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Heavier Than I Know it is

I pick up a boy hitchhiking. Or more to the point, he picks up me, approaching my truck as I idle at the blinking yellow light that brings a semblance of order to the main intersection of the small town we frequent. “I need a ride to East Hardwick,” he says, and because I am going right through East Hardwick, and because even if I weren’t I’d probably give him a ride anyway, just to better understand the nature of a boy who approaches a man in a truck to ask for a ride.

He climbs into the cab and settles in. We wait our turn at the blinking light, then accelerate through the intersection. He tells me he’s 19, though surely it can’t be true; he looks younger than my 14-year-old son. He tells me he spent the night outside, and this I believe, because he smells badly, and his bare arms are covered in dirt. He asks if I have a couple dollars, and although of course I do, I reflexively tell him I do not; there is something in the request that feels inauthentic to me, though in hindsight I’m pressed to say why. He tells me his name is Kenneth, and ask for money again. He complements my 15-year-old truck, asks what kind of motor is has, says it’s smooth. He calls me “sir” and between requests for money, thanks me for the ride. I drop him in the parking lot of the mechanic I’m visiting to┬ápay for recent repairs to our car, and he stands in the open door of the truck, not backing away, asking for money yet again. But I don’t give him any. Maybe I should, but I don’t.

I pay my bill, and drive home, detouring past the long-neglected private campground that is reemerging under new ownership as an adults-only, clothing optional venue. This is big news in our little town of 200 (give or take a few), and predictably, the venture has become the butt (see what I did there?) of innumerable jokes. I drive slowly, and look carefully, but there’s no one around, naked or otherwise. I don’t think they’re open yet, anyway, and even if they were, it’s still black fly season. You’d have to be plumb crazy to let it all hang out right now.

I wish I’d given Kenneth some money, even though I’m still not convinced he really needed it. But I can feel it in my pocket, even now, that small wad of crumpled bills. It feels heavier than I know it is.

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The Cows, the Mushrooms, the Turtle

Often in the mornings I drive our younger son to work. Or rather he drives me; he’s 14, and learning the row the gears in the little stick shift, and we practice on the lesser-traveled gravel roads. I make him stop in the middle of an incline, then start again, and I chide him for riding the clutch. But the truth is, he’s a good driver, probably better than I was at 14. Certainly more responsible.

The writing I don’t do here is stuck in my head, like the image of a herd of cows the other morning, early, just after dawn, this time me driving through the verdant land, the lushness almost overwhelming to the senses, past the grazing cows, and two of them off to the side, one licking the others’ neck, the lickee tilting her head just so, all the better to have her itches properly scratched. And wondering how they communicate this need, or if it’s just happenstance.

Or gathering morels with my son, the same one I take driving, so many mushrooms we eat them for three days straight until suddenly they don’t seem so special anymore and we decide not to go back for more. Though there were so many. Never seen morels like that.

On the highway, I see a snapping turtle trying to cross. I stop and hurry it along, and an hour later, returning home, I see it again (or is it really? Could it be a different one? It looks like the same one to me), now heading in the opposite direction. This does not seem possible, but there it is, so I stop again, and hurry it along again, skootching the indignant beast with my boot until it’s out of harm’s way. Thinking all the while that one of these days the turtle’s going to get hit. I got shit to do. I can’t just hang out kicking it across the road.

Other things, too. In and out of my mind, they all seem noteworthy in the moment, but so many of them just fade away, and I return to the cows, the mushrooms, the turtle. And the sound, yet again, of rain on the roof.