Chapter Ten: Crystal

Larry was conducting classes in gardening to a group of refugees. Held in a nearby school, he went through the basics. Spring was not far off, and everyone was busy preparing. He had already started many plants in his greenhouse. Even, marijuana. It had been decided by the County government to legalize it. In addition to being a crop of high barter value, hemp had many uses. Larry had confessed to growing it in the past to Sherrif Jenkins. Sam smiled and shook his head. "Geez, Larry, and you never shared any with me!"

When Larry went through the vegetables, fruit, and herbs, he then began lecturing on 'The Herb'. This earned chuckles and extra attention by some. "Beside the more infamous use of hemp, the plant's fibers can be used for making rope, paper, and cloth. I might add that in olden days, hemp clothing was noted for being very durable. Shirts would last for some twenty years or more with care. In the present circumstances, this will be very useful."

After describing many of the other uses, he dismissed the class and headed home. Larry was about half way home when he came across a man waving at the side of the road. It was one of the refugees who was now occupying a trailerhome on a neighbor's farm. Larry brought the horse to a stop.

"Hey! Hey, fella! I need help!", the man shouted. Larry dismounted and tied the horse off to a tall bush near the trailer. "It's my wife, fella, she's gonna have a baby!" 'Oh shoot!', Larry thought to himself. He followed the man inside and saw the wife lying on the couch covered in blankets. The only heat was from a kerosene heater that somebody generously had given them.

Larry looked at the woman, and asked her a few questions. Her water had broken an hour ago. He asked the husband how dialated she was. This took a quick look. He reported that she was at about 2 or 3 inches. Larry figured they had at least an hour from that and the frequency of the contractions. He told the couple that he would go for help.

Back on his horse, Larry made good time getting home. He told Ann what was going on and got on his HAM radio and called the Sherrif's office in Bad Axe. There was still gas for emergency vehicles and Larry was told that an ambulance would be dispatched. He got a few things together, like food and drink, and returned to the trailerhome.

The ambulance arrived shortly after. The couple had a 5 year old daughter, and Larry agreed to take her home with him while the husband rode in the ambulance to the hospital. Daddy bundled his little girl, Crystal, and handed her to Larry, who handed the food parcel to him and wished good luck. Luck was not on anyone's side that day.

Snowplows had no fuel for clearing roads. Horse powered plows were fabricated, but this always left a hard-packed layer, often as slick as ice. Many roads weren't plowed at all. The ambulance was several miles outside Bad Axe when it lost control and smashed into a tree.

The driver and father in the front cab were both killed instantly. The EMT riding in the back was knocked into the wall and rendered unconscious. A large chest of supplies on a shelf fell on the woman's lower abdomen. The baby was crushed and the woman now was hemorrhaging. By the time help arrived, she, too, had died.

Crystal had been a fountain of excitement. Not only was she soon going to have a baby brother, but she loved the horse ride. Larry suspected that all girls of that age loved horses, remembering his own sister's youthful passions. It was not till shortly after dark that the radio buzzed and the news was relayed. Ann and Larry decided to wait till morning before telling Crystal what happened. When she was fast asleep, Larry, Ann, and Adam prayed together.

Sherrif Jenkins drove a psychiatrist out to Larry's place in his GMC 4x4 carry-all. They had breakfast and then after an hour, the psychiatrist talked with Crystal and told her what happened. Ann helped out, while Larry, Sam, and Adam went outside. "What's gonna happen to her?", asked the teen. "We have an orphanage. I'm sure someone will adopt her.", remarked Jenkins.

"Maybe we will.", said Larry. He looked at Adam, "Your Mom has often said how'd she wishes she had more children. She can't now, and for that matter, neither can I. I got fixed a long time ago. Figured there were too many people on the Earth already." Jenkins interjected, "I can't think of a better couple for adopting that little girl. She's got nobody anymore. You can count on me to help grease the tracks if you want to make it official."

Larry asked Adam and he agreed that he wouldn't mind having a young sister to spoil. Larry then confessed that Ann and he talked about it last night. They all felt it was best for Crystal to have some sense of family during this time. After later discussion with the psychiatrist, all were agreed to let Crystal stay with the Stewarts while the paperwork was dealt with. Ann and Larry would be coached in how to best handle the situation.

The first days and weeks were difficult. When Spring broke and the activity at the homestead dramatically increased, Ann and Larry kept Crystal busy helping them with minor tasks. Crystal enjoyed spending time with the horses and goats. She quickly adopted one of the new borns. She named him Sparky because of his bright, shiney eyes. Crystal still was given to depression and crying fits, especially at night. But the Stewarts gave their new member as much love as they could. Larry was confident that things would work out.

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The material you have just read is a chapter in the on-line fictional story, "When Autumn Leaves Fall" by Andrew Zarowny, copyrighted 1997. All characters and circumstances are fictional and are not intended to bare any resemblence to actual people alive or dead. You have the author's permission to copy or reproduce this material so long as you charge no money for it's reproduction or distribution.