He steps through the trailer door, in out of the rain, with that sticky red clay they call dirt here in North Carolina clinging to his stained workboots' soles. Conscientiously, he wipes them on the welcome mat featuring the bristly green frog sitting on his bristly green lily pad before taking them off and setting them next to the hutch on the plywood board (mud-stained). His Carhartt jacket drips water from the cuffs, spattering trails of droplets on the diamond-pattern polyvinyl floor as he shrugs it off.

"You look like you've had a hard day", I comment from the worn paisley sofa in front of our 27" TV, and I'm thinking to myself that he looks as bad as I've ever seen him (even worse than the day he came home with the last half inch of his left pinky gone, tore off by one of the ripsaws). Deposits of mud have formed from the mixture of dust and sweat and rain, outlining in sharp relief the deep creases along his eyes and mouth. He slouches against the hutch eyeing me, the corner of the faux-oak molding pressing against his temple, shoulders rounded under the heavy cotton work shirt, dark wetness on top fading down and encroaching on the white rings of sweat-salt radiating out from his pits. I spot a new burn on the outer elbow that'll have to be patched. Lurching from the hutch, he slips the thin ribbons of his suspenders off his shoulders, worn-out elastic curving down around his thighs. His arms seem to be made from the same material as he drops heavily into the kitchen chair with a thud.

"Uhhhuhmmmmm" comes his reply finally, seemingly not so much spoken as pressed forcefully out of him through the process of pulling one thin leg up to peel off a threadbare white sock. He expounds further, "Boss had me in the boiler room all twelve hours I was on."

His boss, Jim Deligh, is a middle-aged overweight balding sonofabitch who's hit on me at the last three plant Christmas parties.

"Donnie! He can't ask you to do that!", and I'm up off the couch stalking towards him with further reproaches brimming when he hits me with a look so weary and haggard that I stop dead, hot blood suddenly icy, sharp words sticking in my craw.

And I know. He can ask Donnie to do it, and will again. The bills sit there on the table making lies of the words I'm still swallowing and the little one will be up from his nap and crying for his dinner soon and his brother and sisters will be in from the neighborhood any moment, and what'll they say if they find momma standing here with tears in her eyes?

So I smooth his sweat and rain drenched hair down, and kiss him on his little bald spot (the one he worries over so much when he has the time), before moving to the oven to check on the chicken pot pie, his salty dust taste sharp on my lips.