Out Here


I arrived yesterday. In my itty-bitty hometown, I mean.


At one of the four-way stops, I drove past a buzzard. It was hunched over some roadkill. I might have been a ghost, for all the attention it paid me. For a moment, I was persuaded I’d stumbled into a Cormac McCarthy novel.


I took my mother to the hairdresser’s and then walked across the street to get a sandwich. I sat alone at a table outside. A semi truck drove past, hauling pine logs. Somehow one little branch had escaped the stripper. It waved from the top of the pile — one little patch of green amid all that barky brown.


I paid for my lunch. The cashier never stopped smiling. “Excuse me!” she said and answered the phone. Handing it to one of the waitresses, she arched an eyebrow and told me, “Well, that’s never happened before.” As if I knew exactly what that was.


The beautician was exasperated. She’d hired someone to clean, and the woman had spent six hours working on just three rooms. Now she had to find time to finish the job herself. It wasn’t clear to me whether she thought it was my mother’s fault.


We drove to the little house my mother rents to the town librarian. It used to be my grandmother’s. Yes, I said, it definitely needs to be painted. Seems that the librarian’s father had been a housepainter. “It has to be Benjamin Moore paint,” she told my mother. “You say the word, and I’ll drive as far as we need to go to get Benjamin Moore.” Well, okay then.


I was told this story: R. reported to my mother that the dog their mutual friend L. had found on the side of a road was in fact a purebred Cardigan Welsh Corgi! Worth $1,000! And that when L realized that she could not care for the dog, someone from up North had flown into town on a private plane and whisked it away! For her part, L. admitted that, yes, maybe the mutt dog was partly Corgi, and that, yes, $1,000 was what she herself had paid to have the dog flown to Maine, where a nonprofit outfit finds homes for stray, abandoned, and surrendered dogs.


When we drove back through the four-way stop, the buzzard was no longer there. Only the roadkill.

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