He started college. To his wife’s knowledge, he’s one of the only forty-year-old students wandering around campus. But there are probably others like him.
His wife said he was surprised at how the fashions have changed throughout the years. When we were much younger, folks dressed different. Girls, for instance, wore enough to cover their hindparts. Boys tucked in their shirttails. Today, kids have primary-colored hair.
He’s interested in teaching agriculture, has been for a long time. I’ve never understood this. The world is a huge place, with lots of exciting things happening. Why study cattle mating practices, or how to recycle goat pellets?
It’s been a long time coming for him. He’s got two daughters, who look alarmingly like his mother did at their ages. And her. He’s been with her his whole life. I’ve never known him with another. So many years have they been together, I can’t say his name without saying hers.
Their friendship started way before high school, on a playground. He plucked a handful of tall grass and told me, “I’m gonna ask her to marry me.”
“Nice. What’s the grass for?”
“It’s a bouquet, stupid.”
It seemed like a good idea at the time. So, several of us kids threw him a last-minute wedding. He wore a clip-on tie, she wore a table cloth. I insisted on being the preacher, but the bride suggested my past was not as spotless as I’d claimed. I was a witness.
When someone said, “You may kiss the bride,” which was the only part of the ceremony anyone really cared about, he kissed her hand. And he meant it.
He joined up, wore a uniform. She missed the hell out of him. They had Skype video-calls from across the world at odd hours of the day. He’d ask how the girls were, she’d show pictures. After they disconnected, she’d sob.
One day she got a call. An IED bomb. He was on routine security patrol. It was nasty. But he was one of the lucky ones. His friend got the worst of it. Not him, he came home with a cane. And after a while, he was able to walk without it.
He told his mother it hurts to put much weight on that knee, like something stabbing. But he disregards the pain whenever his girls sit on it. Some things are worth enduring I guess.
And so class begins for the marine. Don’t go easy on him professors, he’s not one for charity.
But he’s loyal.
Teach him as much about mating cows as he’s ever wanted to know.