by Kevin Michaels
He pulls the Ford pickup to a slow stop near the row of pine trees along the edge of the blueberry fields, and after cutting the engine takes the bottle of Jack Daniels and his father’s old straight edge from beneath the seat. Once, back when life was spread out in front of him with hope and potential, he had brought the blonde from Cape May up here one quiet summer evening. They made love in the cool waters of the lake then lay naked in the dirt field, picking blueberries from their skin while staring up at a moonlit night and trading dreams. It was under those same stars that he proposed to her but she said no; soon after that he lost her to a future that didn’t include him, and time and distance hadn’t made that hurt disappear all these years later. Funny, he thinks now; he spent a lifetime searching every face he met for that same kind of promise but none had ever given him what he wanted – the emptiness he found instead was something that had never been filled. He takes a deep pull from the bottle, holds that thought longer than he should, then runs a finger along the edge of the blade before pressing it against his wrist.
Kevin Michaels, author of Please Read the Letter, is a lifelong resident of New Jersey and lives at the Jersey Shore (where there are very few cowboys).