Lee Wright — Tuesday Evening In A Small Southern Town

Today, we worked just as we always have: Me on the line, spot-welding dull, gray steel, Teddy driving the old, green Clark forklift, and Earl, senior man, at the press controls. None of us saw the news until lunch. We didn’t eat much; just watched in shock then went back to work when the horn blew.

Now, we sit just as we always have: On Earl’s front porch, screened from the mosquitoes, drinking Bud from cans and watching the Lab pup romping where Earl’s kids once played. Inside, his oldest watches TV and cries. My beer is warm, the can still half full. I’ve given up cigarettes again so the beer tastes flat, even pointless.

Teddy crushes his empty and lights a smoke with hands scarred by ten years on the Line. “What you reckon will happen now?” he asks Earl.

Earl served eighteen months in Vietnam so we expect him to know such things.

Earl sets his can on the dormant gas grill, his dark eyes focused somewhere down the street. “I reckon I’m goin’ to have one more beer then I’m goin’ inside. Our shift starts at seven in the morning.”

Teddy looks at the gray concrete blocks of the porch, his thick head moving slowly side to side. He wants to believe that now it will all be different somehow and he can, at least peripherally, be part of something bigger.

I pour what’s left of my beer onto the brown grass as I walk home down a quiet, small town street. Later, I will lie, just as I have for years: In the arms of a woman who says she loves me, in the quiet little town where I was born and will probably die, a thousand miles away from the big city.