A world apart


We watched him from under the shade of a tall tree, sitting in the grass, sucking hard on the straw to tease every last drop of lemonade from the plastic cup.

After a week of cool rain and chilly breezes with nights dipping low into the 50s or touching lightly into the 40s, the August afternoon sun felt unreasonably hot. We’d wandered through livestock barns, air heavy with manure and wet straw, watching goats and sheep crowd the gates, pigs too hot to stand, raising heads just high enough to drop snouts into food bins, horses calling to each other and cows just waiting for whatever would come.

We’d walked past rows of vegetables – a pumpkin nearly the size of a bean bag chair, corn on the stalks, grain too, and bags of wool tucked into a corner.

Outside again in the heat and dust and crowded paths, we’d wandered down a corridor lined with food vendors; smells of roasting meat and frying potatoes made us suddenly hungry, and we found ourselves outside one of the end booths, ordering fries with cheese and a lemonade, the kind where they squeeze the lemon when you order and make it just barely sweet.

We’d sought out a shaded spot, sat deep into the cool grass.

I’d hardly noticed the ancient trailer pulled by an equally ancient truck just 20 or 30 yards from us, parked under another tree. A brown and white spotted dog was tied to the back, waiting quietly.

We’d finished our fries, the grease and remnants of melted cheese soaking the paper liner, and the lemonade was down to ice and a half lemon when I saw him, watched him string a hammock from a tree to his trailer, kick off his shoes, lay down in the shade.

The dog had stood to greet him, now he too stretched out in the shade, under the hammock, scratching his back in the grass.

On the other side of the trailer, the hard-packed dirt road was crowded with old men and old woman and children begging for everything they saw. On the other side of the trailer, the sun beat down hot and sweat formed beads on everyone’s faces and soaked through t-shirts. On the other side was chaos.

But from his side of the trailer, it was quiet. All those sounds seemed far away. A breeze blew soft in the shade of the trees.

He seemed to be in a world all to himself and his brown-faced dog.

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Filed under Notebook sketches, People

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