The path down from the old house ended at a rusty mailbox with a weathered JENKINS painted on the side. A tom envelope lay by the gatepost.
Henry Jenkins sat in a creaky rocking chair on the front porch of the house and studied the somber clouds on the horizon, across the valley. A tic under his right eye kept time with the motion of the rocker. Tufts of white hair stuck out around a battered Tennessee Smokies baseball cap and his checkered shirt blossomed from well-worn bib overalls that stopped two inches above the tops of work shoes.
"Gonna rain fore nightfall. I can smell it," he muttered to the hound that napped beside him.
Henry adjusted the tobacco cud in his left cheek with his tongue, leaned forward and let loose a chocolate-colored stream that just cleared the top of the porch railing.
He rocked back, looked down at the dog and patted its head. "Tell you what, Chaser, I'm still in the record book and that means I'm still alive. Yessir, batting champion, Southern League, 1 969: Hank Jenkins -.389. That's who I'll be until some college kid outdoes me. Some kid that's probably squeezin' zits in a bathroom mirror today."
A plane droned overhead, headed toward the Mississippi River. Henry glanced at the crumpled paper on the table that sat beside an open packet of Brown Mule Chewing Tobacco. He frowned, gripped the arms of the rocker, tipped forward and squirted another defiant rivulet over the rail. "By gawd, I'm here til something moves me out."
Chaser looked up, yawned, then put his head down on his front paws with one eye open. Henry launched a weary sigh.
"Wonder what'll catch up with me first -- the kid or the cancer?"