There’s something like envy here.
Take emotions from the shelf as though they were books. Neatly ordered. First by genre, then alphabetically within. Titles in bold font, easy to read.
Contrast that with a cardboard box, shoved deep in a basement corner, where no light can reach it. Dig through shadows and cobwebs. And pull something out that’s shaped relatively, or not even close, to what you were looking for. And before you decide it isn’t right, you toss it out into the world. Mouth agape, aghast as it lands with a splatter. There’s no cleaning that up.
Beavers slapped the river’s surface, heralding the canoe’s arrival.
“Quite the fanfare,” the stern said. The bowman simply nodded.
Fresh, unbroken snow covered the shore. Making the river look black against the new white. A squall picked up from the fields, blew abeam, bite their cheeks and forcing them to paddle hard to stay in the middle of the river, and out of the riffles against the banks.
The river widened, arced out into a pool, which the two men cut across.
A figure awaited them, ashore, thin plume of smoke billowing somewhere behind.
“Heard you coming,” the figure said.
There was a feeling Trout couldn’t just shake. It made him shiver. Struggle to the surface. This self-awareness never lasted too long. Trout drank. He flipped through the channels. Inlets, stream, creek, swamp and splash. More water words. Brook, lake, river and bay. Ocean and sea. And he kept drinking, and the idea didn’t drown. Sometimes they float.
But everything sinks eventually. Waves, crest and swell. Flood. Schooner, skip, sailboat. Shore, sand, anchor and coast.
“What was that about water?”, Trout wondered, even later, diving into bed.
Low and high tides later, the submerged thoughts bubbled up, and broke surface.
The ghosts conferred on the corner. Owl hefted his half-empty pillowcase. “It’s getting late.”
They skipped the next three blocks. House too far back from the street, and they made sure you didn’t cut across their lawns. Now the houses bunched up against the sidewalk. A few blocks later, haul cradled against their chests, Owl and Raccoon started home.
They cut through an alley, and started telling each other scary stories.
“I’ve got one I’m sure you’ve never heard,” a third ghost, materializing suddenly, said. “If you’re willing to share your candy.”
Owl and Raccoon told them to help themselves.
If Bear had ever learned to play the guitar, he’d have grabbed it, along with a bedroll and his lucky hat and fucked off. Right there and then. Hitching and picking his way across the country. Singing for his supper. Sleeping on streets, or unfamiliar floors, or on box cars rumbling along against the unfamiliar night. Going hungry and tired, but free. Nothing holding him back but himself.
Living, he thought.
But he never had, and he never would.
So he vacuumed the living room, humming along, and pretended the noise was from some old locomotive leaving the station instead.
The witch cackled when the townsfolk tied her to the stake. Hummed as they lit the timber. Danced as the flames climbed to her soles, and then went quiet.
The crowd leaned in, hoping, expecting her to cry out. Expecting her to plead for mercy. Beg for forgiveness. Instead, she put her chin to her chest, mumbling. Those watching couldn’t make out what she said. The people at the back pushed, and the people at front shuffled forward.
The witch raised her head and howled, and erupted into a column of flame as tall as the church steeple behind her.
A couple of kids sat on the highest tier of the bleachers, licking each other’s faces, between giggles, and quick puffs of a cigarette likely stolen from one of their parent’s packs.
The dog wouldn’t drop the ball. Rather just run around me, barking. I gave up. Watched the kids out of the corner of my eye.
Longed for my youth, just a little.
Some woman, related to the kids maybe, or at least having recognized one of them starting screaming, running across the parking lot toward them.
Dog charged the approaching woman, teeth bared. Stayed inside the fence, though.