horse back into his paddock and all the brushes back into the little red tack room nearby, we joined the men and in heading into the house. As we approached, the most delicious smells wafted out the open door.
“Oh my, but that smells good!” DeAndre said, patting his stomach. Laughing, Caitlyn wrapped her arm around him and rubbed his belly.
“It does smell good, doesn’t it?” Jacob agreed, breathing in deeply.
As we entered the kitchen, we saw Julie putting the finishing touches on what looked like a delicious meal. She greeted us.
“Hey y’all! You can wash up in the bathroom, through there.” She indicated a short hallway off to her left with her elbow.
We obediently took turns washing up, then we were ushered into a side dining room that was around a corner and hadn’t been visible before. Julie had laid out a fine table with her best dishes. Two platters had been laid out, heaped high with golden fried chicken; my mouth watered just looking at them. Beside them were several bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and a huge tureen of gravy. A large bowl covered in a red-and-white checkerboard print cloth rounded out the meal; I suspected we’d find buttermilk biscuits under that cheery cloth. Blue-and-white plates were set at each place setting, along with glasses and napkins with forks, spoons and knives. Several more pitchers of iced lemonade were set there too. We all groaned in pleasure at the sight. Seating ourselves, we prepared to dig in.
Before we could pick up so much as a chicken leg, Tom sat down at the head of the table and put his hands together.
“Let’s all thank the Lord for this wonderful meal, shall we?”
Jake, D, Stanley, Caitlyn and I bowed our heads and folded our hands in our laps. Risa looked to see what we were doing and followed our form. Luke, seated beside me, leaned his head against me and watched, wide-eyed, at the whole ritual.
“Lord, thank you for this food we are about to eat, for your bounty and blessings upon us. Thank you also for our health and for the gift of new friends.” Tom smiled at us as he finished, “Keep us free and clear of the horrible infection spreading throughout our world, and keep us forever mindful of those less fortunate. Amen.”
“Amen.” We all mumbled.
“Well, Mother, this looks delightful. You’ve outdone yourself,” Tom said.
“Thank you, Tom,” said Julie, blushing and looking down at her plate.
Looking at the table heaped with food that represented Julie’s hard work, I thought it was more appropriate to be thanking Julie, not some unseen god in the sky, but I kept my mouth shut. I also thought, as I filled Luke’s plate with a drumstick, a small pile of mashe d potatoes and gravy, and a biscuit , that it would indeed be nice if praying to a god could keep us from being infected. So far, I had not seen any divine intervention with regards to the Plague, and I didn’t expect to. When you had been through what we had been through, you realized that it was your own ingenuity, reflexes and fighting skills that kept you free of the infection, not praying to some unseen god. If you left it up to that, you’d be in a heap of trouble. But I wouldn’t tell these people that.
Chewing on a delicious piece of chicken, I looked around the dining room. I wondered if Tom and Julie had been touched by the infection at all. They could have remained isolated here on this beautiful farm. But it seemed wrong to broach such unpleasant subjects while enjoying such a delicious home-cooked meal.
We all fell silent and put our full attention on the bou nty of Julie’s kitchen. The biscuit s were steamy as we broke them open and spread farm-made butter on them. The gravy was especially delicious, and Jake and DeAndre enjoyed sopping up the last drips with their biscuits. Julie’s fare was so tasty I wished we could take her with us and sample her wonderful cooking every day.
We each had seconds, and the men actually enjoyed third helpings of