It had been two weeks since Dylan had left her and the farm. Of course, she didn't realize at the time that's what he was doing--leaving. He told her he was going into town to pick up some lumber. He was finally going to fix the hole barn's roof. She watched him attach his wallet chain to his belt loop and shove the old brown wallet into his back pocket. She had given him that wallet for their third wedding anniversary. Leather was the traditional gift for three years, and back then, they were both still trying to conform to the standards of marriage, though he never was good at keeping track of what he'd gotten her, so sometimes he'd repeat gifts.
"That wallet's near to bursting," she said. "I don't know how you can sit on that thing to drive. What do you keep in there anyway?"
"Noneya, woman!" Dylan winked a crinkly blue eye and smiled warmly at her. "I don't ask you what you carry around in that giant purse of yours, I'd appreciate the same courtesy about my wallet."
It was a familiar routine with them. He liked to think he was being clever, being coy, but she knew the truth well enough after all these years. He was a paper hoarder. He collected scraps of paper the way her grandmother's sister had collected stray cats. He kept grocery receipts from four years ago, bills, and credit card statements for credit cards they didn't even have anymore. If someone gave him a business card, he'd keep it in a stack with all the other cards. Eventually, he'd forget who gave him the card in the first place. One of his favorite things to keep was old lists. But not his lists. He kept lists that other people lost. Mostly grocery lists, abandoned in the bottom of the shopping cart. Eggs, cheese, shoe strings, apples, sponges, shampoo. Sofia used to ask him why he kept those random lists, but she'd long since given up trying to talk sense into him. Now, she was just glad that he was able to contain a huge portion of his paper collection to just his wallet. When the wallet got too full he'd pull out some of slips of paper and stash them in one of his unlocked lock-boxes. He always kept them unlocked because he knew just as well as she did that there really wasn't anything worth keeping in there. Certainly not worth keeping secret anyway. Turned out, the man kept all his secrets in his heart and head, where she could never get to them.
Sofia wiped her face and continued on her way to the coop. How long had she stood there, face upturned to the weeping sky? Fifteen seconds? A minute? Three minutes? It was as if the drops falling on her face had hypnotized her for a spell. No matter. The eggs had to be collected, rain or no, and standing around like a damn fool, replaying the last time she'd seen her husband wasn't going to change the fact that he was gone.
The chickens squawked and beat their wings as she approached.
"Hey there, lovely ladies," She greeted in return. "What do you have for me today?" She closed the gate behind her and gently pushed Jenny Blue out of the way with her foot. Jenny Blue was the only of the the chickens who seemed to like her. Anytime Sofia came into the coop, J.B. was at her heels. More like a puppy than a chicken.
"It's about time I start selling your eggs, chickies. I just don't eat enough of them to justify keeping them. And it'd be nice to have a few extra bucks now that..." Sofia lost the thread of her conversations. She was talking to chickens, as if they could actually understand her. As if they gave a damn whether she ate their eggs or sold them.
Dylan had a saying when he thought things were pointless or silly: It's like hypnotizing chickens, he'd say.
The chickens watched her gather their unformed young and put them into her basket.
"I know what you girls are thinking. My putting one foot in front of the other, gathering up your eggs, trying to keep the farm from collapsing down around me...it's like hypnotizing chickens, isn't it?" She took a deep breath and blew it out. "I suppose you're right, but what's the alternative? Give up and run away, like him? Someone's gotta tend to you, you know. So how 'bout a bit of gratitude, ladies."
The chickens blinked. They weren't hypnotized and they didn't care whether she was tending to them or not. But no matter. They eggs needed collecting, regardless.