It was one of those quiet, bright afternoons with a cool breeze hissing lightly in the piñons, the kind that make you slow your pace to listen to the gravel crunching underneath your soles, the ones where you’re completely there. We’d just been to a movie, the first one in fifty years, I joked. A two o’clock matinee. “I loved the movie,” she said, “and then we came home…”
I walked twice to the mailbox to check for her New Yorker, which wasn’t there. Slowly, slowly each step, no cars on the dirt road, no one walking but myself, no dogs. Mountains all around, a raven on a pole. The warm sun on my legs.
The hollow scratching of the latch, a squeaky mailbox door. Nothing but a catalog for her and one for my dead mother, plus a thousand dollar check, the one her college friend with stage four cancer sent from Iowa so she could fly to see her. “Don’t think twice,” she’d emailed, “it’s like a pair of shoes to me.”
Dinner was corn on the cob from Taos Pueblo and hot dogs from Le Mars. We’d driven through Le Mars a few years ago on our way home from Dubuque. On that trip we crossed the wide Missouri at Sioux City to spend the night in an old hotel in O’Neill, NE that had pinball machines just off the lobby in an old saloon. (Our room smelled like extra quilts in grandma’s house.) On our way south the next day, there were turkeys by the road in every field. We’d never seen so many of the great wild birds. One climbed a pile of gravel to escape us. Turkeys can do anything, I thought.
It’s cold at night now, down to forty. Sunny days, finally, post-monsoon. Here and there the yellow leaves.