art by Melissa Mead
Bless This House
by Beth Cato
A pink sliver of sunrise glowed over the hills, and the cows lowed their need. Emma parted the barn doors. Her metal pail and other gear met the dirt floor with a solid thud.
She began the morning routine, her joints stiff and eyes bleary. The baby had been up at all hours, and Kurt had fallen into a feverish sleep again. Not even little Grace's wails could fully rouse Kurt anymore. Emma had sat within the candle's glow, holding Grace at her breast and laying wet rags on Kurt's forehead. His breaths rasped and rattled.
Her husband had acted all nonchalant after that nail went through his foot, but now… now. From toe to heel, his flesh resembled a charred mass. Emma shuffled to the next cow. The tuft-ended tail swatted the back of her head. The old bay stallion whinnied in the next stall over.
"I'll feed you next," Emma said. And after that, God help her.