That day I noticed the trees saturated with early spring moisture at their base, and the dark dampness gave way to winter bleached bark halfway up and into the sparse branchlets. I remember this. I also remember water at the side of the road, the wooded side, where sporadic spring flowers tried desperately to alter nature's winter hangover. In spots the water stagnated in ponds deep enough that the slightest wind caught the surface and pushed small ripples one way and then another. That was still early morning and I could not tell if it was perfect or horrible.
There was the cheap lunch. A stolen hour from work with the old man, 80 now. His voice had been growing weaker, although I ignored every wispy decibel and focused on the laughter, which still had strength. So we joked as much as we could, but the rain came down and the clouds never broke and the joking tailed off into the dead sound of a slight spring rain.
"He needs $600?"
"Are you going to give it to him?"
"He needs $600. You call him and drop it off for me."
Not much from there to speak of. He mentioned death more than anyone should when consuming fast food. No more than five or ten years left he thought. Only his poetry remained, maybe a sketch, or a few days in his gardens; all of them overgrown these last few years, but he cannot notice. Everything else will be left to others.
I loved the old man, so I took the $600 to my brother and I looked the other way when that simple fool blamed society, bad police, a bum attorney, and everything but his own ignorance and misplaced attention. He stood leaning against my door. I raised the automatic window and then pretended it was an accident. He pulled his hands away. The car smelled of burnt oil and a strange sound ticked in the wheel well. I did not ask what the money was for and made my mind worry about the car instead.
That day, on the way home, the sun opened briefly in the sky. Before then, not a ray through the clouds, and then light flooded through the thin new leaves in the growing canopy above the road. And I thought God is a kind of sun reminding us that time is moving and we better move, too. I passed through the warm light and returned to clouds on the way home. By Chicago it rained and I had to drop something at work before heading home.
I remember eating something good for dinner and checking my bank account twice and wanting summer to come so I could pretend clouds were an anomaly, a strangeness that happened on bad days when death and debt filled the voids in the sky and sleepy warm air drugged our sense of ill.
Eric V. Neagu is a civil engineer who lives in Chicago and works to revitalize depressed communities. More of his writing can be found in The National Ledger, Bewildering Stories, and Hackwriters.