The two farmers went down like the river goes down, past fields and more fields of stunted crops and on into town to one of the last old time hardware stores for miles around, maybe towns around. And it matters. Like the rain matters. The rain that rises the river over its banks, that flows it down, swelling and groaning with the weight of the water and what it means to everything in and around the town and beyond, out to the mouth of itself with its fullness of good and bad to say, out to the sea, out to the different worlds that are in the sea, the chunks of land and the people on them.
And on this small chunk of land called central New York, the river left the farmers—them in their pick-ups and it in its bed—for just a few miles to go around town, to flow around the back of it past the lumber store, feed store, and on to the old brick turbine house sitting at the crest of the waterfall. The river had work to do. And the farmers had hooks and eye bolts, latches, hasps, barbed wire staples, insulators and a few cut nails to buy. They had talking to do, to deliberate on this year’s growing season and to talk about the river behind its back. Nothing bad, for the river’s giving more than it’s taking, but mostly to talk about the burden it carries, the burden of man.
They pulled up to the curb in front of the old hardware store, pulled up diagonally, which was the better way to do they thought. That way, folks who were no good at parallel parking could get in and out without all the scratching and denting and fussing and hassling. They moseyed around to the front of the truck and went on inside smiling and guffawing, knowing they’d be jawing and testing their know-how, and there’s nothing better’n huffing and puffing about what all you know, especially with Joe. Joe owned the place and he knew a lot, kept abreast of more things than a person ought to know and still be able to sleep at night without worrying about it all, so you had to be on your toes to know more than Joe.
The shop bell tinkled on the old screen door. Joe bellowed “Hello boys!” and on came those good old smells of the creaky wood floor, the oak cabinets, the paint layered on the old wooden paint shaker, the hardware and the hard-working people climbing the ceiling-high ladders that rolled past the shelves so they could get just the right sized screws and bolts and such. Little boys who couldn’t reach the first level of bins were walking down the aisles, their arms raised above their heads as high as they could go, and feeling with their fingers in each of the bins the different sizes of similar things. Anything you need is in there and that’s good to know, makes sitting out front on the store’s big, wide stone steps feel all the more secure.
“That good sweet corn gonna be late to the plate along with them tomatoes, ain’t they, boys?” Joe said sad and loud. The farmers wagged their heads from side to side, said probably no one in these parts is gonna see the best sweet corn out ‘til mid-August, and that’s if nothin’ bad happens, like more low temperatures. And them strawberries ain’t gonna be as sweet, nope, you need sun to make ‘em sweet and we ain’t had much of that this year. All that rain done slowed things down, all the lack of heat slowed down the development of the crops while the fungus was having a field day. We’re behind in growing and picking and all we can do is pray for heat and for the love of God to hold back an early frost. Joe put one arm around each farmer and they walked out somber to sit on the steps while Joe’s son Joe Jr. gathered up their supplies.
“You could see all that’s being lost but for the tears in your eyes,” Joe said as they sat down and had themselves some mint snuff chew. He pointed a way off by the curb to a beat up old baseball maybe some kid had lost, and said, “For instance, take a hammer and bust that old baseball up and see what comes out of it: maybe an old time crowd roaring, the women in nice dresses, the men in suits and fedoras, sitting in the house that Ruth built; maybe Red Barber coming over the airwaves bringing the game to our homes and cars so we can see the plays, smell the hotdogs, the cigar smoke, the beer; maybe Jackie Robinson’s greatest catch, the major leagues; or maybe advancing players by singles and doubles before homeruns and grand slams ruled, back when players and teams stayed around our big cities long enough to embody their culture, the hearts and minds of the folks there.”
The farmers and Joe were quiet for a time, pondering the sorry situation in the state, the country, the world, feeling the burden of the river and the sea and how Siberia may be the only fit place to live in a few years. Just when there seemed nothing left to do but to anticipate and brace for a scary future, the shop bell tinkled and Joe Jr. came out onto the steps. The men stood up to greet him properly and Joe Jr. held the bags of supplies out to the farmers, confident and unconcerned, smiled a mile wide. He winked and said to one, “I threw in a box of Tapcons for you to try. Didn’t charge you. Just you see if those new fangled fasteners don’t work better for you than the cut nails you got.” The farmer smiled and thanked the boy for his thoughtfulness, patted him on the shoulder. Joe looked at his kid, just sixteen and sharp as a tack, probably going to Cornell, and he patted the kid’s shoulder, too, felt a whole lot better about how things might turn out. The river’s got good men on its side. It’s got work to do.
Photo from website: http://ahps2.wrh.noaa.gov/images/ahps2/pih/anti1/anti1_henrysstanthony.jpg
Missalister’s “Clyde River Hardware,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#174 – Anticipate” Click here for more on prompt #174 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.
generations flow onward like the river, both burdened by everything that came before. I love how this traveled down just like a river, slowing here and then curving around there, parts narrow where you catch all the details and then opening out into a wide smooth place where you can just glimpse either side.
Yeah, what Dee said!
I love both the sense of history and the timeliness of this story. Farmers from the Mid-Atlantic through New England are experience the same lack of sunshine this year. I’m tasting the sweet corn, and feeling the baseball and cold beer, all the while reminiscing about ole Red Barber! I remember listening to him every week on NPR Radio years ago. That man could tell a story!
All in all, this is a fine slice of Americana!
in a field of rich words and perfect lines, this one stood out to me:
“hat way, folks who were no good at parallel parking could get in and out without all the scratching and denting and fussing and hassling.”
i laughed. then, i got this choked up feeling i often get reading your work… call it pleasure, call it pride, call it a number of things. i only know you will go places. and trust me, i’ll say, “yeah, she read my blog!”
I just finished reading 3 poems by David Lee. the first poet Laureate of Utah.
I really enjoyed his work and I find yours just as good. I will be back often.
I think you would enjoy David Lee’s work
I’d say the rivers are rising, cher. You’ve got your big-time novelist hat (Dumbledore’s?) on with this one, voice of Gaia all running down with your River Clyde in that first paragraph, the mind of more than just the farmers and Joe and Joe, the mind of the whispering Earth herself, the one you soak up on your daily peregrinations down the running roads. I hope you felt it while your were laying it down, and I hope you enjoyed it yourself.
That’s it, Dee, all that you wrote : ) Every once in awhile I get to feeling like writing a rhythm and running my sentences on and on like a bad Kerouac girl. Just like I first did in “The same wind” when I listened to my instincts in one of those rare moments when I really do listen. They kicked up a fuss the day I responded to Paschal’s comment on Mallroom blitz. And that’s how it started.
I never heard Red Barber but I love listening to those guys, the really good ones like him, love the excitement in their voices. They gotta have a special heart for it. And when there’s an amazing play, they have this sound like they’re barely remembering they’re the mouth on the radio, barely keeping it cool. I was listening to a clip of Russ Hodges calling the Giants/Dodgers game in ’51 when Bobby Thomson hit “the shot heard round the world” and that was it, classic, the losing it and the remembering to inform the listeners. Well, here it is for posterity.
Ain’t that statement the truth? I hate parallel parking. I do it, go through all the tips I first ever learned to get it right, but geezus it causes anxiety. It’s worse when I’m in a passenger seat while someone else is attempting that feat. Yep, them boys had it right—diagonal’s the way to go.
And when you win the Esquire fiction contest, I’ll say, “Yeah, she read my blog,” ‘cause I was under the gun with a project and I finished a fourth Esquire draft at 11:30pm on 8/1 and was reading it to my buddy Nick and 3466 words later BING! Time’s up! But I tell you, just doing that changed something in me. Not only did I become unafraid of hauling off and starting a new draft from a completely different angle, I feel different, like I really did submit something, so that whole initial fear thing is over, and I’m ready to do more.
Welcome, sir. It’s been a long time since some new blood dripped onto Miss A’s pages and pages of material that comes from no one knows where, for no one knows what reason. And I’m pleased as can be, like an old lady who is surprised by a rare visitor, and who requests pardon after pardon for the state of the place, the dust, the ancient age of the sherry (perhaps it’s gone bad or maybe it’s even better), her awkwardness as host, and on and on.
I hadn’t read David Lee prior to your recommendation. When you say you read three poems, I wonder if you read Cedar Mountain, Aspen Pole Fence, and Pine Valley on the Heron Dance site. That’s where I went and I enjoyed them all very much. So you were right on. And I thank you : )
And you, you always say all the right things, river things. I did enjoy the process for the most part. As usual, I oscillated between relaxed and flowing and neurotic and contrived. Maybe I enjoyed it as much as you enjoyed your eyeballs full of Louisiana green and didn’t enjoy it as much as you may have wished you could have rerouted that fifteen minutes of rain to Tres Leches : )
A lot of American terms here that I cannot relate do. But its a story that can make tears well up for no reason whatsoever and make you smile at the same time.
Somewhere lost in the maze of your words, on one corner (can’t remember which) I got an eerie feeling of an M. Night Shyamalan movie… :)
Well, that’s neat, though, means there’s a universal theme, like the measure of sadness that comes with human struggle and things lost, days gone by, mementos of impermanence, maybe a small smile of acceptance of all of that…
“Praying with Anger” for sure hits that tears-and-smile spot, and how. No problem identifying with an avalanche of tangled up humans issues—cultural, familial, spiritual—coming at one person faced with reconciling them all.
I prefer my challenges to come at me one at a time LOL! Like yesterday, I couldn’t get to your site and today I find out why. Spiff, dude. And your gravatar, ooh-la. Even compliments my décor here. Quarter-life crisis, hehe ; )
Ha ha… What can I say after all this? With all the modesty I can muster up from way up there I would say, thank you for the kind words. We are all approval junkies (as they say in Revolver) and this specific approval does seem important for me. :)
Approval junkies, yes, no question. Basking is as basking does, and you’re as welcome for my kind words as I am pleased by yours here. And you’ll have to trust me on this, that I’m entirely pleased : )
i had mine on my laptop…. (esquire) and it got away from me.
there is another… not as beautiful a name as esquire, but, it pays!!
now, i’m off like a cheap bra…
Shit. Well, here’s another chance for us, but…
Good Fucking Housekeeping??? Geezus Quin, I don’t know if I can write like GFH… “…but, it pays!!” Yes, yes, well you know I’ll be taking a look at it to see what kind of thing they expect. God I hope I don’t barf. I hate barfing.
Oh, hey, and you know what would be near la crème de la crème? The NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest. Heard it on “All Things Considered” the other day—Molly Reid, the winner, with oh-dear-god-James Wood of The New Yorker, be still my heart—and this round’s done but there’ll be another round. It’s a stay tuned sort of thing. And I’m staying tuned like a honky-tonk piano :-D