Elliot picked himself up off the ground and looked down in dismay at the front of his jacket and jeans. They were now camouflaged with leaves, clinging to the sticky maple sap which he had dumped when he tripped and fell. He felt like crying, but didn't dare. He knew his brothers were near, and they would give him a hard enough time about dumping a whole bucket of sap without adding the further impropriety of crying.

Elliot was smaller than most ten-year-old boys, but not by much. He just seemed smaller next to his older brothers who were actually a bit larger for their age, and they often took advantage of Elliot's diminutive stature, teasing him, playing tricks on him. Not that they were mean, they were just boys.

Roger was the eldest. At fifteen, he was muscular, almost husky without giving the appearance of being overweight. His dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin gave him a Mediterranean look which he got from his father. He had an outgoing, ambitious nature which at times could be so strong as to make him intimidating to others, including Elliot. But Elliot also knew that Roger could be a loyal and trustworthy friend.

Jerry was born a year after Roger, and had many of Roger's physical features, only toned down a bit. His hair was dark brown but with russet highlights, and his eyes were a couple of shades darker than hazel. He had a more trim physique than Roger, though he was still muscular. While outgoing, he had a better feel than his older brother for when it became intimidating or insulting to others, so he stopped short of that.

Elliot, on the other hand, had more of the physical and emotional features of his mother. His hair was light brown — dishwater blonde was the term he had heard, and hated instantly. His eyes were blue and his skin was fair. That, combined with his smaller build and more quiet nature made him seem more like a visiting neighbour child than the brother of Roger and Jerry Logan.

Elliot, along with his brothers, were born in Littlefield, a picture postcard of a town nestled in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts. For generations, the Logans owned several acres of maple forest, and while they were not wealthy, they did live quite comfortably. Aside from taxes and such, they owed nothing on their property, and each summer they planted a large, beautiful, well-tended garden which provided all the vegetables they needed. Most years, their father, Tony, brought home a deer, various birds and rabbits which supplied a large portion of their meat.

But their primary claim to fame, at least locally, was their "special recipe" maple syrup. While there really was not much involved in their recipe since maple syrup is simply boiled-down sugar maple sap, their syrup was definitely different from others on the market, thanks to the careful blend of spice oils added during the processing. Tony was proud of their product and sold it to individuals from Littlefield and other neighbouring towns, and to local restaurants. "Logan Farms Special Recipe Maple Syrup" was well-known in these parts.

The whole family got involved when the sap was running. The boys did most of the gathering, monitoring the pails hanging from the spiles, the taps on the trees, and bringing them in when they were full. Tony was considering installing a more modern system. Elliot didn't understand much about it except that it involved tubing and a vacuum. But for now, they did it the old fashioned way. Elliot loved this part of it. Not that he enjoyed the work so much, but he was happiest when he was out in the woods.

He loved wildlife and became familiar with the various birds which were abundant in the area. In fact, he was so alert to spotting wildlife that it often distracted him from his work. Such was the case today.

Rabbits were nothing new to Elliot, but an entire family of them was not something he saw every day. However, he did not see it for long today either, for the moment he tripped on the fallen branch and the metal pail he had been carrying fell noisily beneath him, the rabbits scampered quickly away. Now Elliot knew he would have to hear his father's lecture about paying more attention to what he's doing, about not being so easily distracted. He picked up his sticky bucket and headed for home, wanting to get it over with.

© 2008 Kelly Cheek