A boy and his mother are standing by their loaded wagon while his father is nailing the windows of their house shut and spitting into the keyholes to make the locks turn. The mine has closed for all time, and idle men, their wives, and children—some of whom have stuffed their pockets with rocks—are watching the family leave. Only Hig Sommers, a dimwit who speaks things backward, is saddened by the boy’s leaving; and only Sula Basham, a tall widow, walks over to say good-bye to Mother and tell her that she ought to be proud that her husband is not satisfied to rot in Hardstay. The crowd stirs uneasily, and Sill Lovelock, raising his arms like a preacher’s, declares that the family is moving to nowhere.
With the key in his hand, Father walks from the house, now shut against their turning back. The boy, looking at the family’s empty hull of a house and at the lost town, longs to stay in the place where he was born. Father asks if someone will deliver the key to the commissary, and Hig comes forward, his hands stretched out like a baby’s, crying that he will “fotch it.” Father explains to Hig that it does not need to be fetched, it needs to be taken. Sill then urges Father to stay in the shelter of the camp; Father replies that he would rather die hunting for work than die of dry rot by staying in Hardstay. Loss Tramble offers to take the key if Father will take Sula along and find her a husband, and Sula announces that, if she wanted to...
(The entire section is 543 words.)