“Thanks for coming Cliff,” Walter said as they both climbed into the pickup, the dog nestling at Cliff’s feet.
Cliff nodded, but did not reply. The day was hot and the truck, which had been sitting out in the sun, was hotter and his back was already damp with sweat. He rolled down the window and rested his arm gingerly against the scalding hot metal. The dog looked up grinning at him, in spite of the uncomfortable position it had contorted itself into.
Walter rolled down his own window and started the truck, humming to himself as he did. The radio, as always was tuned to 770, the talk radio station from Edmonton. In afternoon’s, which it was now, Rutherford was on. Cliff found him insufferable. Walter did too, but he enjoyed listening to him. Enjoyed disagreeing and getting annoyed and laughing at how wrong he was.
Walter headed out to the road and turned north, the dust from the gravel leaving a broad wake behind them. It had been a dry year, the pastures were already more brown than green, and the green of the fields was fast turning to yellow. Harvest would be only a couple of weeks away, or sooner, if the warm weather held. It would be a poor one as well—there had been little rain that spring and none in the summer. Walter said it was as bad as he had seen it, as bad as when he was a kid in the thirties.
“I just don’t feel comfortable heading up to the pastures by myself anymore,” Walter said, as if the silence of the last minutes had not happened. “Not as young as I used to be. Of course, before I would’ve taken Jane.”
Cliff opened his mouth but did not reply. He didn’t know quite what to say, didn’t have the words. Jane had been Walter’s wife for over fifty five years. She had died the summer before, a summer as hot and dry as this one.
Clliff didn’t have to say anything though. Walter kept talking, as he drove down the road at an ambling pace.
“That calf is probably dead, but we have to go see if we can find it. Might’ve just gotten separated from its mother. I remember we had a heifer, got her head stuck between the branches of a tree and couldn’t figure out how to get out. Almost died before we found her.”
Cliff nodded. He had heard the story before, as he had heard so many of his grandfather’s stories. In spite of the open windows on the truck, it still felt stultifying. Or perhaps it was just the same old conversations, the same old trips down the same old roads. That fall he would be off to university. He was counting the days until he would be free of this tedium. Life felt as though it were happening somewhere else, while he chased after presumably dead calves in pastures somewhere off in the middle of nowhere.
Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.
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