Someone Will


The thawing back roads are a mess – rutted, soupy, pot-holed – but I drive them anyway, in part for the challenge, and in part because the back roads of Vermont are where I’m most comfortable, where I can watch the part of the world and the way of life I know and understand best unfurl beside me. The listing barns and haggard cows of the few remaining hill farms, less prosperous by the day, the trailer homes with mechanical detritus slowly spawning through the receding snow, the newer homes (or the tastefully restored older ones) of those retired or with town jobs, the ones that pay decent money, health benefits, 401k. I won’t lie: Sometimes I want one of those jobs. Then a long line of roadside maples warted by sap buckets, one tree after another, sentinel in their bearing. I crest a hill, and in the trough below me there’s a mini-van, rusted and weary looking, buried in mud to its axles, the driver standing fender-side in the road. He’s older than me, baseball-hatted and looking weary as his van, stoop-shouldered and skinny. I stop and roll my window down, say damn, sorry, wish I could help (I’m driving our little low-slung, two-wheel-drive car, as useless to his predicament as a screen door on a submarine), and he smiles, shrugs those stooped shoulders, says it’s ok. Someone’ll be along. 

And he’s right. Someone will.





Tell Me About That


The snow is almost ceaseless. It is snowing even now, again, as I write this. I plow, then I plow again, then again. The driveway is a narrow chute wending between walls of snow, and I cannot believe I have not gotten the plow truck stuck. Not yet, anyway. The cats sit on windowsills, watching over the their domain, keeping their paws warm. Yesterday, someone said to me “we were so close,” and I wanted to be cheeky and say “close to what?” but I didn’t, and besides, I knew. The ground was nearly bare for a time. One day it was 60-degrees and the sap ran. We made a half-gallon of syrup. The time changed and I remembered my father’s saying: Daylight savings is just the government’s way of reminding you who’s in charge, but when I told this to Melvin one night in the barn when I was feeding hay to his cows he just scoffed and said doesn’t seem to me like the government’s in charge of much of anything. To which I said I wish you were right, and was pleased with myself.

I love the sound of 40 cows chewing.

I do my work. I walk the narrow footpaths between barn and house and car and tractor. I feed the cows, water them. I tell my students “don’t write it was dark. Instead, write it was darker than a carload of assholes.” (hat tip to George V. Higgins) I tell them not to spend so much time flying at 30,000-feet, and instead get down on the ground, in the mud. Maybe even roll around in it. Feel how cool it is, how squishy and sweet-smelling? Take up a handful. Squeeze it. See how dark it is? Maybe not darker than a carload of assholes, but still pretty damn dark. I say Tell me about that.