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  • Endless Joke
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Tweets
Places I Hang Out
Saturday
Sep092017

A World Abandoned

Everything inside my head is small and enclosed and everything outside is huge and muffled. There are sounds within the woods at night, terrible sourceless sounds, screeches from unseen throats, and we awake to a sun like a penny glued to a fawn-gray board. A coin fixed to a sand-dusted slate. Brassy light falls amid the shadows all day.

Things are going wrong, have gone wrong. I wonder if I mean within or without, and discover I can't answer either way.

Gerhardt left three days ago and hasn't returned. 

I clutch our old retriever Lola at night, my arms encircling the pitiful trellis of her ribs, and she whines quietly at the shrieks from the woods. Come daylight she doesn't investigate.

And come daylight I pull up the ghosts of carrots and beets, translucent things like alien pods spawned in our friable dirt. Dirt that looks and feels but will never taste like the crumble topping my Aunt Caterina used to bake over Tuscan apples and sweet red grapes.

Must stop remembering. Too dry. Too drained of faith. Even yesterday is beyond the pale now.

Gerhardt took the crossbow; I have the old Winchester pump-action and the last two shells. 

I can't help myself. I think back to a time when the worst thing I thought could happen was losing my children. Laughter now would be legitimate, yet I don't laugh. Irony is as stupid as nostalgia.

Right before he left, Gerhardt laughed.

"What is funny?" I asked him.

"Nothing, my dear."

"Fine."

"Not fine. Not funny. And yet…"

"What?" I could never resist his artful pauses.

"A dream is an unfinished life, so maybe they were all dreams."

"The children?"

"All of them. Taken before their time. Maybe the life they're meant to live hasn't yet begun."

"But how is that funny?"

"Oh, outside of the cosmic scale, it isn't."

"And also, what then are we?"

"Midwives, perhaps? Or morticians."

His fragile smile left the cartography of his face like a misremembered shallows and he winked and kissed the air by my cheeks and he shouldered the crossbow over his day pack and stepped on the loose boards as if to release a pent and groaning sendoff—secretly ordained by impish music-loving satirists—and he never turned his unkempt head the whole time his wiry frame hitched itself down the long gravel lane.

Irked as I was by his cryptic foolishness then, how I miss him now. Stabbed by loneliness, I call Lola, who happens like a specter out of the strange quiet air. I bury my sorrowing face in her patchy fur, but when I pull away, her fur is dry. Perhaps I am the wraith, not her.

Perhaps my grief leaves no stain on this world.

Gerhardt and I once spoke of Christ and redemption. He was once a Lutheran and I a Catholic. We might as well have conjured Anubis or Krishna. Kali or the Morrigan. Cthulhu. Isis. A thousand echoing rooms and hallways spiral beyond the vacant futile atrium of unanswered human prayer. 

The night is too generic for copyright, and as it passes once more, stamped by the usual screams of the arrested trees, by the endless moonless hours, my insomniac eyes become the only things in this world that are large. They keep growing—while morning enters like an intruder pissing weakly in a corner—expanding like fungus or a thing far worse, daring the fawn-gray sky to blink in toxic fellowship, tempting the universe to tremble in abject defeat.

What is this now? Men? With guns and lust and deadened eyes?

O woe.

When Gerhardt returns, our last shells will be spent, I will be a strand of spider silk shimmering with rosy dewdrops and stretched between splintered fenceposts, and holy Lola's howls will fill the whole valley.

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