After He Sobered Up
Dad fired my brother that morning, came
home to tell me, “There’s no future
in farming,” so I better find something
else to do. My brother lay in his room
for months, making the odd road trip
to Tunica when he could borrow gas
money. I didn’t leave the house for two
years. All we knew was rice and catfish,
soybeans and corn, long evenings bull-
shitting and draining bourbon bottles.
Our bosses might’ve been assholes,
but they were family.
My brother got a factory gig working
with vulcanized rubber at an OSHA-
exempt plant. He’d come home nearly
blind, eyes burning and too pissed
to drink. Dad sold all the cows. The grass
grew long and wild in the pasture. The stock
pond filled with snakes and trash fish.
Finally, I cut my hair, worked fast food
and grocery stores that didn’t owe me
anything. Went to college and ended up
too far away from home to make it back.
Cows Are Out
The phone rarely woke dad from his drunk.
It would be me or my sister who answered
the sheriff’s call to tell us the cows were out.
After we woke him, most of the time, dad
would just go back to bed saying they’d find
their own way back in. On a good night,
he’d struggle on pants, grab one of us if he
couldn’t rouse our older brother, and drive
over to Killough Road. Sometimes, the gate
would be open or the fence would be down
from people breaking in to go fishing
at the stock pond, or drinking in the pasture.
The cows had usually just wandered a little ways
down the street. One of us would get out and walk
towards them while dad drove them back towards
the gate. There was no need to honk or yell,
just walk. The world was quiet in those still moments
at 2 or 3 a.m. The cows lowed softly and clomped
on asphalt, heading home.
About the author:
CL Bledsoe's most recent collection is Riceland and his most recent novel is Man of Clay. He's been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 13 times, Best of the Net twice, and has had two stories selected as Notable Stories of the year by Story South's Million Writers Award. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his daughter.