Today, he squints in the brightness, watching the dark greens of the mountain forests turn lighter, watching the small moving dots at the foot of the big hill – cows, sheep, horses, maybe a farmer or two – as they go about doing their daily chores.
Closer to home, he hears small sounds everywhere. There is a wind that rustles a few leaves, and the tall grasses sigh as they sway gently along the edge of the fence. Far away, a rooster crows, and hens murmur back fussily. The larger, louder sounds accompany the gentle ones: cows moo, horses whinny, dogs bark, and pigs squeal. Inside the house, there are a few snuffling sounds. A bed creaks under shifting weight, a slight snore picks up pace, and his breath, wavering and querulous, bring air in and out his body with a slow whistle.
He turns his head away from the light, shrugging the thin blanket off his shoulders and down to his waist. The room he lies in is bare, just containing his small bed and a small smattering of items he has held on to. A few of his clothes are hanging on nails on the wall. There is a suitcase that he knows contains a few of his worldly possessions, but he cannot even remember what all they were. Maybe today, one of the children will come in and ask to open it, and he will see them, and remember.
Turning back to the sunlight, he closes his eyes to the warmth and thinks of his mother’s garden, where he ran free as a child, sunshine warming his bare body while he chased and hid and played. He dreamt of that place often, waking up to the feeling that he could get up today, strap on a saddle on his favorite horse, and head up to the farm where he would spend his day bent over to the ground. The reality was always a letdown. His favorite horse was long gone, the farm was being tended to by his grandchildren; and as for his health, he needed help getting out of his own bed. With the effort it took to move from one place to the other, he was now relegated to a few choice spots for hours at a time.
When the sun grew too bright and hot, he would be put on a nice soft chair under the cool shade of the giant avocado tree, where breezes constantly blew by and rustled his wispy, cottony soft white hair. He often would fall asleep on that chair, dreaming hours away while life went on around him. Often he awoke when the sun was setting below the tallest trees, and the breeze took on a cooler tinge. His food would be out on a small stool, cooling in front of him while a grandchild or his daughter-in-law waited for his eyes to open.
If it was raining, he would be positioned close to a window, where the glass would streak with raindrops, and his breath would form a cloudy vapor. He enjoyed the sounds of everyone else carrying on: his favorite daughter-in-law sewing, or the clink of the spoon that stirred a pot of soup for the weather, or the children fussing and fighting in low whispers as they tried to stay entertained away from the rain.
“No use staying in from the rain,” he thought. How many days he had fought for shelter from the rain, only to lose entire days of work? There had been times when work wasn’t done and food would be scarce. He learned quickly that getting wet while working the softened land was not as bad as it seemed. Whether he had been in the farm, or out in the thickly wooded forests hunting for treasure up top or down below, he learned to live with the constant wet shirt, squelching boots and water in his eyes.
Today, he would be put out under the tree, perhaps after a small breakfast of fruit from the backyard garden, but he would spend hours alone with his thoughts, watching the day go by. Perhaps today would be similar to yesterday, but it would never be the same. At this very moment, as he lay feeling the air get hotter around him, he knew at least he could still hear the familiar sounds that had accompanied him all his life. He could smell and he could see – his muscles had given in after so many years of hard, hard work, but his head still contained all his thoughts, and senses – and he would sit, waiting; waiting for when it would all be over.
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