25. Construction

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On the way home, Caleb detoured to the hardware store.

"Guys, we're gonna build a climbing... thing, for the goats."

"Goat Mountain?" Jesse said. "I know what she wants. She showed me pictures online. We need pallets, crates, barrels, anything like that."

"Let's make it happen. While you deal with it, I'll investigate rainwater tanks."

"You want rainwater tanks?"

"Wynter wants rainwater tanks."

Caleb was a practical guy on a limited budget, but today he would've given Wynter the world. A goat playground and rainwater tanks would have to do.

Jesse and Indio left the store with enough broken pallets and crates to fill the truck bed, and Caleb's head was spinning with information about rainwater tanks—material, construction, capacity, installation. He even had a sample chip with eight color options.

Back home, they unloaded in the backyard. Wynter came over from weeding the garden beds to discuss how they could use the wood to make Goat Mountain. She asked no questions and made no comments about the meeting. Like it never happened.

Caleb was torn to pieces as resentment warred with some deeper emotion he couldn't name. It was all too obvious his brothers were taking it better than he was, at least in the immediate aftermath, which was the opposite of what he'd expected. Indio had stopped caring about the reunion only minutes into it, and while subdued he was clearly happy to be home, lying in the grass to let the goats trample him and paying half-hearted attention to the construction work. Jesse's anger had no doubt taken him by surprise, but evaporated as soon as he had a new project to focus on.

Caleb had wanted closure, but this was worse. Closure would mean accepting that the woman who birthed him did not love him. He couldn't accept it—because he still loved her. Nothing she had done, nothing his father or Joy had done, negated his duty to love them. 

He'd been hiding behind that love for seventeen years, sanctimoniously demanding his brothers treat their mother's memory with respect. It wasn't his job to do that anymore. He would let them feel and think and say whatever they wanted about her. They never had to see her again.

If Wynter changed her mind, he would have to see Miriam again, because no way in hell was he letting Wynter go alone. Somehow he'd get through it.

He and Jesse, and occasionally Indio, sawed and hammered and drilled and sanded, and two hours later Goat Mountain was complete—a wonderland of steps and slopes and tunnels and bridges. Jesse and Wynter encouraged the goats to climb on it, calling and cajoling, extolling its virtues and tapping on it like they were calling dogs to heel.

The goats were entirely uninterested.

"They'll figure it out," Caleb said. "It's a goat instinct, isn't it? To climb to higher ground?"

Indio picked up Hypatia and hefted her on to a platform at the top of the frame, ignoring Wynter's shrieks of protest. Ripley was suddenly curious. She nosed at Indio's shin until he lifted her up next to her twin. The babies cried pitifully. Wilma came to the rescue, cautiously mounting the ramp.

The three of them stood atop Goat Mountain giving off the occasional bleat.

"They look scared shitless," Jesse said.

Indio scratched the babies' chins until they calmed down, butting their little heads into his hands for more. They followed his hand, like an invisible leash, down the steps, and jumped off. Wilma watched them climb right back up, and a minute later all three were exploring the new environment with ease.

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