Ralph turned at my greeting, and I looked from the gun in his hand to the TV with the broken screen in the trash pit. “What’s up?” I asked. I’d heard a shot when I turned into the lane.
“Here.” He handed me his .44. “Take a crank at that son-of-a-bitch.”
I grinned. “You serious?”
“You damned right.”
I sighted down the barrel of the heavy revolver, thumbed the hammer back, and squeezed the trigger. The big handgun boomed, scattering pieces of glass and plastic across the pit as the loud shot echoed off the barn and tool shed.
I grinned, shook my head, and handed the magnum back. Ralph emptied it into the TV’s remains and nodded. “That’ll do,” he said as he walked to the house.
I figured he’d gone in to put the gun up, so I waited in the yard with his blue heeler, Burrpatch. I’d stopped to borrow his post-hole diggers. It was a bright April morning, and I figured to put in some fence. I had staples and pair of fencing pliers on the seat, the stretcher, shovel and hammer in with the posts and wire on the back. I figured Ralph had seen all that, and when I asked about the diggers there was a good chance he’d offer to come along and help. Now it occurred to me that he might not be in the mood for fencing.
Some five minutes passed, and I’d about decided he wasn’t coming back when I heard the back door slam. He went to the shed and came out with the diggers over his shoulder.
“Hadda finish the dishes,” he said as he came up. “Looks like a good day for fencing. Or was you just gonna laze around all mornin’?”
I shook my head. “Nope. Fencing sounds good to me.” I walked back and dropped the end-gate, and he tossed in the diggers. Burrpatch jumped in and onto the post pile where he could ride with his nose in the wind.
“TV go to hell on you?” I nodded toward the trash pit.
“Nah.” He fished out a can of snoose. “All you see anymore is some lyin’ son-of-a-bitch on the damned thing. Just got tired of it. Nothin’ but a pack a’ assholes runnin’ things now. No respect for a goddamn thing, and the whole country gone to hell. Ever wonder what kids’re learnin’ from that shit? How bein’ an asshole’ll take you to the top. Now you tell me what’s the future there.”
I looked at the scattered pieces of plastic in the trash pit and shook my head. “Not much,” I said.
“I ain’t watchin’ it anymore,” he said. “Don’t wanna hear about it either. Let’s just get outta here an’ go do some fencin’.”
I nodded, bummed a dip, and we got in. Ralph rolled down his window just in time to catch a meadowlark whistling its sweet string of notes. It looked to be a fine spring day.
Neil Harrison’s fiction has appeared most recently in Paddlefish, Platte Valley Review, and Pinyon Review. Recently retired from teaching Creative Writing and coordinating the Visiting Writers Series at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, he lives in Norfolk with his third drahthaar, the Happy dog.