As she watched him wipe clean the mountain town’s small bank, it struck her she would go back to her life in Florida and never see him again.
During her visit he had seemed confined, closed off from her, even though in his initial enthusiasm in finding her again after so many years apart he had seemed all boy. He had called her his girlfriend as if they were children. He had spoken of their future together.
Now, she wasn’t seeing that vision of the future he had painted for her, his plan to leave this place where he was caring for his mother and stepfather, to pass the baton to someone else. to come away with her.
The town had embraced him, or confined him. They had witnessed his willingness to work hard for his mother, to accomplish tasks which would otherwise have required a plethora of skilled workers. The town had reacted with demands for his services. (Though he spoke seven languages, though he could have his selection of careers.)
Besides, he had experienced the mountains in his bones, the work through his muscles, the work close to the earth and he had spoken lovingly of his accomplishments. She was not convinced he now wanted to go. He had changed then, perhaps. Or he had changed in his feeling toward her. She could not figure it out.
As she watched him clean the bank, one of the jobs he accomplished for his mother, she saw the hard face of someone who labored and she knew it was the same face he wore when he built the townspeople’s decks, rescued their horses and donkeys and dogs, hauled rock around their yards for steps and porches and gardens. They didn’t want to pay him for what he was worth and yet he compromised for the sake of his family’s reputation and goodwill.
She knew, despite his stated plans with her, he would get further and further involved with them and she would lose him altogether in their schemes for expanding their properties, for increasing market values. They may even find her replacement. Nothing was beyond their grasp and power and in the tide of it she felt she must remember that life was pain and money and greed and grasping and a matter of timing – good and bad, fortune – gain and loss – and that she was likely on the short end of the stick, that dark place where light is choked.
When they left the bank that night they noticed the smell of something fetid. He told her the city used the property behind the bank to dump carcasses. When he called her the night she returned to Florida he told her the smell had become worse. He would call the city the next day to remove the remains of a dead dog.