It is midnight, 1969.
The air is blue.
The mountain is blue in its silhouette
against the open galaxies.
Long before the earth stirred, the old man in the cabin banged the cast iron stove to life. He sat in his chair, pulled out the tobacco from his shirt pocket and filled his pipe, fingering the fillings and pressing them deep into the bowl. He struck a match, pulled the pipe to his pursed lips, and sucked in the fire. Shaking out the flame, he held the match mindlessly in his hand as he stared at the ticking stove.
The stove heated up and soon the coffee pot spit black liquid beads that sizzled all around the hot surface. The old man leaned forward and pushed himself out of his chair, unfolding like a rusted hinge. He poured himself a cup of coffee and went to the window, his pipe in one hand, and slurped as he stared outside.
After a few gulps, he shouted to the other room where a boy lay cocooned under three layers of wool blankets, “Better get in here and make out your breakfast.”
He opened the door to the icebox, and pulling out the bacon, eggs, and a can of biscuits setting them on the table.
“Come on, now.” he said with a gravel voice.
A kerosene lantern flickered on the table beside the bed as the blankets moved. A thatch of blond hair was first to poke out and two bright blue eyes focused on the ceiling. Frosted breath floated over his lips, then disappeared.
He slowly spilled out of bed and pulled on the denim jeans, stiff from weeks of unwashed wear. Taking care to avoid the Mill Brothers Coffee can the old man used as a slop jar, he pushed his feet into his boots and stepped into the warmth of the outer room.
“Boy, you’d sleep your life away if it were up to you.”
The boy rubbed the sleep from his eyes and saw the clock on the table— 3:30 AM.
He then creaked open the door and stepped out on the porch, where cold, New Mexico air took a slap at him. Shuttering, he took three steps off the porch and peed through the rail fence. The stars hung suspended on black velvet overhead, a heavy stomp and snuffle came from the dim outline of a horse only a few feet away. A shiver jolted through his back as he finished. He zipped himself up and stepped back into the smoky warmth of the two-room cabin and the smell of fresh coffee and the sizzling promise of breakfast. But the promise wasn’t for him.
The boy made his own breakfast, as he did every morning, drank coffee, black, as he did every morning and studied the old man through the sheer curtains of smoke. The old man just sat there puffing and staring at the stove.
Without as much as throwing a glance the boy’s way, the old man said, “Quick as you get your dishes washed, let’s feed those horses and get ‘em loaded. We need to get down the mountain.”