Hugh Fox

     Old once white, ten percent dissolved wood farmhouse on the edge of an unpaved road, up, up, they always had to be up, porch and out-buildings in back, a shabby dismantling barn, perfect albeit antique silo.
     "So this is it," said Jerry, the country-know-it-all guide, "I don't wanna try to drive never know....look around if you want, half an hour and then we can go back into town, we've got another hour and twenty minutes before sundown, and dusk lingers out here...."
     The former farm fields, stubble remnants of old corn, apple trees with half-mature apples on them. No broken windows, the roof still kind of shambley but intact.
     "You can just leave, I'm staying overnight."
     "Listen," hesitating, weak and wobbley for a moment, and then bayonetish stuff, "I just can't let you out here like this. It's dangerous, there's animals,like black bears, never know...I've seen porcupines."
     Pat reaches into his pocket. A hundred dollar bill. Hands it to the driver.
     "Even worse...bribes...I don't say this place belongs to anyone any more, but...," but the driver still takes it, acts like he doesn't want to, "the


first time in thirty years I've seen a hundred dollar bill. So what are you gonna do tonight, what about food? You know...."
     "I've got some stuff in my pockets."
     "Well...."And he backs away slowly, reluctantly, goes to his ancient, constantly-being-fixed Ford, stops with a certain medieval solemnity. "So when do I pick you up?"
     Sam takes out his cell-phone, points to it.
     "A bientot!"
     "Whatever! I suppose I'm supposed to be impressed, but I'm more de than im...I trust all will go well. You'll end up with the birds in the old corn fields looking for one last kernel. Although I think even that's stopped fifty years ago."
     "Of uncommon sense."
     One last sigh that says impatience, he's a real patient and needs HELP, HELP, HELP...and he's off and gone, Sam wondering if he even put on his safety belt.
     "Ah, well...."
     Up to the front door. Locked. Curtains still on the windows, but he can see wooden columns inside, always loved/loves wooden columns in entrance ways, between rooms, down the sagging wood steps amazingly well-preserved, always loving old/ancient concrete block houses out in  


the middle of nowhere like here, the blocks as unalterable as the ancient pyramids in the Andes, everything else, wood, plastic, synthetic all mortal, but concrete blocks immortal. Around the side of the house to the back, down to the basement door, not expecting it to be open, all decided to break in if it wouldn't open, but...eins, zwei,drei and he was in.
     Stench. The stench of old wood, old walls, almost like old tobacco, like the stuff he used to (pipe) smoke,  cockroaches, one small mouse.
     "Hey, don't run away, I'm as harmless as a cigar butt."
     But it was 1,2,3 gone. He hadn't seen a cigar butt (or pipe) in years, what had ever happened to macho cigars?
     Tables, workbenches, scyths, rakes, saws, huge "snipers," watering cans, old iron wheels over against one wall, walking through the basement past piles of old clothes, huge chests, not like his place, all books and computors, walking up creaky stairs to the living room, a sofa, family photos, into the kitchen,  an old sloppily-fluffy-haired woman in a long blue-jeanish dress, squinting blue eyes.
     "Yeah, your nose is telling the truth, potato dumplings and chicken hearts, gizzards, liver, kidneys, all the good parts ground up into a guess-what-I-am delight. My specialty, you remember, come on in, me boy, you're looking...I was going to say old, but....," laughing, hugging


him, feeling it, but was sure something was wrong with his eyes, all those heart and prostate-cancer pills....     "I used to kind of hate winter, you know, nothing to do. But nowadays, I don't care, there's Sammy the dog, he's outside wandering around right now, but in the winter he's inside most of the time. And I love fireplaces and watching Al start the fires. I start things up  once in a while. We miss Ireland, but...."
     A tall guy wearing a felt cowboy hat, suspenders, farm jeans, comes in, gives him another hug, as if he were feeling it, seeing it, hearing it.
     "So I'm glad you could make it. Homestead instead of no-stead," laughing, yet another hug, "Whatever that means....good corn crop this year, and potatoes. No famines here, and wait until you see the pigs, gotta do some smoking pretty soon, but we're set for a long, long winter, and the deer, there's always the deer, the wild turkeys, grouse. I hate the migratory species that desert us every winter."
     "So fancy, 'migratory species'!" his mother ridicules him.
     "I read a lot, especially in the winter, that's all I learned to do was to read, but....there's country fairs, good book-deals...," motioning for Pat to follow him into the living room, the shelves filled with books, hard-covers, fancy, for a moment feeling he was in some sort of palatial library...
     "Why did you ever decide to homestead?"

    "It was like going back..."
     "Erin go Bragh..."
     "I'm afraid I never...."
     "Imagine pre-English Ireland,  pre-English Scotland, Wales.English history is such a...."
     Suddenly a bunch of little girls and guys coming in and all dressed like the nineteenth century, long dresses, short pants, wearing little white inverted cup-cake container hats over quakerish, shakerish long hair, like he'd suddenly walked through a time-barrier he'd always wanted to walk through, back to sanity.
     "Come on out, let's go out, you're got to see the mules..."
     "And horses."
     "The smelly cows."
     "Smellier pigs."
     Everyone laughing, off in the distance the Montana mountains you could see through the windows.
     "Go ahead, no problem, we'll save supper for you all," says Kitchen Grandma.
     "Enjoy it while you can!" Mr. Emperor-Farmer of it all, "you ought to see the winter here...but I love it too, the fireplace and everything outside


white, rows of corn stubble, like you've never seen sun before...and I still go hunting..."
     "Come on! Come on!"
     The kiddies screaming, Pat trying to figure out who belonged to him, all the brothers and sisters and kids and grandkids, cousins....
     Wavering as he goes out, as if he'd never seen the sky before, a pond in back of the house, endless forests, almost expecting Indians, wouldn't have been suprised if King Solomon walked out of the woods, King Solomon or The Trinity descending, a diamond triangle descending out of the sky, one of the little blondies scream-asking, "So how do you like it?"
     No words, like he'd never seen clouds before, and a deer off on the edge of the forest.
     Turning around and then back around and they began to thin out into clouds, mist, their voices becoming thrushes and crows, no more smoke coming out of the chimney, their mist hands waving goodbye and their mist faces sad with loss, back up to the house, empty, no one, no smells, voices,
     In the beginning there was nothing and nothing became everything


and everything cloud-rained away, down the rivers into the sea of irreversability.