His wife smiled as he walked into his own kitchen. He hung his hat on the peg on the wall as she questioned him about the Walkers but did not answer. He turned to her and she put down the casserole dish she held when she saw his face. He was white beneath the sweat that covered his face. “Bill? What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
“The Walkers are sick? Is that why you were there so long?” she queried anxiously.
He nodded heavily, then sat in his own chair. Looking over at the casserole and then at his own place setting, he pushed his plate away. After wiping his face with his hand, he said, “They have some kind of bad sickness over there, Tillie. Everyone’s sick abed, except for Hiram.” There he paused.
“So Hiram’s trying to take care of them all? Poor man! Poor Ruth!” she joked as she turned back to the kitchen to gather up the rest of their lunch.
“No,” he began slowly. “Hiram’s not there. Not that I could see, leastways.”
“Hiram’s not there? Where is he?” Matilda’s forehead creased with the questions.
“I don’t know. Never saw him. Just Miz Walker and the children. Oh,” he began and gulped hard.
Matilda sat down and waited for him to clear his throat. “One of the boys passed. That friend of Samuel’s, Simmons.”
Matilda gasped. “Passed! What do they have?”
“I don’t know Tillie, but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”