Last night, when my eyes snapped open at three in the morning, I turned on the bedside light and read Willa Cather's short story, "Neighbor Rosicky." One fourth of July, during a drought, Anton Rosicky takes his two sons to the horse tank at the windmill, and the three of them go into the cool water naked. The preacher comes and asks him to join the other farmers and their families, who will be at the church to pray for rain. The preacher acts as if he's never seen a naked man before. Rosicky does not go to church. He tells his wife they should all have their supper in the orchard. They eat fried chicken, biscuits with plum jam, and drink their homemade wild-grape wine. His wife Mary tells the story of that Fourth of July: "The wind got cooler as the sun was goin' down, and it turned out pleasant, only I noticed how the leaves was curled up on the linden trees." She asks Anton about the corn. Wasn't the hot wind hard on the crop? Anton tells her there is no corn. "'All the corn in this country was cooked by three o'clock today, like you'd roasted it in an oven.'" He says they will have no crop at all. "'That's why we're havin' a picnic.'"
I closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep thinking of the Rosicky family, the scorched crop, the cool horse tank, the picnic in the orchard. I don't have wild-grape wine, but today I'm going to put aside a bottle of good red for hard times, that and some jam.