Thursday, December 28, 2017

Setting Sun
© By Jack Bogut
527 Kingsberry Circle
Pittsburgh, Pa 15234
All rights reserved

            There’s a plant called a Diamond Willow that grows in just a few places in America. With diamond shaped knots and gnarls on all sides of the trunk, it looks misshapen, a mistake of nature.  When cut and dried it makes a fence post or a long club that is so tough and hard it defies breakage.  You can hack away at one with an axe or a knife and dull the blade before you cut it in-two.  Carl Hansen looked among the posts and took a small one in his hand. He looked at his son, James, and nodded, and they walked to the top of the small rise in front of the house.  When they reached the knoll they stopped and looked at each other again.  Then, James reached down and picked up a handful of stones, carefully examining each one until he found a rock that looked about right, and handed it to his dad.
            Carl took the stone from his son in the palm of his left hand and held the diamond willow in his right.  He glanced at James and tossed the stone in the air.  Then, taking the stick in both his huge hands he swung at the rock.  A crack loud as a rifle shot split the quiet end of that day like a melon and the rock soared toward the setting sun and disappeared into the orange ball, never to be seen again.  James picked up stone after stone and his father cracked each one into oblivion.  The hero-worship in his eyes was unmistakable.  No one could hit stones or do anything for that matter, like his dad.  Nobody he knew was stronger, could lift more, was smarter, or could do anything better than his dad.
            That’s why, when they brought Carl’s body home in that big pine box in the back of the wagon that day, James’ world crashed around him.  But he knew he shouldn’t and couldn’t show his emotions to anyone, especially his brothers and sisters.  He would try not to let his mother see how he felt but he knew she would know anyway.  He just tried to think of how his father would handle this same situation. 
            He didn’t think about it very long or hard.  He just squared his shoulders, tightened his jaw, dried his eyes and walked in the house.
            “Mom?”
            Louise looked at her ten year old son.  “James?”
            He thought about asking her what he could do but that’s not what his father would have done.  It was up to him to know what to do, not to ask anymore.  He wanted his mother to wrap her arms around him and let him pour out his feelings but instead, put his arm around her shoulder and asked:
            “Are you okay?”
            “I’m fine,” she answered and then caught herself before she could say, “I’m just fine James, now why don’t you go out and play?”  She knew he was beyond that now, he was the man of the house.  She could no longer treat him as a child.
“It’s not FAIR!”  She thought to herself. 
But then again, life is not fair sometimes.  You take what comes and make the best of it. 
            “I’m gonna’ go do the chores.  I’ll be back when I get done.” James said over his shoulder on his way out the door.
            Louise watched him go, so small, walking as tall as he could be into the end of this day after Carl’s funeral.  She waited dinner until the younger children were almost out of control and fed them.  She put James’ dinner in the oven to keep it warm because she knew she could not call him.  He had to finish his work in his own time now.  She knew that, but wondered what was taking him so long.


            And then, as she sat and rocked quietly, she heard what she thought were shots from a small caliber rifle outside, not loud but a definite crack.  She went to the door and saw James, a solitary figure now, silhouetted against the evening sky, hitting one stone after another into the setting sun.

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