Best guy friend D. and I sat in the fading fast gray winter light amongst the lightly falling snow flurries on his Ford’s tail-gate. I looked at his worn work boots, then studied the creases on his wrangler jeans legs , faded permanent lines from the many starching and ironings they have endured over time. I turned my attention to my uninsulated knee length rubber boots pulled on over my jeans and realized every single one of my ten toes was numb from the cold. How long does it take for frost bite to set in? My mind wandered to that thought. I knew the answer but it wasnt forthcoming at that moment.
We did not look at each other but just sat there in silence for a bit. My mind went back to the information he had told me. D. lit up another Camel Light and took a long hard pull. He had just explained to me he learned that his mother is dying from a very aggressive form of lung cancer. Here I sat thinking of the irony of the whole thing as D. took another audible drag on his cigarette.
D. broke the silence. He said, “You dont talk about your mother much, do you?”
I replied, “nope. I guess I dont.”
Then, a memory came to me as clear as a spring fed stream. I was taken back to 6th grade at St. Mary’s Elementary. I was 11 years old. Sister Joyce asked me for my Social Studies homework and I handed her a note from my Father. The note stated my homework was not completed because I was at the hospital the long winter night before visiting my mother. She was dying from cancer at a bigger hospital in a bigger town an hour or so away, with a view of Lake Michigan’s Petosky Bay from her antiseptic hospital room, that part wasnt in the note tho-because it was general knowledge in our Parish of my family’s plight. Sister Joyce quickly stated that it was just fine and not to worry about it but the sympathy in her eyes made me worry. I can still see her black veil bobbypinned to her salt and peppered color hair, the strong smell the pencil shavings from the sharpener mounted near her desk as I stood before her. I did not want her sympathy. I finished my Social Studies assignment at lunch and laid it on her desk.
Funny how shit like that just comes out of nowhere in a person’s mind.
Jolting me back to the present from my trip back in time, D. said, “Think we should go inside, are the boys okay?”
I answered, “Nah, they are okay.” Son #1 does a decent job of watching Toddler Terror for a short period of time. TT was busy in his room with his toy train set and that usually keeps him occupied for quite some time.
D.’s phone rang, he looked at it and answered it. From the one sided conversation I was privy to I assumed it was his on again off again girlfriend R. I waited for him to finish. I heard another low nicker from behind me. Ever since Scooter finished his grain, then sniffed thru his hay, he had been standing at the corner of the fence as close as he could get to me sitting in the driveway. Silly horse. “probably thinks he deserves another flake of alfalfa.” I said silently to myself.
D. finished his call and turned sideways to look at Scooter peering intently over the fence at us.
D. said, “he looks good doesnt he? hes old now.”
I murmered my agreement.
D. doesnt know much about horses but he likes mine which is good enough for me.
D. squinted through the falling snowflakes and said, “I swear that horse is part dog, or no, he thinks he is a human, thats it. He doesnt even know he is a horse.“
Then we reminisced about the time Scooter chased him down for his Little Debbie Snackcake years ago. It was so funny, son #1 (who was about 5 or 6 yo at the time )and I had a rolling on the ground laughing fit over it and did not come to his aid. D. couldnt out-smart Scooter and had to part with his SwissRoll.
D. and I laughed over the story again. D.’s deep chuckles echoing through the still twilight and softly falling snow. It was nearly dark and the outside security lights flickered slowly to life. D.’s phone rang again. I slid off his tail-gate onto tingly numbed toes. He turned his phone to silent. I figured it was R. again. He stood next to me and sighed. I gave his hard muscled arm a quick squeeze, looked up at his weary face and asked him if he wanted to come inside. “To the chaos.” I added silently to myself.
He decided he had better get home. I told him to call me. I stood watching the red glow of his tail-lights disappear into the night as he drove down my driveway. He would be okay. I did not tell him that but I knew it in my heart, he would…
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”