The Last Time he used his table saw.
The Last Time he fired a rifle.
The Last Time he shuffled out to his own mailbox.
The Last Time with Mae.
The Last Time with Mae – gosh, when was that?
He’s not sure when the Last Time was for any of those things, he just knows they don’t happen anymore.
He remembers the Last Time he drove that pickup, though. It was in the ‘70s and his two oldest were canoeing and he set out to pick them up. He was cutting overland along the railroad tracks toward the river (people did that in those days, though the Last Time was awhile ago) and POW! – a ball joint let go and she went down on one knee like a wounded mule.
The truck was surplus by then, a Saturday beater he never much cared for anyway, so other priorities got in the way of retrieving it. The Last Time he seriously considered it was a weekend that same summer, when his brother offered to drive down from Kanab with his wrecker, but then there was a pileup on 89 and oh, brother made a bundle on the cleanup instead.
So the truck is there and he is here and he wonders, “When was the Last Time I could have gone down there and turned it over?”
The Ford wouldn’t have gone anywhere on its crippled suspension anyway. But he’s the same – a good motor in a ruined chassis – so the wondering is good for his mind:
When was the moment? The Last Time the bearings and gaskets and plugs were all still just good enough, it would’ve cranked and maybe sputtered but the old straight six would have caught, and then the next moment – just a moment’s more corrosion on the points maybe – it wouldn’t have?
That’s the funny thing about the Last Time, he thinks. You hardly ever know it.
When does a disabled truck become a derelict?
When does bread become toast?
When does a man become an old man and then become – well, what sort is he now?
Big Roger remembers when they were young Mae would run her fingers through his hair when she rode with him in that pickup. He loved that, but parenthood doesn’t leave much room for scooting over on the bench seat, so there was a Last Time for that, too, but he’s not sure when it was.
He thinks about a routine he had with the kids at bedtime. Sometimes he would carry them by the ankles and swing them upside down before sliding them under the covers and then one day – who knows when? – the littlest got too big. A giggling child curled up liking how Daddy did that, but it was the Last Time and no one knew it.
(Modified and weathered Classic Metal Works 1954 Ford F-350, JTT trees, Woodland Scenics field grass.)