Rounding the corner once again, the moonlight caught the edge of his boot. The light didn’t shine, so much as it glowed on the soft, worn out toe cap. It had been a very long time since these boots were shined. As he plodded through the weedy sidewalk, his thoughts turned to his father. Pieces of gravel catapulted ahead, thrown by the heel of those boots.
Once again, he found himself chasing the daylight, walking alone and melancholy. The hoots of night owls and the screech of rodents were so familiar that he hardly noticed them. The slither of snakes through grass was like a lullaby. He smiled quietly in the dark and folded his hands behind his back, and continued walking.
Their last conversation came back to him and he let it roll around behind forehead. The look in his old man’s eyes was enough to kill a man dead, yet here he was, still mulling it over. Regardless he was still feeling crummy about it. He’d only meant to get the man talking. Still, he supposed it wasn’t the best tactic to start a bet with the stubborn ass.
He looked up at the sky and saw the moon. So distant it looked like a coin he could pick up pinched between his two fingers and slip into his pocket. The old man had won anyway, what was he so damned pissed about? In his experience coins found were always tail side up, bringing bad luck until they were lost.
He sighed with great drama. Once again his conversation with his father had escalated past the point of rationality. This time he’d actually been banished out of the house. He’d only tried to engage the man’s mind for once. Everyone else only placated him; let him do what he wanted, when he wanted, to whomever he wanted.
Up ahead, the broke down fence at the end of the property appeared. It seemed he’d made it a good ways. At least two miles had gone by since he’d started walking. Past midnight, now, there was no way he could walk back in the house to go to bed without waking his father and the others. And tomorrow would be an early day. There was always so much to do on the fields. Who knew if the crop would even turn up anything good this year? Probably not, he thought, though he’d never tell his father that.
He’d only meant to say that when it comes down to it, workers won’t praise him for being such a hard ass. The first thing any man thinks when the boss starts yelling is, there goes another job. They panic. Better to be sweet, to give them a little bit of what they want. The face of the moon glared at him. He only wanted to make sure everything turned out alright. The tall blade of a fox tail poked at his knee and he bent over and plucked off the stem and stuck one end in his mouth, chewing.
It was only a bet.
He sank down to the ground, and twisted his legs underneath his butt. The shadow of his shoulders sagged on the ground, blending to his ears. He’d always had a bit of thick neck, bull-like. It only stood to reason that once you decreased pay and hours, the workers would spit in your face and walk away. He couldn’t wrap his head around it. Why would anyone stay?
All of a sudden the moon had shifted downward towards the horizon. Whether only a moment or a few hours had passed, neither he nor the surrounding world seemed to care. As it sank, the shape of his shadow seemed to grow bolder and more distinct the tip of his head forming the pointed top of a pyramid, his shoulders the base.
The moon continued on its path, stretching the shadow until it became one long pointed line slithering forward over the grass. A mouse squeaked with concern as the shade passed over his head. Then the critter rushed off to find a safe hole.
Suddenly he realized… it was fear. That was all. Even he was afraid of his father. That glower, and the thunder of his voice that never seemed to tremble no matter how old he got, they terrified.
Quicker than ever, the moon disappeared around the corner of the sky and all was quiet and deep darkness. Clouds rolled in smoothly and covered the stars. From the grass, he slunk down even further and curled into himself, hissing. Then he stretched out his thick body, and shed his skin and slithered out into the grass to find a safe hole and think about a better way.
This post is inspired by Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” chosen by Trebez for this week’s music challenge. You can read her post here.