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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Autumn Evening, Tony Burnett

     Most of the young folk move away in search of excitement, drama. The few people that come are in search of peace and tranquility, quiet. Lifers, children of the dust, find these outlooks amusing.
    Charlie knows. Almost 30 years, we only talk when we have something to say, growing comfortable with the intervals of silence. The music of us, like jazz, minimalist. The absence of sound speaks like words. I know he knows. He rinses his dinner plate in the sink. I get up from the table, lean into his broad back. The clean smell of prairie sweat tantalizing my nostrils.
     "I'll go investigate," he says. Charles Arthur, farm detective.
     "Thanks," I reply. "I love you."
     "I know." He sits on the stool and pulls the boots on, the dusty days of hard packed toil embedded in the layered cracks. Boots, face, hands speak of honest labor. He is such a part of me now I'm not sure where I end and he begins. The door closes behind him. The sounds of the old house popping and creaking under the constant southwest wind underscore the moaning. Four hours or more since I've been still. The melancholy angst of the cow brings pervasive sadness, permeating the atmosphere like humidity, crying, an insurmountable loss, a broken heart. Charlie will investigate. Charles Arthur, bovine psychologist.
     I do the supper dishes for something to do. Beyond the kitchen window, across the valley, the tiny hamlet begins to sparkle as the last light drains from the day. Under the tall ceiling of our home the light is bland. The compact fluorescent bulbs provide a sterile light. Shadows have pronounced edges. Skin tones are pale and translucent as if the blood has receded into the depths of the flesh.
     "We don't waste energy creating a lot of unnecessary heat," Charlie explained. "We are saving money hand over fist." Charles Arthur, physicist.
      The scalding dishwater turns my hands a bright painful pink, the blood dancing just below the epidermal surface. The dishes are clean and sterile.
     The night is quiet except for the anguish of the distraught cow. Last night's sleep was disturbed by the coyotes having a frat party to the south, howling, screaming, laughing, fighting, drunk on moonshine. Our dogs, our motley crew of drafted soldiers, held the perimeter. Sentries half heartedly holding sway, cleaning each other's weapons, barking challenges toward the aggressors, firing warning shots, telling dirty jokes. "Three bitches walk into a bar...."
    "Oww! I've done that!" The hound howls. "It hurts!"
     Tonight the coyotes are silent, hung over, splayed out on slabs of limestone, their long pink tongues lying limply in the alkaline sand, satiated and at peace.
    The cow continues her lamentation. I am reminded of my empty womb. All that magic and only one miracle. Twenty years ago last month a baby was born. Two years ago next month he began his personal odyssey. His objective? He will save the world, the objective of all enlightened youth. Your Guardian, he signs his letters from Alaska, Guatemala, the Cayman Islands, Panama, Somalia, places I will never see. My womb, his first assignment, is shutting its doors. The creaking and settling of this old house is invading my body. I'm not wasting energy creating unnecessary heat. Closing shop, boarded up, I have sent production overseas.
    The rag tag sentries announce the return of the converted electric golf cart Charlie uses to explore the property. Charlie enters and sits on the stool removing the crusty boots. He comes to where I stand by the kitchen window and takes my hand.

     "All is well," he says. "She's not one of ours. One of Hanson's cows must have lost a calf."
     "Will she quit bellowing soon?" I ask. I know the answer.
     "Not anytime soon."
      Later, after he washes away the prairie, we lie beside each other in bed. He kisses me softly and pushes a strand of gray hair away from my eye. We kiss again.
    "Sweet dreams," he says. We don't waste any energy creating unnecessary heat.
      "Good night," I say and turn off the bedside lamp. All is well.

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