Canastota, New York. August 1969. Eighteen.
Working the onion fields down by the lake, dark chocolate earth forever, the muck, we call it. Warm liquid air wilts the world.
Denny leans on his hoe, bandana-hatted, t-shirt hanging out his back pocket, brown concave chest. Adams apple bobbing, he chugs the canteen, tossing it to me saying, Screw this I’m out of here. You know who they got lined up this weekend? The Who. The Band. The Dead.
Then go with Darryl I say, sucking down the gritty warm water, suddenly cool wind on my neck, all around us the muck scored with mile-long rows of spiked onion plants unraveling into the haze, never converging, melting into white sky.
We leave now, we catch Hendrix, says Denny.
We leave now, our asses are fired, I say. After work, I’ll water ski with Charlene, carving the lake with that swish of her hips.
Denny nods to the west.
Half the sky purple, we drop our hoes and walk sprint to the old wagon in the middle of the field a half-mile away and when the storm breaks we crouch under the wagon, arms wrapped around our knees, streams of rainwater gush lightning-thunder-wind. The Muck a black quagmire, onion plants flashing silver undersides like the chopper-whipped rice paddies we will soon patrol.
I stare down at my red Chuck Taylors stuck in the black earth. Rain cool, then cold on my neck and I look up to see Denny gone.