Won’t Even Notice

The ride home

Summer stretches on. It rains here and there, though never as much as promised, nor nearly as much as we need. Out early on my bike I pass fields of fresh mown hay, the smell of drying grass suffusing the air, one of those smells that feels curative in some ill-defined way except perhaps in the understanding that my life would be poorer without it. In the evenings I lie in bed and listen to the boys and their friends down in the orchard. They’ve built a fire, there’s music on someone’s truck stereo, they’re jumping in the pond, and I hear splashes and laughter and the drumbeat of a new song and I suddenly feel very old, too old, and worse yet, as if I’ve somehow misspent all those years. And perhaps in some ways I have, though I’m also sure that in other ways I haven’t, and truth be told, I think that’s about the best any of us can aspire to. Life is lived in fractions. Or that’s how it seems to me, anyhow.

The next morning I move the cows to a new piece of grass. They are sleek and fat, at their peak of summer flesh. The young heifer pauses her grazing to size me up, then moves toward me. I’ve got her trained to my affections, she lets me scratch behind her ears and along her neck. She’s a fine animal, a gift from an old friend who recently sold his herd. Now his barn’s gone, too, torn down and hauled away. Grass growing where he used to milk his cows, and I do a double take every time I drive by, looking for what’s no longer there. Though one of these days soon, I bet I won’t even notice.


Shirts and Stickers

Pumping gas in a small town not far from home, I watch a man emerge from the store. He’s 40-ish and wearing a tee shirt that reads I bust my ass so I can bust yours but he doesn’t like much of an ass-buster, frankly, either of himself or of others. He’s tall and very thin, and as he comes closer I can see clearly the sallow hue of his face. I must be staring, because he nods to me, a not unfriendly nod, then climbs into an old Nissan sedan that starts with a mufflerless rumble and accelerates through the parking lot a good bit quicker than seems strictly necessary.

I myself am wearing my Smith’s Grocery: It’s where I get all my shit!! tee shirt, which was a birthday gift from my sons, along with a hat bearing the same slogan (I try to avoid wearing them simultaneously). Smith’s is our local general store, about three miles down the Mountain Road, and while it’s not strictly true that I get all my shit there, I do get at least a goodly portion of my shit there, and therefore I feel ok about wearing the shirt. Besides, I like the slogan. It’s not so much clever as simply correct: This is how people actually talk around here. Why sugarcoat it?

One pump over from me there’s a big F350 pickup, huge and new-ish and gleaming black, and on the tinted rear window there are two big stickers. One reads Fuckin’ Mint and the other (of course, quite naturally, it only stands to reason) says Nipples Matter. And I try to run through the scenarios – any scenario would do – whereby a reasonable-thinking adult might put Fuckin’ Mint and Nipples Matter stickers on their truck. I mean, Fuckin’ Mint, now I’m down with that. Totally. I could rock a Fuckin’ Mint sticker all day long. But the Nipples Matter one throws me – is as sexist as it seems? And is it not the very pinnacle of toxic masculinity to drive around in your jacked up F350 sporting a Nipples Matter sticker for all the world to see? How might you expect the world to respond?

Or is it possible the guy’s a dairy farmer, a consideration that offers an entirely new layer of context? Because in dairy farming, you can bet your bottom dollar that nipples matter. Indeed, they’re about the most important goddam thing in the world. And how ’bout this: Maybe it’s not even a guy driving that truck; maybe it’s a woman dairy farmer! Yes. That’s it. Gotta be. Or could be, anyway.

My pump clicks off and I round up to the nearest quarter dollar (that old habit). I’m moving slowly now, for no other reason that I want to see who’s driving that truck. But the day’s a’wasting and I’ve got better things to do than obsess over the identity of whomever owns those stickers. So I hop in my car, turn the key, and get on my way.