Sunday, a day early, but those murderous temperatures, and we’d had our gators if not our dolphins, our tidal marsh kayak if not our sunset river cruise, decent meals if never a feast, and we missed that damned dog. So, early fugitives from the Airbnb, pushing hell-bent for nine hours and feeling every one of them and every year of fifty-plus in ass and back, neck, shoulders, we turn into the gravel drive, a dappled tunnel of overhang. At the end of it, the house still stands! I wheel the car around to face outward, and we climb stiffly out. There’s Kellum, aspiring young poet, just off shift at the garden shop, watering the flowers. He waves as we waste no time unloading. Heavy bags for me, the rest of the jumble as one can grab, hauled as quickly as possible across the jungle of the yard, door unbolted and everything inside. The front porch I refinished before we left, though littered with leaves, shines amber and glossy in the late afternoon. The house is a furnace. Crank down the thermostat in the front, crank it down in the back. Make it all a freezer for the girl. Then unspoken divisions of labor: Claudia to pay the kid, finish the “thank you”s for keeping everything alive, and back in the Subaru off to collect Lucy, whom we’ve been informed from the road is freshly bathed, newly trimmed, and, we are confident, smelling good! Gaylord to grab the keys to his T-Bird and gun it—but top up, baby—to the grocer for provisions of roasted chicken, slaw, biscuits, juice, something sweet. At the rendezvous, I am moments behind them. My girl scratching the storm door, frantic as I pull in, coming at a lope despite the heat. And no kidding: In the interim forty minutes, the moonflower on the porch has unfolded a single, billowing kerchief to welcome us home. The crimson hibiscus heavy with buds will open tomorrow, blooms wider than my spread hand. But that’s tomorrow.
Gaylord Brewer is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where he founded and for 20+ years edited the journal Poems & Plays. The most recent of his 16 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and cookery are two collections of poems, The Feral Condition (Negative Capability, 2018) and Worship the Pig (Red Hen, 2020).Discover more from Gaylord Brewer.