A Day’s Work
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Seed"
Originally featured on 06-13-2007
As part of our series "Checkered"

“Henry is excited to help you today, Daniel.”

Daniel looked at his wife sitting across from him at the table. “He’s too young to help me, Sarah, you know that.” He shoveled another helping of eggs into his mouth.

“All he talks about is ‘helping Papa.’ When you’re gone he sits by the door and waits for you to return. There must be something he can do.”

Daniel looked at her again. “Well, perhaps there is something.” Sarah smiled. Just then three-year-old Henry came into the kitchen. He was wearing overalls just like his father except one of the straps wasn’t hooked properly.

“Hi, Papa!”

Daniel smiled. “Hello, Henry.”

Henry pulled out a chair next to Daniel and tried to climb up. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Daniel lifted him into the chair. Sarah put a small plate of eggs in front of him and fixed his overall strap.

“I’m ready to help you today, Papa,” he said with a mouthful of eggs.

“Yes, I see that. After breakfast we’ll get started.”

 

 

A few hours later, Sarah went out to the close-line to retrieve the clothes. There she saw Henry sitting on a tree stump staring off into the distance.

“Henry, what are you doing here? I thought you were helping Papa.”

“Papa said I could help him when he returned.”

Suddenly Sarah looked angry. When Daniel returned a few hours later carrying an ax and a large bag of wood, Sarah was waiting for him. “Where have you been, Daniel? You told Henry he was going to help you!”

“I told you, he’s too small to help me.” He tried to walk past her but she stepped in front of him.

“All that boy wants to do is help his Papa and you left him waiting here all day! You’re going to go inside and tell him that you and he are going to work now. I don’t care what you do, just find something.”

Daniel was about to say something, but he could see how upset Sarah was. He dropped the ax and bag and went into the house. A glum looking Henry was sitting at the kitchen table.

“Hello, Henry.”

Henry smiled. “Hello, Papa. Is it time to work now?”

“Yes it is. Come with me.”

Henry followed Daniel into the yard. They slowly walked around the house. Daniel looked in every direction, really trying to find something for Henry to do. He glanced up at the roof. Some shingles could be replaced, he thought, but Sarah probably wouldn’t want the boy up there. After circling the house again, Daniel stopped. Henry also stopped and stared up at him with anticipation.

“You know, Henry, tomorrow might be a better day to work.”

Henry suddenly looked very sad. “Yes, Papa.” He turned to go back inside.

Daniel suddenly had an idea and reached into his pocket. “Wait, Henry. Open your hand.” Henry turned around and held out his tiny right hand. Daniel dropped a few seeds into it. Henry’s eyes lit up.

“What are these?” he asked.

“Those are seeds of course. You’re going to plant a tree.” Daniel quickly dug a hole as Henry watched. When the hole was finished, Daniel crouched down near it. “Come here,” he said. Henry went to his side. “I think you know what to do.”

Henry smiled and dropped the seeds into the hole. Daniel began putting the dirt back in. “Let me do it, Papa.” Daniel handed him the shovel and Henry filled the hole.

“Nicely down, Henry.”

“Smile, men,” Sarah said. They turned around to see her holding a large strange-looking box in front of her face.

“Do you have to do that now?” Daniel asked.

“We spent a lot of money on this camera, we might as well use it. Now smile.”

“Mama! I planted a tree!” Henry said when they were finished posing.

“Yes, I saw that.”

“And a big tree is going to come from there right, Papa?”

“That’s right.”

“How long will it take to get real big?”

“Oh, it will take a long time.”

He stopped and looked up at his parents. “I can wait.”

Daniel and Sarah looked at each other and laughed as they went inside.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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Portland Fiction Project

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