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The Sunsets You Build

It was the end of another long day on the ranch, and Charlie’s body ached. The job hurt a little more with each passing year, and he knew there’d come a time he couldn’t do it any more.

He also knew he wouldn’t trade his life for anybody’s.

He hoped Colt could find the same sort of peace someday.

The boy leaned against a fence post next to his father and looked out onto the horizon. Charlie studied his son’s profile against the waning light — this was no boy. Colt had grown into a man, and he was a fine one.

Or at least, he could be.

“How did you know, Dad?” Colt asked without taking his eyes off the purple and orange sky in front of him.

Charlie knew what his son was asking, knew the question was coming. It had been building for months.

“Well, Colt … you see that skyline there?”

“Yeah, I see it,” Colt replied.

“It didn’t always look like that — the fence, the cattle, the haystacks, the buildings we put up.” Charlie stood and walked to he son’s side. “Once upon a time, when you were just a little boy, there was nothing but scrub out there. No one would have thought you could even live on this land, let alone make a living.”

“Alright, so how’d you know?”

“Because I already saw it this way, teeming with life in the fiery sunset.” Charlie slipped an arm around Colt’s shoulder. “When I was about your age, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life.

“Get married? Join the army? Head to the city and try to make some money?”

Colt half-blinked and pursed his lips. Charlie knew these were the same sorts of questions that haunted his son.

“Your grandpa came upon me on a night about like this one. We’d both been working in the mines most of the day, only I’d sneaked out early. By the time he stumbled home, tired and hungry, the sun was almost gone.

“He sat down there next to me and gave me the answer I needed.”

“Just like that?” Colt asked, finally turning to look at his father.

“Just like that,” Charlie said.

“So … what was the answer?”

“Same as it is for you, son. Figure out how you want to feel at the end of each day, how you want to leave the world when you go to sleep, then go make that happen.”

Colt looked back to the horizon.

“So you decided this is how you wanted each of your days to end? And you built this ranch to make that happen?”

Charlie nodded. “Yes, we built this — you and your mother and me. Now it’s your turn.”

The two men looked at each other, each knowing their time together under the same roof was coming to an end.

“Figure out what you want your sunsets to look like, son, and then go out and build them.”

Published inFlash Fiction

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