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So Many Seasons

by: Mark Brenden

An old man stood outside a roadside café that doubled as a pump station, breathing out heavy air that could’ve been smoke from his cigarette or late November biting his breath, making it visible. A cowboy stepped out of a yellow truck and stomped toward him, nodded. The old man put out his cigarette and opened the door for the cowboy, who again nodded.

A boy wearing a red coat and stocking cap came running from across the snow-covered asphalt: HOLD THE DOOR, GENTLEMEN.

Thank you, sir, boy it sure is a bearcat out there the man on the radio said he supposes we’ll get two feet by noon I tell you what it’s gonna be bearcat this winter. How are you doing? How’s business? Shop holdin’ up?

The man looked at him, nodded.

How’s breakfast sound today? Boy I’m starvin’. Ain’t got much to do today. Ma’s sick as the devil. I suppose I oughta bring her back some soup. You got any soup?

The bell rung as the door closed and the man hung his coat and hat on the rack. He walked over to the cowboy who was sitting in a booth with his boot over the side and his back leaning against he wall. The cowboy pointed to something on the menu and handed it to the man, who nodded.

The boy sat down across from the cowboy, who was working on a toothpick. How are you doing, partner? I see you got a snow blower in the back of your pickup. Ain’t gonna touch nothin’ today, are ya? I tell you what, the man on the radio said he didn’t suppose it’d stop fallin’ til Saturday.

The man came over and set a coffee down in front of the cowboy.

Orange juice, please, the boy said. Tell ya what, the man on the radio this mornin’ said that North Dakota is the drunkest state in America. I been up to Fargo last month, it was rowdy, sure, but I swear to ya it don’t come close to Clark on a Saturday night. I told ma that I oughta call in and tell the man that. She’s sick as a dog, I tell ya. Do you drink, sir?

The cowboy took a sip of his coffee.

Y’all sure are a coupla yappers. You got work to do today? I seen you got that snow blower in your truck bed. Don’t waste your time, the man on the radio said…

Boy, you mind shut in’ the hell up, the Cowboy growled, moving just his mouth as he stared at the table. I’m tryin’ to drink coffee. The man on the goddamn radio don’t know shit. Sooner you see that, the bet er.

The old man behind the counter turned around as quick as a pump station owner turns around on a Tuesday morning. He was writing up the cowboy’s tab, but he stopped. The boy fastened the straps of his stocking cap, laid ten down on the table.

Can I get some soup to go, sir?

Snowflakes blew through the door as the boy went out, clutching the soup with one hand and covering it with the other. The man stared out at the twisting whiteness. Yep, he breathed, and walked to the kitchen to make some more soup.