetching grub either rifle or by foot.
She looked up the mountain, hoping to see his lantern light shining on the trail at the top.
She turned and went back inside, and blew out the lamp. He'd be alright. Sixty wasn't all that old, she thought. He was a good man, a tough man. Things had to get pretty rough for him to not make it. He'd come over that mountain through the blizzard of '15, hauling staples on the toboggan all the way.
He'd be along, soon enough.
She just knew he would.
She added more water to the beef, stirred the pot of beans, and poked around at the fire. She gave in and tossed some split oak onto it. She tapped the poker on the logs, watching the sparks shoot up the chimney. Maybe Pap would see them, as he come over the mountain top.
She opened the door again and looked toward the mountain.
She smiled when she saw the small pinprick of light at the top.
All was well, she thought, as she went inside. They'd be eatin' supper in less than half an hour. Pap would need it after walking those seven miles.