Summer nights we’d slip out of the houses and head to the hills. Move through the darkened town streets, thinking we were outlaws. Follow the heady smell, telling ourselves whatever we needed to hear. To keep going.
And then we’d lay down, careless but careful, so the moon loomed up above us, smothering us between the sky and the smell and the dew. We may have talked, but I remember the silence the best.
Too many times, we woke with the birds and hurried home, across lawns and into left-open bedroom windows, hoping last night’s scent didn’t give us away.
Prompt courtesy of Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto.
Who owes who five bucks based on the last bet? What was it even? Horses? Who can keep track of all the people they are online?
I leave poetry books laying around, casual, so people who come over will see them. And then I’ll say some bullshit that won’t mean anything, but I’ll flip to to some page and hand it over and wait.
“Beautiful,” they’ll say, hopefully, and I’ll shrug, and let them assume I’m also beautiful.
Move on to the next race. Because if there’s one thing for certain, there’s always another horse set to run.
Coyote watched the embers rise up to the stars, and sang along with whatever song was on the radio.
The ghost came up from the river, dripping.
“I can put another log on,” Coyote said.
The ghost said no. It’d be heading back to the water, to float downstream, soon enough.
“Drying up only makes you hesitant to get wet again,” it said.
Coyote sought meaning, or wisdom maybe, in the ghost’s words, but it told him not to bother.
So they watched the embers rise up to the stars, and sang along with whatever song was on the radio.
What’s your favourite part of a summer storm? The smell just before, or the one that lingers? The sudden peel of lightning or crack of thunder? The couting between the two? Or is it the joyous way the trees bend and sway, or as long as we’re being romantic, dance in the winds, betraying their usual rigidity? Is it that that lets you soften? Is it memories of running home, heart pumping, from the video store, with someone you think you could like? Is it all these things? Excitement, fear, relief from the relentless heat of the last little while?
Toad moved from leaning against the scraggly pine, towards the bunkhouse where he convinced himself he recognized one of the voices. Behind him the bonfire surged.
He pushed the screen door open and saw two people he didn’t know curled up together on the bottom bunk in the far left corner.
“Hey,” one of them said. “Come on in.”
So he did.
“We found this old ukulele,” the other said. “And we’re just about to recreate that Tom Waits song.”
“The one where he’s under the table?” Toad asked.
They said yes, and shifted over, to make room between them.
Goose stared at the greasy fingerprint on the lens of his glasses by closing one eye. Some monstrous moment was happening across the hall.
“How have you been, dear?”
He turned to an aunt, he assumed anyway, leaning too close, also anxious for distraction from disaster.
“I haven’t been hearing my alarms lately,” he said. “I set and double check them. And then I sleep right on through. Or burn my dinner.”
She asked if alarms were the only thing he couldn’t hear.
“Yes,” he said, using a napkin to wipe at the spot on his glasses. “So far anyway.”
When the geese flew east, not north or south, the villagers knew it an evil omen. Sent three boys to the forest. To the Witch’s Oak.
Though never said aloud, the three knew what was expected.
Demanded of them.
Days spent moving through the thick forest. Roots like skeletal hands grasping at their ankles. Black eyed birds watching silently from the canopy. When the wind blew right, the smell of copper and wet fur dogged them.
Until at last they came to Witch’s Oak. Branches sinewed over the clearning, choking light and letting nothing grow beneath.
They drew their blades.
Prompt courtesy of Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto.
The axe cut through the log. Clean, cleaved in two. The wood had dried and would burn beautifully. There was a purity to this work. The heft of the axe. The rolling of the shoulders. A clean cut.
The second log resisted the axe’s edge. Another swing, and a third. It split on the fourth.
He wiped his brow, and set the the axe in the block. He nudged the log with his boot, turning it over. A fist-sized knot smack in its middle.
“It can be that way, too,” he said to the bluejays squawking in the nearby pines.
Something was said, and then nothing was said. And in that silence, they stayed. Stewed. Thinking of what next to say.
And then it was tomorrow. And still, no one had said anything.
They went out for dinner with friends. Made believe there wasn’t this thing simmering under the surface. Spoke of the news and people they knew and things they’d seen.
And then, some days after, it sunk. They each pretended to have forgotten. Gave each other small smiles when they surprised each other in the same room.
Whatever they wanted to say, floated, just out of sight. Waiting.
Dzinski knew he shouldn’t get involved. Knew it would be nothing but trouble. Just like the last how many times. Knew he should’ve stayed out of it last time too.
Before that, he hadn’t been quite so smart.
Nothing left between them. More than a lifetime ago. And here she was again. Asking for help. Begging. Doing whatever she could to make him do whatever she needed done.
Not this time.
He sat back at his desk and took a quick pull from the bottle. Then he got up and put on his coat and hat, and started after her.
The newlyweds stood before the granite stares of the village elders.
“Our only crime is sorrow for what never was and what never could have been,” one said, and the other echoed. “So we sought joy where we could find it. A flash of light in this well-bottom darkness. If that is what condemns us, so be it. We’ll leap, if the judges deem it necessary, happily, as long as we can do it together.”
The murmur from the crowd rose, drowning out the crashing of the waves below. Turned to cries. Their stone hearts softening, too late.
Prompt courtesy of Sue Vincent’s #Writephoto. Inspiration courtesy of Townes Van Zandt.
“I’m starting to wonder why people like you keep showing up,” I said to the Great Writer’s ghost I found on the back porch one morning.
“Am I not the first?” she asked. I told her at least two more had come by over the last year. And then offered to make some tea.
“A glass of water will be fine,” she said. “And maybe a cigarette.”
We sat in the already thick morning heat. “Don’t let me keep you,” she said, eventually. I said I had nothing pressing, and appreciated just being there.
“I don’t,” she said. “It’s unnatural.”
He woke up on the beach with no memory of the night before. Nothing in his pockets except a torn ticket stub and a crumpled package of cigarettes. He pulled the final cigarette free, and did his best to straighten it before realizing he didn’t have a match.
The waves lapped at the sand a few yards from where he lay. Bringing with them flash of the night before. A dimly lit room. Bright red lips. Shaking hands. Running down narrow streets. Bright lights following him.
Head pounding, he wondered what to do, and what he did to get here.
“If you have a boat,” the constable said, “we want you out on the water. If you haven’t, walk the trails, drive the roads. One of ours is missing, and we aim to do everything to find her.”
Patricia Monroe’s husband woke up to find she wasn’t in the cottage, and headed through the copse of the trees, thinking she’d disobeyed him, again, and gone to see that tart of a neighbour.
The neighbour, still made up from the night before, insisted they call the police.
Boats cut back and forth across the bay until the sun set, finding nothing.
He paced, deliberately, thinking it made what he had to say seem more important.
“I figured out what’s wrong with me,” he said.
“And that you’re smoking too much?”
He coughed. “Besides that too.”
“So? What is it then.”
“I’m too dependable.”
“Where’re you going?”
“To get you a dictionary. And another beer if I have to listen to this. You want one?”
“Of course I do.”
“That doesn’t make you dependable, if that’s where you’re going with this.”
“All I meant was I can always be counted on to think about doing the right thing.”