Free and Uncertain as Life

Spring Fever, (Monte Dutton sketch)
Spring Fever, (Monte Dutton sketch)

At last, the showers were giving way to the flowers. At the precipice between April and May, Ronnie Whitfill was perched, and the lure of adulthood flowered. The farm boy had a smart phone, a Twitter account, and a restlessness that came every spring but never more thunderous than in this, his senior year of high school. Technology didn’t increase it. It was just more accessible.

Ronnie wasn’t playing ball anymore. The football coach didn’t force him to run track because it didn’t matter. His eligibility had expired. He had to prepare for college now, and he knew that playing ball at that level would be ridiculous. Sweet freedom beckoned, and Ronnie wasn’t altogether sure he could handle it. What stretched out before him was an adventure, but, for now, he was still stuck on this farm, under the dominion of his father, and aching to get away. He didn’t want to do anything but explore the possibilities, and he’d set out on this sunny afternoon to take a walk because he didn’t have anything else to do and didn’t want it. He wanted to strap his guitar across his back and walk up on the hill, where he could sit on a rock and gaze longingly across the gray-green meadows and into the future.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

The air was becoming fragrant. The wild onions were wilting in the warmth, replaced by other, flowering weeds. Ronnie competed with the breeze, singing old and outrageous tunes from his father’s youth, songs that allowed a man to break his voice in two and yodel.

Lawuhawuhawn, gawuhawuhawn, noweeow, ahm lawuhawnsum blueoo!

What was most lovely was love, and, for the first time in his life, the country boy wasn’t in pursuit. He was pursued. Dorothy Lamotte. Good gracious. She used to be a Dorothy, but the name didn’t fit anymore. She was a Dottie, and one day, when she got older, she’d probably be a Dot, but she wasn’t ever going to be a Dorothy again, and he had discarded Ronald and traded it in for Ronnie, a ballplayer’s name, but he was destined to be a Ron for the ages. He wanted to enjoy Ronnie while he could. Sitting there, overwhelmed by beauty, with an instrument lying comfortably across his lap, Ronnie was in awe of nature even has he nurtured a lust for earthly pleasure.

Ronnie’s soul wriggled restlessly as he formed a vision of Dottie. She was playful. She was mischievous. She was bad. She needed someone to be bad with her, and she had chosen Ronnie Whitfill, the farm boy who didn’t know Waka Flocka from Lil’ Wayne. To Ronnie, hip-hop was just a throbbing bass beat in the distance, rising from a garishly decorated gas guzzler wearing wheels that rotated opposite to tires that seemed too thin. The lyrics were outrageous, and blunt, and crude, and, yeah, Ronnie kind of enjoyed them, but if it was music all, it wasn’t music suited for the Ovation six-string he’d bought off Daniel Pennilton at the pawn shop. There wasn’t any challenge to it. Too few chords. Too much repetition.

No yodeling.

Ronnie didn’t really yodel. That’s just what his black friends called it when they ridiculed his songs. They were ridiculous in their way, but so were the chants. Life was ridiculous all around. Ridiculous was cool.

Ahmarollinstawn, awlalawnandlawst, innislifuhseeuhn, ahvepaiduhcawsss, ahnowahmlawss, toolatuhpay, stahtedrollindayuhn, dahlawsthahway …

His guitar was a homing beacon, as it turned out. The chords penetrated the cool, humid air. Ronnie wondered if his voice affected the rustling waves of spring growth. The phone was off and nearly dead. School had burdened it with too many texts, tweets and Snapchats. A man had to unburden himself every now and again.

Ronnie heard something sweet across the six decades separating him from the music he was playing. It was Dottie. Lord, Lord, she had found him somehow. She had followed his trail up the hill, tramping through the grass his feet had parted, bringing with her a bottle of forbidden wine. Wine was perfect. He took her in his arms, and they kissed, and their parents were going to kill them, but it felt like they were going to kill themselves if they passed up this opportunity to live.

What happened didn’t take long. It only seemed like ages. They got their breaths back. Words weren’t necessary for a while. Dottie had a couple plastic cups, but Ronnie said forget the cups. He wanted to swig from the bottle because it was kind of stupid at this point to worry about germs.

The guitar had fallen aside, probably scratched a little amid the rocks where it had landed. It was cheap and tough, and a few scratches weren’t going to ruin it. He was satisfied those scratches were going to be memories he would cherish.

“It’s so beautiful, and life is so cool,” Dottie said. “Look at those flowers.”

Lavender burst forth from the green, furry bulbs rising around them. They were wild and free and doomed from the start. Butterflies flitted about. The largest and most beautiful lit on one of them, frail and uncertain.

“That’s me,” Ronnie said.

“What?”

“The butterfly. That’s me. And the flower. That’s you.”

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