Ezra hadn’t intended to fast for three weeks but on Tuesday he wasn’t hungry and on Wednesday he was even less hungry and bit by bit three weeks had passed and all he had to eat was whatever he found growing wild. He went into the hills, over the lawns and the lea, going higher, until he came across the crying woman sitting on the grass. “What’s wrong?” Ezra said.
“We waited to have a son,” she said, “until the war was over. But the war didn’t end and we had a son anyway, even though we were old enough that it could have been twins or triplets, easy. And he was a beautiful boy, the apple of my eye, and whip-smart, and shiny as a new penny. And he grew up and the war wasn’t over and he went off to do his duty and he fought and he came back and you never saw anyone so bravely beautiful as he was. He was going to get married, today he was to be married, but crossing the door of the church he tripped on the sill and cracked his skull open. Died without ever opening his eyes, without ever knowing his bride.”
“We’re at war,” Ezra said, “and we’re losing. If you’re sad that your son is dead, at least you’re not alone. At least you saw him. How many of us have lost fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, without even the grace of a burial?”
She smiled up at him even though she kept crying. “That helps. I don’t know why but it does.”
He sat next to her on the grass. She was as old as he was but she looked younger, even through the tears. “And,” he said, “if you stay away from the flower, the wild clover is sweeter than honey.” He held the flower out to her, stem caught lightly between the callus of his thumb and forefinger.
“Thank you,” she said, and swung her gates wide for him, made smooth and inviting the roads into the heart of her. He, Ezra, wondering indeed, passed into her city, heading home.