You sit behind your ranch-office desk,looking at your capataz seated in a chair across from you,
a bill for a carpincho lapicero that straps to a belt
on the table between you.
Your capataz looks and acts like an honest working-class man,
his hair is completely gray at forty-seven,
he wears worn-out clothes,
drives a run-down beat-up car,
volunteers for overtime.
The bill is only for 21pesos,
but it is a month old
and faxed to you that morning
from a store in town
with the capataz’s signature on it.
He says he had planned on paying for it before
but had somehow forgotten,
and besides, he told them not to put it on the company account.
Also, he adds, he had paid for it yesterday.
You watch his eyes as he speaks to you
and notice worry.
You think about the good salary you pay him,
the food supplements and clothing you give him,
the rent-free house with electricity and water.
You think about the bills the last few months
that have come across your desk
with inexpensive but questionable items
that you never had time to ask him about.
He leaves your office
and you call one of your secretaries.
You find out he only paid for the lapicero
after she asked him what it was for.
You prepare a mate,
put it in a backpack,
drive to the big woodpatch on the ranch
and hike to the center.
You sit upon a fallen tree,
and sip your mate.
You hear the soft buzzing of bees around the flowers of a paraiso tree above you.
Moments pass, perhaps more,
then you notice gnats are swarming around a pile of cowshit near your feet,
and, just as you rise to find a different seat,
a gray fox bursts across a clearing in front of you.
Stephen Page was born in
. He holds two AA’s from Detroit, Michigan , a BA from Palomar College , and an Columbia University MFA from . He is the author of The Timbre of Sand and Still Dandelions. His critical essays have appeared regularly in the Buenos Aires Herald. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence with stipend from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Writer Fellowship from the Bennington College , an Imagination Grant from Vermont Studio Center , a Golden Poet Award, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. He currently lives in Cleveland State University where he teaches World literature and writes on a ranch. Argentina