The old woman in charge receives a call on the
infernal cell phone she needs but curses daily
from the only person in town worthy of her friendship.
“Someone told me your mule is out of her pen.”
A concerned resident whose property backs up
to the boundary of the farm’s north hayfield
has seen the wayward beast grazing in his backyard.
“We thought she’d want to know where it is.”
The upsetting news comes late on this August day,
but if she follows the well-worn tractor path,
perhaps she will find her beloved companion in time.
“It’s dangerous for her to be out there after dark.”
Leaving her spirited dog at home, she sets out alone,
locking the gates behind her when she arrives
just as the sun punches holes through the line of trees.
“You’ll follow me back to your pasture if you see my car.”
Past the farmhouse, the utility shed, and the cow barn,
she steers through limbs heavy with green leaves
reaching out and down, gently swaying as if to woo her.
“A good car is just what I need to help find my lost girl.”
She drives along the perimeter of the large rolling hayfield
but sees only a small gathering of whitetail deer
grazing obliviously near the protection of the pine forest.
“Have you headed into the woods looking for water?”
She notices a small clearing at the field’s northeast corner,
a red-clay trail sloping down into darkness and
just wide enough for her vehicle to clear the towering trunks.
“Poachers with their four-wheelers trespassing again.”
Gripping the wheel tightly, she creeps and descends deeper
now as dusk races toward her, distorting her sense
of distance and filling her with an inconceivable revelation.
“Is it really possible that I have made a mistake here?”
She is startled when the front of her car drops suddenly and
jolts her so violently that her glasses fall to the floor,
filling her field of vision with hazy, undistinguishable shapes.
“I should just go in reverse and back to where I started.”
She leans forward, and her fingers crawl over the floorboard
until she finds the glasses, slightly bent now at an
odd angle and no longer fitting properly over her cloudy eyes.
“Can you see the lights, girl? It’s time to go back home.”
The car won’t budge because the front wheels are buried
to the axle in a large trench caused by heavy rains,
and vulnerability wraps around her like a large blanket.
“I can call my man to bring his tractor and pull me out.”
The reality of her predicament rushes in when she sees
that her phone shows no cell signal at all out here
so far from the highway, and she is alone in the darkness.
“The horn will only attract strangers, if they even hear it.”
She turns off the car’s engine, fully reclining her seat and
closing her eyes to settle in for the night with one
final thought occupying her mind as the headlights cut off.
“I have nothing to fear because, after all, this is my place.”
She falls into fitful sleep infested with startling dreams
and unfamiliar noises of nocturnal creatures that
wander like restless spirits around her stranded chariot.
“I hope you found a safe place to rest tonight, sweet girl.”
An orange ball of fire on the horizon shoots soft beams
between the conifers and the dense morning fog,
piercing the windshield to bathe her face in warm light.
“If I start walking due east, I should find my way out.”
Grabbing her cane, she carefully exits the useless car,
then follows the sun and struggles up the hill until
she hears traffic and finally reaches the busy highway.
“I need to rest a bit and then decide what to do next.”
The salesman smoking outside at the used car lot across
the highway can’t quite believe his eyes as he sees
what looks like a mythical creature emerging from the trees.
“Who is that and where in hell did she come from?”