I don’t know what to say about that flag they’ve got hanging up there. It’s been up since the place opened and I guess I just don’t think much of it one way or another. I do have an opinion on that establishment itself, though, and I'm not afraid to say so. Doesn’t seem natural to spend the whole long day and into the night inside a cinderblock box instead of out on a front porch like the rest of us.
And that yellow dog bothers me, too, more than I’d like to admit, for someone who grew up on dogs all her life. Up all night barking, then sleeps all day until just around suppertime. Then it’ll show up at my door all mangy and growling and I got to shut the door on it instead of shoo it away because who knows what kind of damage a dog like that might do. Raymond D. says they feed it beer and jerky sticks and peanuts and not much else, and I don’t doubt it. At night I can see the dog moving out in the fields, giving chase to whatever he can find in the brush. They’re all too fast for him, though, the rabbits and the deer and whatnot, and I like to cheer them on when they run off into the trees and he’s left behind with his tongue lolling out of his head like the fool dog that he is.
And then there’s the business of that sorry looking shark. I have half a mind to find the restaurant they must have stole it from, somewhere in the Outer Banks I heard, and tell them where it ended up - landlocked smack dab in the middle of the red clay Piedmont. You’d think they’d have bothered to mount the thing so that it was facing forwards, but instead it’s facing away from the road, back towards my porch with its ugly mouth full of white teeth blocking my view of the clouds. Raymond D. was with me the day they came home with that thing, hanging out the back of a pick-up truck, and he just sat there and said nothing while they sweated and hollered, trying to pull that thing up on the roof with nothing but a set of ropes. They’d all had too much beer and too much sun and when one of them nearly fell off the roof I shook my head and said it’d have served him right. Raymond D. just shrugged and pointed out that he’d hardly have more than a cracked rib, anyhow.
Raymond D’s been living up the road from me for twenty years or more and he sits up at that bar nearly every night of the week that he’s not sitting on my porch and someone oughta ask him how he feels about that flag, but no one ever does. I used to wonder what it was that made him want to set foot in that place, but I’m older now with my two girls gone and it’s easier to understand than it was before. Raymond’s cataracts took most of his vision back in the 80’s and he hasn’t driven a car since. It’s just been rotting beneath a patch of sedge and ground ivy so thick you can hardly seen anymore that there’s a car there at all. I suppose there’s a limit to how much loneliness a person can stand.
Yesterday, Raymond was drinking coffee on my porch in the late part of morning, broad daylight, and a fox ran barking right up the middle of the road. Raymond said the thing looked rabid and I said to me it just seemed happy. He said he reckoned I was wrong about that, and I didn’t disagree. Raymond and I always been able to forget the differences between us, in opinion and otherwise. When that fox ran off into the field across the way, I noticed how the tobacco had gone to flower. I always thought those flowers were pretty, and I said so. Raymond said there’s nothing pretty about a tobacco flower, especially when you’re the one walking through the field topping off the plants. I looked again at that flower with its bouquet of pale pink trumpets. I liked the look of it fine. But Raymond’s people came up through tobacco fields and who am I to say what a tobacco flower looks like in the late July sun. Maybe, if I just keep looking at it long enough, it’ll turn into the ugliest thing I’ve seen in all my long life.