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Thursday, February 16, 2006


A Valentine's Story

The Best Kind of Morning

I'm not anything special, but I know what I like. It's what's kept me single so long, I suppose. Up at four most mornings when there's work to be done. I grab my coffee and my cap, the keys to my truck.

You know the best kind of morning? Clear skies and stars everywhere. Usually means the day's gonna be hot. But I had this chart of the sky when I was a kid—called the Map of Heaven—so I know some of their names. Polaris and Orion. The Seven Sisters. And Venus comes up blue and steady, not twinkling like the rest. Wind sounds like an ocean blowing over my fields and I can smell the harvest waiting for me to pick up some workers.

I hire immigrants like everyone else round here—'cept I speak Spanish to them. Or I try to. You should see their eyes when I call five men over to my truck and tell them what I pay. Real money for real work—that's what I learned from my dad.

So one day we're finishing up—I got a couple guys spreading fresh hay for the horses, another guy's hosing down the combine—and I see my Aunt Naomi who I ain't seen in years. Walking down the highway. Looking like she's been walking on that highway a long time.

She's got a friend with her. And both them girls covered in so much red dirt they look like maybe they're made from the stuff. I guess me and my men don't look so much different after working the fields all day.

"Bo," my aunt said. "You are a sight. Come hug my neck."

I wasn't in no condition to be hugging necks, but I figure Aunt Naomi wasn't neither. So I took my stink over there and picked her up off the ground, you know, squeezing one of those bear hugs that feels good to give even if I worry sometimes I might bruise a person. But Aunt Naomi's got plenty of padding to protect her. She's no feather weight.

"Put me down, you crazy farmer," she said. So I did. And we all stood for a bit. The sun went behind a cloud, and you could see the outline of it all around us as it passed by. It brought a cool breeze to my sweaty face.

"Bo," my aunt said. "This here was Mal's wife."

Something about a dirty face is that a person's eyes shine out. And this girl's eyes were almost black, but a kind of black that made you hold your breath, like black diamonds.

"A pleasure," I said and kinda nodded my head at her. "I'm Bo."

"I know," she said. "I'm Rihana."

Even with all that dirt I could tell that Mal had done good.

"Dad worked with her folks 'til him and Mal and Kyle got in the wreck. She's from the city, you 'member. Was a Muslim. An Arab. Now she's just an Arab."

Folks around here would talk about that, I knew, unless I talked first. I wouldn't say nothing about the wreck, though. Some things I don't talk about.

"Gotta take my men back," I told them. "You two gonna ride in the cab with me."

It was no question they'd stay. I ain't the kind of man what sends two ladies off down the road again. Specially a blood relative.

Would you believe the next couple of weeks? Naomi's girl worked right along side my men. Rihana. Naomi said her name means "sweet basil." I still hired five men all that harvest, but I paid Ree, too. "Y'all let her do a little bit of work," I told them. They knew I'd pay them the same. And they all liked her.

Any man out here would, you know. We're none of us special like I said. Me least of all except that I own the fields. Got my land to work. Got the ranch house. Always perfectly willing to share it all if someone were interested. But I hadn't gone out looking or nothing.

I had my doubts about Ree at first, but she laid those to rest for sure one night. No, no, it wasn't like you're thinking. Now, come on. She's not like that.

But I admit, it was a little startling. I was sleeping in my bed, you know. Probably snoring enough to shake the windows. And she snuck into my room. Aunt Naomi put her up to it, I figure. Lord, I'm glad I showered that night because next thing I know she's pulled the covers down and is rubbing my feet. And kissing them real soft so I didn't know what to do at all except just lay there.

I guess other men are used to being woke up in the middle of the night by a beautiful woman, but not me. I couldn't hardly breathe. I didn't want to. I couldn't grab the sheets because she'd pulled them down and I could feel a breeze blowing in through the window on my chest and down my legs. It was a cold night, but her hands were warm on my feet. And I could smell some kind of perfume spice or something.

I mean, what would you do? Different parts of me wanted all sorts of things. I knew I wasn't dreaming, but it didn't seem like Ree, you know. Like I said, she's not like that.

"Who are you?" I finally asked her.

She stretched out next to me in the bed and whispered her name. I could feel her breath against my cheek, and I could see her eyes shining in the dark. She said, "Take me into your house."

I would, of course. God. You know I would have right then that night? Assuming that's what she really wanted. Assuming I wasn't just her last ditch option. I could barely make out her shape in the bed next to me, but I could feel her weight on the mattress. Making me tilt toward her just a little bit.

"God, Ree," I said. "For you I'll do anything." I turned toward her on the bed and reached out a hand to her lips. She drew a quick breath. "I'll do anything you want. If you're sure you want me. There's other men in this town who've noticed, you know. I'm not the only one can see past your skin. I'm not the only one with land."

She kissed my hand and held it to her breast. Whatever she was wearing—Lord, we could've got ourselves in trouble that night except I knew Naomi was down the hall. Even still I pulled her to me.

"Don't leave me," she said and finally finally kissed me. I wasn't going anywhere. And I held her so tight she couldn't go anywhere either.

Next morning, she makes me coffee and meets me outside.

Clear skies and stars everywhere.

Wind sounds like an ocean blowing through the fields.

And we can smell the harvest waiting. You know.

Lord God. The best kind of morning.

HillCountryWriter Category: Drama
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