Always the left boot first. Ever since he was a kid.
Standing or sitting it didn’t matter. He didn’t know why, he didn’t think of himself as one bound by ritual, yet routine dominated all aspects of his life.
Thick, red mud fell in truncated furrows as he alternatively strengthened and relaxed his grip over the roughened steel toe. Perfectly rounded, the clay shards looked as if they were formed by a potter. Compact and resolute, they swept up easily onto the porch where they could bake in the remains of the retreating sun, soon to rise on uncounted Chinese who gave him as much thought as he gave them.
Three hundred thousand dollars seemed like a lot of money. He didn’t like to think in those terms. Money wouldn’t make his back ache or cake in his boots.
She said she was ready. Her sister would help. Their place in the city had a big garden and he could work it all he liked.
Did corporate farmers offer Chinamen cash for their farms? He wondered.
It was up to him, she said. They’d be close to Julie and the boys. Wasn’t that worth something?
The right boot was easier because his left foot was arthritic. Now with that boot off, blood flowing into his arch, the right boot surrendered the entire day’s tension.
He bent over and swept the clay towards the door with his hands. He wouldn’t have trouble sleeping tonight.
He never did.