I am sixteen, and I am driving the once luxe 1966 Country Squire station wagon passed down to my parents when Grandpa Reuben died. It's black, with faux wood siding, power tinted windows, air conditioning and power seats of red vinyl. On this day in 1973, the beast is a rusted out heavy metal piece of beautiful junk, my wheels. My brother Bennett has trained me to drive country roads whenever possible, avoiding highways. Michigan's back roads feel wild and rustic, even when the fields are cultivated, with islands and peninsulas of maples and oaks resembling silhouettes of vintage roller coasters on the horizon. I am sailing along in my boat on a hot summer day, heading God-only-knows where, listening to Smoke on the Water, windows down, the regular beat of the wind through the windows keeping time with Deep Purple. AC off, my long amber hair shimmying above my shoulders like riotous ribbons of smoke. Farm fields are radiating all around me. Endlessly. I am a teenage loner, so maybe I am just sailing for solitude. And listening to rock and roll as loud as I please. Then, in my speed and abandon, I hear a whisper. I ease my foot off the gas. Click the radio knob off. There. Again. The whisper. Slow, slow down, girl. 60 . . . 50 . . . 40 . . . 30 . . . 20 . . . 10 miles per hour. Stop. Dead still. Not on the road's shoulder. Not in someone's drive. But in the middle of the two lane road, the tanker is stopped. Parked. Anchored. Not another ship in sight, fore, and aft. I quiet my hair behind my ears, to better hear the breathing air.
"W - h - e - a - t . . . w - h - h - h - e - e - a - t . . . w - w - h - h - h - e - e - a - t - t - t . . . " Ocean waves of wheat on both sides of me rasp, swell, surge and oscillate. Swishing, flashing, pushing, rushing, splashing, shifting, shining, swaying, shivering, hushing. Languishing. Perishing. Replenishing. The strands of my hair peacefully float and fishtail, while the wind braids them into grains of wheat.
Listen to me read Wheat, here.