Iowa Writes

SARAH SHEY
The Only Thing Constant


A line of pickup trucks, second-hand cars, and a motorcycle headed west on Highway 18, a two-lane road that sliced through field after field, simmering in the summerís heat. We met only one town ten miles into the journey. It was passed by, as was a Catholic cemetery, a farmhouse here, a farmhouse there, a singular grove of trees popped up like a preacher without a congregation. We did not notice what we had always seen. 

It was July 1989. My friends and I were farmer-tanned, farmer-freckled, and farmer-burnt. We could drive, we could spend the evening the way we wanted and, soon, we would leave for the great beyond. We were the same in our blank, hopeful states, enjoying the togetherness that came with our upgraded status as high school graduates. At that moment, in that summer, we had perspective for our age: we already knew we were someone. We didnít need a college degree to tell us that.

A line of pickup trucks, second-hand cars, and a motorcycle headed west on Highway 18, a two-lane road that sliced through field after field, simmering in the summerís heat. We met only one town ten miles into the journey. It was passed by, as was a Catholic cemetery, a farmhouse here, a farmhouse there, a singular grove of trees popped up like a preacher without a congregation. We did not notice what we had always seen. 

It was July 1989. My friends and I were farmer-tanned, farmer-freckled, and farmer-burnt. We could drive, we could spend the evening the way we wanted and, soon, we would leave for the great beyond. We were the same in our blank, hopeful states, enjoying the togetherness that came with our upgraded status as high school graduates. At that moment, in that summer, we had perspective for our age: we already knew we were someone. We didnít need a college degree to tell us that.

Into a modest farmyard we turned. Engines were cut off. Doors opened and closed. A basketball thudded against the side of the barn. A pig snorted. A few shouted hello. Someone giggled. The air smelled fertile: perspiring pigs, baking dirt, staid manure. No one had worried about being fashionably late, whatever that meant. We were eager to be with each other. We had no reason to hide the anticipation we felt. There were no strangers here. Our faces tilted upward, open and unmasked. 

A keg had been placed on the patio outside, along with plastic cups; Mark Elbertís parents were out of town. People huddled around the keg like it was a fire and they hoped to keep warm. The sun flushed the sky with fruit colors and then everything went black. Only house lamps and a yardlight dented the darkness of the countryside. No one thought to look up, to see stars that people in cities traveled to see. No one thought to consider that the evening would not be repeated, for we would all be changed in a yearís time, wouldn't we? It was the only thing constant. Or so my father always said.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


SARAH SHEY

Sarah Shey writes, ďA native of Algona, Iowa, I now live in Brooklyn, NY. I travel back often, though, especially because I want my three-year-old son to know the rural way of life. I have written two Iowa-based children's books, Sky All Around and Blue Lake Days

This page was first displayed
on December 01, 2006

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