T.C. Carter


Long time since he’d been home.
Called Mama from Tucson.
She didn’t know he’d been in jail
and he didn’t tell her.
Last she knew he was still rodeoing
but that come to an end two years ago.
He was gettin’ by, making ends meet,
‘till that old bull busted him up so bad.
Now he weren’t much good for nothing.
Couldn’t say he was homesick really,
but he was sick.
Didn’t tell her that neither.

She answered on the first ring.
He knew she was sittin’ in that old
recliner chair
with a little mongrel dog on her lap
and a cold coffee cup on the side table.
He could hear the television
in the background,
tuned to the weather channel.
She said Papa was out back
piddling with something in the shed.
She’d call him but he was deaf
as a tree stump
and she couldn’t walk down
that rough old path anymore.
But, no, no, he was doing fine,
she was doing fine,
long as they remembered
to take their medications
and didn’t eat too much fatty foods.

He knew that wasn’t true.
Nobody there was doing fine
since the cotton mills shut down.
He knew their monthly check
always had to be stretched thin.

Did he think he could be home
for her birthday this August the tenth?
He’d try but that was a busy rodeo month.
She wished he could
just come on back home to live.
He said he did too
but that was another thing
that wasn’t true.
He couldn’t show up there
broke and sick
with nothing to show
for the last seven years.
She couldn’t admit there was no future
for him there anyway,
or tell him that she spent most days worried
about what lay in front of her and Papa.

The truth of life was a weight neither of them
was able or willing to shoulder,
so they told each other loving lies,
for a few more minutes,
before they let the line,
go silent.



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