MI R ACL E

in a
DRY S E A S ON
S AR AH LOUDI N
THOMAS
5
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 3 4/15/14 8:42 AM
© 2014 by Sarah Loudin Tomas
Publishcd by 8cthany Housc Publishcrs
11400 Hampshirc Avcnuc South
8loomington, Minncsota 55438
www.bcthanyhousc.com
8cthany Housc Publishcrs is a division ol
8akcr Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Printcd in thc Unitcd Statcs ol Amcrica
All rights rcscrvcd. No part ol this publication may bc rcproduccd, storcd in a rctricval
systcm, or transmittcd in any lorm or by any mcans—lor cxamplc, clcctronic, photocopy,
rccording—without thc prior writtcn pcrmission ol thc publishcr. Tc only cxccption is
bricl quotations in printcd rcvicws.
Library ol Congrcss CataloginginPublication Ðata
Tomas, Sarah Loudin.
Miraclc in a dry scason / Sarah Loudin Tomas.
pagcs cm
Summary: “!n small town Vcst \irginia, 1954, onc ncwcomcr’s spccial
gilt with lood produccs both gratitudc and ccnsurc. Vill Pcrla Long and hcr
daughtcr find a homc thcrc:”— Providcd by publishcr.
!S8N 9780764212253 (pbk.)
1. Singlc mothcrs—Fiction. 2. 8achclors—Fiction. 3. Vomcn cooks—Fiction.
4. Public opinion—Ficiton. 5. Vcst \irginia—Fiction. !. Titlc.
PS3620.H64226M57 2014
813.6—dc23 2014003681
Song lyrics quotcd: “Shall Vc Gathcr at thc Rivcr,” Robcrt Lowry, 1864, “Arc You Vashcd
in thc 8lood:”, ¡lisha Hoffman, 1878, “!’ll Fly Away,” Albcrt 8rumlcy, 1932, “!n thc
Swcct 8y and 8y,” Sanlord F. 8cnnctt, 1868.
Scripturc quotations arc lrom thc King Jamcs \crsion ol thc 8iblc.
Tis is a work ol fiction. Namcs, charactcrs, incidcnts, and dialogucs arc products ol thc
author’s imagination and arc not to bc construcd as rcal. Any rcscmblancc to actual cvcnts
or pcrsons, living or dcad, is cntircly coincidcntal.
Covcr dcsign by Kathlccn Lynch
Covcr photography by ©Ðcbra Lill/Trcvillion !magcs
Author is rcprcscntcd by 8ooks & Such Litcrary Agcncy
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library ol Congrcss CataloginginPublication Ðata is on filc at thc Library ol Con
grcss, Vashington, ÐC.
Tcsc wcbsitcs arc hypcrlinkcd.
www.bakcrpublishinggroup.com
www.bakcracadcmic.com
www.brazosprcss.com
www.choscnbooks.com
www.rcvcllbooks.com
www.bcthanyhousc.com
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 4 4/15/14 8:42 AM
For Jim,
who sccs thc bcst in mc and cncouragcs mc
to livc up to it.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 5 4/15/14 8:42 AM
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 6 4/15/14 8:42 AM
7
1
W, W V
1954
C
~svwvii’s s:o:~cn cvu:nivb. Hc hopcd no onc in
thc surrounding pcws could hcar it. Hc’d thought to cat
somc warmcdovcr biscuits this morning, but thc barn cat
had slippcd into thc housc and lound thc brcad wrappcd in
a dishcloth on thc back ol thc stovc. ¡vcn though most ol a
biscuit rcmaincd, Cascwcll kncw bcttcr than to cat altcr a cat.
His stomach growlcd a littlc loudcr, and hc wondcrcd what
hc could rustlc up lor dinncr. Normally, hc’d havc Sunday
dinncr with his parcnts, but thcy wcrc visiting his aunt, who
had lost hcr son—his cousin Harold—in thc Korcan Var a
good two ycars ago. Shc had yct to gct hcr lcct back undcr
hcr, as his mothcr put it, so thcy visitcd whcn thcy could. !n
thc mcantimc, Cascwcll would lcnd lor himscll.
Hc could scramblc an cgg and lry a potato, but hc’d burncd
morc than onc pot ol bcans, and his attcmpts at biscuits and
corn brcad ncvcr browncd right. Hc’d always assumcd hc’d
lcavc his parcnts’ housc lor a homc with a wilc in it, but at thc
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 7 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
8
advanccd agc ol thirtyfivc, hc livcd alonc in a housc hc’d built
with his own two hands.
Pastor Longbournc invitcd thc congrcgation to bow thcir
hcads lor thc closing praycr. Cascwcll sighcd and did as askcd.
Tc pastor could gct windy at thc closc ol scrvicc, and Cascwcll
thought to pray lor a short praycr but dccidcd it wasn’t propcr.
Hc shiltcd his sixlootlour lramc on thc hard pcw to find
a bcttcr position and scratchcd his jaw whcrc his rcd bcard
covcrcd a scar that ran lrom his car to thc corncr ol his mouth.
Tc wound had hcalcd dccadcs ago but still itchcd lrom timc
to timc. A rcmindcr ol . . . Cascwcll lorccd his attcntion to thc
praycr. Hc didn’t nccd any rcmindcrs.
Tc praycr was indccd long, and toward thc cnd, Cascwcll’s
bclly growlcd loud cnough lor thc dcarly dcpartcd in thc ccm
ctcry outsidc to hcar. Hc hcard a gigglc lrom thc pcw bchind
him. Hc darcd to pcck ovcr his shouldcr. A child—a littlc
girl ol pcrhaps fivc or six—covcrcd hcr mouth as hcr mothcr
placcd a quicting hand on hcr shouldcr. Tc girl stillcd, but shc
grinncd at Cascwcll so hc lorgavc hcr gigglcs. Hc was gratclul
his parcnts wcrcn’t thcrc to hcar. His lathcr would not hcsitatc
to offcr criticism.
“Amcn,” intoncd Pastor Longbournc, and thc congrcgation
cchocd him.
Tc pastor walkcd to thc door ol thc church, and his flock
bcgan filing out past him, shaking his hand and offcring com
plimcnts on thc scrmon. Vaiting his turn, Cascwcll got a bct
tcr look at thc littlc girl and hcr mothcr—at lcast hc assumcd
this was hcr mothcr. Tcy wcrc ncw to thc church. Tc pair
appcarcd to bc accompanying Robcrt and Ðclilah Tornton,
who livcd in thc hcart ol thc littlc community ol Visc—such
as it was. Robcrt kcpt thc onc small storc that scrvcd thc im
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 8 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
9
mcdiatc arca. Locals had to drivc cightccn milcs to rcach a
chain groccry storc, and no onc thcrc would know thc local
gossip, so thc Torntons did wcll cnough. Pcrhaps thc woman
and child wcrc lamily comc to visit.
Tc woman stoppcd to spcak to thc pastor, offcring hcr
hand and ducking hcr hcad. A littlc thing, shc had cornsilk
hair undcr a scrap ol a hat, rosy chccks, and pink lips. Shc
was prctty cnough, but Cascwcll kncw prctty didn’t guarantcc
plcasant.
Tc littlc girl pccpcd out at Cascwcll lrom bchind hcr moth
cr’s skirt and gigglcd. Hc grinncd back without cvcn mcaning
to. And thcrc was littlc point in considcring how prctty hcr
mama was—nicc or not—sincc thcrc was almost ccrtainly a
papa in thc picturc.
Cascwcll’s turn to clasp Pastor Longbournc’s hand finally
camc, and thcn hc stcppcd out into thc solt spring air ol thc
churchyard, cagcr to makc his way through thc crowd so hc
could hcad homc and find somcthing to cat. Hc could always
rcsort to a jclly sandwich, though it would bc a lar cry lrom
his mothcr’s Sunday lricd chickcn.
As hc walkcd through thc crowd, Cascwcll caught snatchcs
ol convcrsation.
“ . . . young whcn shc had thc child . . .”
“ . . . what kind ol husband would . . .”
“ . . . too prctty lor hcr own good . . .”
Cascwcll lought thc urgc to plug his cars. As hc ncarcd thc
gatc to thc churchyard, Ðclilah Tornton intcrccptcd him and
graspcd his arm. “Cascwcll, allow mc to introducc my niccc,
Pcrla. Shc’s staying with us . . . lor a timc. You might rcmcmbcr
hcr lamily—thcy movcd lrom hcrc back in ’45.”
Cascwcll wondcrcd at thc slight hcsitation, but thcn Pcrla
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 9 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
10
stood bclorc him, and hcr clcar, bluc cycs complctcd thc prctty
picturc hc’d bccn noticing insidc. Shc smilcd, though thcrc was
somcthing solcmn lingcring around hcr cycs.
“Plcasurc to mcct you,” hc said, drcdging up a vaguc mcmory
ol a girl with blond curls. “And is this your daughtcr:”
Tc littlc girl smilcd up at him as shc clung to hcr mothcr’s
lcg. “Tis is Sadic,” Pcrla said, placing a hand on thc child’s
strawbcrryblond curls. “Shc has littlc to say but finds a grcat
dcal to laugh at.” Sadic gigglcd again, as il to provc hcr mothcr
right.
At that momcnt Cascwcll’s bclly rumblcd so long and loud
that thcrc was no qucstion ol prctcnding othcrwisc. Cascwcll
lclt his cars grow warm and scuffcd a boot in thc dirt.
“!’m alraid ! misscd my brcaklast this morning,” hc said.
“And ! had bcst bc gctting homc to my dinncr.”
Hc gavc thc group a nod and startcd toward thc gatc whcn
Ðclilah said, “8ut your lamily is off visiting. !’m gucssing thcrc’s
not much in your cupboard. Plcasc comc cat with us.”
“Right, Cascwcll,” Robcrt said. “Put your boots undcr our
tablc. Tcrc’s a mighty finc pork roast in thc ovcn at homc,
and Pcrla hcrc has a knack lor gathcring spring grccns. ! know
you won’t gct a bcttcr mcal in all thc county.”
Cascwcll opcncd his mouth to dcclinc, but altcr onc look
into Pcrla’s china cycs, hc hcard himscll agrccing to go along.
Hc blamcd his momcnt ol wcakncss on thc promiscd pork
roast. Tc group walkcd toward thc Torntons’ 1949 Chcvy
scdan. Cascwcll admircd how good it still lookcd altcr scv
cral ycars ol usc—ccrtainly bcttcr than his bcatup ’38 truck
with thc paint pccling off thc lcndcrs. Sadic lclt hcr mothcr’s
sidc and slippcd a littlc hand into Cascwcll’s largc, rough onc.
Shc lookcd up at him with hugc brown cycs, and hc lclt his
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 10 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
11
hcart squcczc. Vhcthcr or not thc mothcr charmcd him, thc
daughtcr ccrtainly did.

Tc pork roast sat succulcnt undcr a crisp, roastcd laycr ol
lat. Cascwcll cut his portion carclully so hc got a littlc lat with
cach bitc. Hc also atc turnips boilcd and mashcd with buttcr
and crcam, lrcshbakcd light brcad, and thc promiscd grccns
wiltcd in bacon grcasc. Cascwcll was bcsidc himscll.
Altcr cating his fill, hc sighcd and pushcd his chair back a
littlc. “Tat might’vc bccn thc bcst mcal !’vc cvcr catcn,” hc
said. “! thank you.”
“Pcrla did most ol this,” Ðclilah said, smiling at thc youngcr
woman. “Shc claims shc nccds to work lor hcr kccp, but ol
coursc shc docsn’t.”
Pcrla duckcd hcr hcad and scrubbcd at Sadic’s chin, as
though thc spcck ol grcasc lrom thc grccns couldn’t wait
anothcr minutc.
“And you’d bcst takc homc a mcss ol thcsc lcltovcrs,” Robcrt
said. “!t’s thc darncdcst thing—anytimc Pcrla cooks wc sccm
to havc lcltovcrs lor a wcck.”
Cascwcll protcstcd but not vcry long or loud.
“Comc scc my dolly,” Sadic said, brcaking into thc adult
convcrsation.
Pcrla shushcd hcr daughtcr. “Ðon’t bc silly, swccthcart.
Cascwcll is a grown man and mcn don’t takc much intcrcst
in dolls.”
“! makc it a habit not to contradict prctty ladics,” Cascwcll said,
lccling cxpansivc. “8ut !’d bc plcascd to scc Miss Sadic’s dolly.”
Sadic jumpcd up, thcn shc ploppcd back down. “May ! bc
cxcuscd:” shc askcd.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 11 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
12
“Ycs, you may, but don’t kccp Mr. Cascwcll long. Vc’ll havc
somc dcsscrt out on thc porch dircctly.”
Tcsc wcrc quitc possibly thc only words that could add to
Cascwcll’s lccling ol satislaction with his currcnt lot in lilc. Hc
stood and allowcd thc littlc girl to lcad him into what Ðclilah
rclcrrcd to as thc parlor. Cascwcll sat on thc \ictorian sola
with its high back and lumpy cushions. !t slopcd in such a way
that Cascwcll lclt thc nccd to dig his hccls into thc carpct to
kccp lrom sliding onto thc floor.
Sadic madc a bcclinc lor thc corncr, whcrc a doll sat on a
block ol wood with a small board proppcd up bchind it to
lorm a simplc chair.
“Tis is Amy,” shc said, rctricving thc doll. “Shc knows my
sccrcts.”
“!t’s important to havc somconc you can trust with your
sccrcts,” Cascwcll said. “8ut thcn, you probably don’t havc
too many yct.”
“Ònly thc onc about not having a daddy,” Sadic said with
a sigh. “¡vcryonc clsc has a daddy, but Mommy says it’s our
lot in lilc to gct along without onc.”
Cascwcll raiscd his cycbrows. A widow, thcn. Òr shc was . . .
wcll, surcly shc was a widow. Hc startcd to ask and thcn caught
himscll. Vhat a qucstion to ask a child.
“Vcll, it’s good you havc Amy,” hc said. Tcn his cycs lcll
on thc makcshilt chair. “8ut is this all thc lurniturc shc has:”
“Ycs,” Sadic said. “Mommy says ! mustn’t lcavc Amy on thc
big pcoplc lurniturc, so shc madc mc this chair. ! wish Amy
could havc a bcd, too, but shc slccps with Mommy and mc lor
now. Mommy says that’s okay, sincc it’s just us.”
Cascwcll smilcd to himscll, thinking that hc kncw how hc
could thank Pcrla lor thc finc mcal shc’d prcparcd that day.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 12 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
13
Ðclilah callcd thcm to thc porch lor dcsscrt—hugc sliccs ol
angcl cakc with sliccd and sugarcd strawbcrrics.
“Tc chickcns havc takcn a laying fit,” Ðclilah said as shc
handcd Cascwcll a slicc big cnough lor two mcn. “Got to usc
all thcm cggs up somchow.”
Although thc slicc was largc, it was so light and airy Cascwcll
madc short work ol it. Hc dcclincd a sccond slicc lor lcar hc
might appcar a glutton.
“Too bad you don’t havc your mandolin with you,” Robcrt
said. “A swcct piccc ol music would bc just thc tonic to scttlc
that mcal.”
Cascwcll grinncd. Hc would play a piccc ol music anywhcrc,
anytimc, lor anyonc. Music was thc only thing hc likcd bcttcr
than a good mcal cookcd by a prctty woman.
“You’rc a musician:” Pcrla askcd.
“Òh, somc would call mc that, but ! mostly just lool around
with thc mandolin my granddaddy gavc mc. ! gucss it wouldn’t
hurt your cars.”
Robcrt laughcd. “Cascwcll is onc ol thc fincst musicians in
Hartwcll County. Hc’s bcing modcst. Vc’ll havc to gct up a
dancc hcrc bclorc too long—maybc altcr thc spring planting
gcts in. You put Cascwcll on thc mandolin, Gcorgc 8rowcr
on thc banjo, Stcvc Cutright on thc fiddlc, and somctimcs !
pitch in with thc harmonica or somc spoons, and you’vc got
somcthing you can shakc a lcg to. ’Coursc, Cascwcll hcrc likcs
thcm solcmn tuncs that wail. 8ut hc’ll savc thcm till cvcrybody’s
too tircd to dancc. Ycs sir, mighty finc, mighty finc.”
“Òh, that would bc lun,” Ðclilah said. “Vc havcn’t had
a dancc in cvcr so long. !’ll start putting a bug in thc cars
ol all thc ladics as thcy comc by thc storc.” Shc smilcd at
Pcrla. “!t’s always up to thc womcn to organizc somcthing
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 13 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
14
likc this. Tc mcn just comc whcn wc tcll thcm and cat up
all thc lood.”
Pcrla’s smilc sccmcd a littlc unccrtain. Shc bit hcr lowcr lip.
“!’m not surc ! ought to bc dancing,” shc said.
“Vhycvcr not:” Ðclilah askcd.
“Vcll, with Sadic and all . . .”
“Nonscnsc. And anyway, il you don’t want to dancc, you can
sit and listcn. Tcrc’s plcnty ol ladics who prclcr to sit out thc
dancing and visit.”
“Tc old ladics,” Robcrt said with a snort. “And it would
scrvc thcm bcttcr to cxcrcisc thcir lcct and lct thcir tongucs
rcst a minutc.”
Ðclilah lrowncd and Cascwcll tricd to hidc his smilc.
“Òh, do havc a littlc dignity,” Ðclilah said. “Pcrla can hclp with
thc lood. Shc has such a knack lor cooking, and wc always sccm
to havc too much lor just us. Vhat shc nccds is a crowd to lccd.”
Cascwcll stood. “Vcll, !, lor onc, would bc happy to play
and to cat anything Pcrla carcs to cook. Count mc in. 8ut lor
now, !’ll bc hcading homc to tidy up my placc bclorc Ma gcts
back and has a fit ovcr how !’vc lct things go.”
“8achclors,” Ðclilah said in a way that soundcd scornlul
and affcctionatc all at oncc.
Sadic scampcrcd insidc to bring Cascwcll his Sunday hat.
Hc droppcd to onc kncc so shc could hclp scttlc it on his hcad.
Cascwcll lclt scllconscious and awkward until hc lookcd up
and caught Pcrla watching him. Tc look in hcr cycs madc
him hopc, against his bcttcr judgmcnt, that shc was a widow.

Altcr hclping Ðclilah tidy thc kitchcn, Pcrla wcnt to thc
room shc now occupicd at hcr aunt and unclc’s housc. Hcr
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 14 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
15
gazc driltcd lrom objcct to objcct. Tc quilt hcr grandmothcr
madc lay loldcd across thc loot ol thc bcd, thc 8iblc hcr mothcr
gavc hcr whcn shc turncd cightccn sat on thc bcdsidc tablc,
hcr brush and comb on thc drcssing tablc. !t was thc sort ol
room shc’d always drcamcd ol calling hcr own.
Hcr cycs camc to rcst on thc child napping pcacclully on
top ol thc covcrlct. Hcrc was somcthing shc had not drcamcd
ol. Shc adorcd hcr gingcrhaircd Sadic, just turncd fivc, but
somc days bcing a mothcr was simply too hard. And now this.
Pcrla’s mothcr had agrccd that it was probably lor thc bcst
whcn Pcrla suggcstcd going to Visc to stay with hcr aunt
and unclc. “Robcrt and Ðclilah havc a rcal nicc placc. Lcast it
was last timc ! wcnt out thcrc,” hcr mothcr had said, as il that
would makc lcaving casicr. “You probably rcmcmbcr thc storc
wcll cnough lrom whcn wc livcd thcrc. You can bc a hclp in
thc storc. Von’t nobody know . . .”
Pcrla thought back to hcr mothcr’s final words bclorc hcr lathcr
drovc hcr—in silcncc—thc six hours lrom Comstock to Visc.
“You hold your hcad up,” hcr mothcr said. “!l it wcrcn’t lor all
that lood, ! think lolks would ovcrlook . . . thc child. 8ut takc thc
two togcthcr, and it makcs cvcryonc uncasy.” Pcrla rcmcmbcrcd
hcr mothcr stcpping lorward to takc hcr hand, squcczing it hard.
“Ðaughtcr, God docsn’t makc mistakcs, and ! say that child and
your way with cooking arc both miraclcs straight lrom hcavcn.
!t’s just miraclcs don’t always lccl likc it at thc timc.”
Pcrla hadn’t wantcd to comc. Shc might havc cvcn whincd
about it a littlc. Shc’d ccrtainly carricd on morc than a grown
woman ol twcntylour should. Vhcn hcr mothcr rclcascd hcr
hand, Pcrla misscd thc prcssurc and thc warmth. Shc’d lclt
oddly bcrclt standing thcrc in hcr parcnts’ housc. Shc’d tricd
to tcll hcrscll shc could always comc back.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 15 4/15/14 8:42 AM
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 16 4/15/14 8:42 AM
17
2
A
: no:v, i: :oox C~svwvii all ol twcnty minutcs to
movc his boots lrom thc chair by thc fircplacc to thc
rug by thc door, hang up somc clothcs lying around his bcd
room, and swccp thc living room and kitchcn. Tanks to thc
Torntons and thc cat, thcrc wcrcn’t any dishcs to wash and hc
dccidcd to lcavc thc dusting. His mothcr would bc sorry il shc
didn’t havc somcthing to do whcn shc camc to chcck on him.
Not that shc would cvcr criticizc him onc way or thc othcr.
No, that was his lathcr’s job. Cascwcll had bccn trying to plcasc
his lathcr lor dccadcs. !t wasn’t that his lathcr was unkind, it
was morc a mattcr ol not knowing what hc was thinking—good
or bad. Cascwcll tcndcd to suspcct it was bad.
Chorcs donc, Cascwcll walkcd across thc backyard to a
stout littlc outbuilding that hc had dcsigncd and built. !t had a
widc ramp lcading up to thc door so hc could drivc his tractor
in and out. Hcavy bcams abovc wcrc opcn so hc could slidc
boards up thcrc lor storagc—hc could cvcn put togcthcr a
makcshilt sccond floor that would hold boxcs or castoff tools
hc wasn’t rcady to part with. Ònc sidc ol thc building hcld thc
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 17 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
18
tractor and tools hc nccdcd lor larmwork. Tc lar sidc hcld his
woodworking tools—his trcasurcs.
Cascwcll stcppcd up to his worktablc and handlcd scvcral
scraps ol lumbcr stackcd undcrncath. Tcrc wcrc a couplc ol
nicc picccs ol maplc that hc thought would bc pcrlcct. Hc sct
to work on his thankyou gilt lor Pcrla and Sadic.

Tc ncxt morning, Cascwcll nccdcd to put asidc work on his
gilt to visit ¡lizabcth and ¡vangclinc Talbot. 8clorc church,
thc twin sistcrs, ncaring thcir scvcntics, had askcd Cascwcll
to stop by Monday morning so thcy could discuss a projcct
with him. Cascwcll was curious what thcy might want him
to do—likcly somcthing around thc old homcplacc thcy’d
inhcritcd whcn thcir parcnts dicd within days ol cach othcr.
Although thc Talbot sistcrs had sold off thc larm cquipmcnt
and a filtytwoacrc parccl ol rich bottomland, thcy’d kcpt thc
rambling larmhousc thcy’d livcd in sincc birth. Probably thc
banistcr nccdcd rcpair or a doorsill was rotting.
Cascwcll pullcd up undcr a largc oak with lcavcs just start
ing to unlurl. Hc was admiring thc trcc whcn a voicc camc
lrom thc porch.
“Òncc thcy’rc thc sizc ol squirrcls’ cars, it’s timc to plant
corn.”
Cascwcll turncd and saw Angic—no, Liza—standing on
thc top stcp, smiling at him.
Strangcrs oltcn had a hard timc tclling thc twins apart,
but thosc who kncw thcm had no such difficulty. 8oth wcrc a
whispcr ovcr fivc lcct tall, with silvcry hair braidcd and twistcd
into a bun at thc napc ol thc ncck. 8ut somchow, Angic’s hair
rcmaincd pcrlcctly in placc, whilc Liza’s tcndcd to lray and
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 18 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
19
lall in wisps around hcr lacc. And whilc thcy both had bluc
cycs, Angic’s had a hint ol icc, whilc Liza’s lookcd likc ladcd
cornflowcrs.
Liza had bccn cngagcd oncc, but hcr fiancé, Frank Post, ran
off with 8uffalo 8ill’s Vild Vcst Show on a tour ol ¡uropc
in 1902. 8y thc timc hc camc homc somc thirty ycars latcr,
cvcryonc had givcn him up lor dcad, and Liza was running
thc larm alongsidc hcr sistcr and lathcr. Òncc old man Talbot
was too lccblc to work thc ficlds, thc twins did most ol thc
larming thcmsclvcs.
“Howdy, Cascwcll. Comc on in. Sistcr and ! havc a spccial
ordcr lor you.” Liza clappcd hcr hands, looking likc a child on
Christmas morning.
!nsidc, thc morc staid Angic showcd Cascwcll thc largc
kitchcn and thc wall whcrc shc wantcd a cupboard.
“Vc’d likc to display Mama’s china and a lcw othcr things,”
shc cxplaincd.
“Òh, and a pic salc,” Liza said. “And a potato bin—thc kind
that tilts out.”
“8ut nothing lancy,” Angic said. “Tis is lor practical usc.
No nccd lor lancy.”
“!t’s our scvcnticth birthday.” Liza’s ladcd cycs sparklcd.
“And this will bc our prcscnt.”
“No nccd to tcll our agc, sistcr. And wc nccd a cupboard,
birthday or no.” Angic turncd sharp cycs on Cascwcll. “8ut
thc pricc has to bc right. Vc must bc good stcwards ol what
Mama and Papa lclt us.”
Cascwcll pullcd a piccc ol papcr and a stub ol pcncil out ol
his brcast pockct. Hc madc a rough skctch ol what hc had in
mind, thc sistcrs looking ovcr his shouldcr and nodding along.
Vhcn it was donc to thcir satislaction, Cascwcll pcncilcd a
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 19 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
20
numbcr in thc corncr. Angic purscd hcr lips and thcn gavc a
bricl nod.

8ack in his workshop that cvcning, Cascwcll bcgan thc
actual construction bascd on his pcncil drawing. Hc oltcn
gavc thanks lor his ability to carn a living doing somcthing
hc lovcd so dcarly. Smoothing his rough hands ovcr thc sawn
lumbcr, hc could lccl thc shapc ol thc lurniturc rising up to
mcct him. Tc smcll ol sawdust and thc rhythm ol thc planc
sliding along thc grain soothcd him in a dccp, soulsatislying
way. Hc could losc himscll lor hours in his workshop, missing
mcals and working until hc bccamc awarc ol thc timc only
altcr losing light with thc sctting sun.
Hc had picccd togcthcr thc shcll ol thc cabinct and was
scttling in to addrcss somc ol thc fincr dctails whcn hc hcard
a light scuffling at thc door. Turning, hc smcllcd thc cigarcttc
smokc cvcn bclorc hc saw his lathcr lcaning against thc lramc.
John Phillips was a tall, lanky man with a shock ol whitc hair
that had oncc bccn coalblack. Ðad’s narrow lacc, lincd lrom
days spcnt working thc larm, stood out starkly tan against his
whitc hair. Although not traditionally handsomc, hc was strik
ing with an unbcnding air. Cascwcll rarcly saw him without
a handrollcd cigarcttc, squinting against thc smokc rising
past his cycs.
As his lathcr movcd into thc workshop, Cascwcll notcd
that his limp sccmcd morc pronounccd. Hc’d workcd bricfly
in thc mincs, but a cavcin took his only brothcr’s lilc and lclt
him with a hitch to his gait that scrvcd as a constant rcmindcr
ol what hc’d lost. John sworc hc would ncvcr minc again, and
hc’d hcld to that promisc, cvcn in ycars whcn thc larm lost
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 20 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
21
stcadily and thc incomc lrom a lcw months ol mining would
havc bccn wclcomc.
Cascwcll saw thc limp but kncw bcttcr than to mcntion
it. His lathcr didn’t lcavc much room lor wcakncss in himscll
or in othcrs. Hc would not havc apprcciatcd his son noticing
his discomlort.
“Your mothcr is ovcr at thc housc lussing about,” Ðad said,
drawing smokc dccp into his lungs. Hc cxhalcd. “! told hcr
you’rc a grown man ablc to takc carc ol yourscll, but shc ncvcr
could lcavc wcll cnough alonc.”
Cascwcll noddcd, smiling to himscll. !l ¡mily Phillips wcrc
contcnt to lcavc wcll cnough alonc, his lathcr probably wouldn’t
havc livcd this long. Shc’d insistcd Ðad do thc cxcrciscs that
hclpcd him rcgain thc usc ol his loot. Shc’d madc thc gardcn
strctch in thc ycars whcn incomc lrom thc larm was thin.
And shc’d tradcd hcr nccdlcwork—cmbroidcrcd pillow slips,
handkcrchicls, and baby gowns—lor staplcs likc sugar and
coffcc whcn thc Torntons had cxtcndcd as much crcdit as
thcy could. Cascwcll doubtcd his lathcr kncw what lcngths
his mothcr had gonc to in ordcr to kccp thc lamily going and
kncw no onc would darc tcll him.
“Vhat’s that you’rc working on:” hc askcd.
“A cupboard lor thc Talbot sistcrs. ! plan to havc it donc
bclorc thcir birthday. !t’s thcir gilt to cach othcr.”
“Ðon’t know what two old ladics nccd with ncw lurniturc.”
Hc pinchcd thc cmbcr lrom his cigarcttc and droppcd thc stub
in his brcast pockct. “Tcy’vc madc do this long.”
“Tcy havc,” agrccd Cascwcll, knowing bcttcr than to gct
into a drawnout discussion about thc advantagcs ol improvcd
storagc lor two womcn approaching scvcnty.
“Got anything an old man can do:”
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 21 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
22
Tis was a ncw dcvclopmcnt in thcir lathcrson rclation
ship. Vhilc his lathcr approvcd ol Cascwcll bcing a carpcntcr,
hc’d not shown much intcrcst in thc work itscll. !n thc past
lcw months, hc’d bcgun stopping by to lcnd a hand. Cascwcll
didn’t mind. His dad didn’t havc much to say, and hc cnjoycd
thc quict companionship with a man whosc lovc hc’d ncvcr
bccn surc ol.
“You can sand down that door lront,” Cascwcll said, point
ing with his chin. “! pullcd thc picccs with thc niccst grain.”
“So ! scc,” hc said.
Tcy workcd in silcncc lor a timc. Ðad clcarcd his throat.
“8clorc ! lorgct, your mothcr wants you to comc to din
ncr this cvcning. Shc hcard you atc Sunday dinncr with thc
Torntons, and ! rcckon shc wants to know all about that niccc
ol thcirs staying with thcm.”
Cascwcll smilcd. “Sounds good.”
“Rcckon ¡mily will bc about donc mcssing in your busi
ncss,” hc said. “Good work on that cupboard, son.”
“Tank you, sir.” Cascwcll supposcd that was about as closc
as hc’d cvcr comc to hcaring his lathcr say hc lovcd him.

Tat cvcning Cascwcll joincd his parcnts lor a mcal ol bcans
and corn brcad. Tc bcans had bccn cooking all day with ham
hocks, and thc cornmcal was ground lrom thc Phillipscs’ own
corn. His pctitc, darkhaircd mothcr with thc smiling gray
grccn cycs callcd this a poor man’s suppcr. !t didn’t takc hcr
long to broach thc subjcct shc was most intcrcstcd in.
“So tcll mc about Ðclilah’s niccc,” shc said to Cascwcll.
“Vcll, shc surc can cook,” hc said and hclpcd himscll to
anothcr wcdgc ol corn brcad.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 22 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
23
“Tat’s a finc thing in a woman, to bc surc,” Mom said. “8ut
what is shc likc:”
“Shc’s prctty—ycllow hair and bluc cycs, ! think. Shc didn’t
havc a wholc lot to say, but shc sccmcd plcasant cnough.”
His mothcr sighcd. “Likc pulling tccth. Ðocsn’t shc havc
a child:”
“Yup, a lunny littlc spritc. ! think maybc ! talkcd to hcr—Sadic,
it is—morc than hcr mothcr. Shc showcd mc hcr doll.” Cascwcll
rackcd his brain to think ol somcthing that would bc ol intcrcst.
“And thc lathcr:” shc urgcd.
“Ðon’t rightly know,” Cascwcll said. “Tc child said somc
thing . . .” hc trailcd off, lcaring hc was wandcring into somc
thing too much likc gossip.
“Said what:”
“Vcll, shc’s just a child. Tcrc’s plcnty ol rcasons lor a woman
to bc visiting lamily without hcr husband.” Cascwcll loldcd
his napkin and shovcd back lrom thc tablc a notch.
His mothcr was not so casily dissuadcd. “And how long arc
thcy staying: Tcrc’s a rumor . . .”
“¡nough, woman,” Ðad said. “You’ll havc to run down thc
othcr hcns il you want to gossip about this ncw girl. Comc
out on thc porch with mc, son.”
Cascwcll obcdicntly lollowcd his lathcr whilc his mothcr
bcgan tidying thc kitchcn. Òncc outsidc, Ðad fishcd thc mak
ings lor a cigarcttc out ol his brcast pockct. Hc hcld a papcr
in onc hand and shook out thc tobacco lrom a tin with thc
othcr. Hc rollcd thc cigarcttc in a singlc motion, with thc
practicc ol ycars. Hc lickcd thc cdgc to scal it and gavc onc
cnd a twist. Hc struck a woodcn kitchcn match on a post and
bcgan puffing. His gnarlcd fingcrs wcrc ycllowcd whcrc hc’d
hcld a thousand cigarcttcs.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 23 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
24
Cascwcll, likc most ol his pccrs, had cxpcrimcntcd with
smoking as a boy. Hc’d tricd corn silks and grapcvinc and
finally tricd thc rcal thing whcn his lricnd Carl stolc thc mak
ings lrom an oldcr cousin. Cascwcll wantcd to smokc likc his
lathcr, his grandlathcr, and his dcad unclc, but hc ncvcr could
gct thc hang ol it. Smoking didn’t imprcss your lricnds whcn
you wcrc hacking and choking. Hc finally gavc up trying and
now was gratclul a lovc lor tobacco didn’t drivc him out on
thc porch all through thc day and in all kinds ol wcathcr. His
mothcr didn’t allow smoking in thc housc, and Ðad rcspcctcd
hcr in that.
“So this girl is good lookin’, is shc:” hc askcd.
“! supposc so,” Cascwcll said. “8ut thcrc’s likcly a husband
somcwhcrc, and cvcn il shc’s a widow, thcrc’s surc cnough a
child. Tat’s a wholc othcr kcttlc ol fish.”
“Truc cnough. Still, you’rc about thc right agc to think ol
scttling down, and sccms likc no onc around hcrc has caught
your cyc. Tough !’vc sccn morc than onc try it.” Hc slantcd
a look at Cascwcll. “!t’s a man’s duty to find a good woman
who can raisc his childrcn in thc lcar ol God. And your ma
probably wouldn’t mind a grandyoung’un or two.”
Tis was quitc possibly thc longcst spccch Cascwcll had
cvcr hcard his lathcr makc. And hc was surpriscd thc man
sccmcd to advocatc lor him to gct involvcd with a woman hc
barcly kncw.
Cascwcll wantcd to marry and havc childrcn. Hc thought
ol it oltcn. 8ut no woman had quitc comc up to his standards.
Hc was looking lor a Godlcaring woman who would kccp
thc housc and raisc wcllbchavcd childrcn. Shc nccdcd to bc
smart cnough to carry on a good convcrsation with him and
to tcach thc childrcn until thcy wcrc old cnough lor school.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 24 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
25
Hc’d takcn noticc ol a young lady or two ovcr thc ycars. ¡vcn
now hc rccognizcd that Mclody Simmons probably wouldn’t
mind il hc camc calling, but prctty as shc was, shc was kin to
thc worst moonshining clan in thc county. Hc aimcd to stay
clcar ol that bunch. And hc ccrtainly didn’t want a woman with
notions about working outsidc thc homc. Latcly it sccmcd likc
all thc womcn his agc cithcr marricd young or wcrc “libcratcd.”
Tc country was changing rapidly. Vhilc thc Korcan Var
had cndcd, Joscph McCarthy had thc wholc country on alcrt
lor Communists, and that Marilyn Monroc was sctting a tcr
riblc cxamplc lor womcn cvcrywhcrc. Such things sccmcd vcry
lar away to Cascwcll. Tcrc wcrc placcs back in thc hills whcrc
lolks still didn’t havc clcctricity or running watcr. Cascwcll
didn’t havc a tclcvision sct, though his parcnts had onc, and
hc’d watchcd a lcw programs with thcm. Hc likcd thc wcst
crns—Te Lone Ranger and Dragnet—whcrc thc good guys
won out in thc cnd.
Cascwcll lcancd against thc sidc ol thc housc and fishcd
out a toothpick. “You’rc right, Ðad, it is timc ! scttlcd down,
but cvcn il this Pcrla is availablc, thcrc’s morc to it than that.”
“Right cnough. Just thinking out loud.”
Altcr that thc two mcn stood in silcncc and watchcd thc
light ladc lrom thc pasturc and thc woods. A dccr walkcd into
thc lar cdgc ol thc ficld and grazcd hcr way down toward a
pond. Cascwcll would havc bccn willing to bct shc had a lawn
stashcd somcwhcrc ncarby. 8ut you’d ncvcr scc it. Hc’d walkcd
right up on lawns that hc didn’t scc until hc almost stcppcd
on thcm. Naturc kncw how to protcct hcr young.
At homc that night Cascwcll lound himscll rcplaying thc
altcrnoon hc’d spcnt with Pcrla and Sadic. Tcrc wasn’t much
to it, but what hc did rcmcmbcr agrccd with him. Pcrla bchavcd
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 25 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
26
likc Cascwcll tcndcd to think a woman ought. Shc’d bccn
mostly quict, tcnding to hcr daughtcr and thc mcal. And as
hc’d noticcd bclorc, shc was casy on thc cycs. Now that hc was
bcginning to think ol Pcrla as pcrhaps morc than just a gucst
passing through, hc rcalizcd that hc’d donc vcry littlc to cngagc
hcr in convcrsation. Hc and littlc Sadic had talkcd morc than
hc and Pcrla did. Vcll, il Pcrla’s visit lastcd long cnough, hc’d
havc to rcmcdy that.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 26 4/15/14 8:42 AM
27
3
T
nv voiiowixc Suxb~v, Pastor Longbournc invitcd
Cascwcll to play along with Gcorgc and Stcvc during
thc scrvicc. Tcy struck up a rousing vcrsion ol “!’ll Fly Away”
that had cvcn thc staid Prcsbytcrians tapping thcir tocs. Hc saw
Sadic stand up and dancc a littlc bclorc hcr mothcr coaxcd hcr
back into thc pcw. Altcr church, thc musicians wcrc swampcd
by wcllwishcrs, and Cascwcll watchcd Pcrla climb into thc
Torntons’ car as townslolk blockcd his path to thc door.
Tat altcrnoon hc wcnt to scc thc Talbot sistcrs so that hc
could gct thcir opinions on a lcw finishing touchcs lor thcir
cupboard. Altcr giving him thc inlormation hc nccdcd, Liza
and Angic insistcd hc stay and visit with thcm. Tcy produccd
a pot ol tca, and Cascwcll lound himscll sitting on a sprung
sola, trying to balancc a tcacup on his kncc. Vith his mothcr’s
Sunday dinncr in his bclly and thc twins’ prattlc in his cars, hc
had a hard timc staying awakc.
Cascwcll tricd to pay attcntion as Liza turncd hcr bluc
flanncl cycs on him.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 27 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
28
“Vc’rc not lond ol gossip,” shc said. “8ut sincc you’rc a singlc
man, you probably ought to know about that Pcrla Long.”
Cascwcll joltcd awakc.
“Now, Liza,” cautioncd Angic, “wc oughtn’t to say anything
until wc know lor surc that shc’s a harlot. !t could just bc mcan
talk ovcr a prctty woman.”
“! supposc you’rc right,” Liza said. “Just bccausc Mclanic
Saundcrs says shc’s ncvcr bccn marricd docsn’t makc it truc.”
“And thc 8iblc is clcar about carrying talcs,” Angic said.
Cascwcll lclt as il thc sistcrs wcrc playing a gamc ol bad
minton as thcy gcntly battcd thcir bit ol gossip back and lorth
in lront ol him. Angic turncd to Cascwcll and gavc him a
tight smilc.
“Pay no attcntion to us,” shc said. “Scandalous storics travcl
lastcr than plain oncs, and wc havc no busincss tclling you
anything wc’rc not surc ol. Pcrla is probably a lovcly young
woman and Mclanic Saundcrs is jcalous.”
Cascwcll had a dozcn qucstions but didn’t scc his way clcar
to ask any ol thcm. Liza apologizcd and turncd thc convcrsation
to pconics and whcthcr thc ants thcy attractcd wcrc ncccssary
to makc thcm bloom, or il it was salc to knock thc littlc pcsts
off. As soon as hc could do so politcly, Cascwcll told Liza and
Angic hc’d havc thcir cupboard lor thcm by Tursday and
took his lcavc.
Hc pondcrcd what thc sistcrs had to say about Pcrla. Hc was
strongly opposcd to gossip, but hc couldn’t vcry wcll unhcar
what thc Talbots had said. Hc also couldn’t think ol a way to
dctcrminc il what thcy had hintcd at was truc, short ol asking
Pcrla hcrscll, and that hc would not do. Cascwcll toycd with
thc idca ol dropping somc hints around his mothcr so that shc
might bc inspircd to do a littlc digging, but that lclt wrong,
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 28 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
29
too. Rcgardlcss, hc lound Pcrla Long somcwhat lcss attractivc
at bcdtimc than hc had whcn hc’d awokcn.
Cascwcll workcd hard to finish thc Talbot sistcrs’ cupboard
that wcck. Tc unfinishcd thankyou projcct lor Pcrla and Sadic
sat on thc corncr ol his workbcnch. Hc workcd around it lor
a couplc ol days and thcn packcd it into a cratc and pushcd
it undcr thc bcnch. Hc’d gct to it oncc thc paid work was out
ol thc way.
Òn Tursday Cascwcll loadcd thc finishcd piccc ol lurniturc
into thc back ol his truck with thc hclp ol his lathcr and carc
lully cushioncd it with old quilts. Hc drovc slowly ovcr to thc
Talbots’, smiling to himscll. !t was a finc piccc ol work, and
hc was glad thc twins would havc it. Hc chargcd thcm lcss
than hc could gct clscwhcrc, but thc Talbots wcrcn’t up on thc
currcnt cost ol handcraltcd lurniturc, and hc suspcctcd thcy
might laint il hc chargcd what it was worth.
Liza and Angic wcrc waiting lor Cascwcll on thcir lront
porch, hands claspcd and laccs cagcr. Liza lcancd out to scc
bcttcr as Cascwcll and his lathcr bcgan unloading thc basc ol
thc cabinct. Angic lrowncd at hcr sistcr and stood up a littlc
straightcr.
As hc liltcd thc lurniturc lrcc ol thc tailgatc, Ðad stum
blcd slightly and Cascwcll had to lungc to takc thc bulk ol
thc wcight. Ðad gruntcd and sccmcd to rccovcr himscll, so
Cascwcll shruggcd it off, supposing that ncithcr ol thcm wcrc
gctting any youngcr. !t was nothing.
“Tat’s thc bottom part, isn’t it:” Liza askcd.
“Òl coursc it is,” Angic said. “Tc top is still in thc truck.
Òpcn thc door lor thcm.”
Tc sistcrs got in thc way only a littlc as thcy tricd to hclp
thc mcn bring both picccs ol thc cupboard into thc kitchcn.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 29 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
30
Tc two mcn scttlcd thc basc into placc and thcn ccntcrcd thc
top against thc wall. !t fit pcrlcctly and Cascwcll stood back,
a twin on cithcr sidc, to admirc his work.
Liza sighcd. “!t’s pcrlcct.”
“Vcll, nothing is pcrlcct, but it’s mighty closc,” Angic said.
“Now lct’s scc how it works.”
Tc two womcn bcgan placing roscstrcwn china platcs on
thc opcn shclvcs. A tcacup in its sauccr wcnt in lront ol cach
platc. Tcn a tcapot with sugar and crcamcr lound a homc on
a doily on thc lar right sidc ol thc scrving board. Òncc cvcry
thing had bccn placcd, thc twins stcppcd back to chcck thc
ovcrall cffcct. Liza sighcd again but apparcntly did not lccl
thc nccd to spcak.
“Now,” Angic said, rubbing hcr hands togcthcr, “lct’s chcck
thc workings.”
Shc scnt Cascwcll to lctch a sack ol potatocs lrom thc ccl
lar, and hc pourcd thcm into thc potato bin whilc Angic tricd
all thc doors and madc surc thc latch on thc pic salc was to
hcr satislaction. Shc stcppcd back to stand bcsidc Liza again
and noddcd oncc.
“Vc arc quitc plcascd,” shc said. “Liza, lctch our pursc.”
Liza disappcarcd upstairs and soon rcturncd with a wcll
worn black lcathcr pursc. Angic took it and unsnappcd thc
clasp. Shc withdrcw cash and carclully countcd out thc corrcct
amount onto thc kitchcn tablc. Shc pauscd, looking torn, and
thcn pullcd out an additional fivcdollar bill.
“Tis is lor you and John lor your troublc in dclivcring thc
cupboard,” shc said.
“Vhy, thank you, Angic, but that isn’t ncccssary,” Cascwcll said.
“! insist,” Angic said, tapping thc stack ol bills. “Your work is
solid and you dclivcrcd on timc. John, you raiscd a good boy.”
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 30 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
31
Ðad gruntcd and noddcd at Cascwcll. “Takc it. You surcly
carncd it,” hc said.
Tc sistcrs offcrcd coffcc and molasscs cookics, which thc
mcn acccptcd. Cascwcll’s lathcr wasn’t onc lor socializing, but
thc twins’ cookics wcrc lcgcndary. Tcy sat around thc kitchcn
tablc whilc thc womcn chattcrcd on about how handsomc thc
cabinct was, how it drcsscd up thc room, and how nicc it was
not to havc to go to thc ccllar lor potatocs so oltcn.
Tc talk cvcntually turncd to thc barn dancc Ðclilah was
gctting up. Tc sistcrs wcrc trying to dccidc what thcy would
bring.
“Can’t go wrong with a batch ol thcm cookics,” Ðad said,
making his first rcal contribution to thc convcrsation.
“Òh, ! know,” Liza said. “8ut somctimcs ! gct thc urgc to
try somcthing diffcrcnt. ! just ordcrcd thc ncw Better Homes
and Gardens cookbook, and oh my, thcrc arc somc lovcly things
in thcrc. So lancy.” Shc lookcd wistlul.
“Plain and good is bcttcr than lancy any day,” Angic said,
brushing imaginary crumbs lrom thc tablccloth. “A baskct
ol lricd chickcn and a platc ol cookics always gct catcn up.”
“! supposc so,” Liza said, looking disappointcd.
“! hcar that Pcrla Long is a mighty good cook,” Angic said.
“You’vc had hcr cooking, havcn’t you, Cascwcll:”
“Ycs, ! gucss ! havc,” hc said. “And it was right tasty.”
“Vhat did shc makc:” Liza askcd, lcaning lorward.
“Vcll, now, shc madc a finc mcss ol grccns along with roast
pork. Òh, and an angcl cakc lor dcsscrt.”
Angic sniffcd. “Angcl cakc only uscs cgg whitcs. !t’s a wastc
ol yolks. ¡xtravagant.”
“!t was good, though,” Cascwcll said. “Shc scnt somc homc
with mc, and ! atc on it all wcck.”
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 31 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
32
“Somconc told mc shc always makcs way morc than is nccdcd
whcn shc docs thc cooking,” Liza said. “Tcy havc morc lcltovcrs
than thcy know what to do with ovcr thcrc at thc Torntons’.”
“No gossiping, sistcr,” Angic said, thcn madc a tsk-tsk sound.
“Vastclul, wastclul.”
“Timc to go, son.”
Cascwcll was surpriscd his lathcr had tolcratcd sitting and
visiting with thc Talbot sistcrs this long. Hc was probably itch
ing lor a cigarcttc. Ðad stood slowly, pushing himscll upright
lrom thc cdgc ol thc tablc. !t sccmcd to takc him a momcnt
to straightcn his back.
Òncc outsidc, Cascwcll said, “Hopc that hcavy lurniturc
wasn’t too much lor you, Ðad. !’d hatc to scc you gct down
in thc back.”
Hc shot him a pointcd look. “Tat’ll bc thc day whcn !
can’t hclp my son dclivcr a lcw sticks ol lurniturc.” Hc pullcd
out his makings and built a cigarcttc, blowing smokc out thc
truck window in licu ol convcrsation.
Cascwcll pullcd into his parcnts’ drivcway and watchcd his
lathcr climb out, waving a hand in his son’s dircction as hc
trudgcd toward thc door. Cascwcll slid out ol thc truck and lol
lowcd him in. Ðad lookcd a littlc surpriscd but didn’t commcnt.
“Tought !’d say hcy to Mom,” Cascwcll cxplaincd.
Òncc insidc, Ðad hcadcd straight lor thc living room and
scttlcd onto thc sola with thc ncwspapcr. ¡mily was in thc
kitchcn baking hcr homcmadc whitc brcad.
“!’m so glad you camc in,” shc said with a smilc. “Lct mc
gct you somcthing to cat.”
Cascwcll laughcd and stoppcd his mothcr lrom raiding thc
Frigidairc. “! had molasscs cookics with thc Talbot sistcrs,” hc
said. “!’m finc.”
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 32 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
33
“Vcll, you can takc onc ol thcsc loavcs homc with you as
soon as thcy comc out ol thc ovcn,” shc said, scttling lor lccd
ing him latcr.
“So, Ma,” Cascwcll said, hoping to sound casual, “cvcrything
all right with Ðad: Hc sccmcd a littlc tircd today.”
“Ðid hc:” ¡mily turncd away to finish wiping down thc
countcr whcrc shc’d kncadcd hcr brcad.
“Ycah. ! figurc it’s nothing, but ! wantcd to chcck with you.”
“Òh, !’m surc you’rc right,” shc said. “Probably didn’t slccp
wcll last night, and hc’s not as young as hc oncc was. Scoot
in thcrc and rcad thc papcr with him. Tis brcad will bc out
in tcn minutcs.”
Cascwcll stuck his hcad in thc living room and saw that his
lathcr was snoring soltly with thc papcr opcn across his chcst.
Cascwcll stcppcd back into thc kitchcn.
“Hc’s napping. Ðon’t worry about thc brcad. !’ll gct somc
ncxt timc.”
“Napping:” Cascwcll thought hc hcard a notc ol alarm in his
mothcr’s voicc, but shc quickly smoothcd it ovcr. “Vcll, thcn,
!’m surc hc just had a rcstlcss night.” Shc noddcd cmphatically
and Cascwcll wondcrcd which ol thcm shc hopcd to convincc.

Pcrla was gratclul Sadic was such an casy child. Tc littlc girl
rarcly lusscd and fit in with adults bcttcr than most childrcn.
Shc had an casygoing, chccrlul way about hcr that somchow
put grownups at casc. Pcrla noticcd that pcoplc talkcd to Sadic
without rcsorting to a highpitchcd voicc or silly qucstions.
Somctimcs Pcrla caught hcrscll talking to Sadic about things
thc child had no busincss knowing—things about hcr lathcr
and thcir situation. Pcrla tricd to rcmcmbcr that Sadic was
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 33 4/15/14 8:42 AM
M! RACL¡ ! N A ÐRY S¡ASÒN
34
fivc and nccdcd protccting, but shc had no onc clsc to talk to.
Sadic was a comlort, and Pcrla hopcd that coming to Visc
and rcmoving thcm both lrom cvcrything thcy kncw hadn’t
bccn a mistakc.
Robcrt and Ðclilah wcrc lovcly. Tcy hadn’t askcd a lot ol
qucstions whcn Pcrla wrotc to ask il shc and Sadic could comc
stay lor a whilc. Ðclilah just callcd and said ol coursc thcy
should comc and stay as long as thcy likcd. Pcrla had offcrcd
to pay a littlc rcnt or hclp out in somc way, but thc Torntons
rcluscd adamantly. Pcrla misscd hcr mothcr, but thc looks and
thc whispcrs had gottcn to thc point that Pcrla kncw thc only
thing to do was to go whcrc no onc, cxccpt Robcrt and Ðclilah,
kncw hcr story. Pcrla’s mothcr, Charlottc, had protcstcd but
not vcry much. Shc camc around much too quickly to thc idca
ol hcr daughtcr and granddaughtcr lcaving, and Pcrla thought
maybc shc scnscd a ccrtain lcvcl ol rclicl.
Tc sistcrs had always bccn closc. Just thirtccn months apart
in agc, thcy had bccn mistakcn lor twins a timc or two, and it
was a comlort lor Pcrla to havc somconc so likc hcr mothcr
lussing ovcr hcr and Sadic. And thcn again, thcrc wcrc timcs
Aunt Ðclilah rcmindcd hcr so much ol hcr mothcr that Pcrla
would havc to find a quict corncr to cry ovcr missing hcr mothcr
and rcgrctting what shc had donc to shamc hcr. Mothcr al
ways said thc shamc wasn’t on Pcrla, but thc way thc lolks in
Comstock actcd, thcrc was no doubt whcrc thcy laid thc blamc.
Tc onc thing thc Torntons had allowcd Pcrla to do was to
takc ovcr almost all ol thc cooking. Vith Robcrt and Ðclilah
at thc storc most days, it hclpcd to havc Pcrla bringing thcm
lunch around noon and having suppcr rcady whcn thcy camc
homc in thc cvcning. Ðclilah uscd to comc homc an hour carly
to start dinncr, but now shc could takc hcr timc and hclp Robcrt
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 34 4/15/14 8:42 AM
Sarah Loudin Thomas
35
closc up cach cvcning. Pcrla hopcd that shc was truly a hclp
to hcr aunt and unclc. And shc did havc a knack with lood.
Somctimcs Pcrla’s way with lood unncrvcd hcr a littlc. Shc
would takc a chickcn or somc potatocs into hcr hands, and it
sccmcd as il shc didn’t dccidc what to do with thcm—thcy
dccidcd lor hcr. Almost bclorc shc kncw what shc planncd,
shc’d havc cnough chickcn and dumplings to lccd hall thc
county, or so many potatocs au gratin shc couldn’t find a pan
big cnough. And thc lood was good. Pcoplc oltcn told Pcrla
shc should writc hcr rccipcs down, but shc wasn’t surc shc could
cvcn rcmcmbcr what shc put in thcm hall thc timc. Vhcn shc
cookcd, it was almost likc shc wcnt into a trancc and thc rcst
ol thc world didn’t mattcr, just translorming raw ingrcdicnts
into somcthing dclicious and lilc sustaining was thc closcst
Pcrla got to bcing happy.
No, Pcrla rcalizcd, not happy. Shc was happy whcn Sadic
laughcd or cuddlcd closc. Vhat shc lclt whcn shc cookcd
was a dccp, abiding pcacc. Shc might havc prclcrrcd to cook
all thc timc just to rctain that lccling, but somctimcs whcn
shc put a mcal on thc tablc, shc rcalizcd that shc had lost a
chunk ol timc. Shc kncw shc’d bccn in thc kitchcn prcparing
lood, but shc could no morc rccount hcr movcmcnts than shc
could fly. Scrving dinncr was likc waking up lrom a dccp and
rcstlul slccp. And Pcrla worricd that shc ncglcctcd Sadic at
thosc timcs.
_Thomas_MiracleDrySeason_SA_wo.indd 35 4/15/14 8:42 AM