An old man lived across the road from me. In the spring he would come out every morning to sit there by the roadside, reading his newspaper and waiting for his grandson to come along and pick him up in a battered orange truck. From my window I could see a kitchen chair set out there by the mailbox, weathered and worn and weak in one leg, and the old man was there to take his post at six o’clock every weekday morning, regular enough to set a pot of coffee brewing at five till and know that it was done by his arrival. He was as dependable a part of the landscape as the thicket of trees behind him or the road that ran before him waiting to gather the heat of the day. He just sat there with his paper, never glancing down the bend to see if the truck was coming or fretting impatiently over his watch. He was the figure to which all the rest of it was ground.
And so I came out early one morning to set up an easel and canvas. I had my paints and my brushes, and I started in on the grass and the trees and the morning light creeping into the scene from down the road. I got most of it done, waiting for the old man to come take his place at the center of the composition. But six o’clock rolled around and he never showed. The orange truck never came along. The crooked kitchen chair sat empty. I was just one day late.