Sunday, June 22, 2008

Freckles and Sweat

Beads of sweat, invisible in the darkness of night, ran off his forehead. He closed his eyes. A quick swipe of his fingertips removed the dampness from his eyelids. The mattress below him had grown wet from his perspiration, yet it meant nothing in the world he lived in. He slept in his own sweat every night. There was no air conditioning in his house. This night was cooler than the ones in his bedroom. The slight breeze that came with the growing Texas night was beginning to cool the sides of the pick-up truck’s bed. It was Friday night, and a few hours before his dad had hauled the queen mattress out of the house and dropped it into the back of the 1957 Ford pick-up. From his spot in the back of the truck his senses filled with the voices of the women laughing as if they were rehearsing a TV scene with Lucy and Ethel. The men spoke softly and drew large hits off a stream of never ending cigarettes that glowed like small lamps among the cluster of men. He concentrated on the small orange glows as they danced up and down, their movement caused by the practiced art of men talking while also holding a cigarette in their mouths.

Fireflies darted across his face, daring him to chase them. He was content in the back of the truck; the soggy pillow below his head doubled up where he could watch the dancing cigarettes and hear the laughter and high pitched voices of the moms.

He was 8 years old. He had been to a handful of these church socials. He didn’t know why the church members gathered in a city park on Friday nights. They would all sleep in the park tonight, on cots and in the back of pick-up trucks. He knew the small frame house where he lived next to the railroad tracks was hot and that maybe that is why they gathered in the park on these nights. It was also noisy at his house as the trains roared by through the night no more than 50 yards from his open window. Late at night the hobos that walked the tracks and rode the trains would appear at one of the windows and wake him up by knocking on the wooden window sill. It always scared him, but he tried to not let on. He just told them they only had enough food and stuff for themselves, sorry. That’s what his dad said to tell them.

The vacation from the small hot house and the productive railroad tracks was what made these Friday nights so much fun. There was laughter. There were games before the picnic dinners, men playing dominoes and smoking, moms laughing and preparing food. Now the stars above him were glowing with a full brightness through the leaves of the oak trees. The leaves moved gently in the cooling breeze of the evening, a breeze that had begun to make the sweat on his face feel cool. The same breeze brought the distinctive aroma of smoke from the group of men and also seemed to heighten the sound of the ducks near the pond, their constant quacking mimicking the back and forth voices of the group of women.

He lost himself in thought about Rebecca. She was confusing to think about. Small freckles decorated her nose and cheeks, the freckles were almost the same muted red color as her hair. He liked the way her hair would fall across her face when she ran. She would have to slow down and move it behind her ears before she could continue running. Her red canvas shoes were always topped by white socks that sagged to her ankles when she played with the boys. He didn’t know why he liked to think about her but it made him feel good to remember her running and tending to her hair. He liked it when she smiled right at him and he imagined holding her hand, but he also knew he would never dare.

He was happy. No hobos and no trains, just laughter and stars and ducks on a pond. He swatted a mosquito away from his ear. He thought about Rebecca’s freckles and smiled. His eyelids grew heavy and he drifted into sleep.

Years later when he had all the things of value that life could bring him, when a generation of time had separated him from the boy and his personal wealth had grown, he would sit in his study and think about the happiness of the boy. He did it again tonight.

When we have so little, only dreams and an image of what comfort might be, why are we so happy? When poverty stricken children in third world countries chase a soccer ball across a barren field dotted with skinny cows, why does an enormous smile play across their face and why do their eyes dance with the fullness of life? Does ignorance of plenty enhance satisfaction with little? And if its true………….how do we return to the place where the leaves rustle in front of the stars and we care only about our dreams and the play that begins in the morning? Where do we find the place that we chase a soccer ball across a field of skinny cows, grinning like a child?


kathi said...

I think we find it in our hearts. The choice is ours to be happy and content (which doens't mean we settle) or to live with the attitude that nothing is ever enough. The choice is ours.

Once again, you take us into your world with such a wonderful visual with your words so simply put. What a great read for my Sunday afternoon.

Seven said...

Kid Bratcher,
Great answer. I shall look there staightaway.

Enemy of the Republic said...

You're back!!!!I bet you've been back for awhile. I wasn't blogging for a bit. Sorry, I havent't read this post yet, but I want you to know that I am coming back to visit you, my Texan buddy!

Seven said...

Its always a pleasure to have you....please do.

Lynilu said...

It seems there is often a direct and inverse relationship between affluence and imagination of the type you mention. And I would say yes, ignorance of plenty makes life so much more personally pleasurable. Simplicity is bliss and is one element of life that is worth our holding. Some of my greatest happiness has come as I retired, scaled down, cut back, and quit working for "progress." It's nice, but I wouldn't turn the clock back.

Seven said...

S Lovely
Is the place you have reached 'progress'? If so, you continue to look for progress in the absence of tangibles you can touch. But, I also know that you understand what I am saying so I am only playfully dissecting the wording to reach a point we both agree on. I'm there with you on this one; getting older has rich benefit. It shifts goals dramatically.

Lynilu said...

I think the answer is "yes, the place I've reached is certainly progress." It is progress in many ways, but the greatest of all is the minimizing of demands (competition, financial, "things," etc.). I feel sad for younger people who are held captive by those "needs." The keeping-up-with-the-Jones' makes people very frantic and often unaware of what they really, already have.

Lynilu said...

BTW, I should say, also that this is *my* progress. If there are those who truly appreciate the good parts of life even while working very hard, that is another story. I think everyone has his/her own level of energy, and some can concentrate on many "pleasures." Unfortunately, IMO, most don't. They work, work, work, and suddenly find that life has passed them by. That is anything *but* progress.

I love it when you make me think ;)

Seven said...

We have much in common. I drive a car that is 10 years old and has 120K miles. My son is always telling me I'm much too frugal and could afford 50 new cars and I really really need a new car with 'at least' GPS. I told him I don't need GPS cause I always know where I am going when I get in the car. It reminds me of a friend of mine that doesn't travel ANYWHERE. He spends hours and hours inside his house and has to be coaxed out to go even around town. However he loves gadgets. Recently he was showing me his new watch that keeps the time on 3 continents at once and has a compass feature. He was really very proud of it. Huh? As if that's useful to him!

Lynilu said...


We are peculiar creatures, aren't we?

This is funny .... I drive an almost new vehicle, because I want to travel safely and have something I don't have to spend lots on repairs (and I bought a GPS so I don't get lost in strange places!), but my house is a small cozy and inexpensive place. Just the opposite of your car and home!

What works, works!!