The fireworks had just ended, and we were all left in the dark. I could still smell the smoke. There were cars parked along the side of the road where the ground sloped off into the ditch. There were voices all around, and people would emerge laughing in groups and pairs from the tall grass on all sides and join the crowd of people slowly making their way down the road. The moon shone down, casting our long shadows on the pavement ahead of us as we moved along at even paces from one another. People lugged folding chairs and coolers and held their kid’s hands or carried them as they slept against their shoulders.
Around dawn we came to a field with a short wooden fence around it. There was an open gate in the fence and the crowd was flowing in through the gate. There was a woman there with a clipboard, and she was checking names from a list as people came through. She stopped me as I came up, and she said she couldn’t find my name on the list. I explained to her that I didn’t live around here, that my brother did, and that he would be able to vouch for me. People continued to pour in through the gate behind me as the woman flipped through the papers attached to her clipboard, looking for my brother’s name. Finally, she decided to let me pass. I explained to her that my wife was somewhere in the crowd behind me, that we had gotten separated out on the road. She nodded and said she’d keep an eye out as she turned her attention back to her clipboard and her list.
I followed some of the people who had passed through the gate, and further on we came into a narrow yard with a ranch house on one side and a barn on the other. There were fruit trees and taller shade trees in the yard. There was a door standing wide open in the shadows on the side of the house that faced away from the rising sun. I ducked into this doorway as the rest of the people kept trudging past. I found myself in a small unlit room and it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the dark. There was a bed just beside the door, and my brother was sleeping in it. I imagined that he liked to drift off to sleep with the door open so that he could see the view and feel the breeze from outside. There was a fireplace across the room with the last crackling embers of a fire burning in it. A wooden chair had been placed in front of the fire, and I saw my cat curled up on it. He perked up as I came in, and his eyes shined in the light.
My wife shushed me from the corner of the room. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was there. She had come in ahead of me. She didn’t want me to wake my brother. He had a few hours to sleep yet. He snorted and rolled over the other way like he had heard us. It began to rain a little as the morning sun crept into the yard, and the rain pattered softly against the open doorway. I went to another room of the ranch house and watched from the window. The rain passed just as quickly as it had started and the drops of water gleamed off the fruit in the trees.