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The frozen burgers rage against the propane grille. Our faces grow oily in afternoon sun there at the smog line, at my son’s home on the pathway to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.
The fox tails claw at our ankles. We warn two curious young-uns about what might be wiggling in the unbroken sea of tinder-dry hillside. He’s been clearing the drought-riddled landscape with a weed eater. Too dangerous to wield a mower. He’s been repairing a nearby trailer home and its septic system. When he sees the king snake, he knows it’s not the rattler his wife had to carve in half with a shovel the other day.
As the hot dogs grow dark freckles, he matter-of-facts about life in law enforcement, about what remains and what’s been squeezed out after 10 years. He’s a practiced hand at cooking. He's learned well from my mistakes.
I can’t tell whether I’m shimmering or whether it’s the air as we step into the cool blast of his house. Family and friends have already piled into the first round of Mother’s Day vittles. I'm famished. He has a higher calling.
On a blanket in a fenced-off part of the living room, twin girls coo at their father, my son. He climbs into their play area, folds them into his tanned, muscular biceps. And he coos back.