Valley

The mountains rose; the valleys sank down

to the place which you established for them.

—Psalm 104:8

Yes, she smokes in her car. What of it? But only in the Walgreens parking lot next to the tutoring center where she works part-time, and only to spite her husband of twenty-odd years. He knows she smokes, but not in the car. In fact, most evenings they sit together on their back patio for an hour or two, after he gets home from work, so she can smoke her Marlboro Silvers as he drinks cold beers, usually cans of Bud Light but occasionally the craft beers in bottles their daughter brings for him when she visits from the Bay Area. They watch the automatic sprinklers cycle through, grateful for the mist in summer, especially evenings when the breeze from the Delta can’t make it this far up the valley, and they both miss the cooler northern states where they were born. They watch their hound dog puppy, a rescue, trying to engage the aging pit bull terrier, another rescue, that had belonged to their son before he quit college halfway through to join the army. Sometimes they talk politics or weather, gardening, football. They make plans for the backyard: a firepit, maybe a pool. She wants more vegetable boxes with stepping-stones between. He prefers uninterrupted grass with easy-to-shear bushes for borders. Each evening at dusk, crows migrate in from the orchards, a few pairs at first, then clamorous flocks flying over the suburbs where they live and into town, attracted to the lights and litter of parking lots.

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