Wine Country Commuting

A month ago it was raining. The irrigation ditches you dug in September washed out and long webs of water the color of chocolate milk criss-cross your driveway, which is two miles long. Almost to the road, one of your property’s oldest oaks is downed. There are long white scars where the upper half canted and ripped the whole tree out of the ash red soil. The tree has conveniently fallen across your road. On both sides are moats of spring runoff. You back-track for your chains. Its teeth, just filed, melt through the wood. You smell moss and pulp and somewhere a Daffodil. You set the rounds of wood off to the side of the road to dry, some day, and become firewood. Nosing your truck through the now vacant midsection of the old tree you look like you have stepped in out of a snow storm, so covered in the sawdust of the tree. You wish you had remembered your rain jacket. The ditches will have to be dug again this September. Going into town never goes right.

 You woke up at 4 this morning. The vineyard fans came on, battered and miss-firing engines, airplane nosed structures rising above the vines, pushing air, making new micro climates to protect the harvest, long streams of air stop frost from settling. You are so tired that when your alarm goes off you sleep through it. Up late, you can smell the coffee is burnt, doesn’t matter, no time. On the road you’ve mistimed things. Harvesters are moving alone its curves like columns of ants. You glance at the speedometer, eight miles an hour. When you pull up to feed the horses they are impatient with your tardiness. They dip and raise their heads in a reproachful manor, urging you to find a little speed, to make amends for over sleeping and ruining their delicate schedule. You are frustrated. Above the pasture the hills are green and yellow from Scotch Bloom, every year that weed takes more ground where the Poppies should blossom. It has been on your list from some time to go and uproot it, burn it out, chop it down. You can already feel your hands gummy with its floral sap. The nickering of an angry horse mob calls you back. You duck your head into the barn.

The summer bridge goes in a month earlier than you thought it would. Excited for it to only take thirty minutes to get into town over the usual forty-five, you find yourself stuck behind a waddling RV that has mired itself in a pothole. Watching the breeze in the cotton woods you think of the scales on a fish. The sun cranks towards noon, the algae bloom is in full swing, suspended over the bridge you fine yourself smelling like a reptile cage. The river’s air sits heavy in your truck cab. Even after you get on the highway, all windows down, the smell of the river lingers on your skin. You wish you had been more nostalgic and taken the long way into town.

By Sam Styles

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