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Cleaning the Horse Stalls

"You were reading all afternoon and you couldn't take a break? You read, and read, and read, and can't shovel an hour's worth of shit." November sunset light gilds the stalls in a dull orange haze as he leans down toward the floor to heft a fork load of hay and manure. We stand side by side, each to our own patch. Boot to boot we shovel out load after load. "You were supposed to have done this by noon time. Home from college and you can't do a simple chore. I don't have time for this. I've got to fix the fence in the back pasture. It's almost dark, for Chrissake. Porca miseria!" Shadows stretch over the grain barrels, the bathtub trough that needs filling, seep into the tack room where Betty Grable's gams lord over the workbench. "Jesus, Dad, I've got to study. I've got to read for next week. I figured I'd clean the stalls later, that's all." In the darkening barn light my father continues to shovel. "What'cha reading?" His face now a shadow, a farm spirit. "Philosophy. Nothing you'd understand." I turn back toward the shunned task. Without saying a word, he picks a pile of soft, loose manure buns with his fork and, in a deft turn, deposits the gift down the inside of my nearest boot.

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8 July 2018