Black Friday was anything but; we drowned in sunshine and shirtsleeves as we unwound tightly coiled backcountry lanes miles and miles from the nearest box store. Light dappling through old oaks took on a disco strobe effect as we flew under their canopies. I leaned out the window and let the wind tease strays from my carefully clipped back hair.
The people at the third winery learned it was my birthday and refused to charge us for anything, even after we asked for an extra off-menu tasting. You get good karma and you’d do well to give it back in kind. We did our best by leaving a large tip.
On the way back the sun had just begun to dip below the trees. As we came around a sharp curve that jogged cars from one farm property line to another, the smell of a cigar filled the car, faint and sweet. I looked around but no one and nothing was nearby.
It could have been a stub tossed out of a car window to smolder in the dry weeds of the shoulder, but I preferred to think it was a lingering ghost scent from a long-ago man. Sitting in a metal chair in a white shirt and black slacks and a straw hat, legs stretched straight out in front like planks with one ankle crossed over the other. He probably had dusty shoes, and wobbly arms and jowels, and the fabric between the buttons of his shirt bunched and cambered out. When his hands weren’t resting on his belly, fingers laced, they were in the air waving to passing cars, or hooked casually around the butt of a stogie. He spoke kindly to visiting dogs, and he was definitely someone’s favorite uncle.
I could see him there as clearly as a photograph in a pile on a flea market table, bits of black paper stuck to the edges from where it was torn out of the album.
One layer of the past laid neatly over the top of the present.