I went to work on a farm that fall. I was sixteen, young and full of energy. It was a cool and cloudy afternoon, and I had on my blue jean jacket. There was a lively bustle about the place. From the barn I could hear the hiss of steaming water through the screen door of the kitchen up at the house as they washed the dishes dirtied from lunch. I could hear the machinery out in the fields. I was hanging up a pitchfork on a peg when I saw a long black car come down the gravel driveway. It was my uncle, stopping by to see me. It was break time just then and everyone came up from the fields to smoke and sit by the trees around the house.
My uncle had borrowed my cigarettes and he tossed the pack to me. I fumbled the pack trying to catch it and spilled about half the cigarettes out on the ground. I went to pick one up and light it, but it broke in my hand. The workers around me all laughed. I tried to pick up another and suffered the same result. As I kept trying to pick them up, the cigarettes grew older and stale and dirty, no longer freshly fallen from the pack, until finally I found myself picking up nothing but the crushed and spent butts that had been long scattered around the yard.
The laughter around me dispersed as though carried off on the wind. I raised myself up on old, tired, and cracked joints and there was no one around me. My uncle and the workers were gone like ghosts. The barn and the house were empty, long deserted and collapsing into ruin. The sun poked through a cloud and shone in a cracked upstairs window of the house in diminished radiance as the day went cold and wasted silence prevailed. The cigarette butt in my hand had been extinguished ages ago, in completely different days gone by. I tossed it back to the ground.