"Aw c'mon, Celie," Chubby begged. "Give it up, will ya?"

"Go cook a radish," I snapped as I strutted along, still refusing to
look his way.

"Don't be such a poor sport," he said. "You tease me all the time
and I don't get my knickers in a twist..."

He went on whining and cajoling, but I had stopped listening. We
were traveling the old railroad bed that snaked through the gap
between Little Quabbin Hill and Prescott Ridge. As the scenery
unfolded before me, my stomach balled up in a knot. Even though
I should have known what to expect, I was unprepared for what I
saw. Prescott Ridge, usually frothy with apple blossoms this time
of year, had been shaved. Nothing remained of its beautiful
orchards but a stubble of stumps. The green pastures of Little
Quabbin Hill had been plowed under. Gone were the cows that
usually grazed there, meandering up and down the hillside with
their wobbly calves following behind. Alongside the tracks, where
the east branch of the Swift River used to run, deep and rushing
this time of year, only a dusty gulch remained.

A little further on we passed Smith's Village and it was more of the
same --- the countryside butchered, like a newsreel scene from
the Great War. Gone were the mills and the post office. Gone
were the meadows and cozy farmhouses. Gone were the men
working in the fields and the women hanging wash in their
backyards. Gone were the kids racing down the rutted lanes, or
hanging by their knees from the apple trees. All that remained
were celler holes and empty roadbeds, stacks of logs and piles of
brush. Soon Enfield would look like this. My throat felt raw and
ragged, and tears began to slip down my cheeks. I sniffed hard to
hold them back.

"Celie?" Chubby's voice was edged with concern. "Celie, are you
crying? Geez, I didn't think you'd get this upset..."

"It's not you!" I shouted, stopping in my tracks and turning at last
to look at him. "It's---" I swept my arm in an arc across the horizon.
"It's
this."

Chubby stopped, too, and stared. "I know," he said quietly. "I
know."