Waiting on accidents

Me and Son Gundy are sitting in our lawn chairs, right here at the intersection of Yellow Road and St. Maggie’s. It is cold and it is snowing, and it’s only ten degrees. We lifted these chairs from Goodwill because no one was foolish enough to buy them. The manager – that would be Joe Bodine, him from over on Hiatt Street next to the old Courthouse – he helped us load them in the back seat, folded them proper so they wouldn’t get snarled. They’re decent enough chairs for when you’re sitting in the cold, waiting on accidents.

We pass a Thermos back and forth, and it’s filled with black coffee and Gram’s Special: two parts brandy and one part never-mind. We watch the cars slide through the intersection, brake lights flashing, but no pavement to grab hold because of the ice. The cars sometimes slide sideways, slide up against a No Parking sign or a power pole, sometimes up on St. Maggie’s Church lawn, but usually into each other.

Me and Son don’t mind. In a small town, it’s the only day-time entertainment we have. There may be a world of excitement somewhere, but it ain’t in Horse so you can cross that off your list.

We wait on accidents. That’s what we do. We watch them scuttle towards us and we sit still, waiting for fate to fall into place. We hope for the best, but maybe deep down we believe they are ordained. Son would laugh if I ever said such a thing out loud. The words that come from our mouths and the words we have in our heads aren’t always the same. They get tangled and sound foolish, even to our own ears. But with Son and me, we know what we really mean. So I don’t mind it when he laughs. It means he’s listening and figuring it out for himself.

The letter

The letter was written in old-man’s scrawl: small letters, densely packed, in blue ink. The writing was legible, but it made the boy squint. There was little space between the words. They were like boxcars mashing down a hard grade.

You will always miss the mountain. It will aggrieve and chaff you, and your bones will crack under its weight. You will mourn hard when you leave. The stillness is in you, and it will live in you and it will follow you into the darkness. You will leave this mountain in spite because you are young and have an appetite for sidewalks and sit-down restaurants and jazz drifting out of doorways. These are good things, and a boy should know them. He should write them down in his history book. He should feel the trumpet against his lips. He should provoke folks to dance and hoot like their legs are afire. You will do those things, and your sweat will be honest and your ledgers will be true. Those appetites will fill you fast, and your need for hush will outrun you. Boy, you will come back. One day you will come back.

The letter was written on old foolscap, undated, unsigned. It was addressed to him. He was ten years old and he had never left.