Better late than never is a thing, right? This post is about a week late but almost two. It was all set to be another story but then I went home and filled up on air laced with honeysuckle and confederate jasmine and too much was going in to let anything come out.
I hate writing breaks but I took one and wrote this in the hour I sat on my back porch this morning, happy to have spent a week in dreamland hiking through trails I grew up on and floating through a life that’s no longer mine but happier to be back home in Wisconsin with the little ones I love.
The Wind Blew
Wind blew and caught red dirt from the road and carried it through the air as it went, over a split rail fence, through the remnants of grass scattered around what had once been a lawn. It carried the dirt through a barren garden, past an empty barn and around a house so small no one would have believed two families and an old woman lived inside it.
A little boy played on the porch while his mother sat staring down the road pushing her feet up and down on the floor making her chair sway back and forth.
“How longs’ it been Mama?” The boy looked up from his marbles and jacks to her face and asked his question again while she looked off.
“Bout two weeks now” she said though she knew that it had been exactly two weeks and two days since her husband had disappeared where the dirt road bent left and went on for four miles before it hit a main road that rarely saw any cars. She knew that it was unlikely anyone picked him up and drove him the twenty miles to town but she didn’t think about that, she only thought about him coming home.
The boy knew how long his daddy had been away, but he asked anyway. There was not much else to say, though behind him his house was full of life and family, he was alone. It was Sunday and church was too far up the main road to go on an empty stomach so he sat with his Mama and waited, unable to stand the torture of sitting around an empty table with his cousins.
His Mama looked away from the road for the first time in an hour and closed her eyes at the sight of her boy in pants too short and a shirt too dirty and tried to remember the days before, when money flowed and the crash hadn’t ruined their chance at an easier life.
She prayed and squeezed the arms of the rocking chair in her tough hands and looked back at the road, not sure what she hoped for anymore.
They sat that way until the heat from the sun began to let up and fewer beads of sweat ran from her hairline down her neck. She saw movement in the trees but had seen it before and didn’t stir in her seat until it took the form of a person. She sat up straight in her chair, not wanting to alert her son to the possibility of his father. She held on tighter to the worn wood beneath her palms.
Marbles hit the floor with steady ticking as the boy bounced them, tired of his game. He blew out a breath as his mother held hers and when he looked out into the yard he saw the approaching form and hollered loud. He stood and ran down the steps, kicking up dirt behind him, no longer thinking about the deep rumble in his gut. He waved skinny arms as he ran and yelled for his father to hurry. Wind carried dirt blew all around him but he didn’t notice.
The man did and stopped and waved it away with one hand before calling out a greeting that wasn’t familiar to the boy. Small legs stopped running and almost fell over. Tears poured from the boy’s eyes when he looked up, mixing with dirt, streaking his face in lines of white, red and brown.
It wasn’t the first farm the man came to on his trip home looking for a meal and a place to lay his head before heading on so he didn’t ask the boy who he was waiting for or why he was crying. He laid his hand on the small shoulder and said he was sorry then waved to the woman who stood on the bottom step of the front porch and hoped she knew what that wave meant.
He looked at the boy once more before turning around but couldn’t think of another word to say to him so he smiled and nodded and followed the wind as it blew away down the road, far from where it started.
Callie Armstrong © 2014