The Common Harvestman

The Common Harvestman

“Me kill Daddy-Wong-Wegs!”

An idle conversation had lapsed comfortably into silence. Jessica was sitting in a state of summer-afternoon vacancy when the child’s voice and the mother’s quick reply aroused her.

“Oh, no, darling, I wouldn’t do that.”

The expressive smile and attentive turning of the head which Ruth Fleming bestowed on her youngest child struck Jessica as “actressy,” and she thought to herself that at almost five, Eric ought to be talking more distinctly.

However, since these ideas were not legal tender, she merely leaned back and glanced appreciatively at her surroundings. Ruth’s patio, where they sat, was both shaded and presided over by willow, elm and tulip trees. Jessica thought nothing more beautiful than trees in summer, and responded gratefully to their atmosphere of stability and leisure. At the same time, she was aware that if only God can make a tree, only a neighborhood association that fights like the Army of Northern Virginia can save them—if they happen to be growing forty minutes by express from the Grand Central.

The trees, however, were background. In the foreground, on the grass beyond the patio, were a see-saw, a sandbox, a set of swings and a jungle gym—all of them weathered. Visibly new was an inflated plastic wading pool. Five or six children of appropriate ages were engaged with these aids to leisure, and on the rough-cut stretch beyond the lawn, some older boys were playing softball.

“Me kill Daddy-Wong-Wegs!” repeated Eric, making a tentative dab with his foot.

Jessica, glancing down, said “No!” and automatically put out her hand to hold Eric off. The Daddy-Long-Legs was on the pavement about a yard away from her foot. One of the Eastern religions—she could never remember which—forbids all taking of life and in Jessica, it had a nearconvert. Though she was the mother of male twins, aged twelve, and therefore did not live a contemplative life, she had never been able to get used to the idea of living tissue as expendable.