Sean of the South By Sean Dietrich: Last Words of the Old Year, First Words of the New
10:40 p.m. – New Year’s Eve. Hank Williams is on my radio. My wife sleeps in the passenger seat. My coonhound dog is in the back seat.
To return to the year, we went for a ride on the county roads that wind along the bay of Choctawhatchee.
There are no cars outside. The highway is vacant, except for police cars. I have never hosted in a year like this.
As a boy my dad and I brought hunting rifles on vacation. We would walk to the edge of creation and shoot 12 gauges at the moon. Then I sipped Coca-Cola; he would sip something clear.
Another year goes by without him.
11:02 p.m. – My tank is on E. I stop at a gas station. The pump card reader is broken. My wife is still not cold.
I go home to pay. The clerk is a young girl with purple hair. She wanted to be with her kids tonight, but someone called about a sinus infection.
I buy a Coca-Cola in a plastic bottle.
I also buy a scratch-off lottery ticket. The last minutes of the year, I feel lucky. I use my keys to scratch the ticket. I earn $ 5. Suddenly, I bought two more. I earn another dollar.
“You’re in luck,” said the cashier. “I wish I could buy one, but that’s against store policy.”
To hell with politics. It’s New Years Eve.
I buy him one.
She slips a coin onto the take-out tray. She itches. She earns $ 10. We hit it.
It’s only $ 10, but seeing her win makes my year.
11:28 p.m. – I’m driving. My wife is still sawing logs. I ride in the woods of North Florida, sipping a Coke. The trees grow so tall that you can’t see the moon. It’s almost like poetry.
A long time ago, my college professor told us to choose a poem to recite in class. The students chose noble selections from among the greatest. Whitman, Dickinson, Frost.
I looked at Daddy’s Hank Williams songbook. He had given it to me before he died. He had wanted to be a guitarist once, but he was horrible. He gave me the instrument.
I recited “I am so alone that I could cry” and I made a D.
I wasn’t doing it for the teacher.
11:40 p.m. – My Coke is almost empty. I parked by the bay to watch the fireworks. My coon dog looks at me with red eyes. And I write to you, as I do every day.
Look, I don’t remember how I started to write, or why. I have nothing valuable to say, I don’t know the big words, and I’m as straightforward as they come. But I’m not going to lie to you, it was precious to me.
And you too.
These are my last words of the old year, my first words of the new one:
I love you.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist best known for his commentaries on life in the southern United States. He is the author of nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast.