The Road In The Distance
By Paul Schweer
They're both standing there looking at the camera. He's leaning forward a little from the waist, hands hidden somewhere behind his back. His suit looks too big for him, but that could have been the way they wore them back then. His bride is young, like him. Her dress mostly lace and short with a ragged edge. Her head is down, eyes lifted up. Standing with a man, my grandfather, who looks nothing like I imagined.
Dad says his papa was magic with a team, talking to each horse, quiet, in turn. Talking to them by name, saying, "step," and one would. Used to hire out to the oil fields where there was need for a team that pulled precisely. That's where his papa was most of the time, in the oil fields.
He chewed tobacco, even when sitting in church where he'd just swallow instead of spit. When he got older he had his teeth pulled. His wife would mush up his food for him.
He looks stern in most pictures, but Dad says that he wasn't. Says he used to cut up at parties and such. There is a big stack of pictures in a box Dad keeps in the attic, taken at a party. Dad is in uniform. His papa looks like you might expect he'd look, seeing his son off to war. But in one of the pictures, found in that big stack, I saw his papa making the girls laugh.
For a lot of years he had to lie just so in his bed or he couldn't sleep. His heart, being what it was, wouldn't let him rest.
Dad says that for a long time, whenever he'd be out at the home place and see dust flying up on the road in the distance, he'd look. He'd look before he thought about it. And he'd see, as he watched—although he knew without watching—it would be somebody else. Wouldn't be his papa.
But he looked. For a long time he looked.
When the weather turns cold and the wind blows, snow piles up in the roads. Schools close. Mom makes soup while I play in the kitchen. When I smell the grilled-cheese sandwiches cooking, I'll stand on a chair looking out the window. Won't be any dust flying up on the road, but I look. I might see him coming.
Paul's last work in VerbSap was With Each Other And Moving.
Photo courtesy of Freeimages.co.uk.
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