Author : L.Hall

Robert Lynch kicked the treads of the small field tractor, clots of dried mud falling off and busting on the ground. He took off his ball cap, looked up in the air and ignored the old man, Paul Gilbert, standing behind him quietly. Bobby, his five year old son, stood near his terrain utility vehicle trying to grab a marshopper. Robert watched him for a moment.. there was no awe on the boy’s face at the genetically engineered insect, designed to cross pollinate plants and burrow into the ground to loosen soil under the Mars biodomes. Just a boy trying to catch an insect. He turned slightly to look at the old man.

“Paul, I gotta tell ya.. Times been tough on everyone.” Robert scratched his chin.

The old man scuffed his boot against the red soil on the dirt road.

“I know, son. But I just can’t see how I can let’er go for less’n fourteen hundred.”

Robert nodded and walked around the tractor, green paint worn off in spots around the hitch. Bobby chased a marshopper closer to Paul while Robert deliberated on the cost.

“You know it ain’t worth eight.” He said, looking across the top of it at the old man. A low chuckle came out of Paul as he shook his head.

“Boy,” he said a bit louder, catching Bobby’s attention. “You hear that bird?”

Bobby started looking around him confused. He’d read about birds in books, but had never seen one, having never been off the Mars agriculture colony. Looking up at Paul, he shook his head. The old man bent down on one knee.

“You don’t hear that bird? Listen.”

Robert leaned against the tractor watching the act. Bobby was straining so hard to hear. Paul held up his hand to his own ear.

“Hear it? It’s going ‘Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!'”

Robert started laughing as Paul stood back up and grinned at him across the tractor. Bobby continued looking around curiously.

“Fine! Tell you what. I’ll give you nine for it, and eight bales of feed.” Robert said, laughingly. Paul grinned as he walked over to the tractor.

“Throw in one of Mary’s pies and maybe supper?” he asked, holding out his hand. Robert shook his hand and clapped Paul on the back.

“Now.. that’s between you and Mary.” he said.

As Robert and Bobby pulled off the Gilbert’s homestead, the young boy looked over at his Daddy curiously. “Daddy, I never did hear that bird.”

Robert laughed as the TUV bumped over the dirt road toward the lights of their own biodome.

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