Bob pulled his F150 out of the Calvary Lutheran parking lot just after 12:00. The cool, October air blew through the open windows, and he enjoyed the feel of it evaporating the moisture from his face. The maples and oaks surrounding the church were in full autumn color, the lawn dark green and exquisitely tended.

He had stopped by to say goodbye to Joshua, his pastor and long-time friend, and to offer the church a small piece of the settlement. Joshua had wanted to refuse, but Bob explained that the community had been good to him and Sarah, especially as the market bottomed out and their finances had soured. Besides, his family had been parishoners there for more than a century, and he felt like he was abandoning them. He told Joshua the gift would hurt a lot less than the guilt.

They had talked for awhile. Joshua had tried to convince him that losing the farm wasn't his fault, and that he was right to sell out when he did. But it felt like a backhanded compliment. Wasn't the mark of a good businessman -- a good farmer -- the ability to keep going through the rough times? To keep the family farm from becoming just another anonymous subdivision?

But Josh was right -- there was no money in farming anymore. At least for the little guys. The big factory farms could turn out ten times as much soy as he could, and at half the cost. They were zealous about profit -- they had to be, or someone bigger and meaner would come along and ruin them, too. It was a business to them, not a life. Of course, the weather was complicitous in the whole thing. If they'd just gotten some damned rain the year before, maybe he could've held out one more year. But that was lunacy -- the end was inevitable.

"I know it might be hard for you to hear right now"' Josh had said, "but God has a plan for everything. Trust in that." He wondered why His plan involved him and Sarah losing their home and livelihood, and moving to Arizona? The pastor had offered him some uneaten pizza from last night's Bible study, but Bob told him his wife was cleaning out the fridge and would have leftovers waiting. A few minutes of small talk only reinforced the fact that they probably wouldn't see each other again. Bob's kids had left town years ago, and both men were on the short side of middle age. Bob gave the pastor their new address, shook hands, and bid him well.

As he drove through town, Bob wanted to absorb everything. The old-but-well-tended houses, fenced by autumn trees. A gaggle of kids in Packers jerseys three sizes too big, throwing awkward passes and worse tackles. The cool, clean air, with just a hint of wood smoke. The boarded-up farm supply store. He looked away -- that was one memory he didn't want, but he looked back again anyway. It's not fair, damn you.

Fifteen minutes later he was home, and his old retriever padded out to greet him as always, tail wagging, pink tongue hanging from its gray muzzle. Bob smiled as he got out of the truck. "Dogs, you can count on, can't you, boy?" He got an affirmative woof in reply, and they walked to the house.

His wife had hamburgers and salad ready as he walked in. "I got the fridge nearly cleaned out," she said. "There's enough left for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow." She had a scarlet handkerchief tied around her head, with a few strands of white straying out from underneath. He brushed the strands back behind her ears, and she smiled up at him, asking "How is Joshua today?" He turned her to face him, wrapping her in his arms. She laid her head on his chest, and rubbed his back. He looked around the kitchen, and saw it was bare now, the china and glassware having been packed and shipped already, the pots and pans sitting in boxes in the corner. The only decoration left was a horseshoe hanging over the back door, the ends pointed up for luck. It had been there since long before he was born, hung by his great-great-grandfather, when people still believed in that sort of thing.

Finally, his wife patted him and pulled away. "Eat. You need to get started packing. We've got a long drive ahead of us tomorrow."

The developer's agent met them at 6:30, like they'd asked. They'd been up since 4, putting boxes into the camper hitched to the Ford, and were ready to go. Sarah was talking to the man, going over the paperwork -- she was always better with the paperwork -- so he took a walk around the house one more time. The sunrise made the white shingles glow orange against the blue and purple sky and a breeze swiveled the weather vane around on the roof. A few stray leaves waved among the stubble in the fields. He shivered and buttoned his flannel jacket.

When he came around the back, he saw the agent petting the dog's head, and stifled an embittered desire to see his retriever tear the vulture's balls off. He's just doing his job he reminded himself. They did you a favor -- you got a fair price. Sarah waved, and he started toward her, but halfway there, he remembered -- the horseshoe. The house would be torn down anyway, no sense leaving it. He didn't have many heirlooms from his great-great-grandfather, besides the farm.

He walked back into the house, telling Sarah he left something there he wanted to take as a souvenir. His boots clunked on the worn hardwood floors, and echoed off the empty walls. Through the foyer, through the living room, the dining room, into the kitchen. He stopped and stared at the old iron horseshoe his great-great-grandfather had nailed over the back door over a century ago. "No wonder," he said to himself, "the luck ran out." The wood, the home that had seen so much weather -- the rain, the heat, the cold and snow -- had stretched and shrank so often... the nail must have shook loose from their going in and out the door with boxes yesterday. The shoe hung there, ends down. He fought back tears as he walked over, reached up, and pried it gently out of the wall.

"The luck ran out."

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.