Story from the Blue Ridges
for Steve McGuire, 1921-2074
by Mary Jo Balistreri
Just before dawn, he carries his tea outside with him, starts the day as usual by sitting on the rickety porch stairs in the dark. He likes this vast nothingness where day comes to him as it will. This morning he’s informed by fog, dampness saturating his skin, the far mountains erased. Sipping his hot tea, he notices the sharper smell of spruce in the heavy dew, faint scent of cherry trees about to bloom, the rotting lumber that segues into the whiff of iron, baked rocks and boulders hefted from the unforgivable soil in making his mother’s garden. He sees her now walking toward the sunflowers, how small she looks next to their towering presence
As the ebony night loses its grip, the chirp of crickets alerts him to the time. He springs into action, takes his cup to the house, grabs the lunch pail, and starts his trek down the hills. A light wind touches his hair while sun attempts to burn off the fog. The voices of songbirds accompany him, then fade away as he reaches the open maw of the coal mine. He wonders, as he always does, if this is the day the yellow canary stops singing.