by Susan Triemert
Not one of us could say we hadn’t seen it coming. There were so many signs. Olaf Stinson said he’d called it first. Ask Hilda. Like a freight train, heard this coming from a mile away. We prayed for them after the accident. We collected money to help cover the hospital bills and to pay the farmhands. Art needed time off to tend to the funeral arrangements, to his wife, Ada. We sent over meals, cards, and bouquets of flowers. While we were doing all of this, we knew the family would not heal from this, not any time soon. There’s no bandage big enough for such wounds.
At first we wondered if the details we’d heard were true. Had Jerry, their youngest, really been killed on their own farm? Had Art really been the one driving the vehicle that had struck his own son? Once it was confirmed, we worried. Apparently, Art had checked beneath the truck, behind the bumpers. Or, so he thought. We worried at home when we were alone. We worried when we were together after church on Sundays. We worried when we ran into each other on Main Street. And the worst part was that Ada had recently scolded her husband, told him he needed to be more careful with the tractors and combines—with all the heavy equipment—around the little ones. Or so we heard.
After the funeral, Ada stopped attending luncheons, quit knitting hats and scarves for the poor, for her own children. No one saw Art lingering at the Country Store, where all the men gathered, hen-like, to swap as many farming tips as they did gossip. Conversations there turned to sifting through what we knew. A mechanic from the North told us that Art thought he’d hit a farm cat or had backed into a wheelbarrow.
We watched the family erode. The couple stopped attending church. And when they did go, things did not look good. Ada would sit on one end of the pew, Art on the other, and the remaining four children filled in the widening gap. All six looked like orphans. From the Corinthians—and with his audience in mind—the pastor preached: “The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.” We watched Ada dab away her tears. “And both will be rewarded for their hard work.” We shook our heads at the unfairness of it all.
During one service, through whispers among us, we’d heard their daughter Margaret had been instructed to keep an eye on her little brother. We’d heard Ada blamed her, too. At the end of the service, as the pastor dismissed the congregation, Ada took off down the aisle, her head hung low. Art nodded solemnly at us as we watched the spectacle.
We heard that Art and Ada were barely speaking. We asked ourselves how we would react if this had happened to one of us, to one of our families. We assured one another that we would’ve been more careful. Perhaps Art had been drinking. We thought he’d once had a problem.
Hilda Stinson had heard that they had stopped sleeping in the same room. So it came as no surprise when we found out Ada was seeing a former suitor. Stella Grayson thought Ada had met him in high school. There was some talk about how this other man—Solomon was his name—wasn’t from around here. He wasn’t one of us.
Art didn’t find out right away. We’d heard that when he discovered the affair, he wanted to work things out. He forgave Ada. He even offered to see the pastor to discuss ways to save their marriage.
Perhaps Ada had warned him that if he didn’t quit drinking she would leave him. Maybe Art was seeing someone else, too. We wouldn’t be surprised if he’d taken interest in one of the Olsen girls who’d offered to help with the year’s harvest.