The afternoon light illuminated the strewn pieces of straw which coated the bed of the truck where the man sat propped, tailbone digging into tailgate, broad shoulders slumped, the lines in his visage emphasized by the grime and glistening sweat which had settled there. Where once a beard must have grown an obvious tan line etched the lower part of his face from jaw to jaw. The brown hue of his work pants and bare chest camouflaged with the straw beneath him so that he appeared to be a dramatically oversized clipping of dried grass.
He reached for the cooler beside him, breathing in air loaded with the scent of August—heat and honeysuckle—and the leg hanging from the tailgate swung at the movement. A grey cat who’d retired under the tire’s shade bolted and shimmied up the nearest tree, came to rest on a level branch, tail flicking with irritation. The man extracted a can from the cooler, a can which shone like an oversaturated photograph against the dull tones of the afternoon. The muscles across his forearm grew momentarily taught as he hooked his thumb under the metal tab, prying. Pop. The sound effortlessly prevailed against the distant, monologic drone of working machinery and cicadas.
His hair fell to rest against the mud caked hip of the once-white truck, as the man tipped back his head, turned the can in his fist until the cool, sugary liquid touched his parched lips, filled his spongy, dry tongue and cheeks. On the way down the carbonation burned his throat. And he gulped, like a dying man to the last maddening drop that remained trapped behind the lip of the weightless aluminum can.