Eternity #5: Gene, the Reese Brother I Could Talk To

He sits in the main room at a fairgrounds building with other men of his kind. They’re quiet as cars rusting in the woods. They're listening to a presentation from the County Ag Extension Office. Pales and White Pine Weevils. The Dutch Elm disease. Aspen Canker. The Emerald Ash Borer.

The profound loss of entire genera of trees. The permanent change in the structure and composition of eastern forests.

It’s late afternoon in eternity. Early spring. The cold and the sunshine make the blue membrane of the atmosphere look taut. The air is thin in the lungs and leaves in the throat the neoprene tang of anesthetic.

Life goes on. Plowed snow thaws behind concrete parking blocks. Boxwood shrubs are landscaped in white lava rocks. There are cigarette butts with cork-colored tipping paper in a plastic Folger’s can. Double doors with silver panic bars. Gene sits in a folding chair toward the back. He has his arms crossed on his chest. He keeps his farmer’s ballcap low on his head.  

Talk turns to pesticides.

“Some of you gentlemen might remember Avaunt-indoxacarb or fenpyroximate?” the guest speaker says. “Maybe Xytect-2F?”

“Okay now,” a farmer in front of Gene is talking to himself. “Those were certainly, yes.”

He watches the man put his palm to his bald spot to keep his memories from leaving.

I have so little faith in the afterlife, Gene. That’s what’s wrong with me. And now you know.

The glass eye of a coyote in a high school display case.  

The market price of black walnut and hickory. The smell of salt-rising bread in your grandfather's kitchen.  

The bright orange underwing feathers of a cardinal bird splayed in the gravel.

You didn't go to Cincinnati until you were 22. A rube from Pigsville, Ohio. Got served iced milk and cherries at the Moraine Hotel and soiled your only wool pants. Came home and married the girl who kept her hand to her mouth, privately, as if worrying a loose tooth.  

All that blighted beauty, Gene. Beyond retrieval. That’s what’s wrong with me. That's what I'm sure I'm going to regret forever.

Those lost forests.

Bird Report

Mourning doves today. Telephone lines. Barn roof/s. In pairs on ridge caps. Pecking roadside gravel for gizzards. Two at the edge of the ivory downspout on the corner of my house when I pull in. One clattering away from the nest it’s making in the barberry bush by the sidewalk that leads to my front door.