Volume 15, Issue 6: Virga
A barrage of swallows danced around the hay-barn as the sky warmed and the morning star leaned back again out
of view. Geoffrey stepped up to the weathered fence with a placid look in his left eye. Light and warmth came up
through the rich soil, and the sun edged slowly over the ridge carrying with it the sweet rich flavor of tarweed, manure,
and plowed earth. The flies were still frozen to clods of dirt at his feet. This was his time, and he felt invincible as he
rested his head on the glowing fence of the corral and shut his eyes, gazing peacefully through the lids directly at the source
of this great awakening around him.
The light continued its golden gilding, first brushing the ground, and then each fence post successively on up
the driveway until finally John's rusted Ford blinked and then blushed as the saffron rays drenched its tired body.
Miniature beads of water trapped along the inside of the windshield all sang and raced erratically in the morning glow.
The truck had been parked outside the gate for two days. Cats had taken up residency on the roof of the dented cab, and
a few industrious spiders had already traversed the gulf between the side mirror and the fence many times.
Glistening dew was shimmering on each delicate web as a light morning breeze joined the sun in rousing life back into
activity around the farmyard. Geoff had steered clear of the truck at first, but the longer it stayed, the more comfortable
he became. Soon it seemed to belong there, casting its cool afternoon shadow on the watering trough and tricking the
gold fish into surfacing prematurely for their evening yawn and gape at the dry world of oxygen above.
It used to seem that the truck had some purpose in being there, but the cats, and the cool shade, and the
spiders, and the dust had all established and anointed it in such a convincing way that even the heifers were calm and at ease
up close to Geoff along the fence. The tail gate was down, and a wooden ramp stuck out of the back of the bed like a
long splintery tongue stretching down into the dark gravel.
Twice a day John would coax Geoff out of the corral with the smell of sugar cubes in his fist, sliding a
faded-blue harness over the bull's head and gently leading him toward that ramp. The harness bound Geoff and made his
shoulders tremble, but the aroma of sugar and the salty perspiration on the back of John's hand anesthetized him against
all instinctual caution as the young bull followed his owner. Once out of the gate a sweet cube was administered,
another came just a few feet from the truck, and on the third day when Geoff conceded to place his feet on the bottom of
the ramp two cubes and a friendly and prolonged scratch behind the ear confirmed the relationship between these
two adventures as delicious, enjoyable, and sincere. Geoff's shoulders no longer quaked, his stamping came only to
prompt more sugar now, and on the whole he had settled nicely into this new routine. It made no difference what this
intricate dance meant, the farmer's love and attention, the taste of his hand and the low music of his voice were enough to
keep the bull not only content, but positively hungry over the prospect of taking another "walk."
The fourth day was Saturday. When John finally opened the screen door there was Geoff waiting for him
anxiously at the gate. Geoff lifted his large head off the weathered fence while his ears twitched in the morning glow. His
slated hooves impatiently packed the damp earth down and steam billowed out of his nostrils. Short deep grunts echoed
from his throat as he hoisted his moist snout into the air in quick erratic thrusts. John shook his head and smiled. He
walked past the truck before coming over and unlatching the gate. This walk would be the longest.
Soon both friends were standing with their feet at the bottom of the plank looking up into the back of the pickup.
John held the halter as he lead Geoff up the wooden ramp administering two cubes for every ten inches of progress.
The truck bed creaked and lowered. John backed slowly up to the cab and sat down with his right arm behind him.
The lead rope was gentle but firm. Three sugar cubes inside an opened mouth, each dissolving at its own rate,
still lingered in broken pieces on the rough fibrous tongue. As the rancher moved onto the cab Geoff lowered his head
and spread his hooves over the corrugated steal. A shadow passed over the animal's head, and his eyes rolled white as
his neck swung against the lead rope. His ear burned for an instant, and then a crack that split all heaven and earth
apart reported just behind that left eye. 600 pounds of steak dropped in a quivering heap on the truck bed. Cats, with
hair up like miniature porcupines, plunged from the hood and ran in five directions, the barn pigeons poured off the
roof down into the valley, and chickens chased each other wildly about the yard, some in confusion running at the truck
while others clucked off toward the safety of the laying box.
The narrow troughs of the pickup bed gradually filled with blood as the sun calmly observed what had happened.
The rusted screen door on the old farmhouse sang for a moment and then banged and slammed closed.