26 February 2012


Grandon took a long swallow from the coke bottle and looked down at the gravel under his boots. Every roadside was the same; every bit of gravel, every shoulder that ran down into another culvert and over on into another patch of kudzu. The kudzu kept going until it didn't feel like going on anymore, and that was kind of how Grandon went about his days. He took another long swallow from the coke bottle and kicked at the gravel.

It had been some time. Quite some time, he decided. Had it been a year? Yes, certainly...at least a year – closer to three, in fact. Three years of managing to keep his head down low enough and just kind of blend in with his surroundings. His brother's girlfriend's uncle gave him enough work at his hydroponic tomato farm just over the Mississippi line, and paid him in cash. A small room with a gas stove met most of his needs just fine, and he always had enough cash left over to buy a little beer and meet most other needs as well. The only other real need seemed to now be covered in a field of kudzu.

The sun was hot but not hot enough to make you break a sweat by just standing there, and Grandon was purely thankful for this tiny blessing. Summer heat had not yet descended, nor the humidity. Freedom is a funny thing, as we all do our time in the prison of flesh and the prison of heat and the prison of sweat, but only some men do time in a prison of steel and concrete – and a prison is a prison is a prison, if the freedom you're missing is the same freedom. Freedom, no matter where or when it gets taken away is still freedom and the lack of it is just any old kind of being in prison, no matter the day, no matter the place. Grandon took a last, long swallow and tossed the empty bottle into the culvert, where the gravel met the kudzu.

His mother's voice spoke to him soft and quiet over the years and over the miles. “Grandon, honey... don't litter.”

Grandon took a long look at the kudzu and the trees beyond. He felt the keys in his pocket, still held together by a thin chain like you find on dog tags, only not as long. He wondered if the Ford Motor Company always had made separate trunk keys for the Mustang, but decided in the long run it really didn't matter. It would be just another one of those bits of trivial knowledge.

Grandon realized he had a single drop of sweat slowly rolling down from his temple. He reached up and wiped it away, and then turned and headed back toward town. Monday would be here soon enough and he would have tomatoes to tend to.

Originally published on Southern Flashes.

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