Every day but Sunday he dresses in the uniform of his former profession: khaki-colored work clothes, steel-toed brogans, a thin windbreaker zipped to the Adam’s apple if there is a shadowy sweetness in the morning breeze. He rises before dawn, lights the pilot of the kerosene stove, lets the dogs out, careful not to slap the screen door. He sits at the kitchen table drinking instant coffee, black, for an hour until his wife rises and fries breakfast wordlessly in her housecoat. Neither of his sons wanted to take over the farm and his daughter moved up to Raleigh to work in a bank and he doesn’t understand a good three-quarters of the things he hears people say. Commercials on television perplex him. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to them, they begin in the middle and it’s never quite clear to him what it is they’re even advertising. He stands in the backyard looking out over the fields he leases now to an outfit out of, by God, Delaware, working a pick between his teeth, dogs at his feet. Maybe I have outlived time. Soon there will be no such thing as dew, the thing he once had to rouse himself early from bed to beat. Get it done before the sun burns the dew off. They’ll do away with that, too.
Michael Parker is the author of six novels and two collections of stories. A new collection of really short stories, Everything, Then and Since, is forthcoming from Bull City Press in fall 2017. He teaches in the MFA Creative Writing program at UNC Greensboro and lives in North Carolina and Texas.