Isaiah and Ishmael rolled the two carts ashore and up the mud and stones to a lightly paved road extending along the shoreline. Immediately beyond lay a row of cottages with occasional low sheds that served as garages for small boats. The land soon became a steep hillside that rose to a flat plateau. Abby studied the landscape with passionate interest. This was the land of her childhood, seen only twice over the past decade, and not at all for six years. She watched a solitary figure moving along a path that wound its way down from the plateau. A man of medium height, very lean and dark skinned, came toward them. From his straight, firm posture Abby instantly recognized Sonny Walker. He waved and called to Isaiah and Ishmael, who waited for him. Cali and Sara were standing to the side in animated conversation, planning an event for the evening. Pastor Banks helped Sharon tidy up the boat and move it to the crowded dock. Abby felt very shy, and stood alone on the muddy ground.
Sonny turned and called her to join them. She felt close to tears. Somehow she had not anticipated so happy and emotional a moment. Sonny hugged her, complimented her appearance and her new reputation, and then gave news about the farm and the progress they had made since Abby learned there as a child. She realized that Sonny must be in his seventies, yet to her he looked the same as he was eight or ten years ago.
“Pecan trees, peanuts, two varieties of finger beans, a dozen revivals of the apples of the old days!” Sonny told her. “A new compost area producing our own biogas. Eight thriving bee colonies. Goats, a hundred chickens and a few milk cows on the West Isle.” Abby’s happiness beamed from her eyes and wide smile.
“You probably know these things already,” Sonny went on in a more confidential tone. “From what I hear, you should be teaching me!”
“You’re just being nice,” she replied. “I’m so eager to see what you’ve done! Do we have time for a visit now?” Sonny turned to Cali and said, “Abby and I will head up to the shanty. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Julia is at the Open Gate. Please tell her that her daughter is here.”
“Ah, of course!” Cali and Sara followed the group along the road up toward the bridge.
“Where’s my Dad?” asked Abby.
“He’s at the other end of the farm. I’ll tell Chris to bring him.”
The path climbed back and forth up the hillside. As the land leveled off they passed a small chicken coop and rows of tomatoes and basil. Just ahead, apple trees, corn and amaranth grew tall and blocked Abby’s view of the long field that covered most of the plateau. In a few more steps she saw Sonny’s cabin – what he called the shanty – looking neat and trim. “Solar panels! New door, windows, and siding!” she exclaimed. They entered into a combination kitchen, study, and bedroom, with a small second room to one side. The space was tiny but well organized. Light entered from windows on three sides. A man sat in front of a laptop computer at table running along one wall. He was surrounded by files, notebooks, a bookshelf, and an out of date telephone. Sonny introduced them, and Chris stood up to shake hands. He looked at her with obvious curiosity. “So you’re Abby! He said. “I heard you were on your way. It’s a pleasure to meet you!”
She had never seen Chris before, and was surprised that he had heard about her. He looked about thirty years old, with long messy light brown hair, and pale skin. He seemed frail, under-nourished. Abby thought he should go out in the sun and get some exercise.
Sonny put a kettle on the biogas stove. “Take a break, Chris. Let’s have some Breakfast Mixture together, and then you can walk up to the west end and bring Abby’s father back.
Soon they sat sipping tea at a small table just outside the door.