The cat won’t come inside. I call for her every 15 minutes and begin to worry. The rural stars recall the blue-clear day. A motion startles my focus to the pecan orchard. A hunched animal darts behind a stump and circles between a row of trees. There is an urgent, dreadful uncertainty in the movement. I step off the porch, the creature is ambivalent to my presence. The dull lamp light slowly reveals it’s a fox. The sickly pacing and fearlessness indicate viral distemper.
Whether I felt her eyes or heard her first, I am not sure, but I turn to see my cat yawning from the porch steps.
In the morning the birds are quiet. I go to the sandy dirt road to look for the animal’s tracks. They circle back upon each other in a lonely face off.
Somewhere a fire is burning, smoke rises to make clouds more earthly than celestial. Driving into town, the shoulder of the road flashes red with a crumpled fox. I am going to see Donald Trump in Valdosta, Georgia.
The line of people curves from the parking lot to oxbow over the pedestrian bridge above Sugar Creek. A couple behind me has driven from Florida. They repeatedly mention how his events distribute more tickets than space allows. Everyone seems to understand this premonition to be true, we stand there anyway. Familiar faces say hello. The creek spills through a culvert between fortifying rocks now green with lichen in the spring warmth. Spanish moss hangs over the live oaks surrounded by a hedge of white azaleas.
A guy behind me talks about the karmic implications of casting spells on the candidates. Young college men impishly carry sacks of chicken sandwiches and dome lidded milkshakes to devour in line. We enter the fence into the final stretch before the entrance, a bird alights a sycamore branch and sings a mimic of police sirens. A wild palmetto rustles. A woman sweetly asks if we are interested in a “Bomb the hell out of Isis” pin.
The music from the Trump rally is clear now. Rolling Stones, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” followed by opera. I imagine Trump listening backstage. Elton John, then, The Rolling Stones again, but with a different song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Formally dressed southerners with tickets clenched in hand walk to the front of the line. How could all these people possibly have tickets? They circle around a few minutes later, dejected. Dudes in matching shirts meet their buddies up front and look back, certain they will make it inside. But we are still outdoors, surrounded by sparse rows of vendors selling Trump gear, so close to the entrance. The start time has already passed.
Trump caws over the speakers, he says there are twelve-thousand people outside (there are maybe 1,200), then asks if anyone in the gymnasium would like to give up their spot for someone else. The faces of his supporters outside become sullen with loss as he offers up Nascar endorsements, live on stage. A woman conceals Trump’s book in her armpit, no longer imagining his signature. He says “Merry Christmas”, the crowd cheers, it’s February 29th. A group of men in the distance erupt in the appropriated chant for the Atlanta Braves.
The campaign soundtrack comes on as we leave, a mocking repeat of The Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Stoic, leather faced men walk away in freshly pressed western shirts. One whistles a flourished version of the tune as we turn back over our path through the parking lot.