Page 1


Camp Coffee … Photo by Russell Lee The houses become fewer as the blocks go by, and soon the man is by himself in the farmland. The road is silent and free of traffic, and even the summer insects seem stilled. He walks through it allthe heat, the heavy silence, the stretched-out landand gives no sense of fatigue, even though sweat gathers on him everywhere. It is June, and the fields underneath the sun are full of waist-high green crops that move like giant lazy grass whenever the wind comes by. The man walks a long ways into the country, evidently quite pleased with being out in the sun and being near the wide fields. The sun seems to be a strong, cleansing force that he welcomes, the way a steel knife might welcome the tempering blaze of a fire. He finally leaves the road and enters a nearby field. He wades patiently through the maze of blades, idly trailing his hands the way he would in moving deeper into a pool of water or passing through the outstretched arms of many eager children. When he reaches a point far out in the field he stops, and for a long time he stands there under the sky like a bouyed marker in grass-green seas. Nothing happensnothing beyond the same soft washing of wind against the growing corn, the same hard blazing of sun, the same tireless stretching out of the summertime land. But for a moment the man seems to find what he was looking forperhaps some kind of communion or releaseand he stands there in the brief intensity of it like a monument or tree, fusing himself into the earth. The moment does not last long. The man stands gazing out across the horizon and then, very slowly, he begins to wade back out of the field toward the road. As he crawls over the wire fence his shirt shows dark circles of sweat underneath the arms, and his face looks flushed. He seems very tired now, and solemn, and as he walks back toward town he squints hard against the afternoon sun. Slowly they moved up Houston Street in San Antonio with their wide blue-white eyes. With one holding to the other’s back pocket they sang in high, nasal voices, -both faces turned slightly inward toward each other. One held a tin cup and made a small, steady, jangling rhythm with the coins and the other dropped his arm back and forth across the face of an old guitar. That nose on one: a cucumber wrinkled in fierce dedication. And that mouth on the other: a crooning, wet, tush-filled cavern which had never seen itself in song wholly un-selfconscious, wholly intent on making its whining Tennessee sound. Held together by the hand in the back The Texas Observer pocket, they advanced block after block, mouring Old Shep Who Had Gone . . . Old Faithful . . . The Great Speckled Bird .. . The Old Rugged Cross. With each new jingle heard in the cup, they nodded together politely, in rhythm, dancing their eyes around like loose marbles but keeping their brows knit with strain. They would stop between sets of songs and take out their cigarettes. Hands or arms would bump a little in the lighting, then there would be quiet, confidential smiles as they spoke together and rolled their whitish eyes. Occasionally one of them flattened his hand smoothly across his hair, as if he had just noticed that it needed combing. lisketman Locked in the stranglehold of Sunday afternoon, tourists sat on the shaded porch of the village baithouse, drinking cans of cold beer and staring past the piers to the bay. The sun was still commandingly hot at five o’clock and the shade of the building offered deep and contenting relief. The porch was a place where you could back off from the afternoon and have your private thoughts about it. There was no urgency in the air. Under