06 September 2011

Magpie Tales 81: Up To The Hubs

Image courtesy of Tess at Magpie Tales

Clayton Renfro had been around long enough to know swearing would do no good.  Most folks thought him laconic, but really, he was just tired of swearing.  Too much work, and out here too much unnecessary work meant less energy for something that did need doing.  The old farmer stamped his feet in the cold, smacking his gloved hands together.  He was well shut of this life, and the sight of the truck rusting away in the gravel pit made him sad and amused at the same time.  It was a long time since he drove that truck.

It was quiet out there, now that the family was gone.  Clayton didn't blame them.  The land they owned had never been overly generous.  As Poppa used to say, they could always survive here, but they probably wouldn't prosper.  Poppa, Clayton mused, was right.  The day they buried him down near the river, among the rocks he used to curse to the heavens, had been an odd one.  Clayton had been heartsick to see him go, but the old man knew it was time.  The weathered husk he called a body looked more like an animate walnut shell, wrinkled and burnished by time and weather.  As much as Poppa had cursed the land he was tethered to, Clayton knew the old man had no desire to be somewhere else.  At least now his bones could return to their spiritual home.

The wind was picking up.  The tang of wood smoke and cold water filled the farmer's lungs.  He shivered, more from memory than pure cold.  He stared at the carcass of the truck, up to its hubs in gravel the color of chaos and mud that aspired to be iron.   Once again, there was a flutter in his chest, old memories shaking their bones and rattling him.  He wanted to pull that truck out, take it back to his new place in town, and fix it.  Just fix it.  Maybe drive it back to when life had been a little sweeter, if a little harder.

A burst of icy wind stung his eyes, little drops of salt water forming in the wrinkles in the corners.  Behind him, still in the pickup he owned, his grandson Carl sat at the wheel.  He was warming his hands over the heater vent and watching his grandfather.  Clayton could tell.  The back of his skull tingled a bit, like it always did when he sensed someone watching him.
 Carl coughed.  Clayton turned, saw the concerned look on the young man's face looking out the driver's side window, which was rolled down.  Carl called out.

"You okay, Paw-Paw?"

Clayton considered that for a moment.  Of all the possible answers, fractured in their myriad nuances, Clayton blurted out "Yes" before he could think about it too much.

The look on Carl's face told Clayton the answer wasn't very convincing.  Clayton mustered up a grin and tried again.

"Yes, I am, boy.  Too hard headed to be anything else.  We'll go in a minute"

Carl smiled. Clayton felt a warmth emerge in his heart, radiating outward into his limbs.  He realized that he was alright, even if the past was not.  He turned to look at the old truck one last time.  It was silent, frozen.  It offered no further counsel.  Clayton turned to walk back to the waiting pickup.

Yeah, he was okay.  It would all be okay.  The past was where it was, up to its hubs in rock and mud, and there was no going back to try a different road.  The one in front of him would do just fine.


  1. The path in front of you is always a good one, especially if you know you don't like the other options.

  2. I love the language and dialect in this.

  3. Your Magpie is beautifully descriptive ....

  4. A great wave of optimism to wash over the pessimistic picture. I liked it very much!

  5. smiles. very nicely spun...even so short i got a good feel for the characters and your descriptions give life to the scene...nicely done...

  6. You catch the "sound" of the old man's thoughts very well.

  7. An arresting first sentence draws us into an entertaining story. Thanks, Irish G.

  8. I loved the way the last sentence wrapped it all up...

  9. Wonderful write...I adore this line: "The tang of wood smoke and cold water filled the farmer's lungs."

  10. If only old vehicles and houses could talk or if we could be transported back to when they were new. No point in looking back too much.

  11. This is an awesome bit of writing. Great depth and smooth as silk in its delivery. Mighty fine job!

  12. Glad to see him come to a conclusion of delightful

    despite the old sad past, he is doing okay or great.

    very thought provoking story.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...