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The Short Form

“I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down”

William Gay


He found Choat in the hall of the barn, locked in mortal combat with a flat tire. Stripped to the waist, he was wringing wet with sweat, his belly looped slackly over the waistband of his trousers. He had a crowbar jammed between the tire and the rim, trying to pry them apart. Meecham noticed with satisfaction that the tire showed no sign of giving.

When the old man's shadow fell across the chaff and dried manure of the hall, some dark emotion–dislike or hostility or simply annoyance–flickered across Choat's face like summer lightning. He laid the crowbar aside and squatted on the earth. He wiped sweat out of his eyes, leaving a streak of greasy dirt in the wake of his hand. Meecham suddenly saw how like a hog Choat looked–red jowls and close-set little eyes–as if maybe fate had a sense of humor after all.

“You not got a spare?”

“This is the spare. I think I know you. You're lawyer Meecham's daddy. We heard you was in a nursin home. What you doin here?”

“I didn't take to nursin,” Meecham said. “Is it true Paul rented you folks this place?”

“He damn sure did. Ninety-day lease with a option to buy.”

The old man felt dizzy, almost apoplectic with rage. The idea of Choat eating at his table and sleeping in his bed was bad enough. The thought that he might eventually own the place was not to be borne.

“Buy? You wasn't ever nothin but a loafer. You never owned so much as a pair of pliers. That's my wreckin bar right there. If you think you can buy a farm of this size with food stamps, you're badly mistaken.”


We read it in I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down.

Originally published in The Georgia Review.