Jack had just sat down to dinner when he heard the light knock, so light he wondered if he imagined it. He was in his late sixties, hair gone sheep's wool, and sounds had started to play tricks on him. Not that he'd admit that to anyone, although the folks in town suspected from the way he asked the waitress at Shirley's to repeat herself during the breakfast rush.
Town was what they called it, although a couple of buildings clustering together as if for warmth deserved the title less than anywhere else he’d seen. Granted, he’d not been many places. Jack wasn’t a traveler. There’d been a time when all he’d thought about was getting away from the county, leaving it and the farm behind; however, he’d given up on that part of his life. Now, he had roots in the soil, deep gnarled things that wouldn’t easily be pulled up.
As he worked his way to the door, taking care to avoid the carefully stacked newspapers, he wondered why a stranger had come calling. County folk didn't knock. There was no mistaking them. They rapped, or pounded. There was something about living so far from your neighbors that discouraged shyness when you finally came to call on them. Even the children – especially the children – knocked like a charging bull.
Everything about the place was familiar to him. This was the house he was raised in, and it had become his when his mother had passed, same thing with the land around it. Jack had never saw the point in marrying, so the house looked much the same as it did when his parents were alive. When something broke he replaced it, but that was the extent of the changes. No, he thought of himself as a caretaker. He’d see to the house, and to the land. The land required special looking after.
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