we need distraction

distraction from each other him from me me from my desperation to cling on to him to not let him go

again

to hold him tight to pull him close to feel his body to breathe his smell

desperate

to breathe his smell

and we look around at the clock at the posters on the wall the ones with the cute dumb southern sayings shouting at us from around the flies that hover in the middle of the restaurant farmers do it in the dirt placed next to american by birth southern by the grace of god

we look at the menu trying to decide what to order we look at our fucking fingernails we study the pattern on the tablecloth we look anywhere but at each other methinks we’ve run out of things to say i guess that’s where we are i mean i get it way back when i up and left my home too i moved three thousand miles away to the other side of the country as fast as i could do so

i had to break those chains

but i forgot to keep a couple of threads connected the ones i have the ones i had they are frayed they are about severed i’m desperate not to see history repeat itself i am desperate

to breathe his smell

i try to tell him the story about my grandmamma his great-grandmamma how she used to run a little meat and three he perks up a second for a moment then shrugs he says yeah i know you’ve told us

we look at the menu he’s decided he’s going to stop eating meat for lent just like that it’s the thursday after ash wednesday he’s going for the vegie and three there’s squash casserole fried okra fried green tomatoes creamed corn collards grits and my favorite field peas i try to tell him try to describe to him what is so special about field peas

how his grandmamma my momma who he never knew how his grandmamma used to have all of us sitting around on summer evenings big grocery bags full of peas we couldn’t run off for the night until we had finished shelling every last one of them

we’d all complain even the old man my momma she’d just say all right you boys go on off see if i care when you don’t have any peas in the winter

i tell the boy how it had been a very very long winter been years since i had any field peas

he doesn’t care

i get it i ran away to california i wanted a new me i needed a new me i’m glad he didn’t go to australia if he reads this he now might do so just out of spite i know i know it’s not about me it’s not about me

but if it’s not about me why do i feel so bad if it’s not about me why is my heart broken he blames me it’s his right it’s the path of fathers and sons it always has been maybe it doesn’t have to always be

he loves me he loves me not he loves me

our darting eyes both pairs they land on this couple sitting in a booth against the wall over across the dining room this couple

an older couple

don’t know how old

but old

wrinkly old

floppy jowl hound dog old

ball sac sagging old

just plain old country old

old as the dirt stains beneath their fingernails the dirt they’d been working all their lives working it when they could when they were able working it mostly on the side working it part time working it when they could

scraping by

just can’t make a living off of a couple hundred acres

maybe it the farm the property maybe it used to belong to her parents and to her momma’s parents before them an so on and so on

a successive line of south georgia working men marrying into each generation to continue the line

her parents died forty years ago they were barely making it the place had already got a little long in the tooth by the time they got hold of it maybe he was one of them south georgia working men who married in put down the bottle picked up the plow

maybe he used to work the afternoon shift at the paper mill

just to make ends meet

maybe he used to get up early do some chores rise and shine and get the couple three four local negro boys started on the planting the pruning the picking of the field peas the corn the squash the okra the tomatoes that his wife sold would sell at their roadside stand up on the main road near the corner of their property

a little local traffic a few lost tourists

maybe she’d sit out there on those mornings from early spring until late fall sit out there beneath the shade of an old oak stretching out in a yawn over the crossroads the spanish moss draped in wispy curtains a linen handkerchief lay atop her kitchen sink perm

a prophylactic protecting her from the chiggers occasionally dropping from the moss the duality of an afternoon breeze providing relief yet giving air to the little red devils above

she only getting up to attend to a customer and then only once said customer had made her choice

a dollar here a dollar there it added up maybe they’d make money maybe they wouldn’t it wasn’t as if he didn’t care he cared all right it goddamned mattered it damn sure did it’s just that he didn’t they just didn’t know what to do about it the rock the hard place

the kids hell they didn’t want anything to do with it where’s the legacy where’s it to go from there what were they to do with it that dirt was a shackle a ball a chain

fuck the idyllic

the world the way it worked it had never been what they might have considered to be generous but it sort of used to seem fair

hard but fair

yeah hell maybe they had simply been too naïve maybe too innocent and the world had always been this fucked up

whatever

it didn’t matter

now they get up she’s up before him it’s always been that way she has breakfast ready by the time he walks in the kitchen he doesn’t even ask how or why it just is they get up crack of dawn they read the paper at breakfast they have fox news on television in the background not that they agree but just that they seem more familiar

these days familiar is good

they get up they fuss around if it’s wednesday they might go to larry’s meat and three for dinner then maybe a little light supper before church

if it ain’t wednesday it don’t matter figure it out when the time for gettin’ comes around too fucking old to care it’s just the way it is

it’s just the way things were just the way things had always been

used to be every day

he’d get up early pitch dark piss splash some water on his face drink coffee from the percolator piss again shit grab one of yesterday’s biscuits on his way out the door attend to the basic shit of the day get his boys off working in the field so he could come back attend to the maintenance fixing the hitch to the flatbed getting it ready for picking twisting banging his wrench on pins and pistons squeezing another year out of the tractor back to the fields to check on the boys bring them back before it got too hot

he’d wash up he’d eat the midday dinner that she prepared and set he’d be at the plant by one wearing his toolbelt home by nine thirty showered and in bed by eleven

be up early the next morning

lather rinse repeat

every morning every day

raised their kids taught them life best they could sent them down the road to make it on their own

and now they’re done kids brung them grandkids they sold that scratch of patch to someone who sold it to someone else chop chop dig dig it’s a subdivision today while they sit in the booth at larry’s little meat and three vegetable restaurant on skidaway road

they hold hands his right her left across the table leaning forward slightly heads bowed their lips moving a practiced murmuring a blessing

lord we give thanks for this bountiful harvest in jesus christ’s name we pray amen

and why not

it’s the only thing that really makes any sense in this world

breathe his smell and all that

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