The tall trees, with their giant, branched limbs, held each pine needle intact as if it had nothing else to do. It was early morning when Anand and Alicia jogged down to the group site to get some exercise before the sun would delicately scorch everything that wasn’t shaded. Summer in these parts is dry, with low humidity and skin crackling.
They saw Dale, one of the camp hosts at Sharp Creek campground. He was going nowhere in a hurry. He stopped to talk to them. In unison, they greeted him.
Alicia with gleeful curiosity, “What’s goin on?”
“Oh, a little of this and a little of that.”
Dale had a way with words. He was quick-witted, artfully humorous, and used a vocabulary that seemed foreign to the young couple, but still easily understood.
“Gonna go dancing with my daughter in town. We’re learning the Cowboy Cumbia.”
Dale recently lost his wife, Sally to covid. They had been married for fifty years. They got the virus at the same time, but sadly, she didn’t make it.
His long smile, kind eyes, and rosy cheeks stood out every time he mentioned her name. He lost his best friend and was trying to make sense of something, but didn’t know what. His daughter, Patty did her best to pick up the broken pieces of her heart while making sure to lift his every Tuesday when they danced together, something Sally and Dale shared before she passed.
Alicia and Anand knew of Dale’s loss and listened with intent when he would bring up Sally. “You guys would have liked her.” He was holding back tears, but a few brave ones fell and traveled down the hills of his cheeks as he smiled.
“What do you miss most about Sally?” asked Alicia.
Dale looked at the clear blue sky for about a minute as if the answer could only be found there.
“Well you know, most nights when it was late, Sally knew I had a rumble in my stomach. She asked if I wanted popcorn. I gave her the eye, and she’d pop some kernels, brown bag it, and bring it back to me in bed.”
The three chatted for some time and parted ways so Dale could check the new camp guests in.