Simon swithed off the circular saw and took an armfull of firewood to carry it in the hut. Although he was only seventeen, he must do all the hard work now instead of his father who died a few months ago.
When Simon stepped away from the hut’s jutting roof, he noticed a well-dressed man nearing the farm, carefully stepping around the muddy puddles. Seeing the stranger on his property, Simon stopped and stared at him.
“Are there living... um... the Milner’s?” The stranger’s accent was so distant Simon could barely recognize his own family name.
“Could be--but maybe not,” he said cautiously. “Who wants to know?”
“Oh, pardon me. My name is Albert Vaskas and I’m a reporter with the holovision station KWYS.” The stranger took some black box from his pocket, fumbled around in it and then held something up to the Simon’s face. “I’d like to ask somebody of your family whether they’ve seen recently anything unusual in the area.”
Simon shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno ‘nothing about that sort of stuff.”
“What gives, son?” At the door of the hut stood a slender middle-ageded woman with a gentle, wrinkled face.
Simon dropped the firewood on to the dusty ground. “Mum, this fellow says he’s some sort of news hound, from the radio. He wants to know if we’ve seen anything funny ‘round here.”
“Anything funny?” Her face betrayed her amazement. “Why would we have cause to see somethin’ funny? Ain’t nothing strange happens ‘round here.”
“Well, mum,” Simon added, “the only thing could be that big storm at the waxing moon. But didn’t do no damage or nothing, mercy be and thank the Lord.”
“Oh, I get it. That was just about the time Ezekiel...”
“Listen here,” interrupted her the reporter, “I’m not here to ask you about the weather. Someone from the village called our station and said he’d seen some strange lights darting in the sky about before they landed somewhere around here. He said it was ‘near Milner’s hut.’ Perhaps you know something about it?”
“Lights?” Simon stretched out his hands. “Did you see any sort of lights, mum? Nope? You know, sir, we’d really like to help you, but ain’t nothing like that ever cropped up ‘round here.”
The reporter mumbled something between his clenched teeth and returned his contraption to his pocket. A forced smile emerged in his face; obviously he decided to set up a rapport with them, of whatever sort. He gazed on a wooden trough that was similar to those he’d seen at the other houses down in the village. However, the roof-spout that should have been used to fill it with rainwater was lying idly on the ground.
“I see it must be somewhat difficult to earn a living here. Down in the pub they told me that you folks depend on the rain because you don’t even have access to a well. But I guess it rains plenty, no?”
“Yep... off and on,” murmured Simon hesitantly, “but sometimes it don’t. All depends on the mood God’s in, you know.”
“Well, you’ll have to fix up that pipe before the next rainfall.”
Simon sniffled and spat on the ground without answering. He didn’t like the man though he couldn’t say why.
His mother said, “Would you want to come in, sir? We don’t hardly get any visitors, you know.”
The reporter hesitated but the lad ushered him towards the open door of the hut. “C’mon in, man. Mind the dog dirt. And watch yer head.”
The reporter bent his way through the low door frame, but stumbled over the raised threshold. He surveyed the inside of the hut with his experienced gaze. There was just one large room with a two-level bunk next to the wall. In the corner it was an old-fashioned stove, a hewn table with two stools in the centre, and some cups, pots and frying pans hanging on the walls. There were two old kerosene lamps on the shelves along the wall.
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