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Pressing Matters - Sample - Chapter 1

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"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Press asked her as he drove them east toward the reservoir in the late summer heat. The sun was high, bright as the corn ripening in the passing fields. Three roses, wrapped lightly in thin green paper, rested on the seat next to Abby.

"I have to do it sometime," she replied as she cast an expressionless glance past him to the small embankment on the other side of the county highway. She had already cried three times long and hard this morning. The last was in the car as they began the drive. Abby's eyes rimmed red and her face lacked color.

Press eased the car to a stop at the side of the road. The rubber burns still had not been weathered from the pavement. After a long moment of silence, she gulped an extra breath of muggy air, picked up the flowers and opened the car door.

Press popped the release to open the trunk and got out. As Abby waited at the edge of the blacktop, he removed three white crosses and a hammer from the rear of the Buick. Slowly, the couple crossed the highway and walked down into the shallow ditch and up the other side. Dozens of bouquets of flowers, in as many varieties, lay scattered in the browning grass and weeds. Some of the bundles were flower shop bought; others freshly cut home garden contributions, as the dead teenagers' friends and families continued their remembrances.

Picking a spot among the scattering of flowers, Press laid two of the crosses down and began hammering the third into the dry ground.

"Are you sure we can do this?" Abby wondered through a hard snuffle. Already a trickle had begun to maneuver down each cheek.

"I'd like to see someone try to stop me," he replied grimly.

When he was finished with the three markers, Abby laid a single rose beneath each one and stepped back. In less than a moment she was trembling until hard sobs began to rack her body.

"Ouwaaaah, it hurts so much," she cried, throwing herself into Press' arms.

"It's so senseless…so stupid! How could it happen like this?" She pounded her fists on her husband's shoulders as her anguish vented in harsh, salty gasps. "Oh, God, why-y-y-y-y?"

For uncounted minutes they stood, bolted to each other in a tearful embrace. The wind sang quietly through the aging foxtails and seedpods that bowed in their own sad memorial on the tiny hillside, as in a rehearsed part of the small rite. Three cars, a couple of farm trucks, and a yellow county highway truck slowed respectfully as they passed the grieving parents.

When the tears began to dry at last and they turned to face the trio of crosses once more, Press noticed a slight tilt in one. He stepped forward and nudged it left, while tamping the ground against its right side to hold it upright. Turning when he was finished, he ushered Abby slowly back across the road to the car.

"I know I can come back again, now," she said when they were headed again toward Fremont. "I think I'll have to. Probably a lot."

"I know," Press said. He continued to look straight ahead, his jaw clenched in a struggle to keep from crying again. "I will, too."

That was everything said the rest of the way home.

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© 2008 Larry M. Tobin. All rights reserved.