Today's Reading

Jessica reached for another tomato, then looked over her shoulder in time to see the man fill a plastic bag with plums. He didn't check for soft spots or to see if they were too green or too ripe. He simply loaded the bag, not seeming to care about quality.

'Men'. She returned her attention to the tomatoes.

It took her about fifteen minutes to finish her shopping, pay for her groceries, and get her few bags into the back of her SUV. Once upon a time, she'd loved to discover new recipes and shop for the ingredients. She used to spend hours in the kitchen, cooking to please her husband. These days she cared little about what she ate. For the baby's sake, she tried to eat healthy, but she preferred whatever was quick and simple. She had no one to please, no one to impress.

Once home and everything put away, she tried to immerse herself in her latest art project, but she couldn't seem to concentrate on it. Giving up, she went outside to weed her flowerbeds.

She was nearly finished when a familiar but unexpected sound reached her ears. She straightened, resting on her heels, and looked toward the neighboring property. The log house—about an acre away from her own—had stood empty for almost two years. Then, in early April, the For Sale sign had come down. She'd wondered who bought it, but the house had continued to stand empty. Until now. A man, wearing Levi's and a white T-shirt, wielded an ax with expertise, chopping the logs that had long ago been stacked near the shed and covered with a tarp.

A good neighbor would have crossed the acre that separated them to say hello and introduce herself. A good neighbor might have taken over a plate of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies. But Jessica had forgotten how to be a good neighbor.

She stood, at the same time removing her gardening gloves, and went back inside.


BOISE, IDAHO

Monday, November 11, 1929

Andrew stood outside the bank's entrance, a cold wind blowing through his coat and another through his soul. When he'd kissed Helen goodbye that morning, he'd been employed. Now he wasn't. They'd used most of his savings for their honeymoon to the Oregon coast. It hadn't seemed extravagant at the time. Now he wished they'd been more prudent.

He pulled his coat collar up around his neck as he turned and began to follow the sidewalk in the direction of his automobile.

"I'll find another job," he whispered as he walked.

How difficult could it be? Certainly what had happened in the stock market a few weeks earlier had shaken financial institutions throughout the country, but it wouldn't last. And besides, he didn't have to work for a bank. His degree qualified him for many positions in industry or even in local or state government. He had the promise of good recommendations even if his work experience was limited. He would find another job soon enough.

Although his thoughts were meant to bolster his self-confidence, he dreaded telling his wife of less than three weeks that he was now unexpectedly unemployed.

He frowned and his footsteps slowed. As a bank employee, he'd been aware of the recession hitting the country earlier in the year, but he hadn't thought it would last. He hadn't thought it would worsen. He hadn't expected a crash or that men would throw themselves out of tall buildings over it. Certainly he hadn't expected that any of it would affect him personally. How wrong he'd been.

Another blast of cold air struck him, and he hurried on.

The drive home didn't take long. Andrew parked his Model T Ford in a space off the alley and walked to the rear of the large home, then went down the ten steps to the basement apartment he'd rented shortly before his wedding day. Since returning from their honeymoon, Helen had been happily making their little place as attractive as possible. There was the living room with its cold, tiled floor; an eating nook; a kitchen one could barely turn around in; a bathroom just large enough for the sink, toilet, and shower stall; plus one bedroom. Helen moved furniture on an almost daily basis, fussing over this and that while making lists of things she wanted to purchase when possible. In fact, she was pushing the sofa to a new location when he opened the door and stepped inside.

"Helen."

She gasped and whirled around. Her hand went to her throat as she let out a breath. "Andrew. For heaven's sake. You startled me. What are you doing home at this hour?"

He removed his hat and hung it on the rack near the door. His coat followed it.

"Andrew?"

He met her gaze again. "I'm afraid I have some bad news."

"Bad news?"

"Helen, I've lost my position at the bank."

Her face paled. "But why?"

As he walked across the room, he wondered if his bride ever looked at the newspaper. Then again, he always read the newspaper, and he'd still been caught off guard.

"Andrew?"

He took hold of her shoulders. "The bank must take cost-savings measures because of what happened in the stock market. Cutting back on employees is where they started. I was among those they let go today." He drew her close. "Don't worry. They've promised me an excellent recommendation. I'll find another position soon."

God, don't let that be a lie.
...

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