Kansas, 1934

Look back across the years, and you will see us. See each moment as clear and self-contained as a raindrop before it hits the earth and merges into the undifferentiated mass of water on this wet planet.

There we are, forever young, flying across the prairie in a secondhand Buick, riding high on four new tires purchased at Pop’s insistence. Three Harvard boys on summer break, we are aware of but never thinking of the ragged farmer families staring down death by starvation somewhere out in the billowing, blinding clouds of dust.

Dusk is descending. All of us sit together in the wide front seat doing seventy along the endless gravel road, Arizona bound. We are on our way to spend the summer working at the Y Lightning, a genuine cattle ranch nestled in the foothills of the mile-high Huachuca Mountains. That’s me in the driver’s seat, full of the innocent arrogance I will never lose. Blame rolls off me like raindrops beading up and sliding off a yellow slicker.

Our heads are full of the pictures I have painted all year; we see ourselves riding fences, breaking horses, losing our collegiate selves in the heady stink of our own sweat. I can’t wait to pull back into Bisbee, show my greenhorn buddies where to outfit themselves with high-heeled western boots, Stetsons, and blue jeans.

“Now boys,” I say. “Remember, a good cowboy is part veterinarian and part handyman. The two most important things to be on the lookout for are sick calves and breaks in the fencing.”

With a noise like a thunderclap, the left front tire blows. I wrestle with the wheel for an instant and then we are somersaulting into a ditch, our bodies spilling out onto the ground as the Buick flies beyond us, landing right side up.

We are bruised a bit but the only thing broken is Bob’s glasses.

Tilden says, “Nothing hurts. Nothing hurts.”

The Buick limps into town, riding on the rims. We get a room, cursing our rotten luck; it could take days to fix up the sorry heap. Arizona shimmers on the horizon like a mirage. I fall asleep in my clothes, lacking the energy to even unlace my shoes.

A strange quiet wakes me. The moon is bright and full through the naked windowpane; Tilden is lit by its glow which lends him a beauty to which he has no honest claim. He is slumped in a chair, head lolling back, arms splayed out to the sides. My weariness pulls me back under.

At sunrise, Bob probes our friend’s cold wrist with his index and middle fingers, searching for the pulse that no longer beats beneath his skin.

Kansas, 1934


Arlington, United States

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 8


short story

Artwork Comments

  • Digby
  • Pilgrim
  • panda65
  • Wendy  Stivers
  • oscarelizondo
  • asd25
  • Fair2se3
  • ladyb
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.