Monday, February 9, 2009

Portis Early

On very few occasions did the temperature matter to Portis Early. Having been raised in the Delta he had grown accustomed to the heat and sultriness of the South. When autumn came, and close behind it, those few fleeting months of reprieve, it didnt change him like it did most folks. He just kept working on those cars, trucks, and tractors that people brought him. Whether he was in the yard or in the shed, he had work to do and unless it was too dark to work, he took no mind to the weather. That is until one particular day late in September of 1956, when he woke up just as he did everyday, went to the door, and threw it open, and was startled at what he found. The weather that day threw Portis off his routine. It was indeed a rare sight in September to see that a bank of clouds had gotten blown off their course and seemed to hover right there in his yard. There was a frost on the ground, and little else visible in the dense fog, Portis took a step outside, to access the situation. He fell right to ground. His porch was gone. He looked at the ground, right there, were his porch should be but it looked as though he hadnt ever built one. The door was a good three feet off the ground and didnt even have a step up to it. Frightened he climbed back inside and closed the door tightly. As he swallowed hard to get his head together, he went to get the gas lantern from under the stairs and found Tiger, the old orange cat and Blue, his hound huddled together and looking worried. This may have frightened him more than that darn porch being missing. He returned to the door and bracing himself, for what he couldnt imagine, he opened it wide. Now Portis was a God fearing man, but he seldom spoke to the Heavens. Today he muttered, God Bless Me.
Portis walked what he thought should have his 40 acres, where his garage should have been, the garden, the tool shed, and found nothing. Only the house stood. Portis, frightened, as never before, went inside and sat at the kitchen table. He wished for the heat of yesterday and the certainty of his surroundings. How did this happen? he wondered. Am I alone? He knew he was alone, but hoped he was not.
Portis woke up with a start. He was very cold. Blinking rapidly to bring the room into focus he sat up and realized hed just had the most disturbing dream. He must have kicked off his blankets in his sleep. Rising slowly, as he was beginning to do as the days hastened on and made him an older man, he tried to remember the dream. It was something about the fog. He just couldnt remember.
He went to door just as he did every other morning and flung it open. The fog was so thick he couldnt see but a foot in front of him. Stepping out onto the porch, he noticed that hed need to replace it soon. The creak on the second board was getting louder. If in response, Tiger his old orange tom cat came screeching up the step and through the door, followed closely by the hound dog. Just in time, Portis reached down and grabbed the dogs collar. Now why, Blue, do you have to torment that damn cat every morning? And how did you get out of the fence this time? I swear, dog, if you werent the best hunting dog I ever had, why Id.. This was a morning ritual. The dog had a house outside with a nice fence around it and slept outside weather permitting. Most of the time it was his choice to come in or not and most of the time he wanted to stay outside. The cat had his own little door and came and went as he pleased. Right now he was in the kitchen fussing for his breakfast. Bringing the hound, Portis went in to prepare food for the bunch of them. Then without notice, no thunder, no wind picking up by degrees, no leaves turning over, the sky just let go. Portis had never seen it rain so much. The roof began to leak in a few places and as Portis busied himself finding buckets and pans to collect the water, he began to feel a little sick. Stopping to look out the window he was shocked to see the house had lifted off its stilts and was just floating right along. They were passing the garage where Portis made his living keeping other folks vehicles running. He closed his eyes tight and squeezed them. He sneezed just then and woke himself up.
Portis was not a man who sneezed often. But there were a few things that could set him off. One was that darn ragweed that grew out by the barn and the other that darn cat his daughter had insisted on getting from the fair years back and then had left for Portis to tend to when she went away to college and then never came back for when she married that yuppie from up North. Sure enough, it was the cat, sleeping up under the blankets, as close to Portis as it could get. Portis shoed the cat away and then rose out of bed to begin another day. He opened the door and called to the hound. That damn dog wouldnt sleep inside unless it was powerful storming outside and no fence Portis could build would keep it in the yard. Blue was a good dog and never bothered any of the neighbors. Of course, the nearest neighbor was a good half mile away and Portis lived on 40 acres of partially wooded land. The dog could find plenty to do at home. Portis surveyed the weather as he did most mornings. It never really mattered too much. One day was the same as the next anyway. He lived in the Delta and he knew to expect humid, muggy days with little relief until the thunder came. If a day was cool it was winter. If it was hot, well then it was one of the three other seasons. Portis didnt expect to feel a chill this early in the year. Why, it was only September. He made breakfast and gave the cat and dog some kibble. As he stood at the sink washing the dishes, he heard the heat pump turn on. Now, the thermostat was always set at a decent 50 degrees. The house didnt have air conditioning, but Portis figured no need to change the thermostat. If it fell below 50 degrees, he would be surprised. He went to check the pump, making sure it wasnt malfunctioning. It was outside at the back of the house. Opening the door for the second time that day he was hit with a blast of cold air. He stepped back stunned and closed the door. Now, what could be going on? he thought to himself.
As he rolled over and woke himself he wondered why he was having so many dreams about the weather. Weather was just weather after all. Wasnt it?

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