...anyone up for a spirited read over Spring Break?
"South of Charm"- ...Alone in the dark, one arm hugging the other, I studied the knee-high ocean of wheat billowing in the breeze. A field butted up to our backyard, the year's crop still green, their stalks thin like rye grass.
And as I sat, I thought of Richie Frank's laugh, like the boisterous call of a blue-jay. I wondered if Brad had caught me in height, or perhaps passed me by. He'd been gaining on me the summer past.
And while I knew I'd be seeing them in less than a day, I felt certain that my friends were long gone.
Then as I watched the darkened silhouette of a field moving as one, I spied a pair of golden eyes shimmering amongst the harvest, and realized an old friend had returned.
Dad had scoffed at the idea of bringing the cat on moving day. "That old thing?" he'd said. "He won't make it through the winter no matter where he lives. Leave him be."
The wheat parted, and the cat sauntered into the yard. He walked with a limp, his coat no worse for the wear, but covered in burrs and field dust. He made his way to my side, where he rested his haunches, regarding my shock with disinterest. As if a cat making a ten mile trek across the county to reunite with a friend was common practice.
"It's you," I said. "You're here."
I reached behind a mangled ear and with thumb and forefinger, massaged his scruff. He managed a purr, broken and laced with phlegm. A moment passed before he lifted a paw to his tongue and started cleaning. He had his work cut out for him.
"You're the first visitor I've had out here," I said.
Satisfied, the tabby moved to its thigh, a sheet of sandpaper caressing the rough spots.
"She's sick again."
He started working on the back of his head with a moistened paw. Poor thing needed a bar of soap.
"I hate it here. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. We don't even go to church anymore."
Giving up on those hard to reach places, he started in on what was left of his tail.
"Now I get to play my old team tomorrow, and probably get slaughtered."
At this, the tabby stopped bathing and faced me, as if considering my dilemma. His whiskers, one or two bent at an angle, others broken off completely, twitched in the breeze, the air smelling of rain. He flattened his ears, lifted his striped tail, and whipped it about like a festering snake. I couldn't decide if he was displaying concern, or trying to tell me something like, "Calm down, kid. At least you've got a healthy set of thumbs."
The one-sided conversation lasted well into the night. And as I spoke, I feared at some point he'd start talking back. I was my mother's son, after all.
But as the conversation ended, and the cat departed for the field, my only regret as I rose from the dewy grass, was that he hadn't said a word, when I'd hoped he would...
"South of Charm"---May, 2011 :)