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Le plus grand philosophe du monde sur une planche plus large qu'il ne faut, s'il y a au-dessous un précipice, quoique sa raison le convainque de sa sûreté, son imagination prévaudra. Plusieurs n'en sauraint soutenir la pensée sans pâlir et suer. Pensées Blaise Pascal
Y el hombre. . . Pobre . . pobre! Vuelve los ojos, como cuando por sobre el hombro nos llama una palmada; vuelve los ojos locos, y todo lo vivido se empoza, como charco de culpa, en la mirada. Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes. . . Yo no sé! Los heraldos negros Cesar Vallejo
PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
October 1994 ‘Save something from there for Rebecca,’ Kristina says, handing him a key. Of course. Rebecca. Relius loved her. At the funeral Father William was certain he could hear her cursing God, certain that the words spoken in the quiet of his conscience were her words, her thoughts. If you believe, you get punished. Faith doesn’t soothe the soul, it awakens sorrow, makes it sentient, alive in the conviction of a sinner determined to find meaning in the disparity between desire and destiny. It’s better not to believe in anything. Like Relius, know the nonsense, the hypocrisy. I can hear you, he thought, wanting Rebecca to hear him as well. I can hear you. But he stops himself and thinks there’s no way for one soul to speak to another except through the silence of prayer. I’ll pray for you, he said to himself,
though doubting his own ability to help her with any words, with any pleas to a god that had long ago distanced himself from their small lives.
It’s been two days since the funeral and Father William drives alone to Relius’ apartment. He had called Pamela but she was not at work, nor at home. There was too much sun in town when he left and now he drives through a thick, boundless gray in the city. An uneasy nervousness makes him shudder as he turns toward the building, and the chill on his skin reminds him that he has no one to visit here. He looks away from his reflection in the dark glass of the front door and stares at the column of white buttons, some glowing orange, some cracked, and he wants to ring the bell, wants to give Relius a chance to answer, to come down the hall and let him into the building. Death cannot possibly be so permanent. He does not wait for Mrs. Wotschke. He sets down the flat boxes he carries and pulls Relius’ keys from his coat pocket. He squeezes the key between his thumb and fingers, all the while wishing it were not so, that he did not have this key. Nothing has changed in the hallway. The carpet is the same color, unchanged by the death of a young man. Stains remain, and though a few rips run longer in the hall carpet, the priest does not notice. He takes solemn,
deliberate steps toward the apartment, pauses at the door, and looks back down the hall toward the entrance to the building. He wants to leave. He raises his hand as if to knock but stops and watches his fingers uncurl. His open palm feels the flat coldness of the door, and he considers his purpose here and feels the silence behind the door. The apartment is not empty, but there’s little to see. Undisturbed dust on the chair by the window, and the smell of abandon. He remembers seeing Relius’ still silhouette in the empty chair by the window. He forgets about the flattened boxes he carries and is startled to hear them drop to the floor and slide into the room. He pulls a roll of heavy tape from his coat pocket and sets it on the table beside the door. The morning sun has broken through the gray clouds and illuminates the room with indifference. Father William walks with soft steps through the quiet room, touching things, picking them up and setting them down, wiping away the dust with his fingers. He picks up the tape and one flattened box from the floor. He sets them beside the chair, and begins to fold the flat board into a box and seals the bottom with a long strip of tape. His hands move slowly, reluctantly, trembling in rhythm with the tremors within him. The weight of his thoughts pulls him back into the chair, and he lets the box slide onto the dusty wooden floor, the papery
rasp sounding hollow in this empty room. His are sad, inspecting eyes, eyes that wander, eyes that close. Eyes of desperation that seek solace now in the doorway to the bedroom, and demand of the emptiness that it not be true, not be true, and let him watch the door swing open and see Relius standing there, not smiling, not bewildered, just standing. He hears a quiet whisper in the bedroom, a vague murmur, and the grip of doubt and the confused touch of hope make him hesitate to leave the chair. And he sits still and the humming whisper becomes a voice. He opens the door but does not walk into the room. Afraid not to find him. Certain that he won’t. The voice comes form the radio beside the bed, and a man talks into the infinite silence of this lifeless room. It’s a film review, Father William recognizes the voice, but does not listen, and he leans down to turn off the radio but stops himself, and instead sits on the bed and watches a few minutes pass on the clock. An uncertain rush of guilt swells within him, flooding his sorrow and darkening the room, and his body senses its own helplessness to walk past death or shape it into another form to look at and understand or to listen to and then rephrase. We have such imperfect bodies, he thinks, home to a nervous trinity of faith, imagination and reason. He turns on the lamp beside the bed and looks at the folded clothes Relius had left behind. He imagines Relius choosing and setting aside what he might
take with him into the forest. Imagines him thinking of staying warm, protecting himself from the rain, and wonders why he would be so careful about dying. It is a sparse room his friend had lived in. He touches the pile of clothes and wants to draw the curtains, but will not. There aren’t any pictures on the dresser, just a thin layer of dust covering everything and leaving no hints of anything else having been there. He walks to the side of the bed and opens the drawer of the nightstand. A pencil rolls back and forth in the empty drawer and nothing else, not the notebook he’d hoped to find, not the letter from him, or an unfinished letter to him. He opens the dresser drawers one by one, and each one sounds hollower than the last, no clothes, no letters. More nothing. He turns off the lamp and walks out of the room, pausing once more in the doorway and looking around the room for anything he might have missed. There is no closet in the room. He’d left the radio on, and he hears it now, a woman talking about what she calls a black and white America. He wants silence, but does not want to walk in the room again. He closes the door slowly and walks back to the flat boxes on the floor and carries them to the window and lowers himself once more into the chair. He chooses two boxes, which, though like all the others, seem stronger, and drops them in front of the bookshelf. The books are neat and tight, none
A yellow tab of paper sticks out of the top of Pascal’s Pensées. Pascal. literature on the second and history on the last. waiting to find something to tell him which book to choose first. and stares at the . or a reminder Relius had forgotten to remove? His finger hesitates at the top of the book and then pulls it from the shelf. reading them beside Rebecca in the hospital. He turns to another page and sees more black lines. reading them alone at night. searching without searching. Cleopatra's nose. A deep. The Cesar Vallejo Relius had read to them is squeezed tightly into the left side of the shelf. He touches the bounded pages of Pascal’s thoughts. He glides his fingers along the books on the second shelf. he reads. and cracked. with a mylar cover over its delicate jacket and Baudelaire.leaning on an empty space. reading them in a café. Auden. We are full of things that impel us outwards. poetry on the first shelf. a signal for him. rubbing their spines softly. There’s history in the reading of each book. following the black line Relius had traced under these words. with fragile white lines in the spine. grouped together by size and genre. pressed by poetry from other cultures. tattered. old. sets it on the floor beside him. Relius’ private thoughts of choosing these books. Rilke. thick circle drawn around the word Diversion. He closes the book. other worlds. Augustine’s sins and Conrad’s serpentine waters.
and he trembles and takes up book after book. tasting the dust of the room. that tell him what Relius might tell him if dying were not an end but the beginning his faith assures him it could be. for a presence. to understand the space left empty by a soul gone to paradise or a body. and offer him the impossible wisdom to know. . and again he chooses. to fill that vast mystery. smelling the cardboard and tape on his fingers. reads the underlined words with the urgency Relius might have found in them. words now. a face.other books on the shelf.” he says and he wipes away a tear that falls on the page. marginal notes that refuse the silence of death. He hears a voiceless call within himself to take up another book. and again he reads. “I miss you. and he hears Relius reading now. simply gone. and read it. that interstice between possibility and permanence. and he sits on the floor crying now. covering his mouth with his hand. is. a voice. hears these words as Relius might have heard them. its emptiness. searching through the pages for answers.
PART ONE .
and it threatens his sight. rubbing his hands along his sleeves for warmth.ONE February 1991 Cold silence. He dreads this empty. a silence without comfort. his thoughts. and wonders if this is where he’ll die or if this is where he’ll be found. He crosses his arms in front of him. The air itself has joined in the conspiracy to punish him. A silence without peace. It’s rough. and leans forward. He finds a fallen log to rest on. He stops running and listens to his breathing. wonders how he . He pulls a flashlight from his pocket. white forest he runs through. and he feels more pain in his legs as he sits. A silence he'd not heard before. he’s certain of it. like desert air through a frozen pipe.
and hoods over his car. and he stares into the silence. and reviving the life. They won’t or can’t see what he needs to see. and the impossibility of bringing the boy back. The memory of killing the boy is like an illusion. When his friends talked about it. they can’t find the figures hiding in the deeper shades. Fades. The small glass bulb glows. Images of the murder cover every memory with questions about himself. a horrid unity his fear and imagination break into men who follow him or animals that wait. and they won’t warn him of the outlines in the darker shadows.remembered to grab it. He tries to remember other winters. he doesn’t remember the blood. but the memories refuse to come – they’ve joined the conspiracy. listens for the hum of the light. The glow dims. He pushes the switch forward. about killing anyone who would hurt their loved ones. There’s no question now and he hates the guilt. dig it out of the glovebox before piling so many old doors. tires. listens to the batteries. of retrieving the bullet. The silhouettes of a winter forest blend into darkness. Maybe he wasn’t dead. He smells the dry wetness of winter. feels the wetness of his glove where the thumb presses into the yellow plastic. He shakes the flashlight. The blood. about his goodness. He doesn’t remember hearing the boy say anything when he died. he would say he couldn’t do it. He doesn’t trust his eyes now. Maybe he . and didn’t understand why they were so certain they could.
He lumbers up a small hill and tries to find the light of a house or a gas station. and he walks slowly toward the light he saw beyond the margins of the darkness. he prays. Not me. and the memory that wants to protect him from that fact. A stupid battle in his frozen mind between the fact of killing. The gelid limbs of birch and maple trees crack as he pushes them aside or steps through them. Unsure if he is still walking toward the lights. Dragging himself . He wants forgiveness. absolutely nothing. and his shoes swell with the freezing water he stepped into. Not the gun. but he expects it to get colder tonight. A pellicle of decayed leaves covers the brown leather. and despite his own hatred of God and religion and desperate creations of transcendent spaces and deities. He sees the low clouds glowing to the east.was faking it. The bullet didn’t kill him. maybe the bullet missed. staring at nothingness did – the horror of nothing there for him. bony fingers pointing toward a winter sky. And the smell of gunpowder on his hands. The sky isn’t clear. That’s what killed him. He whispers prayers for forgiveness quietly into the darkness. and the dead eyes of a person he’d killed staring at nothing. acting dead. and then rises to walk toward it. the terrifying abandonment of dying. he stops and looks up through the leafless branches. But there was blood there. He hears the soft crack of a thin layer of ice. and his body feels unwilling to tolerate the cold.
blur the distinctions between himself as son. thinks of his family. Where’s the calmness? When is tomorrow? He pulls the flashlight from his coat and shines the dull beam through the bluegrey light of the snow-brightened night. but only his eyes move quickly. searching for meaning. For a moment he’s aware of what he has to do. Staring around the grove. and in the dying light he sees the thin . he wonders why he cries so helplessly. His confusion and guilt leave shadows in the snow. What have I done. so cold he doesn’t feel the painful tinge of his wet denim against his frozen skin. but cannot. and he weeps quietly in the darkness. He sits on a fallen tree. The small bulb dims to a thin glowing wire and dies as he aims it over the fallen trees beyond the grove. with himself as witnesses. he hears the windless taunts of this hibernal forest and he wants to run. he stares around in all directions. thinks of Renee. and make him see eyes that stare in accusation from among the thorny bushes. he looks at nothing. Panic stirs in his mind. a husband and a killer. None of his thoughts settle comfortably into a memory. Lying silence. The cold and fear exhaust him. not trusting the silence he hears enveloping the darkness.through the darkness like an unwilling penitent. for answers to questions he cannot ask. Behind his swelling eyes. what have I done. they trouble him. looks over his shoulder and in front of him. but thinks of yesterday. He trembles.
He tries again.branches he needs. The firelet dies and he begins again. carefully now. He searches his coat for the lighter. He digs again into the deep of his hip pocket and his fingers wrap tight relief around the lighter. and he sees himself moving in a quick panic through his car. He digs his feet into the snow and clears a patch of wet earth beside the log he sat on then kneels on the ground and wipes away the damp leaves and soil. A fragile stream of smoke climbs up toward his warm breath and fades into the darkness visible. His hands feel useless. and a few thin sticks crackle and begin to smoke. he smells it. He moves slowly. but did he take it. and he feels a dozen pins prick his thumb each time he strikes the lighter’s small wheel. The mud chills his fingers and his hands burn from the cold. I’ll need this later when he found the flashlight. pulling papers from the glovebox. and again. He lowers the small flame to the thin collection of twigs and strips of bark. does he have it now. breaking the blossomless dry twigs from the ends of the trees. shoving anything with his name on it into his pocket. and peeling bark from the few birch he found near him. already thinking of fire when he grabbed the lighter. until the . thinking I’ll need this later. his numb fingers dig into the empty corners of his pockets. The resin burns. He pushes past the pain in his hands and builds the twigs he'd collected into a small house of fire over the birchbark.
faceless figures whose hands bend like no hands he's seen. And he shakes in the night. . and he refuses the figures that call to him with extended fingers. Throughout the night he rises and walks only a few steps from the fire to find more wood. but there are no words to put to those images. those fears. human or otherwise. and he opens his eyes to look into the fire and the night beyond it but he does not wake. No. come to claim him. and he talks to his past. thick log burns. too slowly through a vast penumbra. bending fingers. He dreams. the cold and exhaustion finally close his eyes and force him into numb slumber. and his mind feels like a pendulum that swings. He sits on the log and warms himself beside the small fire trying to follow its light deeper into the woods to see if the sounds he hears are of branches breaking in the cold or of some animal. and his phantoms fade into the forgotten. A large. and the fire burns itself into glowing embers. and he breathes in the present. whose arms vanish into jagged bodies that stand like naked trees before a blackened sky.firelet holds a flame and the small twigs can burn a larger branch. and the glow darkens into the ash he touches mournfully when he leans into the frozen morning. he breathes at the cracking. pushing spittle from its ends and hissing into the night as the warmth. He wipes the snow and ice from his face. His head aches. slowly. now on complete opaque. the edges of his thoughts touching now on lucidity.
cold air. He coughs through blue lips and wonders if he should lie down in the fresh fallen snow. he feels the slowness of time. I’m dying. and hears the ice-laden limbs of the trees crack with the weight of fresh snow. and does not look toward the barking and the snowywet steps of the dog coming toward him. his breathing hard. He is an older man. He does not move. It’s a gentle man who walks behind the dog. sore. On this discolored morning. His boots sound heavy. He looks at his hands. not rebuild the fire. and he breathes in the painful.When his thoughts settle. He tries in vain to move his legs. recognize him from a photograph or a drawing. looks for . With a deep sigh. the guilt returns. Relius turns away from the dog's cold and curious nose and does not look at the man. dead perhaps. They’re blue-white now. and waits for the man shouting at the dog to stop before him. and take him to his judgment. worn from many years of quiet work or years of quiet rest. The dog waits. he accepts his fate. and his voice sounds retired. he tells the gray day that unfolds. and let this numbness spread from his limbs to his heart. his second day as a man who killed another man. Reluctant to rise. he imagines nothing.
staring at different sights. no sanctuary like the one he hopes for. He does not speak to Relius. for a friend to pass or a pheasant to fly from a bush. looking sad and confused. frozen and encased in the colorless ash of the dying and the dead. The man and the dog stand together now as they’ve stood a thousand times. and pats his gloved hand on its back. he thinks. not yet.his master. and watches him approach the stranger leaning against a log. He looks at the white air of the forest. yellow fur. that he's not strong enough to go anywhere on his own. but won't turn to them. who had too much to drink and ended up in a fight. watches the man and the dog from the corners of his eyes. usually. or in a quick escape from a girl’s jealous boyfriend or angry father. For his part. The man leans down and rubs his hand through the dog’s thick. just a hoary landscape. stares at a bleached earth that seems so ready to abandon him. waiting with less puzzlement. College boys. and he begins to rock back and forth. and knowing that another cold night would freeze him.” he whispers to the dog. There are no more places to hide in that distance he searches. The young man stares into the snow. “What did you find there boy. but watches for the young man to look up at him. Matty had found young men in these woods before. Not now. But this young man looks .
heavy cough. to ask who he is. “You found me.” Matty says through a slight laugh. Matty remembers the rows of trees his father planted just across the creek. and rubs its ears. the jeans. He follows the young man's stare into the distance. and he hears the melodies of spring and anticipates the greening blues of summer. “I followed him and there you were. swollen lips and a congested. “Yes I have. He picks up the melted flashlight tossed in among the ashes and asks if he's been out here all night. “I didn’t find you.” Relius says through painful. but his own memories intrude. the thin shoes. Relius waits for the man to say something.” He pats the dog again. “ . “You all right? Those shoes of yours don't look like they had this weather in mind. how long he's been out here. looking for a sadness he might understand. “ He looks at the young man's clothes.” Relius whispers. and Matty sees desperation in him. He rocks back and forth. Matty heards a deep sigh from the boy and then sees the boys eyes fix on the dog and then on him.different. “Buck found you. But the man watches him with the patience of someone who understands silence. the wet coat.
and then looks up at the man come to help him. the thin layer of ice cracking and breaking beneath their steps. They walk in silence until they see a house in the distance. He leans back against the log again and strains to lift himself from the cold. The dog runs far ahead of them. Relius leans on Matty and they walk slowly along a brown trail. That was the show . and digging its nose into their footprints.” “Like Buck Rogers?” “Not sure. and his master no longer calls for it. My son named him Buck. hopping happily through the ankle deep snow. I thought it was like the knife. The house looks small and white. The dog runs toward them again. Buck waiting patiently in front of it. They walk carefully through the snow. Maybe.Relius looks at his brown shoes. past patches of maple and beech and white flat fields where he thinks corn or wheat might grow. Two small streams of smoke grow from the house into the indistinguishable sky and the young man anticipates a warm hearth in a room he pictures filled with hunting trophies and quilts. “How old is your dog?” “Buck? He must be about seven now. black from the wetness and cold. visible against the snow because of its red roof and the red shutters at each window. wet ground.
warm hands. almost laughs. I can help you there. They do not go in through the back of the house. “ . Matty turns Relius’s fragile hands over in his larger. Matty stokes the fire and closes the iron door. warms his hands in front of the furnace. but walk around to the steps in front. rubbing them together. and looks over his shoulder at the young man. Matty tells Relius that he’s lucky. Matty knows the feeling of cold hands. Matty looks at the palms and fingers of the young man's hands and sighs with both relief and concern. Matty lowers Relius onto a couch before setting his own coat on a chair beside a fire that looks eternal. and doesn’t say a word as Relius tries to lean toward his feet to untie his shoelaces. but if your feet are bad I doubt I could do you much good. and he rubs them together as he walks from the fire toward the couch. His own hands look heavy to him. the sensation of warm blood filling empty fingers. that if it wasn’t cloudy last night that he’d be bringing the sheriff out to a corpse instead of a stranger into his house. right. and the pinching sensation makes it hard for Relius to use his fingers. He sighs again. “your fingers look a bit frostbit. The one that stuttered?” Relius appreciates Matty’s light-heartedness. The sudden warmth hurts. and his effort to give them something else to think about. He sees pain in the boy's posture and eyes. He feels innocent.with the little robot. Inside. even if just for a moment.
the toes are white. careful not to pierce the skin. “his feet were so frost-bit. searching an instant of silence for the whole of a memory. He must be about my son’s age. Funny. That he spared him. comparing the build of the boy before him to the boy he raised. necrosis. but it means death. he thinks.” He pauses to let the young man cough. right there on the couch. Sounds like something black the doctor said. he begins to cut away the socks. “his toes were black as pitch . meditative. He cuts slowly.Relius watches as Matty presses his enormous fingers into a pair of fabric scissors and cuts away the laces of his boots. “I saw a kid once. when they took off his shoes the bottom of his foot just about came with them. Relius’s feet look fine. but not worrisome. Matty tells Relius that the Lord must have something special in mind for him.” Matty says. Matty covers Relius with a blanket and tells him to get some sleep. the doctor called it. that doctor.” Matty says when the young man stops coughing. . But he kept on walking on them even after the pain would a made most folk wish the Lord take them already. .” He peels first one sock then the other off the boy's feet then leans back onto the table behind him. Once he has the shoes off. “Black as pitch. Relius wakes to his own rough breathing and the smell of kerosene burning in . Must of been bit for days before he realized.
and if he’ll stay long enough to meet this kind man’s son. “How's your cough?” he hears someone ask and turns toward the voice.the lamp on the table beside him. his eyes fixed on the steam growing like ephemeral stalks out of the bowl the man offers him. about his friends and the buildings around his school. My name’s Matty. Relius has been to John’s college. He even had a girlfriend there once. welcome Reelus. So you may as well call me Matty. “My name is Relius. “Feeling any better?” “My lungs feel full. but he doesn’t mention her to Matty. Matty continues to talk about his son. is just a year younger than Relius. What you say your name was? Rebus?” Matty’s son. but thinks instead about this small house in this small town. I have some soup here for you if you feel up to it. My real name is Matthias. Will he stay long enough for Matty to know that he killed a man? . “What was that? You say your name is Reelus? Well. Relius listens. but everyone just calls me Matty. long enough to know if the kindness of the father became the kindness of the son. and knows its library well. and doesn’t live here. Johnathan.” he says. My wife made it this afternoon.” Relius watches the kind man lift a ladle out of a large pot and empty it into a large bowl on the table.
and hears the water run. He hears Matty set the bowls in a sink he imagines to be large and metallic. Matty tilts the bowl to offer Relius the last spoonful.” Relius watches Matty collect the bowls from the table and walk toward the kitchen door. Probably still warming up and your muscles don't trust the heat yet. “You feeling warmer now? Cup of tea would keep you warm. the leather worn and faded to a darker . and he leans back against the couch and hears Matty's music like the gentle rhythm to pace his presence in this room. and he fails to bring the spoon to his mouth without shaking and spilling the soup on himself and on the floor. the flavor reminds him how long it’s been since he’d eaten anything. his scanning of the furniture and walls. son. Matty begins to hum behind the swinging door. first to rinse the bowls. “Thank you. “You'll be feeding yourself again soon. The song soothes him.“Eat your soup. The couch beneath him is old. And he looks up at Matty before leaning forward to lift the warm bowl from the table. then to fill the tea kettle.” Relius hears through his thoughts.” he says. He looks at Matty with an embarrassed expression of need. a melody Relius recognizes but cannot name.” The soup warms his entire body. Without a word Matty sits on the table in front of him and feeds the young man the soup. His hands tremble as he tries to hold the bowl steady in his lap.
shade of green that makes the small brown cuts in it look natural. though the photograph is not black and white. an apple too red. generations of grandparents. Six curtains. if it is evening. parents and friends. or a slight breeze squeezing through the sill. Their wedding picture? Relius admires their confidence. To the right of the kitchen door he sees a photograph of this house in winter. moving with the heat curling through the room. A beautiful woman stands beside a younger. Above the fireplace more photographs of children and adults. He wonders if it snows that evening. the colors too vivid for the tempered woods of the room. or if the dark curtains shield him from the light outside as well as the cold. no colors. no footprints. an orange that is too orange. Heavy curtains cover the windows. their emotions and dreams kept private behind stiff faces and clothes they're . determined farmers in suite and gown. a white dress that haunts the gray furniture and walls behind them. taken from the front yard. God Bless Our Home hangs above The Serenity Prayer pulled in thick blue yarn. their serious looks. virile Matty. and between each pair there hangs a small painting or a sampler. Relius rubs his fingers against the large brass tacks outlining the arms of the couch. no dog in the snow. their cold roundness now welcome to his warm fingers. and a papaya that would not grow here. They feel cool to his hand. Beside the door hangs an oil painting of a fruit basket. two over each pair of windows. stark eyes darkened by her black hair.
He tells Relius about the storm that iced the roads and weighed down the power lines.” he says. “There's biscuits too.” “Do you have electricity?” Relius says. dark pine table. and he looks at the kerosene lamps and the room without a television. He lifts the lid of the bench nearest him and pulls another blanket for Relius. with a solitary chair tucked under the fourth side. Matty pours the two cups full and walks them over to Relius. Matty asks Relius if he’s worried he fell asleep and woke up . and Relius smells the faint aroma of kerosene as it burns in the small lamps on the tables on either side of the couch. and you take it up when you feel ready. and about how the lines it didn’t weigh down it made cars slide into. A bench wraps around three sides of the table. In the far corner of the room.unaccustomed to wearing for so many hours in a day. opposite the couch and along the wall without windows the dog sleeps under a simple. “I'll set this on the table. The table looks small in the dim light of the room. like backward folk who have no need for modern lights and phone lines. if you want something solid. Relius hears the door swing open and Matty walks into the room and sets the teapot and cups on the table. Matty looks at Relius' question with a smile. When Matty told his son about the power lines and his son said the electric company treats them the same way most out-of-towners do.
and letting the lantern burn its fuel into a black string of smoke that vanishes into a dark room with a sleeping child. his small fingers pumping air into a lamp. They both grew up in the same house. His eyes closing slowly. like that guy. his nervous eyes staring up into the wavy lamplight making the ceiling look like it shudders. Matty tries to see the young boy Relius describes to him. The smell’s nicer and the light’s better.” “You know. imagines the young man before him with wider eyes and softer skin. and fields he knew would be his to tend. John had written antiques on the box where they stored the lamps. but Johnathan's memories of the farm and town were enough to have him leave. or we'll ask Kristina later.twenty years later. only in reverse?” “I don't remember. what's his name. I'll get it in a minute. Relius’s memories and Matty’s own. Matty’s son uses computers and owns a fax machine. “even though we don’t use these lamps much anymore. Matty grew up in a house he knew he would own. I like them more than those other ones.” “You know. “You know. she'll know. Relius describes coffee fields filled with banana trees.” Matty says. a young boy worried about being scolded by his mother for refusing to turn down the flame before he falls asleep. You ever used a kerosene lamp at home before?” Relius shares a memory of his grandparents in Peru. the guy who falls asleep and wakes up twenty years later. and .
It’s not just the pain of aging. and he feels illness dull and thick in his throat and chest and behind his eyes. his wife and their farm.what a cherimoya looks like. The water burns his hands and the cup drops to the floor and rolls toward its handle under the table. look like he never has to cut them. He tries to lift himself from the couch to help Matty . redder. He spills the tea as he tries to lift it from the table. Finger nails thick and round. He drops another log on the fire and arranges the coals to burn more with more air. Relius watches Matty and listens to his stories about his son and the farm. Matty’s hair is thin and white with a patch of sun spotted skin growing from the center. While Matty walks back toward him. Clear blue eyes. He has the face of a kind man. Relius wonders how much it must have hurt Matty to let him lean on him as they walked through the woods. Thin lips. Matty grimaces and squeezes his left biceps with his right hand as he bends down to pick up the poker. and dark socks that his wife might have knit for him. it’s an injury. and listens to him speak of his son. Relius notices that his left arm hangs almost still at his side while his right arm swings just a bit as he walks. Relius watches Matty limp toward the fire. Small nose. but the food in his body now lets him settle into the exhaustion that consumes him. He wears darkgreen corduroys and a flannel shirt. and wants to stay awake.
and lifting his head forces too much pressure into his sinuses. . unfamiliar with the morning routines of this house. He hears each step as he walks. not yet certain whether his surroundings emerge from the continuation of a dream or the confirmation of a waking hour. but his body refuses. happy that Matty insists he sleep more. as he limps toward the smell of cooking food. he realizes the smell that woke him was frying bacon. He wears thermals someone else had dressed him in. since it didn’t wake him. the history of the house pressing out its own sighs and making feel ever more uncertain of his appearance. When he settles his breathing and finishes staring around this unfamiliar room. this family. his chest expanding into a painful emptiness. He feels nauseated and lays back down on the couch. He sleeps again before Matty returns from the kitchen. with the feel of thick cheesecloth. They’re white. His mouth dry and his lips cracked. with gentle respect no doubt. he thinks and whispers to himself.clean. My grandfather used to wear these. Relius wakes coughing. and he sits with his hands resting on the edge of a bed he doesn’t remember crawling into. He lifts himself from the bed. the wood floor creaking under his toes.
but she to her the color of the day outside reminds her of her son. whispers something to the day. “That's a terrible cough you've got there. There's bacon frying. His eyes search the room for something he might say. Reluctant to interrupt her morning thoughts. To him she looks like she stares without intention.In the kitchen he finds a woman staring out the window above the sink. turns. black boots.” Relius does not know how to present himself this morning. She pours him a cup of coffee and passes him a basket filled with warm rolls. and smiles at the image of him standing at the door. Relius stands in the doorway and waits for her to turn. a white apron over a yellow shirt patterned with blue flowers. but his mind cannot form thoughts from his senses. to eat as a stranger at someone's table. Much less in the . She sighs deeply. She wears blue pants. where to look. He does not have words to speak to this situation. how to behave. to wake as a stranger in someone's house. of watching him help his father bring in the fire wood.” She waits for him to finish coughing again. He waits for her to ask another question. “Never spent the night in the berry grove myself. “You hungry? I can make you some eggs to go with those rolls if you like. where to sit.
it might be severe. He tells him he has bronchial asthma. She was tired. Alone in his room Relius pulls two small photographs from his wallet and settles on the bed. He stares at himself standing with his parents in front of . After several days of painful coughing and little sleep. yellow airport in Costa Rica. and small smiles. and yet it troubles him to have so much aural space for his mind to fill with guilt and lies.winter. beautiful. that if he’s lucky it will pass. Two weeks pass and Relius learns to share the silence Matty and Kristina enjoy in their house. sitting across from him in a tiny. Relius envies their comfort with one another. the greenyellow of eggs he'd eatin so often with his family in Peru. Renee. They understand each other through raised eyebrows. turned glances. white sheet of paper. a doctor arrives and listens to Relius' lungs. and talk in small. Another photograph. He leaves the young man with a bag full of yellow and blue inhalers and a sloppy prescription scribbled on a formal.” She serves him crisp and fatty bacon. their silences. soft voices when they do speak. The eggs are delicious. It might be mild. but chances are he’ll now have asthma for the rest of his life. She was healthy when he took this picture.
He did not think it would work. plaid with different shades of brown. There's a bridge he would run across and hide under. Neither his mother nor his father smiles. but when he came back to the trap after a summer in Peru he found the . the lumber and carpet stolen from the new homes about to become suburbia. and from their sleeves hang mittens their mother had learned American mothers tied together with a string so their sons would not lose them as they played in the hills of snow on the edges of the parking lots and in the ends of people's driveways. They are dressed in the simple clothes of the eager immigrant. He and his brother wear similar coats. neither of them did. The photograph reminds him that his childhood was quite simple. Or could have been. A lifetime spent within the hallow valley between these homes and his mind. and he and a Jewish boy named Michael set the trap at the base of the tree house.their first house. His father in his first winter coat. There's a cul-de-sac where older boys built a tree house. the walls papered with pictures of naked women torn from magazines. his mother in a large red coat with a white collar that comes high above her cheeks and rests in warm fold around her neck. On the back of the photograph he finds his mother's handwriting in the words Relius. look for frogs and minnows. He was raised in the blurry town he sees beyond the borders of this photograph. like smaller versions of their father's. 8 años. When he was ten he read how to trap a rabbit.
or even a cat. though he does not know if this memory is held in a trap of its own. The tree isn't there anymore. Perhaps the neighbors with hippies for children. what this boy thought when this picture was taken. he thinks now. has nothing to do with aging. What did you do to me. so ignorance. Atrium or atria. and most of the trees there now are small and bend at the weight of a birdhouse. an open term to . and wonders if there'll ever be a science or an accident perfect enough to freeze memories with the same indifference as a camera. he asks his parents silent in the photograph. the small skeleton had a tail. and wonders how this boy could be him.skeleton of a small animal he called a rabbit. He's no less naive now than he was then. no wisdom. Large maple and beech he'd never counted cleared and replaced with two small tilia. The new homes finally encroached on that refuge. His eyes water and he touches the picture. In his memory. and an enormous house with real carpets and painted walls instead of magazine pages fills the entire space that Relius imagined as an infinite forest. nor who could have taken it. He doesn't remember standing with his parents for this picture. “You grew up to kill someone. three fruitless cherry trees and one weeping dogwood. There's a deck near where the tree house used to be. the flat image of himself as a child.” he tells the picture. they should call it. It might have been a squirrel.
bending down to scratch at his knees where the harsh wool feels sandy against his skin. It’s warm in the room. and the possibility of becoming an innocent man. They’ll have company tonight. He tries to think less of his guilt. His scalp and back itch. hoping not to sweat too much. but Relius stands calmly in front of their son's closet and stares at the dark clothes. leaving that privileged hate to their God. and not a single visitor has come by. She looks at his reflection and . not to leave wet stains in a stranger’s shirt. she says. Why death. A knock at the door disturbs Relius’ thoughts of basilicas and vaulted ceilings. and Relius feels his body sweat as he tries on their son’s clothes. He's been in their home for three weeks now. tries to focus on the present. Relius thinks of himself wearing the clothes of a dead friend. Wearing the clothes of a young man he's not met. He’s watched them and wondered if they’re rare people who don’t judge and condemn others.mock or mimic the closure of the camera. a good man again. It’s Kristina. Kristina knocks and opens the door before Relius turns to say come in. shaking his shoulders inside the suit shaped to another body. He sweeps his open hand slowly across one dark blue suit and then another. Kristina leaves the room before Relius can ask about their guest. he asks the mirror. the odd mingling of architecture with memory.
I think they’re your size. but widened with muscles he'd only seen before on his grandmother's hands. bending slowly at the knee every time she moves forward to roll the carpet. Maybe a bit snug. “You'll need one of these. He walks down the porch steps toward Kristina and unrolls the rug beside the one she's already begun to beat. Relius helps Kristina roll the hall carpet and take it outside. strong fingers. The rolled rug weighs heavier under his arm than he expected and he holds it over his shoulder when he opens the door and looks out at Kristina who seems to be chasing after an enormous insect with an oversized flyswatter. Relius bends down and lifts the racket with his free hand.” It’s still early. not as thick as her husbands. and Kristina asks Relius to help her beat the rugs in the snow. Dressed in their son’s work clothes. “You've got it upside down. He watches her hands work over the rounded top of the rolled rug.” . Careful not to drop the rug.his bare feet and smiles. “There’s shoes for that suit in the closet. Her age shows in the patience she offers her languorous right leg. honey.” she says. pointing with the racket towards another racket leaning against the doorframe.
The rounded edges of the paddle are dark and smooth. . The wicker weave of her racket looks worn yet tight. indistinct outlines of the designs of the upturned rugs. “I guess I should start at this end this time. He looks at the faded. That's what we're cleaning. darkest in a rough square surrounding the spot where a table protected the carpet from soiled footsteps. even stroke. shaking her head just a bit when they lift their rugs and shift them to a cleaner spread of new snow.” Relius watches Kristina bend over the large living room carpet and begin striking at it again with the wide face of the racket.” he sighs. The snow beneath Kristina's rug looks flat and soiled. He studies her method. The snow beneath Relius' rug did not flatten evenly and gets lighter from the end where he began toward the end where he lifts the rug to move it. and copies it. impressed with Kristina's strength and endurance. After a few minutes he feels the muscles tighten in his arms but tries to work through the stiffness to keep pace with Kristina. She smiles at his efforts. his aunts. and he hears a small burst of air push out of the way each time Kristina brings the racket down in a quick. His grandmother would have been able to do it.“What?” “The top of the rug should be facedown in the snow. Here let's turn it over. He thinks of his mother.
the racket resting on his thigh. She smiles and waits for Relius to finish holding his breath and exhale slowly to let the medicine fill the pockets of his lungs. and in five days they must have heard a hundred different ways of milking cows. always trying to improve her mother’s way of making pie crusts. “ She pauses to lift a corner of her rug and inspect the color of the snow. but I like it. “Have you ever cleaned a rug this way before?” she says. His family was too far away. John told them. and he’d always wanted to experience a farmer’s holiday. shoveling manure and pitching hay. They were there for five days. it's not the cold. “This cold air hurting your asthma?” “No. “Nope.” . I think I'm just not in the best shape.” she says.” “It takes a little more work than paying someone to do it with machines and soaps. She felt that way too when she was a girl. She tells Relius about another of John’s friends that came to visit with him on Thanksgiving. Seems to work pretty well though. No. I can't say that I have. that young people always want to make things better.She watches him where he stands in his thoughts. his eyes following the vines that twist in a mirrored weave on either side of the rug. “Maybe it’s getting old that makes the past important. Kristina says it didn’t bother her.
He doesn't respond. Setting her racket against the doorframe she tells Relius that she has to get started with the baking for tonight.Kristina walks over to the door. He looks at the snow under his rug. He stares up at the spray of water and lets it warm his neck and chest. “Don’t worry. a liar to Matty and Kristina. laughing at this strange image of himself. and asks him to finish beating the rug on his own. but takes up her racket where she left it beside the door and begins to strike the rugs again. the worries that haunt. “you have plenty of time to nap and wash up before the company arrives. Sudden tears again. Nothing there. knowing that he helps them as a good . then sits for a moment on the porch steps.” In the shower. always nothing there. She tells him about the fresh bread and pie she’s making. and knows she asks the silence if he’s finished. unsure of himself in this place. Relius takes his time smacking the rugs with his racket.” she says. and they return the rugs to the house. the thick stream of water touches Relius’s neck like stiff fingers. enjoying the funny pain in his arms and legs. looking down at the snow she steps through and sighs to herself. He opens his eyes constantly to search for the wet hands behind him. hoping to leave him already enjoying their sweet aroma in anticipation. He calls to Kristina. He hears Kristina call out to him.
drowning him in the falling water and dropping him to the bottom of the tub where he stares at the spiraling drain and watches his own reason spin into a twisted hole where he hears nothing now but the splash of water and the sucking sounds of pipes ready to siphon the blood from his body and the hope from his mind. in a small bathroom with pink tiles and soft blue walls. knowing that he smiles as a gentle man would smile. and trembles and waits for the crying to stop. certain that each gesture. and he feels the press of years upon years of guilt and shame smother his body. and curses him and damns him with charges of a life lived through deception. and talking as Relius in this house.man would help them. stands naked in the shower now. receives him already at the end of his life. . unfolds and unfolds his soul before a boundless court that judges him. naked. and waits for the water to fall as water and the drain to take the foamy soap. white basin. working as Relius in this house. and his hands to be his hands and lift his body as his body and shut off the water and draw the curtain and let him stand as Relius. and he curls. though he lives now. cold and wet. and he tumbles low. consume. into the large. however guilty or innocent. put strictures on his heart. shorten his breath. devouring the tranquility of showering as Relius in this house. rupturing the calm of spanking rugs and flattened snow. reveals him as an evil man. fetal. each word he speaks consumes him in hypocrisy. waking. consume him.
blurry in the steamy mirror. He dries himself.He wraps the towel around his body. and pats his tears. and dresses in the Flaigs’ son’s clothes. but will not turn toward the spectered image of himself. .
TWO Buck sleeps under the table. adds a few words. Letter to himself. and the thin ashes. curling and blackening. reads the first few words once more. The cover is used. Five days have gone by since Relius arrived. Yes he . He erases a few words in the beginning of the letter. Letter to no one. a man he might see. dusty. float briefly with the smoke toward the open flue. It burns quickly. At the table he takes up one of the books he'd bought in the town bookstore. then twice. and then reads it again. looks at the flames. He finishes reading. the gilded letters faded to faint outlines on the false leather. reading the last few sentences in the pulsing light of the burning logs. Lifting himself off the bench he walks to the fire with the letter in his hand. and then drops the letter into fire. Relius writes a letter and reads it once. some glowing. He smells the mold he sees growing in small circles in the margins of the page where he notes his thoughts in light pencil marks. barking in a high voice at an animal he might dream of.
He’d forgotten to ask Matty about tonight’s guest. not wanting to sound too curious or nervous about their company. He sets the book among the others on the table and walks toward the door. Relius finds a priest. The priest stops rubbing his leather-gloved hands together and meets Relius' eyes with a slight look of surprise in his raised brow. He marks the page with his pencil and waits for the knock at the door. The muted. “Hello. not wanting to interfere at all with the visitors to their home. Relius whispers to the fire. Now. hoping to smooth the rough guilt that wrinkles his face. What will he ask me. that neither Kristina nor Matty would have been troubled or offended to tell him. harsher. and draws a faint line under Mephisto's mockery of Faust's student. listening to the second knock he thinks of how silly he was not to ask. Men judge more bitterly than women.” he says. heavy thump of shoes stomping on the porch draws Relius from his book. men challenge themselves in other men and search strangers for holes. deliberate breaths. he thinks. and he felt too embarrassed to ask Kristina. looking down at the drops of melted snow on his . in silent. and Relius knows that their guest is a man. come at them with more distrust. taking long. son.writes in the margin. The third knock sounds impatient. louder than the previous two. There. sudden discomfort.
“Please. Here. come in. please.” he says. Filled with an overwhelming awareness of his own presence. why him. “Tell me. “ “Yes. They stare at one another and stare together at the fire.black shoes. Relius looks for repeated patterns in the flames. He belongs here. The priest watches the coals glow in different shades of red. Why him. at ease.” . walking through the door. he’ll not want me here. accustomed to being a guest in people's homes. Father. I'm Father William. “you must be the young man Matthias found in the berry grove. Of course.” he says. “Mind if I come in?” “Oh. I . The priest leans forward and Relius turns toward the motion.” Relius steps back from the door. let me take your coat. he asks himself. I'm sorry. extending his hand.” Relius watches Father William walk comfortably into the room.-“ “I’ve heard a lot about you. The priest settles familiarly onto the couch and waits for Relius to sit in the green chair to his left. Relius tells him that Matty and Kristina are still in the barn and agrees with Father William that he arrived a bit early. just a few days short of a month. Relius clumsily tries to fit the coat onto a hanger in the closet. that right?” “Yeah. as he finally settles the heavy wool coat on the hanger and keeps it from slipping off the plastic shoulders to the floor. “you've been here almost a month now. yes.
”it would be a shame for someone to take advantage of them.” Here is the judgment Relius anticipated. their friend.“Do you like it here?” “Do you mean here. telling Relius that he’d already had two cups . It would be a shame for anyone to take advantage of their kindness. and he’ll respect this man. to make him question as though he’d not already questioned himself. “Yes.” Relius agrees.” the priest says slowly.” And he watches the priest to see if he hears his own words turned on him. and he’ll calm his temper with social habit. if he hears his friendship and beliefs cast into the mold of manipulator and deceiver. I like it. he’ll not say what this priest would have him say. with Matty and Kristina? Yes. The priest declines the offer. he’ll remember Matty and Kristina. he’ll not succumb. the manipulative accusation to make him doubt himself. He offers the priest a cup of coffee. Is there more accusation behind that deliberate patience? Concerned with his own impatience Relius knows he should leave the room. But he’ll not offer himself to this doubt. They're good people. The priest stares at him silently. “they are good people. A thin layer of anger sweats into the pores of Relius’ face and between his skin and shirt. their goodness.” “Yes.
saying the same things.” he hears Craig tell Marty. That's the way of the Lord. “Where are we going?” Craig says. Craig lets out an excited cheer. knowing these vile fantasies always come to nothing. but simply stares at the length of road cut from darkness in the headlights. though wondering if the priest includes excessive faith among the human inclinations governed by his platitudes. an uncomfortable sense that he hates the very life he wants to keep people like Relius from changing. Luke drunkenly confident that deer won't cross in front of them. and seeing the same people. and he knows he'll stop there. “Maybe I'll get some new pussy. and would change nothing if they did come to pass.” Relius walks into the kitchen.today. son. He sees the green lights above the bar in the . “We're almost out of beer. that other cars won't hit them when he lets the truck slide into the other lane when speeding around curves. but that's not a place to go he thinks. He can only imagine a night of going to the same package store. “Nothing in excess. He grips the steering wheel harder and presses his foot onto the accelerator.” Luke nods. He feels a tension in his thoughts. and Marty nervously echoes him. He can't imagine a place to go. He knows this road takes them by the bar. They race toward nothing. and he scowls at them. Relieved. nothing in excess. the same bar.
” he says. He drops the truck into neutral and lets the car glide down the slope into the parking lot. “How many beers we got left?” he says.” he says. we'll wait here. He slides open the window behind Marty and pushes him aside roughly to reach back and grab three more beers . He wants to hit them. You want to stay. Luke looks at the cars and thinks of their owners inside. into embarrassing himself less. Luke shakes his head and Marty tells Craig that he's staying with Luke. Craig opens the cooler and takes a quick count. “about eight or nine. “Hell I ain't goin in there by myself.” “What about you. you comin or stayin?” Marty looks at Luke to see if he changes his mind.” “We ain’t goin in?” “I'm not. and he lifts his foot from the gas pedal. “Ain't we goin inside?” “Craig.” They climb back into the truck’s cab and Craig throws the empty bottles out the window and onto the parking lot. He steers onto the dirt lot behind the bar and stops. “Why don't we go to Mercer? We can get cigarettes along the way. dejected. Marty. still thinking of the girls he imagined waiting for him. I'll just drink what we've got. he wants to push Craig from the truck and punch Marty into thinking. you stay. and not being called an idiot. why don't you go get us some cigarettes.distance. and there are few other cars here tonight. Only the regulars leave their cars and trucks here.
Craig hands one of the beers over Marty's head to Luke. and the lights of oncoming cars break in small crystals on the glass. A few raindrops still wet the windshield. and pushes away Marty's hand when he reaches for the beer he set between his legs.from the cooler.” he says. and his lower lip hangs open and wet. The road away from town shines black in their lights. Luke nods and looks peripherally at Marty beside him. and wishes that they would not mend. and Luke looks at them before they vanish behind the truck. and there are only a few cars in the parking lot. then sits down and stares at the road unwinding in front of them. . Craig leans forward and lowers the volume of the radio. and the heavy bass pulsing in the truck holds them still in frightened uncertainty. that the water would stop flowing where he severed it with his tires. “Fuck. but sees only the night they'd already passed through. The truck cuts through runs of water that flow from the hills to the river. A whitetail deer and her fragile slink stare into their passing. Marty leans forward and tries not to let himself be pushed against Luke. “There's a market up here. He looks for the rivulets in his mirror. knowing that Luke doesn't like to be touched. The Convenient Store stands just outside of town. He sees Marty's fingers twitch slowly. Marty's heavy head bounces with the bumps in the road.” he says. languid even in his sleep.
“Should we wake his lazy ass. “Just leave him alone. “My friend will be right up with a case of beer. Craig stumbles from the truck to the door. The chime above the door rings and another young man walks into the store. . “This shit's warm.” he yells. you just get off work.“There's niggers live by here. You think we'll get lucky?” Luke says nothing. the young man says. and turns to watch Craig walk through the narrow aisle toward the register. Luke ignores him and asks the nervous woman behind the counter for a pack of cigarettes. and Luke shakes his head.” and Luke hears his voice and turns to look at him. The woman meets his eyes and smiles. “On my way home. “And spics too.” she says. and he and Craig get out the car and stare at Marty from their open doors. and he tries to imitate the sober walk he sees in Luke.” Craig says. “How you doing tonight.” he adds smiling. His feet crisscross in front of him in slow deliberate steps.” he tells him. He wears a tired face and looks briefly at Luke and the woman behind the register.” Craig says with a drunken laugh. Inside he follows Luke's finger pointing him toward the back of the store and pulls a case of beer from the floor in front of the coolers.
Craig joins Luke at the register and drops the case of beers down heavily on the counter.” he sneers. He throws his money on the counter and waits for his change. “ Craig lifts the beer and taps his finger on the counter. The young man keeps walking. closing his fists at his sides. “Not yet. and hisses “fucking nigger” at his back. “Now's not the time. and . He scans the rounded mirrors in the ceiling for the black man and taps Luke on the shoulder and points up to the curved reflection saying look at him. “You sell to niggers here. mister. wanting to see the young man make the mistake of walking down the aisle where Craig has dropped his case of beer for the second time. They walk out the door. “Just leave it. not looking away.” the woman says.” Luke says.” Luke hears him say.” Luke says. looking from left to right at the sides of the aisles but not back at the drunk boy with the beer. “You just buy your beer and get out”. staring at him. “You got a problem.His lips narrow and he smirks at the young man. “I don't want any problems. He leans toward the woman and threatens her to tell no one about them. Craig's eyes narrow when the young man walks past him. He watches him over his shoulder.
who smiles and waves to the police officer. and he lets the glass door close. Marty wonders who him is. A police car pulls into the parking lot and stops behind their truck. and if Luke is all right to . but neither man tells him. The police officer walks to Luke's side of the truck and taps his flashlight on the window. Craig is laughing. “I'm getting him home now. blocking Luke from pulling away from the building. My friend here just had too much to drink and maybe said some things he shouldn't have. “Everything's fine.” the police officer says. “Everything all right here. “We gonna wait for him?” he asks Luke. Luke pulls the lighter away from his cigarette. officer. and lowers the window. Minutes pass. but Luke took the keys from the ignition. we didn't threaten anyone. He doesn't see him.Craig stops to look once more for the young man. Threatening people. That right?” “No sir. but the young man doesn't come out of the store.” The police officer asks where home is for them.” “Got a call that you boys were making some trouble.” He points to Craig. They open the doors at the same time. and he looks back and forth in unnecessary confusion. trying to turn on the radio. Marty is awake now.
Got that? That’s a warning. Craig begins to speak. After five miles the police car turns onto another road. “Listen boys. “ Craig turns and watches the police officer get into his car. his fierce voice echoing in the truck. and he waits for the police officer to move his car. He shines a beam of light on Marty and asks what's wrong with him. and Luke does not say a word. “What if that cop didn't think you were so fucking funny and decided to check us out? You know how much trouble you could've gotten us . but Luke cuts him down again.” Luke shouts. I'll take you down myself.” he mutters and looks to Luke for approval. and they watch its lights disappear behind them. “Do you think he was followin us?” Craig says. concentrating on driving straight and not going too fast. Now get out of my town. “Just shut up. If I get called out again tonight and find any one of you causing trouble. and nods his agreement when Luke tells him that Marty is slow. so I want to see you pull out of here and head back home.get them there himself. The police car follows them for a few miles toward their town. and then pulls away from the building and out of the parking lot. frightening Marty and angering Craig. “You're a fucking idiot.” Luke tells him. “Nigger lover.” he says. “I don't want any trouble from you tonight.
shaking his head. Alone in the kitchen Relius fills the teapot and remembers his mother's tears. That priest. then turns the truck around and disappears. His mother took him to a priest. but he knows that Luke is stronger. He draws into himself and stares at the light posts they pass along the road. worried that her twenty-year-old son had lost himself when he'd lost his faith in God.into. He'd rid himself of God. wondering if this one knows that he's long left their lies. that Luke has fought more. “You all right. Marty ain’t but seventeen and he ain’t supposed to be drinking. their holy bastardization.” Luke says. Father . relieved to be away from Luke. He does not speak. wondering where Luke will go now. her sorrowful effort to explain annulment to her children. They begin the short walk up the street and to their houses when the truck stops hard beside them. God damn idiot. But he'd lost neither. what Luke will do.” he tells the percolating water. “Don't forget I'm coming by at nine tomorrow morning. Marty.” he asks. certain that there was nothing to lose. “Priests. “ Words boil in Craig's mind. certain that there was nothing to find. and does not say a word when Luke leaves Marty and him at the end of their street.
his own words of love. Angry now. Relius searches his memory to know if he thought then as he believes now that cold morality cannot break the bounds of history. I don’t share your arrogant claims that the thoughts I use to fill the insecure voids of my life guard for me the right to call my hate for others a loving pity that they should not believe in my decorated nothingness as I do. that my perspectives are less limited than theirs. I respect people for themselves. But what now. he wrote. moral hypocrite. to right and wrong. No.Espinoza. But he never gave that letter to Father Espinoza. Furious at his failure to love Renee before her death. he wrote to the priest. he wrote in his letter to Father Espinoza. cannot bear the burden of reality on claims of truth. Furious at the years he'd lost trying to avoid the judgments of others. and he nodded and said “yes” and “yes” again to every word the priest spoke to rid Relius of Relius and make of him a hopeful. warned Relius of false love and immorality. and he was silent when Father Espinoza wrapped his arms around his shoulders. not for whether or not they agree with me. I can’t hate people and judge them the way you do. too false to trust in his own gestures. what now? . my need to judge is not so severe that I would consign babies to limbo because they'd not yet learned to point their chubby fingers at the blessed and the damned. I’d never assume that I know more than others. My morality doesn’t walk into a room with me.
digs his thumbs into his cheeks and tries to massage the fiery tears from his eyes. lets the door close. he leans against the sink. celery. She nods. reluctant to bring out his tears. Relius walks toward her and lifts the lid on the pot nearest him on the stove.” she says. and stares at Relius with a frown. smiles sadly. offering his thanks and his faith over the food.” She stops. Small cuts of beef float among slices of carrots. making him wonder about Relius’ lack of faith. and chunks of potato. Embarrassed in his solitude and his private rage. “I'll see what's keeping him. onion.Relius hears voices in the other room. Father William says grace. Laughter. and does not trace the points of the cross on his body. “Do you mind if I taste?” Warm. Relius lifts his face from his hands and looks at her. His stillness stirs silent ire in the priest. and walks across the kitchen toward the stove. Soothing. Kristina opens the door and walks into the kitchen looking back over her shoulder saying. Relius keeps his hands on his lap. “You'd better wash up a bit before you go back out there. Tiny bubbles of oil swirl where Relius dips the spoon. Delicious. Kristina taps Father William on the arm and asks him to pass Relius' bowl . wanting to hug him.
They talk about Pascal and the Jansenists. He holds the bowl while Kristina fills it. It’s Pascal’s obsession with limits that Relius admires. You know that don't you? Do you ever read the Bible? It was very important to Pascal. and then sets it on the plate in front of Relius. his posture.” he says. and art in the world could never overcome the power of the Bible. Relius disagrees with Father William reluctantly at first. “bon appétit.” The priest leans from the table and takes up the first book. Relius does not answer the priest’s question. philosophy. Silverstein's. They eat quietly until Father William looks at the pile of books where Relius had removed them from the table. “Are those yours?” he asks. the limits of perspective that kept such a great man humble. not wanting to make his hosts uncomfortable. “Pascal?” Relius nods. Relius nods slightly – feeling like a stranger at this table. But Father William cared only for the limits of philosophy. “All the literature.to her so she can serve the stew. his . “I got them at Mr.” The priest looks for religion in the young man’s face. He thinks of his faith. “You were raised Catholic?” he says suspiciously.
He walked the city and stood in front of imposing churches.” he told Renee. god. His memory skips now. “God’s just an echo. and he walked to Saint Basil’s.beliefs. When Renee died he tried to find god. some who smelled of urine. and one day. next to a hundred burning votive candles. breathing in the dust. as he wept through the city. counting the few hikers on the trails . Relius stood beside the last pew. but he kept his hands at his sides and his patience revealed nothing more than bare. stared at Haec Est Domus Dei. for a voice to tell him something. Waited for something to appease his ghosts. white walls. gray men and women who did not work. They were at the Grand Canyon. and he read the Latin above the door. their intricate doors and enormous knobs looking antiquated and out of place amid the tall glass buildings and rushing footsteps. a soulful touch to calm him. Renee died and phantom thoughts replaced her. guided along a stream of images by the word god. and waited to feel a real presence. waited for Him among the altar and the pews. by the empty word without a predicate. and a search for faith pricked at his mind. Inside there were only elderly people. and waited for a reason to go inside. and wondered if it could be true. And he almost prayed. he stopped in front of the church again. others who stared with mournful fear out of their prayers and toward the empty altar. sighing together. and small wooden carvings of the death of the man hanging above the front of the room.
That’s what they hear when they pray. Relius.” he hears the priest say. like another prayer. “You can't see all the way to the bottom of the canyon. another pedantic notion to set himself above others because his arrogance puts him closer to the specious source of the fantasy that guides his . And even if God is an echo. “That's God. People think that something is there. Just an echo. doesn’t it make you feel better to believe that this isn’t it? That we’re not alone? It’s just hope. “. disappointed with the moment. replacing Renee’s voice.” And Renee yelled out “hello!” and they heard her response from off the canyon walls. Renee had told him about a Chinese artist who came to the canyon and changed his paintings forever. they hear the echo of their screams when they go to church the next day. “Why can't you just be happy?” she sighed. enormous emptiness.against the hundreds of cars that passed them in the parking lot.” she said. . . and you can't see what's around that bend over there. but the echo will come back to you from there no matter what. so they believe it. “It's beautiful here. “its beautiful. When they’re desperately sad and scream to god at night.” Her words fade and her gentle presence vanishes. “ She was silent and listened to someone else's Hello rebound through the canyon. a conversation Relius was sure the priest had shared only with himself. been here seven years. “He felt humbled by it.” he told her then.
Setting the cup noisily onto its saucer he tries not to sound too sudden in saying its time for him to go. with the good food Kristina prepared and few words from Matty. discussing the town parish. staring at the burning logs. “It's a nice place to stay. they tell Relius. The priest speaks often. he says the young man's name. and he leans toward Kristina as he receives his hat and coat. and waiting for the firewood gone to ash to mark the moment of farewells. “The boy has to do what's right. Relius hears their footsteps sound ever fainter in the snow and .” Relius says.life in the guise of an unfathomable mystery. and wonders at the worthiness of Relius. Kristina. and a girl supposed to have a baby soon and whose parents are trying to force the father to marry her. Father William swirls the tiny bits of leaves in the final sip he does not drink. “Relius. Shortly after the priest leaves Matty and Kristina prepare for the evening work in the barn. Matty. and says.” Father William tells Kristina and Matthias Flaig. thinks of the goodness of the Flaigs. thank you. The evening passes quickly. Near the end of the evening they sip from their cups in silence.” Meeting Relius' eyes.” and steps out into the snow. ready to walk home as he walks everywhere. “thank you.
They both think of the glasses on the shelf. Kristina had pulled all the glasses from this cupboard when she’d asked Relius to help her set the table. She smiles at the funny boy and hopes his dreams don’t haunt him. “Damn it. just a little sore from the carpet smacking. He dries the silverware and sets the pieces in the drawer. unsure of how to become part of the harmony he senses. Kristina walks toward Relius from the kitchen as he steps out of the bathroom and thanks him for doing the dishes. Relius forces the last two glasses onto the shelf and wanders through the quiet house briefly before deciding to go to bed.gravel and steps inside to clear the cups and saucers from the table and wash the dishes. if she noticed his sloppy attempt. the spoons a complete disarray of curves set over deep stillness. .” he smiles. Worse yet. He closes the drawer and puts the cups and glasses away. Same problem. “He’s a funny boy” she told Matty when he almost broke a glass trying to open the over-stuffed cupboard. Kristina amused to think that Relius didn’t see her grab three extra glasses from the china cabinet in the dining room. Now the cupboard is full and Relius has a glass in each hand. He tries to set the dishes in the cupboard to match Kristina’s perfection. Relius wondering how she fits them in. He tells her his arms are fine. but even stacked neatly they still look like foreign hands had put them there. His knives and forks look cluttered atop Kristina’s. Relius examines the room in calm frustration.
He sits up in bed. and he feels those vibrations when he settles the clock on his chest to search for the off button with his tired fingers. As on other mornings. The green minute bars no longer glow. other moments of stillness when he waits in silence to sleep or rise. and feels the press of solitude on his body. a blackness he inhales.He goes to bed thinking that he likes the warm. dusty smell they bring home from the barn. Quite again. The lamp still off. other nights. Moonlight does not shine on the windowsill nor glow in the wavy. A thick expanse of clouds covers the morning endlessly. the light dormant in the bulb. and already feels within himself. It vibrates the small table beside the bed. and the small white clock explodes into a buzz of unwinding tension. A quiet click. just the muffled ticking under the sheets. pulls again at the comforter. emptied by darkness. enshadowing the landscape in a somberness that Relius stares into. and he pulls the heavy comforter over his arms to keep warm for just a few minutes more. and is happy that he agreed to join them in the early morning. Relius steps slowly toward the window . he looks into the room. thick glass at the bottoms of the windows. insulating the earth. having brightened and disappeared in the night. though Relius knows he'd set the clock to wake him at four.
confusing the constellation of this time and this place with the memories he holds of Renee. “Damn. and the future he wished for. A shuddering moment he's relieved and remorseful to be shaken from by three quick knocks at the door. Alone. Too tired to settle the melancholy that lingers from confusing this view. in his heart. however intense or dull. He touches the darkness where it cools the window and leans toward the small steam circles his breath leaves on the glass. his emotions grip at the longing always painfully present. .through the room he remembers but does not see. An earth of distinctions forced into seamless singularity by the silent encroachment of blackness into the night. and his heart to pause less between each sudden constriction. and his pupils shrink slightly to seek the phantom Renee illuminated in his recollection. invisible to him in this night. feeding from his breaths and forcing his chest to rise and fall and rise and fall more quickly. this silence.” he breathes to the blindness of his open eyes. Nothing to fix his thoughts on. wishes for too late. trying to contain the sadness. in the fluids and corporeal textures that cradle the sad memories he imagines pulsing in his chest. this self he stands in now. Alone too early. fingers spread wide. still infantile. as though in a dream his eyes focus on images of Renee. He presses his hand against his chest. Nothing to look at. this night.
Relius laughs a no thank you to Matty's offer to let him drive the tractor. Matty maneuvers the tractor perfectly over the worn path from the garage to the field. vibrate the same under your hands. “We have to get the beet first. trying to look awake and have this good man believe that he really will be ready in a minute. large and small. He brings the trailer to a stop at the end of a pile of something thirty feet long and eight feet wide.Relius had hoped he'd be washed and dressed and ready to work before Matty knocked. as he pulls one wide door open. Matty begins pulling the rocks from the bottom of the end of the tarp and . feet and seat. The darkness they walk through toward the barn already yields to the push of day and the trees and the hills and the homes of the horizon already begin to pull themselves from the dark oneness of the night. and he settles instead onto the rounded metal over the large rear wheel to Matty's right. pointing to the other with his chin. The tractors in Peru smell the same. just noticing the light coming in from under the door. its length covered with a blue tarp weighed down on the sides and on top with a random collection of rocks. They don't go into the barn but the garage beside it.” Matty says. but he looks down at himself now. Why didn't the light get his attention before? He opens the door and smiles and nods knowingly to Matty.
and thin slices of ice crack as the beet roll to the ground. cooling them when they lift the edges of the tarp from the ground. Relius guided by Matty's deliberate patience. a mouse maybe. Sugar beet. the orange yellow inside visible where a small animal. Neither man wants to rupture this quiet hour. and they pull the tarp back over the pile. had already begun to feed. They pull the tarp back some more. They work together at an even pace. Matty hands Relius one of the small pitchforks he'd pulled from the bed of the trailer. the silty water spilling over their hands. Relius assuming that Matty was accustomed to the silence of filling the trailer alone. Once they’ve cleared enough rocks. Soothed by . Matty smiles. “These are the beet. Matty nods to Relius. Both men fork a few last beet into the trailer then set their forks on top of the pile they'd collected. They'd not talked as they worked. “You'll get the hang of it. his method. Relius drives his fork into the pile and pulls one beet a foot from the others before it slips from the sole tine that held it and rolls under the trailer.” Relius hears. Matty believing that Relius might need this time to meditate on the morning and to reconsider their evening with Father William.Relius echoes his actions. He drives the tongs of his fork into the pile and lifts three brown beet into the trailer. They roll the loose beet back toward the pile then pull the tarp over the open end and weigh down the edges with the rocks and the stones.” Matty says to Relius' eyes.
Relius follows Matty into the third small portal of the silo. “You might want to cover your face with that kerchief there.” Matty hands Relius the larger of the two forks and tells him to test the meal with the fork until he gets a feel for it and can manage to toss larger clumps of it through the opening and into the trailer below.” “Suit yourself. the silence of a sun still rising. the silence of occasional bird song. tosses the pitchforks in and hears them land just under the opening before he crawls in and stands next to Matty. “I think I'll be all right.” .” Matty tells him. They climb up. supporting large loads on the tines and tossing them effortlessly and without looking through the opening in the silo. “I'll let you know when we're done. I figure about a foot down. “How much do we need?” Relius asks. then back onto the road. They pull themselves back onto the tractor and Matty maneuvers the trailer along a large brown circle in the grassy field. Matty asking Relius to carry two small pitchforks. and finally stops carefully under the ladder leading up to the various doors at different levels of the silo. Relius watches Matty at work with the smaller fork. around the barn.the silence they hear.
” he says after a long silent breath.” he continues. and turns to see Matty laughing quietly. Relius . carefully. He wonders how high the pile might be. Relius hears one of his efforts splash noisily against the silo wall missing the portal. lifting a load slowly. maybe a foot wide. whether or not it will be difficult to climb down the ladder. Means well. A dark ring above the meal on the silo wall. “you didn't like Father William very much did you?” Matty leans on his fork and watches Relius struggle to lift his fork where he had plunged it too deeply into a thick patch of meal too far from the edge of the wall.” Matty nods. marks the progress they've made. fading into a silence that Relius feels compelled to fill. but without betraying the goodness of this man. But he's a good man.” Matty says when he stops laughing. “That's okay. “Seeing him just brought back a lot of memories. and tossing it down to the unseen trailer. Relius listens to the corn meal strike the wall of the silo and sweep down into the wagon.They begin work quietly together. “I didn't dislike him.” Matty's words linger in the silo. “he can be a bit too much sometimes. You'll get used to him. and finding himself breathing in rhythm with the gentle man. Relius trying to imitate Matty's method. “So tell me.
These thoughts. “Your mother?” Relius stops. Nothing helped his mother. my mother mostly.follows the ring with his eyes.” Relius tells Matty of different churches in different suburbs. waiting for words to come. all of them offering his mother the same faith. demand attention and quiet. Matty watches the young man think and absorb himself into considerations of what to say and how much to let this silence linger. Waiting. “it is about my family. He sets his fork in the meal and stands with one hand wrapped around the other on the end of the long handle. “I .” and he stares at the shapes in the grain and listens to Matty’s breathing. “Yes. He lets his left hand hang at his side. waiting to know if there is anything he'd want to talk about. and being catholic did not keep his mother from finding easy offers of hope behind every pudgy-faced preacher. holds the end of the fork with the right. “Yes. these conversations with their possible revelations. He tells Matty that he’d rather talk about it another day. as if the preachers had agreed to share the same horrid artificiality of their suits and sermons. sometime when things seem clearer in his head. Relius says. wicked faith he called it. My mother.” he says.
Relius was a child when his mother took him to that charlatan. He continues. All around him. “Bring this boys father back home. he didn’t know what it meant to make a private prayer out loud. and Relius recognizes compassion in them. In the party room of an apartment building we drove by all the time. All he asked for was that his father return. and looked up at the ugly ceiling and repeating Relius’s prayers to God. He didn’t understand what it meant for the preacher to press his hands into the backs of his ears. And his mother wept. Matty does not look down when Relius' eyes come even with his. approval. in front of strangers. my son?” the preacher said. bring him back.” Relius says.hated it. “What do you pray for. Lord.” And Relius felt his knees buckle and his legs begin to tremble. And the preacher pulled at the backs of his ears. “She took me to an evangelist once. a memory of a stale room filled with gray aluminum chairs and frail people still hoping for God’s presence in the final days of their lives. “seeing my mother so desperate for hope and having so many people be so willing to lie to her about it. in front of old people. And Relius wept.” It’s a bitter memory. being helped to the ground by the preacher’s young assistants. but he does not tell Matty about feeling . the elderly men and women succumbed to heaviness of their prayers – collapsing around him.” Relius looks to Matty's eyes for interest.
” . Relius looks down at Matty through the portal and watches him kick softly at the meal piled into the shaft surrounding the ladder. surprised at the pile of meal they'd tossed from the silo.” he says.” Matty says. “It was Rip Van Winkle. “I hate that memory. the priest still deserves a chance for the good he’s done in this small community. He jumps from the wagon and helps Matty sweep up any meal that fell from the wagon onto the ground. climbing out of the portal and down the ladder. “I think we're done here for now. Once Matty is off the ladder Relius follows. Washington Irving wrote it. the guy who slept twenty years in one night. As Relius spoke Matty had walked over to his side and was standing close enough now to offer a gentle pat on his shoulder. and even if it was the same religion that pushed Relius’s mother to wander from church to church looking for answers.” Matty says. “What?” “Rip Van Winkle. It saddens Matty to hear the pain in Relius’s memory. and he tries to show compassion while reminding Relius that Father William isn’t like the preacher in his memory.frightened.
The rungs in the trailer clear away most of the meal.“Oh yeah. and Matty backs the trailer in toward it. and learns from her how to feed the cows. and Relius follows Kristina now. He stops the tractor. and drives the black bristles of the broom into every hole and around any bump or bolt that might have kept some of the feed from unloading. When they open the door to the barn they see Kristina already spreading new straw behind and under the cows. anxious . the dust or the sun. wondering if Matty asked Kristina or if something in the morning. then mounts the tractor once more. knowing that nothing here is wasted.” Relius smiles. attach the suctions of the milking pumps. that's right. The beet and meal begin to move off the trailer and Matty watches the pile collect on the floor of the barn. Relius sweeps carefully. reminded him of a time in his life when he had read that story.” Kristina tells Matty. though Matty motions to Relius to take up the broom and sweep out all the remaining kernels and dust. and even how to mix the fresh milk with warm water for the delicate. all three. “He's doing pretty well. and presses a button at the back of the trailer. A large pile of hay runs down the center of the barn. loud enough for Relius to hear. moves it forward a few feet and lets the trailer finish emptying its load. They smile together.
dusty smell of the barn on his clothes and in his nose. and the young man finds soothing comfort in the melodies of the barn. the occasional moo. muscular tongues reach out to grasp at another delicious beet. the large eyes that follow him while the long. Relius smiles at himself.stomachs of the three young bulls in the back of the barn. He smiles. . laughs at the smallest calf that jumps again and again into its fresh pile of straw. He walks home with them that afternoon and catches faint hints of the warm.
and he hopes the footsteps he hears in the hallway do not stop at his door. “Yes. “Relius. you up?” Kristina asks from behind the closed door. and made a point of telling him not to set his clock for too early an hour. reluctant. come in. He knows that Matty and Kristina don’t work as hard on Sundays. and Relius looks forward to Sunday as a day of rest. She was kidding. since they wouldn’t let him come to the barn even if he did wake up. I'm up. but Relius knew that her maternal voice wanted him to rest and regain his strength. and he wants to join them in the morning for the early hours of minimal work demanded by the farm.THREE An exhausting week of work comes to an end. Relius knows from the color of the day that it is still early when he wakes. though concerned that maybe Matty hurt his shoulder again in the barn. but Kristina had insisted that he sleep in this morning.” Relius answers. “Everything all right?” .
he tells him through a small. the other leaves seeming to frame it with their . standing still. they fast until after mass on Sundays.“Yes. probably a half hour. waking him for church. Relius watches a solitary leaf shake at the end of a branch. morning laugh. The sun shines. Matty tells Relius that their son might be at church this morning. “Will you join us?” she says. As usual. he asked Kristina to wake Relius for church. Relius prepares to join them where they wait for him in the living room. Relius pauses. and still tired and hungry. promising to be ready once Matty is finished in the barn. He likes to meet them at church so he doesn’t get put to work on a Sunday.” she says. here she was. and explains that Father William had passed by the barn that morning on his way to the church and had asked the Flaigs if their young friend would be joining them at the services that morning. touching. everything's fine. studies the outline of Kristina's body in the long shadow cast on the floor. stretching. but believing as he did that Father William was a good man. wavering in the breeze. Walking quietly along the timber trail made while collecting the lumber for the building of the church. and the trees reach up along the path. then agrees to go with them. Kristina does not tell Relius that Matty did not know what to make of the odd interest Father William had taken in him. So.
The church is small and simple. and finds a peace he never saw in the pained faces of the crucified Christs in Peru. No one stands outside the church. the pews stained a dark brown. Kristina turns and looks at Relius and smiles. As they come over the top of the hill Relius sees the whiteness of the church through the trees. Kristina occasionally turning around to see if someone might come along behind them in the path. The gold on the altar seems foreign to this humility. shaded and cooled by the old growth conifers that stand here in the sanctuary of stony hills. Relius pauses on the stairs and lets an elderly couple pass him. and the woman leans toward Kristina and whispers something in her ear. They smile at him. The walls are white. then turns again toward the door and they go inside.stillness. and Relius looks up at the face of their Jesus. Kristina says. welcome him as a stranger. The trail passes between a few homes. along fields of corn and alfalfa. no one speaking. and everyone they see walks quietly and patiently through the large green doors. “John must already be inside. The church has enough windows to . Matty follows Relius' eyes toward the leaf and smiles. and Matty already walks ahead of them.” though not to Relius. and over two small streams before they walk through the woods again. trying not to rest her leg too obviously. They go on.
“my mother told me about you in a letter. do not wave really. child abductors. “I know. in his lips his father. His body itches with a nervous sweat.” John says. The stone is cold. and Relius follows the Flaigs toward their son. faces of delinquent fathers.” . John is Matty's height. “My name is Relius. In his hair and eyes he recalls his mother. The family hugs quietly.” he says. though thin like Relius. Matty and Kristina walk toward a pew to sit and read the notices for the day and to study the blackboard telling them the songs and verses for the day in large. “So you must be the unlucky guy my father found in the woods? They don't make you work too hard do they?” Relius laughs nervously at John’s smile.complete the Stations of the Cross. plastic letters. Matty showing the same reserve with Johnathan that Relius had seen with Kristina. The Flaigs see their son already waiting for them by the door on the western side of the church. will he try to match my face to the faces he might have seen on television or in a newspaper. Relius runs his fingers along the rim of the stone bowl holding the holy water but does not wet them. and he calms himself to speak. and each one lets in a different pattern of light. They lift their hands to one another. thieves and killers. Will he be suspicious of me. white. The young man extends his right hand to Relius.
already praying. Relius and John whisper through the service. Some faces looked serene. Beyond his closed . already distracted. and pinches the bridge between his eyes with his thumbs. and too many times they forgot to kneel when others knelt. some faces showed no emotion as they chewed the body of their savior and a few girls smiled at boys who knelt. already meditating. Eyes he cannot imagine. Relius watched the rows of people empty to form two lines in front of the altar. John says leads Relius toward the stairs to the balcony where they sit apart from Matty and Kristina. and he kneels beside John when he returns from communion. or stand when others stood. John pointing to people and things. Relius sat as he watched John join one of the solemn files down the center of the church. The blind presence of judgment. others sad. He leans toward his hands. his fingers braided in prayer. but Relius knew the priest would hesitate to set the wafer in his palm or on his tongue. offering brief accounts of where they came from. John encouraged Relius to walk down with him to receive the Eucharist. The heavy stares of the old. like ashen fingertips pointing at him and pressing into his soul. how long they've been here. and what they mean to this town. the eager questions of the young. Neither young man listens to the prayers or the sermon.The hollow notes of the organ interrupt the conversation.
this church. nor pray. and Relius does not move until John nudges him softly with his elbow and looks at his coat. and Relius wonders how much it means to him to consume the body of Christ. or daydreams. he hears voices whispering about him to their god. and they do not offer closure and farewell. condemning him. that his fiercest judge does not stare from the wrinkled face of an exhausted man or woman. nor does he watch in masquerade through the curious eyes of boys or girls.eyes he senses the enormity of the church. to love and to serve the lord. and quietly sit and listen. condemning him. and they close their thoughts. it's time to go. Father William speaks. and slowly lift themselves from the padded wood where they knelt. making Relius at once enormous and miniscule among them. Spilled from the privacy of his conscience. an animal of enduring fantasy. or a familiar shape of a toy. these people. Cradled in the hold of guilt. he forgets that he breaths for the inquisitors he dreads. though he hears words he'd heard before. John listens to the service now. the final prayers and songs. his imagination tinkers with this building. Young parents watch . and they see children search the different folds of gray for outlines of an ancient president's beard. pick up your coat. prayers. the sole voice in this silent house. Relius does not sing. saying with his eyes. the sky shares no colors with the clouds. Outside. singling him out.
in shape or shadow. and Frederick pinches harder into his brother's arm. silent among the animal outlines their children see in the clouds. “ “So what did you think of our church?” Kristina says to Relius as he walks . but still two. “Do you think Relius enjoyed it. A brother without eyes beside a brother without ears. hoping somehow to see through his brother's eyes. Frederick grasping tightly at his brother’s arm. and Frederick hears. Richard's head shakes constantly when he strains to understand the words he watches form on someone’s lips. “Too much in him to be undone so fast. The old brothers leave the church.” “You don’t think it helped him to be around people with hope?” “Don’t know if that’s what he’s looking for. Half a man and half a man. and guides him slowly down the stairs. follow their glances to the sky and look for God there.” Frederick mumbles to Richard.” Kristina asks her husband as the young men walk toward them. The cobbler and the carpenter. Richard sees. “Still cloudy. never one. even in the lonely world they experience for one another.” Matty says. grasping fast.their children. pressing a thumb softly into this brother’s arm as he always does before they reach the final step. “Doubt it. and they guide one another clumsily through a familiar world become loudly black and silently unknown.
but his words endure as atavisms. “Yeah. “One thing I noticed though was that your Jesus looks a lot happier than ours.closer to them. Richard struggles to greet them and mold his thoughts into conversation. The brothers wear brown suits.” Frederick says. There wasn’t any blood dripping down his forehead either. Kristina introduces him and Relius extends his hand.” “No thorns?” John says. “Did you find it very plain?” “No. A warm. tattered relics.” Matty begins to say. Relius glances at the spots on their hands. embarrassed and hurried to interpret his brother's noises as actual words. thinking of the thin layer of gold covering the altar of a random church among his memories of Peru. hands so similar to his grandfather's.” Relius says mildly. not plain. a new white to Relius. Has it always been that way?” “No. a soft color that reminds him of the warmed milk he fed to the new calf from an old green bottle with a plastic teat. “He's wondering about the young man with you. deprived of melody by vicious hemorrhage. blue white. the hands of a man who worked an entire life to harden them and . first to Richard then to Frederick. seized and deformed by time. but his words are quieted by the languorous approach of Frederick and his brother. Their shirts are white. and no one besides his brother understands.
Frederick's fingers rub against the roughness of Relius' face. and steps away from Relius without commenting on the person he might have discovered standing there in his blindness. No one speaks while Frederick reaches out to touch Relius' face. Frederick asks the Flaigs what they think .protect them from the hammer and nails of his duty to the citizens of this small town. Instead of asking about Relius. as Relius does. a common assumption that his blindness requires silence for him to see. the white hairs growing thin and awkwardly from their ears. when he was Relius' age. Frederick does not say a word. and Relius looks at the fragile finger gently tapping at his wrist and wonders if each touch could make him more visible in the elderly man’s darkness. Relius wonders at the familiarity of their small. and Relius says he probably needs to shave again. and then is silent as the pads of the fragile man's fingers touch lightly at his closed eyes and lips. His brother brings his searching hand to the young man. too. Standing silently as the Flaigs ask Frederick about his son in Pittsburgh. the misshapen brown felt hats. and Kristina wonders. what face Frederick's fingers sculpt in negative. caramel colored eyes. Relius smiles shyly and looks down as he hears the Flaigs describe him to Frederick. Frederick nods. turns his empty eyes toward the space between Relius and Matty and says his hair used to be as black as a raven’s.
teasing her. His immaturity. His responsibility. though eye one another in common disagreement when talk turns to the need for fathers to be home with the children.of the Daugherty girl over in the valley.” Frederick says. He remembers Nick with the boys ridiculing Rebecca. Relius hears wrinkles and labor in Frederick’s voice. they called her. he was like her. and John is surprised to hear that Nick could be the father of Rebecca Daugherty's child. Relius thinks of his own father's presence with regret. He cannot fathom the possibility. and John thinks of how much they were like her. of motherhood. A wannabe. the times when things were different. They talk about the sadness of the parents. He asks if he heard right. the implications. if not better. that she's pregnant. John and Relius listen quietly to the conversation. and how he has changed. “I hear Nick is the father. . and how she might have changed. mocking her zealous parents. when girls wouldn't run around like they do today. and John thinks of his friends whose fathers' absences would certainly have made life more bearable for them. telling her she was more like them than she’d admit. But he doesn't trust the image he creates of a girl whose present depends only on the past and not enough on the future. They talk about the father of the baby. and not married. He stares over the church and imagines a Rebecca he might describe to Relius.
Before the brothers turn and begin their patient walk toward their home. He thinks of that child now. of the child he wishes he had with Renee. Relius withdraws into his losses and regrets and stands in her absence rather than the presence of the Flaigs and these two withering men. They dreaded the possibility then. before they were married. still in college.Relius does not know Rebecca and has never met her parents or Nick. but he imagines they talk about the same things the other men talk about . Relius can’t hear them. they both believed she could be pregnant. When Renee died I wouldn't have been left so alone. their arms crossed.the weekend and the football games that afternoon. She was two months late once. unsure of their future together or apart. . and though every pregnancy test told them there was no child. Three young men. stand away from everyone. He thinks instead of having a child. maybe his age. I would never have killed that boy. I wouldn't be here now. conversations he does not hear. and he watches the children play and his eyes shift vacantly across the space between himself and the people beside him. that she hadn’t missed here period just because she’d been prescribed the wrong type of pill. and wishes the doctor had been wrong. And as he listens to everyone’s words dwindle into the silence of goodbye. Moments pass. staring at the crowd. If we had a child things would be different Relius believes.
Looking up from the twisted. about his efforts to convince everyone. The priest sees Relius standing beside Kristina and nods to her. the old priest. Relius’s stare lingers on the brothers and Matty and Kristina turn to wave to the priest standing now on the steps of the church. the adults. leans briefly on Relius' shoulder. heard how conservative they are. at a pace that could hardly bring them closer to anything but their final hours. the children. that an English mass would lead to perdition. knotted roots that lay across the earth of his next step along the fire trail. He tells Relius the story of Theodore Daugherty as a young man. smiling to her smile. laughing and shaking hands with the men and women who come to him with thanks or need. Matty and Kristina start along the path toward home with John and Relius following at a distance. before turning to another couple that stands before him waiting to talk about the baptism of their grandchild or the memorial mass for their son who died too young and as a stranger to them.Richard pats each member of the Flaig family on the arm. dragging their feet through small steps like penitents on constant pilgrimage. John asks Relius is he's already met the Daughertys. He describes Theodore . and whispers something everyone assumes is god bless you. The brothers walk slowly away. that English could never hold the mystery of God with the efficiency and beauty of Latin.
frail footbridge over the second stream and listens to the water and points out a good swimming hole to Relius. he said that if a man believed in his heart.Daugherty coming to his high school and lecturing to the students about how someone named Dante believed Latin was the real language of God. “Do you think he ever really read any Dante. and when a teacher asked him if he ever read any Dante. You know. “Rebecca's dad is pretty critical of other people. and he sighs at his wavy reflection in the water.” John stops in the middle of the quaint. much less by him. “Daugherty was right. I’m sure if Daugherty had read Dante he would have mentioned something about that too. John waves to his parents when they turn to say that they'll see him at home. That’s how he thinks.” Relius asks. their . “but I what I don’t understand is when he ever could have taken the time to read anything about Dante. the knowledge of his mind would follow. or something like that. and stands quietly amused and surprised when John tells him about studying Dante in college and reading what he had written about Latin. God and women.” “Didn’t Dante believe Eve couldn’t have said anything before Adam.” John says. Something like that.” he tells Relius. women being unworthy of the language of God. even though she talks first in the Bible?” “Yeah.
” “Like what?” “I learned that it was a sham. Daugherty. “but every time he was up .” Relius smiles. .” “. John laughs uneasily. I knew a kid once who used to jerk off underneath his robe. I don’t think you missed out on anything. But I didn’t get what you were supposed to get from it. . He told my parents they’d made a mistake by not forcing me to be an altar boy.silent walk together having let him recall more details about Mr. “He didn’t think anyone knew.” John says. Till I was fourteen.” Relius wonders if he’d said too much.” “You didn’t like it?” “No. “He once told me I wasn't going to amount to anything. The priests were mostly liars and the altar boys were probably the worst kids in the church. not wanting to join too willingly in the perverted boy’s disrespect.” “What?” “Nothing. altar boy.” Relius says. I just said altar boy.” “You were an altar boy?” “Yup. “I was an altar boy too when I was a kid. and offended John. I liked it.
“No. Just because you wouldn’t be an . And he studies John’s face. “So why did Daugherty say that to you. he thinks of other misspent passions. the suburbs. Daugherty told John he’d not amount to much.” They walk together quietly again and in the silence Relius remembers that he’d not heard why Mr.there you’d suddenly see him hunch over a little and get really tense. and his eyes would just stare straight ahead until it was over. But John does not think of ecumenical onanism. How could a priest say anything if kids aren’t even supposed to admit they have penises until after they’re married?” “Was that in Peru?” Relius laughs. his smile and small stares. his own.” Relius asks.” “Did anyone else notice? Like a priest? “Are you kidding. I was totally shocked when I realized what he was doing the first time. “Say what?” “That you wouldn’t amount to anything. and the day Theodore Daugherty found him and three other boys learning too eagerly about their bodies in the imperfect shelter of an open grove not far enough away from the other cub scouts building fires and boiling water along the river. to see if John thinks he was the overly aroused altar boy.
not wanting to interrupt the solemn.” “The girl who’s pregnant?” “Yeah. She used to flirt with everyone and acted like she knew more about what people needed then they did. I still haven’t amounted to much so he might be right about me after all.altar boy?” “You know. that’s what I used to think. Just like her father. I think part of it was just his way of making sure I knew I wasn’t good enough for Rebecca. She always had to feel like she was in . and looking at the wooden bolts that hold the rails together where they haven't yet been replaced with new. Relius waits until they come upon the timber trail to ask John how Rebecca is like her parents if she got pregnant out of wedlock. but in the way she thought.” “So what do you think now?” “Do you mean do I think that he was wrong about Rebecca and me? I don’t know. breeze. I didn’t know about Rebecca either. caressing soundscape of water. They walk now. That’s Rebecca. Rebecca did everything to an extreme. steel ones.” Relius walks back and forth on the small bridge testing the cracked planks with his weight. quietly. John explains that Rebecca wasn't like her parents so much in what they thought. But I’m not so sure anymore. bluebird and trees.
The prick in his conscience reminds him. Rebecca is more like the girls John knows now in the city. but to amplify a moment as he utters it anew. a person to a lifetime and that lifetime to living. the feel of the air remind him of his obligation not to simplify the past in recollection. that the singularity of a memory should not render that remembered laugh. John adds. the smell of the wet soil beneath his feet. taste or sensation a frozen vignette of the past. without words. Changing his tone. growing up here and knowing about other worlds mostly through magazines or books or people who .” John says. She asserts opinions. refuses assumptions. he senses that a precious memory should contain in its awakening the invisible fibers of being that connect a moment to a moment. “If she's with Nick she must have changed. and breathing out more heavily. It's been over a year since he's seen her. and at least once accused her of putting on a face to hide the fears that consumed her privately. John stops himself from saying more.control. Yet unsure why. nor how to say it. and even the last time they saw each other they didn't talk. though he's unsure what he means by change. But he doesn't know what she might be like now. He believed she pretended to be strong so that her friends wouldn't realize how much she actually listened to her parents. without sense. the sound of his steps. He doubted her sincerity. “I guess we were all kind of messed up at times. not like the girls he knew in town. John admired Rebecca as much as he was frustrated by her.
But he doesn't believe he's above her. women. and there are fictions they walk through now. that tell them birds fly to offer weary souls sights of freedom and beauty.” Relius says.” . when he was home from college. he ran into her in town and was surprised how attractive she was. It was hard to know how much of the fiction we saw from the outside was actually fiction. fictions that convinced him.moved here from the city every once in a while. and he runs his fingers through the Queen Anne's Lace at the end of the trail. not because they have to. that there is greater peace in these woods than among the company of men. Above her. fictions that hold him accountable for failing the unreasonable dreams of a father. that Renee could have lived if he loved her more truly.” Fictions abound in Relius' memories as well. And the fictions hold. “Fiction. “to do things for no better reason than to spite her parents. Just as they reach the house Relius asks John how long it's been since he had a real conversation with Rebecca. convince him.” he tells Relius' critical stare. though that four years ago. John tells Relius he never had a real conversation with Rebecca. He says they didn't talk much even then because Rebecca thinks he thinks he's too good for her. fabrications of mind and desire. he sometimes just gets frustrated with what he calls Rebecca's simplicity. “What bothered me was how hard she tried.
What did they see in Alaska? Did they go? Do this father and son live in town? Or did Silverstein buy this book in another town. That’s all it said. “Maybe she just wasn't my type. A private history in those words. Next summer we’ll go to Alaska.“I get it. Inside the house Relius sits down in the living room and picks up the tattered copy of Stove by a Whale he recently found in the bookstore. They walk into the house in silence. does not hear . hoping to silence Relius’ poor joke. and he resents Relius' sudden judgment. “you wanted a bad girl with a conscience. Next summer we’ll go to Alaska.” Relius says. Embarrassed at offending John so quickly into their friendship. right?” Relius laughs at the image in his mind of a girl making love wearing a nun's habit. John wondering if he overreacted. Relius forces a nervous smile to his lips. in the city? These questions fill Relius’ thoughts. a shared commitment between a father and his son about places they’d been and places they’ve yet to be. He does not regret his words. and reads the note a father had written to his son when giving him this book on his birthday. Relius wondering if it would be wiser to let John begin their next conversation. and he does not hear John and Kristina in the kitchen.” he says sharply. but that John failed to find humor in them. But John does not laugh. so she could go from perfect lover to righteous mother.
Kind of like the wind's song. Thought for a minute that someone was playing a flute in the living room. and she breaks their silence. without melody. When John steps out of the kitchen he wants to sit beside Relius and read. accept a new mood for the evening. It was the chimney I guess. The flue doesn't close tight as it used to. “The rain wake you too. wakes Relius from his sleep. but Relius does not look up at him as he expects. and spend dinner enjoying the pleasant stories of John as a child.” “Yeah. Grown to like that whistle myself. happily describing their behavior toward one another as that of brothers. and he follows the hollow flutesong into the living room where Matty stands at a window and watches the trees glow silverblack and shudder. Kristina sees that the two young men do not say more than hello to one another. maybe talk.John say that he'll gladly sleep in the guestroom so Relius won't feel out of place. John is still by the door toweling off the dog's paws when Relius and Kristina step into the living room to set the table for dinner. random. “No. and Relius hears the pellets of water strike the window and the roof. They smile.” . Rusted some over the years. A whistle. so instead John calls to the dog under the table and leads him out the front door for a long walk that does not bring them back until just before dinner.” Matty asks the young man.
“Don't stay out here too long. Some diseased trees out there that won't hold up in this storm. “always helps me sleep. isn't it.” Relius nods. Relius listens to a different silence in the room. I'll wake you when we go. He hears Matty's footsteps stop behind him. making their limbs larger.“Storms pretty bad.” Matty lets the curtain fall and rests his hand paternally on Relius's shoulder. their bases wider. Gusts of wind drive the rain harder into the window.” Matty tells him. . you'll need to be rested to work the trees. and looks again for the strikes of lightening in the dark. he says. “but if this wind keeps up we'll probably have to go out by the apple grove tomorrow.” Relius says. “You worried?” Matty breathes the cool air from the window. and as soon as Matty steps into the dark corridor and his soft footsteps fade behind a quietly opened then closed door.” he says mildly. and he looks over his shoulder at him. Outside the lightening seems to lift the trees in the air. “No. and hears a new melody of fluesong and speckled rain. distracted by the terrible beauty of the storm. We'll have to clear them out so it doesn't spread.” Relius watches Matty walk across the room toward the shadows of the hallway and turns toward the window again and parts the curtain. “Drink some tea. looking from Matty toward the storm then to Matty again.
and tries to decipher the script written with a ruler at the bottoms of the illustrations. He balances the book on a glass coaster on the table and spins it. He watches it slow. Relius thinks. his shirt. wonders why John would have an interest Wright Cyclone Engines. but prefers instead to return to his room and fall asleep listening to the softer percussions of rain on the windows. It's closer now.and the thunder sounds an angry roar through the woods and into the house. his skin. pressing it with sudden shock and childlike fear. hastening it. He opens it. He rests for just a few minutes with his eyes staring at the ceiling. and a peal of thunder shocks the rhythm of Relius' heart. and unfolds a few of the old engine diagrams. The storm is quiet now. He remembers Matty's suggestion of tea. the roof. and another strike of lightening. He steps away from the window and walks to the couch. On the coffee table he finds a book John must have been reading after he went to bed. a gift from Renee. no longer sounding a tempest around the house. . then sleeps. the distant rumbles of thunder. and in the small puddles he saw illuminated in the lightening flashes outside. a few notes reminding him of The Swan of Tuonela. the whistle of the flue sounds louder. hears the ends of the book rub against the tabletop. In the quiet of the receding storm. then lifts it and sets it back where John had left it. Relius opens his hand against his chest and feels his heart beat through his ribs.
Johnathan looks up at Relius and opens his mouth in a wide yawn. The trailer stops in the outer swing of a curve and Matty turns toward them. “You'll be up soon enough. broken trunks and upturned roots trace . and covers his mouth and yawns smally toward the back of the trailer. Both young men ride quietly. Relius thinks. and the trailer slows and they hear Matty talking to them. laughing at the soreness he knows they feel from sitting in the trailer. John and Relius ride in the empty trailer as Matty steers the tractor toward the grove of fallen trees. and Relius wipes his hand across the dew moistening the sides of the trailer. adjusting themselves now and then in the empty trailer. Most of the ones that fell are diseased. ” Not possible. so we have to get them out of there before the disease spreads to the roots.” he says. “There used to be about twelve more maple standing there. This morning smells wetter than others. Relius holds the yellow chainsaw. Wetwood’s got to them. John opens his mouth again. trying to shift their weight away from the rattling in their backsides. Relius feels himself begin to yawn in his ears. this time to tell Relius to be careful with the chainsaw between his legs.” he says to Relius. “You boys' butts okay. John the axe.A cold morning mist hovers over the wet earth outside. and the wedge and hammer rattle toward the back of the trailer. You see those apple trees over there.
Matty shifts gears. oddly soft where Matty had spilled gasoline or oil on them in the months before they were to become the gloves of Relius. Still sore. and Relius wears gloves borrowed from Matty. Relius does not stop staring at the fallen trees. and wonders just how much Matty thinks three men can handle. They wait for Matty to back the trailer up to the edge of the grove and they pull their gloves from their jackets. Looking meditative. he massages the muscles. The gloves feel cold around his fingers. and the trailer slowly completes its path around the curve and they follow the road toward the apple trees. he does not say a word and walks along . He stares at the trees and squeezes the muscles in his upper arm with his right hand. John wears gloves he proudly told Relius have lasted him more than a year. They walk twenty yards from the trailer and Relius hears the sputtering motor of the chainsaw as Matty holds it against a log with his foot and pulls the cord. and the work to be done there seems endless.jagged shapes along the grove's horizon. looks at the trees and measures the pain in his arm against the effort to clear this forest floor. The tractor slows once more and Relius follows Johnathan when he jumps from the slowing bed. Matty jumps from the tractor and stands at a distance from the young men. especially when two of the men look like visitors in this landscape. He lifts the chainsaw from the trailer and nods to John and Relius to collect the axe and the spike and follow him.
at how many times Relius must bring down the axe for a crack to begin to split the log. but together at the cut. He makes bundles of the cut branches. He presses his foot against each log and rolls it away from the former uniformity of the tree toward John and Relius. at the chips Relius cuts from the edge of the stump with each missaimed pass of the axe.” Matty says. John smiles mildly at Relius' inability to find the weak veins running against the rings in each stump. John stands with him until he sees Relius bring the axe down more confidently. how his hands are apart when he pulls the axe back over his head. tying the branches tightly with . When Relius takes the axe John watches him and offers a few hints about how to chop with less effort. should they begin cutting away the branches on the other trees with the axe. “Be sure to get all the cuts with slime on them. Lifting the muttering motor slowly above the trunk.the fallen tree cutting away the branches that might get in the way when he cuts the trunk. learn it in his mind so that he can feel it with his body. should they collect the branches Matty's already cut. and he tries to memorize his motion. the way he swings the axe. Relius watches John. Matty squints into the sawdust and gray glare of the day and calmly turns the tree into logs. he then walks over to the branches cut from the fallen trees and begins to collect them. Relius looks to John to know what he should do.
Thirsty.twine and carrying them to the trailer. John taps him on the shoulder. asks him if he’s alright. Jealousy. Can he be using us? Confident that he knows more about himself than we do. Relius wonders how many hours they've cut and loaded wood into the back of the trailer. their shoes and pants covered with mud and sawdust. Why is he here? My father asked him. and takes a moment of rest by spreading the logs evenly along the boards of the trailer. Why jealousy. and imagines that Relius gives up on it. about how open he was with his father about Father William. Who is this man cutting wood in front of my father? Relius. and Matty hands them the sandwiches Kristina gave them as they left in the early morning. maybe. John thinks. that Relius thinks this log is better left to John. my mother tried to talk with him about it. sees him get frustrated with a large log Matty had just cut from the base of an old tree. He watches Relius from a distance. Distrust too. He drops a heavy armful of split wood onto the pile that so much work has not made larger. His mother told him about Relius’ honesty. Their arms are sore. Relius drinks the hot coffee quickly from his new thermos. It burns. about his reluctance to borrow money from them. That we’re naïve. But Relius seems honest. knowing that not knowing Relius enough leaves too many questions to turn into competition. . but the sensation feels good where it lingers in his chest. too many openings without direction.
He follows Matty toward the newest pile of cut logs and takes up the axe. John turns toward Relius and offers a smile. they see the forest entire and are silent. Matty carefully tucks his thermos. then adds his own articles to the lunch box. without interest. not at the path that lead them into the forest. not at the dull grayish blue coming through the trees. . Relius then adds his. Turning back toward their work. Staring into nothingness. looking not at anything. though which Relius does not know. Relius says he does remember the grove. not at the leaves. John patiently waits for his father to finish. Reluctantly. that the birds they hear live in the branches. napkin. They view nature as it lives. and sandwichbag into the lunch box and sets it near the front of the trailer. safe from the weight of the wood should it shift. the folly John imagines. without particulars. Matty takes a step closer to his son and tells him that just a few hundred feet from where they are he found Relius. but he does not smile and does not say more.and he feels his blood warm. Sighing deeply and signaling the end of their break. “Do you remember that spot?” he says. expecting Relius might laugh at the folly that brought him there. The three men stare silently into the forest. without a sense that the deer they see runs among the trees. that the air they smell is the breath of this earth.
looks at the large log he had left for the abler hands of John. “I'll tell you later. and the next. and the pain . He takes up the axe where he had set it beside John. He touches the blade to the sweet spot cracking the rings of the log. he muses on how small it looks. and Relius feels rested and confident that he has finally learned to plunge the axe into the mental marks he makes in the logs. Chipping noiselessly at the side of the bark. looks at him. Turning toward the log. He breathes deeply. He recalls seeing the blood of the young man where he fell in the snow. He splits the next log with ease. cut from its shapeless place in the tree. Relius does not hear John's shout over his own screams.The cold slows his breathing. he tilts it back toward him. Distracted. John's question echoes in his mind as he lifts the axe over his shoulder. Smiles at his smile. a marionette cut from its strings. Seizing the log as best he can. and walks over to it. and stands it up on its end. alone. the impact of the bullet sending him forward and backward at once. cautiously against the log. and he takes two puffs from the inhaler he hates to carry in his pockets. tapping the weight of the axe tentatively. and hears John abruptly though amicably ask why he ended up in this part of the woods. his mind carries him from the log and his pass with the axe falls short of the mark he had seen in the rings. the heavy blade bounces off the cold earth and locks in the bone of his shin.” he says.
and knows that they return without the trailer. Relius does not understand why John runs to the tractor. Relius feels himself carried by the two men to the tractor. Relius' wild eyes betray the turmoil in his calming limbs. and John feels the sinews tighten in Relius' neck. though carefully out of the grove. John had already unhooked the trailer. his hands gripping his knee tightly above the wound. certain that a wound bleeds his entire body. and he throws his head back hard against John's legs. Matty ties the rope around Relius' thigh. their motions foreign. careful not to touch the handle until he's ready. does not understand why Matty says it's better to leave the axe where it is usually. running toward them with a length of rope swinging viciously in his hands. a ghost. but they might have to take it out so it won't do any more damage on their way to the hospital. and she whispers dear God over the rush of concern that tightens her chest and sets her hands to tremble. and they move swiftly. John and Matty move like liquid around him. their words meaningless. frantic. Matty tells John to rest Relius' head on his lap and to set a piece of bark between his teeth. Numb now. Kristina sees the tractor from the kitchen window and knows that they return early. and sees him bite hard into his lip and the bark as Matty pulls the axe from his shin. . He sees John.surges through his entire body. throwing him to the ground. moaning.
Relius tries to bear the pain more quietly. though.” and she motions to John and Matty to lift Relius. “We have to take you to the hospital.Drying her hands on her apron she hurries to the living room and watches her husband and son carry a pallid. wondering what might . and he eases himself carefully into the car beside John and behind Kristina. and they see the agony in his watery eyes. finally sinks into a chair opposite Relius as Kristina peels back the young man's pants where they had cut them and removes the soiled kerchief they had wrapped over his wound. He's not been in a car with the Flaigs before. They set Relius on the couch. struggling to stall his moans.” she says. It smells different from the tractor. He leans back against the seat and. concentrates on each field they pass. It smells foreign to the world in which he'd placed the Flaigs. uneasy. the barn. The liquid hisses as it whitens the skin and blood around his open cut. assure them that it looks worse than it is. “The cut's very deep. did not have an image of Matty driving as he does now. Matty. that he'll be fine. Her quiet authority calms the three men. and she takes the car keys from the hook beside the door. frightened young man into their house. Kristina sends John to get ice from the kitchen and begins to loosen the tourniquet on Relius' thigh. Calmer now. He tries to speak calmly now. John hands her the ice and the hydrogen peroxide he'd quickly gotten from the bathroom.
trying to settle the panic in herself. that his words be more than words. Relius hears. though thinks he needs to hear a voice and continues. no longer pain.grow there next season. “You'll probably meet him sometime. and their voices sound distant. Impossible. No. Not lupus. a physical presence as real as the sorrow . he tells her. that one burnt down about twenty years back. but it is the same spot. Too rare.” Kristina says. told her. her nails an odd yellow. her fingers colder than usual. He used to come over a lot. what might be growing there now.” She looks back at Relius. Numbness now. John?” “Lupus. that they become agents. her son. her husband and Relius. “that's where Matty was born. unaware of his mother's efforts.” Lupus. It's not the same house anymore. “Jenny has Lupus. Mom. but since his wife took ill he pretty much stays home with her whenever he can. in colorless inexact memory her hand in his. knows he may not listen. fading. What's that called that she has. have motion and dimension. “You see that small house over by where the creek turns down south.” John says impatiently. pointing over the middle of the car. I love you. Pressing his fingers tighter around her hand. “His brother's son built that house there. Renee. Renee. quieting behind an image of himself standing over Renee's bed. though. I love you.” she says. he prayed his words might find home in her heart and revive her. She is with him.
and in his punctured delusion he understands how he might bring her back. I knew her enough to create an entire life for her in my mind. how death resembles thoughts interrupted on the verge of becoming. losing her. and trembling. that living he's sure endured despite her death. And through his trembling tears Relius sees himself beside Renee. and he recalls his lies. frightening her son with words and tears from somewhere they'd not been. why Relius cries with words of loss. and John wonders why Relius weeps. wants to feel her caress on his brow.” His mother turns and sees this wrong pieta. what the wound has opened. Renee. share everything with her. can not be. and not be such a stranger in his own pain. Relius cradled in her son’s arms.scraping in his chest. And he sees himself alone in her room. waiting to call the doctors. weeping. and he looks for that life now.” he says gently. Oh dear god why. and he wishes it'd not be. he cried. see her. see her. . Try to breathe easy. hear her concerned voice. that her death were not a memory but a mistake. his words echo into the present. into his own. too unbearable. “we're almost there. “Don't leave me” John hears him say. and he wants to go to her now. And he recalls his solitude. even sadly. he told his family. “Please. Oh dear god why. “Relius. and in his delirium Relius looks up from the hand he kissed into the eyes he wished could look. hesitant and worried that anything he'd say would make her death too real.” he whispered.
as he hangs his arms from Matty and John's shoulders. Renee should be there. “come on. we've got to get you inside. and smiles when the doctor smiles. thoughts from too separate a reality. and he calls her death loss and so expects to find her. Impossible to have so much pain without the possibility of happiness.” and holds back his screams. thoughts he cannot recall. his allergies. he knows this much. And unwillingly. what his thoughts could have been in the car. and wakening Relius to wonder. and he waits in quiet pain for the doctor. Something so serious. but not loving. we're here. her death a horrible mistake that she woke from when people stopped waiting. And his delirium welcomes the illusion of death as misunderstanding. and remembers when Matty found him. he imagines Renee might be waiting for him at the hospital. and drives his nails hard into the table he sits on as the doctor anesthetizes and cleans his wound then stitches the . warm and strong.” his voice vanishing the soothing delirium Relius had found.These arms around him hold him wrongly. “he'll be okay. answers questions about his blood. and unsure why. John startles Relius when he pushes him forward gently and says. then watches the doctor cut away the bandage Kristina had wrapped around his leg. Relius feels present again as they pass through the hospital doors. Renee should know. not loving. Sorrowfully. and he believes the words in his mind grasp wholly at the mysteries beyond his reckoning.
Daugherty sees the Flaigs waiting for him in front of the hospital doors. He does not seem like an austere. not tending to God's fields. determined to hide the redness in his eyes. He is not the figure of Rebecca's father Relius had fit to John's description. and he nods agreement to the doctor's instructions to finish the bottle of antibiotics even if he feels fine.” Mr. casually wiping at his face.” Relius says. passive looking man with hands better suited to holding pens and turning pages. the moist skin above his afternoon beard. He closes his eyes tightly as he walks toward them. and a worn red jacket. ascetic. They watch a familiar car pull slowly into the parking lot and Relius looks up at the waiting family and asks them if they know that car. “You don't look so good. heavy leather boots. and the family pauses for a moment outside the hospital before Matty walks off to get the car. “I wonder if they're doing all right. Ted.skin shut. He comes closer to them and Relius compares him to his expectations. and he wonders if the young man in the wheelchair is the young man he'd heard about in town. Everything all right?” Kristina says in a . This man wears rough corduroy pants. after he drinks down the painkillers. “Thank you.” Matty tells Relius and his wife. “I think that's Daugherty's car. Kristina pushes the wheelchair.
“It's Rebecca. for judgment. I can't imagine what you must be going through. molds his rough skin with her soft . He waits for them to speak.” he says dryly. “I'm fine. and searches their faces.” He sighs heavily.worried voice. their gestures. “Sometimes I just wish the Lord could show us His ways more mildly. He’d just come back from home with some new clothes for his daughter since she can’t wear her other ones anymore. stares past the Flaigs at the hospital doors behind them. to say something to ease this silence that demands he say more. He tells them that his daughter lost the baby. Ted. “Jenny was up all night. Started bleeding last night. wonders what he understands of this moment. I pray some good will come from all this somehow. His eyes meet Kristina's.” he says regretfully. the reflection of the wheelchair curved and wicked in the glass. but the Flaigs are quiet.” Kristina takes the man's hand into her own. what he knows of their failures. “praying that everything would be fine by today.” he tells her. Too many bad memories. He looks at the young man in the wheelchair.” He stands still with his hands in front of him holding the handles of the bag of clothes he brought for his daughter. “without calling on the children to bring His message. reserved and reluctant to force this good man to tell too many of his sorrows.” “I'm so sorry.
and comforts him. The family waves and silently watches as Theodore Daugherty walks slowly through the hospital doors. No one speaks the entire drive home.” “God bless. “Tell Jenny and Rebecca that our prayers are with them. He sees Theodore Daugherty standing aside now but not going into the hospital. Ted. He offers to take the wheelchair in for them. and stands waiting for all of them to sit in the car again. but Becca just wants to be alone she says. Matty.” John says. son. Maybe later. I know that Jenny would love to have you.” “Oh no. what happened to his leg. He hardly lifts his head as he turns to wave a thankful goodbye to them before letting the door close behind him.“ “I'll do my best. sir. Kristina. I understand. We'll keep you in our prayers this Sunday.” Matty gets the car and stops with the back door in front of Relius. noticing a face he’d never seen on Daugherty before. “God bless you.touch. and the doctor told her to rest for a few days. Daugherty helps John and Kristina settle Relius in the car. if you don't mind. and Relius knows the generosity of . but does not ask who he is. “Please give Becca my best.” “Thank you. Mr. Kristina. If you don't mind we might stop in tomorrow evening to give you some company.” she says turning toward her husband and son. You take care of yourself.
the Flaigs enough to comprehend that they truly feel the sadness of their friends. .
a habit of faith to direct her thoughts to a mystery. She heard him struggle to speak like a consoling father. and she heard the words of his customary prayers and homiletic musings come at her without appeal to God. not to condemn. “Please go with them. hopeful and absent. She resents surrendering her thoughts to God but believes her anger and confusion point to her father and not her father's savior. she didn't need her father’s assurance that he alone would not be damned.” she says to her father as she backs away from the window and her image fills the yellow glow reflected in the glass. but with certain judgment of her.” he said.FOUR She watched them talk with her father. but she didn't want his forgiveness. . where she might consign her thoughts to a being she cannot comprehend. “Your mother and I can forgive you. but he could not. trying not to judge her. She wished she could ask them to stay and talk with her. offer some solace from the guilt pressed upon her by her father's tendentious words. The impulse to pray silences her.
” “What did you say?” “Told him we'd be all right. He came in just after you left and asked how you and mom would take this.” “Do you believe that?” She remembers the strange look of the doctor when she said bitterly that God will fix it.” He hands his daughter the small suitcase his wife had given him and steps back toward the door. “Who was that you were talking to out there. but I asked them to wait a while until your mother feels more like seeing people.Her words vanish into the moments before her father walks through the door and stares coldly. Her father's question still asking.” he says. The doctor. but he judged her anger not her honesty. “Can you go home yet?” “The doctor said I should be fine. nervous. Something happened to the young man living with them. an admirer of her father. she . daddy?” she says. she thinks. thinking you're not my daughter. you're not my daughter. They may come by the house some time. unsure of her father's emotions. judged her. “They send their best. before reluctantly asking if she feels better.” He picks up the Bible from where he'd set it on table the night before. “John was there. “It was the Flaigs. “What did the doctor say?” he asks.
breathes in “I don't know,” inhaling the words into silence, feeling her lips move slightly as the cool air wraps around her tongue, and she looks up again to her father's voice. “Are you ready to go?” he says. “Hmh. Let me just run into the bathroom and change and we can go.” Beneath the white lights in the bathroom Rebecca finds a face worn and flushed of color by sorrow. The eyes that stare into her own are not the eyes that judged her beauty yesterday or last week's yesterday. She does not trust the wholeness of the body standing as her doppelgänger in the silvery glass. Where in that body and behind those eyes could the pain she endures possibly be contained? Absently fixed on the image she reflects, she is startled to see her hand resting comfortably on her small, wasted midriff. Tears rush to her eyes, she leans forward over the sink and seeks comfort in the cool water she lets dampen her face and cascade down her neck and her chest. The sensation calms her, and she lets the water soothe her sorrow again and again. Looking into the mirror once more the person looking back at her appears more familiar, less distant, more prepared to leave the room with her and walk in silence with her father toward the car. She takes the white blouse and the gray pants from the suitcase and dresses quickly. She looks in the mirror once more, recognizing herself in clothes she'd chosen and bought, not the hospital gown. She turns
around and pauses with her hand on the doorknob, and flushes the toilet. A rush of clean water spinning violently away, the bowl empty for an instant and filling slowly as she closes the heavy door behind her. Looking neither at the floor nor at her father she collects her things and tells him, “come on, daddy, let's go.”
The two young men laugh at their friend's clumsy passion, and naive desire. “She looked real pretty,” the dumb one says. “I saw her and I wanted to touch it, but I couldn't. I looked at her. I think she saw me.” “What would you do to her if you got her, Marty?” The large boy laughs, looks down into his lap, and pulls at the grass between his legs. He lifts one heavy hand to cover his mouth, and his words sound soggy on his lips, “I don't know.” “Would you kiss her, Marty?” Childish laughter, and his eyes mark a crazed pattern from face to face, opening wider with each movement forward and backward of his massive torso. He stares up at the sky and smiles at the imageless memory of his father opening the magazines and showing him the pictures of girls. He presses his hands hard into the fold of his pants, remembering the pinkness that made him feel funny, the smooth perfection of the breasts, desires he had but could not have.
“I'm not allowed to kiss her,” he says, “I'm not allowed to kiss her.” “Aw, come on, Marty, you can kiss her. She'd love it. Then you could use this.” Marty fumbles between his crossed legs and digs eagerly under his flat, round shoes for the small blue square he saw flicker in the air. He presses it between his fingers, and rubs the ball of his thumb against the rubbery circle, popping his thumb from side to side of the ridge he feels outlined through the shiny blue wrapper. His large fingers close around the small square, and he looks up into the staring eyes of his friends. “What is it?” “You don't know what that is, big man? That's for your pecker. You need to put that on when you're with a lady. It’s protection.” “I won’t hurt her,” he says, made uneasy by the word protection. “It's a condom, Marty,” Luke says. “It’s for sex. Give it here.” “No. No, Luke, I want to keep it. Please, let me keep it. I want to have it. I won't kiss a girl, Luke, I promise.” “Look, Marty, just give me the damn thing. Craig, what the hell is wrong with you. Sometimes you really go too far. You know he don't know how to control hisself. Come on, Marty, give it here.” Marty hands the small package to Luke and does not say a word. Feeling
the wetness of the paper, and looking at the white edges already pressed by Marty's fingers into the ring of the prophylactic, Luke whispers loudly to Craig, “you should know better.” Tucking the package into his pocket Luke motions to Marty and Craig with a tilt of his head, let's go. Luke walks over to the truck with his hands in his pockets, his legs look slow, and he moves like a man with thoughts. He opens the door and watches Craig as he nudges Marty on the shoulder with his knee. “Come on, get up off the grass.” The boy stares at the river and does not want to move. Luke leans over the windshield and yells out to the burden, the amusement, “Come on, Marty, get up, we should go already.” Marty's large blue eyes move slowly, revealing the swollen sclera beneath them, and he watches Luke in confusion, and listens for Craig to urge him again to get up and get into the truck. “I won’t hurt her,” he says. “Just get up. Let’s go.” Luke closes his fingers tightly around the large steering wheel, rubbing his fingers into the rough holes left where the grip no longer feels like dripping tears of plastic, but worn and rough. He does not watch Marty struggle to raise one leg into the car, searching its interior for something to hold on to as he pulls
his weight to rest on the seat. He slides toward Luke, and watches his stillness and listens in confusion to his silence. Craig urges him to move closer to Luke, and Marty listens, unaware that to make room for Craig he must take it from Luke. Luke brings his shoulder in toward his chest, presses the clutch to the floor and turns the key in the ignition. He pushes hard into the boy's large leg where he sits angled in mock femininity, and grinds the gear into reverse. Marty keeps his legs tight together and waits for Luke to throw the black ball into first. The truck accelerates quickly out of the grass, and turns left fiercely, letting the machine move the dumb one, leaving him to his silence, staring into the blankness of the empty road behind them, and struggling to keep his legs from touching Luke's hand where it grasps the black eightball. Luke drives without direction, and ignores the conversation Marty attempts with Craig. The simple questions that rise from Marty's mind would irritate Luke if he listened, and so he hears only his own thoughts and the music on the radio. Craig plays with Marty's questions, saying more about cows and barns than Marty would know to ask, and creating fictions about trees and passengers in passing cars that Marty would always believe, and never imagine, nor question. Marty smiles and laughs as he utters mumbled nonsense to imitate Craig
singing the songs on the radio. As Luke turns into the parking lot, Craig mimics Marty, and the rhythm of the music is smothered in the mockery of one man's simplicity for the sake of another man's sinister happiness. Maneuvering the truck into a large open space between two rusty, tired cars, one green, one white, Luke closes his thumb and index finger around the knob of the radio, feels the click, and tells them, “shut up now, let's go inside.” Inside no one stares, no one cares to watch them sit at a table near the door and the young woman with hair burnt blond by vanity sets their drinks on the table without waiting for them to ask, and she avoids their looks, but hears their words as she pulls at the bottom of her skirt, hoping to stretch it into modesty, to lengthen it into a gown and let her be, invisibly. Facing the wall, Luke has not said a word, and he does not smile with Craig and Marty as they ape the words they believe the girl would say if she could be theirs as in their perverse and sad fantasies. In the corner of the bar a black, dry looking cat catches its own reflection in a long mirror, and Luke watches it. Touching at the mirror, it pulls its furry paw back in quick nervous motions before reaching out again to examine this unwelcome figure, metallic before it. “Look at that thing,” he tells his friends, pointing to the cat with the hand that rests on the back of the empty chair beside him. “It doesn't even know what
it's afraid of.” He rises from his chair, walks to the mirror, and kicks disappointedly after the nervous cat, upset that he could not harm it, touch it. He turns to the blond woman who avoided their eyes and wild words, and drops a crumpled fiftydollar bill onto her tray full of drinks. “Thank you, pretty,” he tells her, then motions to Craig and Marty to rise from behind the many bottles, some empty, some abandoned on the table, and walk toward the door. The call from behind the bar does not turn the attention of the three men, and the bartender returns to wiping the counter, wondering why they resent his admonition to be careful, and not go crazy. The blue black cat sits at a window pressing its pink, rough tongue through the soft fur of its feet, passing the pads of her feet through the white threads that stretch like taught nylon above her small nose. Pausing, she lets her head hang below her shoulders and watches without judgment as the three men walk unsteadily across the gravel lot and fumble with the doors of the truck. From the window it watches them until the red lights of the truck blink on and off, and it vanishes, leaving behind the bird and the fly to watch. The animal stares but does not wonder where they go.
the fluttering pages giving harsh melody to her scream.The pain of the lost child fills the emptiness where Rebecca presses her fingers against her body and she feels death warm and empty in her womb. “Becca. “Becca. reluctant taps on the door do not surprise her. and she cannot respond. “Becca. She touches the images with wet and trembling fingers. mourning these small deaths so useful in books for the living. is everything all right?” The soft whispers Rebecca's mother hears when she walks into the room are not her daughter's prayers. Awake. Her daughter's swollen. frightened of more silence. before falling open and twisted onto a neat row of shoes she's not worn for months. and throws the book forcefully into the closet. She closes the book on her lap.” her mother whispers nervously through the dark line of the slightly open door. alone in her bedroom she takes up one of the books her mother had hidden away in a box in the closet and looks at the forgotten homunculus. caressing the babies. she says. but does not see the book. red eyes confront her with questions. at the color photographs of cells dividing into tiny people. but she does not answer. Death growing in the tender darkness where she imagined little limbs of a child. Confused. listens for answers in the quiet room. She looks around the room to see what her daughter might have thrown or dropped. maybe you . The shy.
She doesn’t want to think about them talking about her behind her back. Nick did not seem like a friend to her daughter. “That would be terrible.should come to church with us this Sunday.” she says sharply. Never shaven. So naive. I think you need to be with more people. So naive.” Rebecca looks at her mother in disbelief. Her mother listens quietly. she hardly listens to herself tell her daughter that her friends will be there. and let her accept the faith she thinks could heal her. Such a gruff boy. She saw him buying . mom. Wishing her daughter weren’t so much like her husband. hearing their failure to help her daughter. They might be more understanding. who?” Rebecca’s question surprises her mother – makes her remember what she’d just said to her. “Friends? Who are my friends.” she says. Who are her daughter’s friends? She doesn’t know them anymore. in her hands that fold the damp towel again and again on her lap. and she repeats the words to herself silently. She wonders which words might soothe her daughter’s pain. She sees simplicity in the movement of her mother's eyes. It would be so much easier just to stay home. She tells her mother that he doesn’t want to be there with everyone staring at her. and that maybe being around people her age would help her. Feeling the looped fabric of the towel with her finger tips. patting the folded towel on her lap. “Won't you please just go to church with us.
talking to yourself and crying like that. She folds it. And she resents her. unable to talk to a child that disappointed her so much. and laughing at picnics with their husbands. I’ll try.beer so many times.” she says. But Rebecca knows that her mother is struggling now. I can't stand the thought of having you sitting around the house all the time.” Rebecca pities her mother. She’ll just listen to her. Of course he left. She sits on the bed beside her mother and takes the folded towel from her lap. been a father to him. unfolds it and begins to fold it again. Maybe her husband should have talked to him more. He'd be just as uncomfortable as anyone else. Why would John talk to her. and Rebecca turns her . Is it Nick? Are you still thinking about him?” Wrong words. listening to her mother. and always needs more than she does. “Maybe John will be there. “He’s from good parents. Her helplessness. Their children used to play together when they were young. She remembers the Flaigs. mom. “I know. If you see him and don't feel like talking with him. Johnathan was a good boy. she tells herself.” her mother says. like she always does. Sharing pie recipes with Kristina. Rebecca needs her mother now. “John is a good boy. Just give it a chance. that's fine. He doesn't know what it's like. but her mother cannot give. “John?” Rebecca says.
She knows her mother’s platitudes. She wants to tell her she agrees. It’s impossible to reduce the complexity of life just to fit the words that describe it. but she cannot. The lesson for her daughter.” she says bitterly. what she’d talked about with her husband. Instead she says what she believes is right. It’s not some special part of life that’s separate from the ordinary sorrows and arguments of everyday. and that she can’t damn him just because he’s frightened and doesn’t have anything to lead him to right. touching her on the shoulder. Love is not a lesson.swollen eyes toward her mother. and fragile. She reminds her daughter that they made this mistake together. all . It’s bodiless. Love with virtue. Why does her mother always have to treat love like a special relic. that Nick should be forgotten. and knows that they do nothing to help her. Rebecca breathes deeply. she tells her. Like it’s incompatible with just being. nebulous. and glares at her.” Her mother says. is to learn to love as God intended. For her to love the right way she has to get over the kinds of love her parents wish for her. “He can go to hell. It’s in everything. hoping to contain the words she feels slipping past her lips. “You're kidding. that he is not worth her sorrow. trying to recall her husband’s words.” “Rebecca. something that doesn’t fit reality and has to be nurtured and protected and lived by just like her faith.
Sitting alone in the living room. staring around the room with a look of confusion and fear. Relius has felt a need to respect their kindness by joining them every Sunday. these thoughts must confront the warmth of the smile that greets him in the face of Kristina Flaig. giving her mind a puzzle to unscramble as she sits in silence. Rebecca's thoughts flood her sensibility. Since the first time he went to mass with the Flaigs. Quietly. Relius cannot belittle the beliefs of a . and it suffers when you try to understand it like a mystery of faith.” Rebecca says to the mirror. a god that relishes in their need for him in troubled times and responds with an unimaginative silence that they struggle to fill with the echoes of a book no one has written and they all have read. “Mom. no longer willing to offer her mother an audience for her well-intended words of wisdom. they watch one another for signs of weakness before the mother sighs and pushes herself up from the bed.the wrinkles and arteries of our lives. her hands to her mouth. Though he wakes to Sundays with the same disconsolate thought that the people he sees in the pews waste their time praying to a god that does not care for them. her head low.” she says as her mother leaves the room. but she knows that her mother is crying now. “It’s not my responsibility. I'll go. Rebecca wants to say more.
woman whose goodness he admires. and yet every evening. perhaps refusal. looking at the cross above the door. In her maternal warmth he senses the peace available in her faith. and waits with her arms crossed as they walk toward her. He introduces Relius to avoid the silence he heard coming between them. a reluctance to talk too sincerely. not Renee. to return to the faith of his parents. They greet each other quietly. and feel from her the soft touch of slender fingers within his hands. and asks him how long he expects to stay. and John and Relius leave home early this morning. she would understand his reluctance. hear from her lovely little variations on common words. John hears discomfort in her voice. But Rebecca was Rebecca. She waves to them from her pew at the back of the church. he recalls his reasons for distrusting that specious peace. and Relius wonders if. and Relius greets her gestures without recalling . and wishes Relius wouldn't say he'd heard a lot about her. after all she has endured. and whose deep sincerity of faith he sometimes envies. Rebecca wonders why John is home. shyness about her recent past. refusing to pray. Inside the church John leads Relius toward the woman he smiled at and said was Rebecca. Relius had hoped Rebecca would remind him of Renee. alone in his room. He wished to see in her hints of his wife's eyes. The family no longer goes to church together. with small hellos and soft handshakes. He doesn't. and he watches Relius look at Rebecca.
the skin swollen from tears. and the mothers follow their husband's stares and turn distrustful curses in their minds. watch Rebecca. the color of her lips. now or in years of sexuality. Their children stare. She tells them briefly about her parents. Boys who believe the rumors about this girl.a memory. parents. Men and women. mildly encouraging her to spend some time away from her parents. and listens to her repeat it. and passively accepts her into the store of memories he collects for some other day when he might stand before some other woman he wishes to seem familiar. Guilty stares from men who admire the curves of her eyes. Some of them notice the dark circles under her eyes. She does not mention the hospital. Prayers are whispered. the lost baby. silent insults are checked by this church and a community of forgiveness. Becca. Relius. In the minutes before the service John invites Rebecca to fish with them after church. She smiles at John and the other boy whose name they never remember and jealousy pinches their moral efforts. and nods slightly and offers a small smile when John asks her if she's doing okay. She's beautiful. he says quietly. girls who fear such rumors about themselves. how they tell her to get on with her life but are the first to get in the way. too beautiful. wondering if she imagines how to spell his name. . Just as the organ sounds through the church she turns to Relius and says I'm sorry I didn't catch your name.
Maybe there's something they share that I can't be part of. and assure her that he understands why she'd not chew god's body. and Relius watches Rebecca. Attraction would be easy. Maybe later we can talk. Is that a stare of longing or distraction? John is handsome. Maybe I'll catch her when she slips into the river. toward the blank floors of confusion.Rebecca sits between John and Relius in the church. and she's excited to disappear within a room where songs. And Rebecca watches John walk toward them. comfortable. John. sheltered from the judgments that surround her. Maybe John will give us a chance to talk alone while we're baiting hooks or building a fire. her eyes looking down toward the empty space of thought. Relius wanted to say something to Rebecca. She's relieved to hear the first notes from the organ. They're familiar. But he can't. The mass passed quickly. her hands tucked under her elbows. with . the self of her uncertainty. though. No one will look at me now. and Relius and Rebecca both felt relieved not to be the only ones sitting in the empty pews during communion. lean forward in the silence of the footsteps and the faint notes of the organ. of forgetting. prayers and directed movements silence the selves that judge. Fishing. that he knows Father William's dull humanity. And he looks at her arms folded across her stomach. She smiles at her mother when she turns to nod politely to John and Relius then takes the hymnal from the rack in front of her.
I won't wish for anything. the habitat of memory. gray rock. flat. phantoms that endure with familiar names and spectral faces. and John and Rebecca wonder why Relius is so silent when they leave the church. Relius and Rebecca sit on a large. Rebecca stretches her legs out in front of her and leans back onto her arms to let the sun wash her face in its yellow glow. his transient presence. and the mass ends around him. And he follows the distance of his thoughts to other landscapes. and tried to stop herself from imagining that child walking along the river with her. No. memory fragments too incomplete to offer metonyms of some whole that he'd know with them. Rebecca thought of her child. and looks for the citizens that populate his past. and Relius' black hair envelopes his thoughts as a mark of his difference. her eyes . common recollections of people Relius had never met. When her mind would wander. probably similar to Nick. who take up relics of his past and arrange them into significance. and he listens absently to the final hymn. and why he says “nothing” with so much sadness when they ask him what he's thinking about. and Relius listened to stories she shared with John. and reduce fortuitous days to the fantasy of memory and the illusion of a trackable self.features Rebecca has grown up to find attractive. his place that is not here. They'd talked only briefly as they walked toward the river. he thinks.
. and that's enough. but in this place he wishes for a sensation. the tips tapping a small rhythm on the hard rock. Her fingers bend delicately. and the cool colors of the forest. slender in this community of farmers and hard work. and he cannot subtract this river from this landscape nor add an image to its measureless serenity. and not let herself fade into a painful memory destined to walk with her always. This is not a place of renewal. Beside her now. In the shadows of the trail. this is not a place where Relius could be other than his past. a sublime urge to recover yesterday and yesterday. to be with John and Relius. Relius watched Rebecca's modesty soften her beauty. and rupture the hold of incident on identity. but the number of leaves in a tree make it neither more nor less a tree. and send flutters through the mirrored remainders of a life not evenly divisible from then into today. Relius smiles at math become self. It's not me. and she’d hold back quiet tears. and try to shift her thoughts to this moment.would water – giving them a glow that Relius caught as a sparkle. a soft texture she could not feel if she climbed down from the rock to touch it. and heard her words and quiet laugh make her approachable. gentle in her sadness and occasional hints of bitterness. and Rebecca watches the water wash endlessly over a rounded rock she cannot see. and looks at the trees with leaves he could count.
John lies down and stares up at the white haze in the cloudless sky.” he tells the warmth above him. following its flow through the air. John climbs up on the rock and sits beside Relius. “brook and rainbow.” he says. “Not even a nibble. They're delicious if you catch one.” he says.” “There's trout.chrome in its hasty reflection of the sunlight. “If there are I've never seen one. “Have you caught anything. until it vanishes into the catkins of an arching willow. a bird. The sun burns hot. grass. She looks for John along the riverbank and thinks she hears him in the brush below the boulder she and Relius sit on. . “No.” “What do you say. soil and fields still drying from the recent rains.” Rebecca says. laughing. brown in its quick clarity. Not him. Relius and Rebecca lean back with John and stare at their red eyelids. and she watches the swallow fly in vibrant shadow above the water.” Relius. and the breeze over the river carries the scent of leaves. a martin. Maybe next time. Up stream about two or three miles from here there's lost of em though.” Rebecca says. “You guys see any fish from up here.” “There any catfish around here.
I can close my eyes and listen to you guys or tune you out. I'd have to say the same. It just seems like having nothing to do and being able to sit around and stare at the sky gives you a chance to stop reacting to everything in your life and just be.” “Is that necessarily a good thing. and if I stare straight up everything else seems to disappear. . is it a good thing?” “Does it have to be?” “Guess not. At least for a little while.” “Why?” “Why.” Relius says. when was the last time you just sat around staring at the sky?” “Can't even think back that far.” “Right now feels really good.” “Why?” “I don't know. During the day or at night?” “Either. “What?” “Is that a good thing?” “What do you think Becca.” “Yeah.“I'd say I'm more relaxed than I've been in a while. Becca. Been too long I guess.
Relius? Have any good stories about Peru?” “Too many. A solitary heavy bumble bee vibrates its hairy body among them. Bigger than the memories I have of growing up in the states. Like when my brother and I went down a branch of the Amazon in a raft. It was a strange place to grow up.” Rebecca says. “I think I'm gonna nap.” “What do you mean?” “The memories always seem like escapes. then trace a swirling path away from her. mostly. Relius opens his eyes and watches the bee hum over Rebecca.” Relius smiles. I suppose I didn't. it helps. smell her?. Maybe that's why my memories are what they are. Summers and vacations. shot from the airy chamber of an ethereal gun. “Either of you know any good stories?” “Well.” “Did you grow up there?” “No.Doesn't matter if it's good or bad.” “How bigger?” “Bigger because they involve stuff that most kids I grew up with in the states would not believe.” “How old were you?” .
you know. fry em. gut em. they might have been playing along for the hell of it. but around there there were only catfish and bugs. something like twenty miles away.” “What happened?” “My mom and her sisters were watching us from the bank. My mom and my aunts started screaming. and their mouths keep . Don't know if they really believed us or not. didn't know that the catfish basically sat there like rocks. but my uncle did.“I was twelve. my brother was sixteen. Their mouths open and close when you fry them. “Did you catch any catfish?” “No. telling us to be careful. I thought it was pretty amazing then. “ “Were there really piranhas?” “No. Slice em. My brother and I wanted to take the raft down and across the stream to get to some holes where one of my uncles found bones and necklaces. He'd come out with us sometimes in the raft and catch them with his bare hand. and a couple of them ran into the water. and then all of a sudden.” “Hmm.” “Human bones?” “Yup. my brother and I pretended to get dumped from the raft and started splashing around and screaming like we were being eaten by piranha.” Rebecca says. We were paddling along. without saying anything to each other. Up stream there were. Catfish.
John and Rebecca look asleep and Relius climbs down from the rock and takes up John's fishing rob from the bank. it was nice to fish for a while. “That's disgusting.” “Want to build a fire?” John says. The small splash of the lure sounds large in the silence of the dimming day.” They close their eyes again and enjoy the silence together. and lost only two hooks in a log or among thick weeds. He baits a few hooks and casts thoughtlessly into the river. . They're not hungry. The cloudless evening does not enclose the warmth of the day. Still. and he smiles when he hears Rebecca and John talking above him. He does not see the sun set. chilly enough to stand their hairs on end.” she says. “No.going bloop bloop the whole time.” “Maybe not. But tasty. “Any luck.” “I don't think I have the right lure. and sits down beside Rebecca. and the breeze feels cool now.” Relius imitates a fish. awake now from a longer nap than anyone expected. “Yeah. and send chills through their softly shuddering bodies.” John says. and Relius winds the line to cast again. but sees its red light coloring sky. Relius felt a few tugs on the lure.
and which had also come up in conversation when they lay on the rock. too large to cut.” “It made you look really dark.” “Why'd you shave it?” “I don't know. you know.” Rebecca chatters. even though I didn't know who you were. and Rebecca mocks Relius as she reminds him of the stubbornness that brought him to the hospital.” “Dark?” “Yeah. “Did you have a beard then?” “Probably. I could tell you weren't from here. They walk back to the river.“God yes.” . Rebecca volunteers herself and Relius to find the dry sticks and birchbark they need while John looks for the rocks to contain it. staring at the cold she sees coming over the horizon hidden behind the trees. In the shadows of the trees the waning light yields more quickly to darkness and Relius nods to Rebecca's suggestion that maybe they should go looking for wood together instead of walking off separately. Rebecca saying she thinks they would find more dry wood out in the open than on the floor of the forest. and they find many large logs. which happened to be the first time she saw him. hugging her arms tightly across her chest.
“so I usually have a beard by the end of the week. I'm sorry I know about that.” “What was Nick like?” “Nick. an obvious one.” Relius breaks another dry branch from a fallen tree. But I was wondering about what he was like before that. More interested . Nick broke the chain. “You know what changed.” “Yeah.” he says.“Did that bother you?” “No. and then shave again for Sunday. Can I ask you something. Graduated. so he just worked in his dad's office.” “So what changed?” Relius says too quickly. knowing the instant he paused that he'd asked the wrong question. He went to high school. Started working for his parents till he got a job in town. Didn't want to be a doctor though.” “Before that. Nick isn't like anyone worth talking about. not yet sure how to phrase as a question the pulsebeat of desire he feels curling below his neck.” “What sort of job?” “His dad's a doctor just like his dad was. Before that he was like other guys around here. I used to think he was. “I hate to shave.” he says reluctantly. a stupid one. “Unless you’re sure it’ll bug me. Should it? Just made wonder where you were from.
Yeah. The load in her arms triples Relius' efforts. He drops the branches onto the others and waits for Rebecca to come back with her own bundle.” Relius walks toward the treeline along the bank. remembering something she’d rather forget. needs to be. but only after he messed them up more at first. tell her he's noticed the beautiful color of her eyes. he tells himself. pins doubt to his mind. her need to snap and carry any branch she thought could burn. well sort of.” She laughs nervously. could we talk about something else? Nick's not someone I care to bring up anymore. And maybe he's just attracted to her because he wants to be. and unsought jealousy bleeds through tiny holes of his imagination.” “Like a mechanic?” “No. Not knowing Nick intimidates him. He could fix most things. and sighs deep and soothing before he carries a bundle of sticks and twigs to the pile they built in a grassy clearing beside the water. and he laughs at her stubbornness. . A bad mistake. He wants to compliment her now. and convince her that he admires her as she wants to be admired. Take it easy Relius.in cars. I should have let my crush on him die in high school. But it's too sudden. “What did you like about him?” “Relius.
” he says. He searches among the twigs they'd collected. He strikes a heavy bluetip match and maneuvers it slowly into the bottom of the cabin and watches with relief as it begins to crackle and small wisps of smoke give way to gentle. Logs. You're strong. then houses them in a small cabin of fresh and blackened twigs. You're beautiful. You'll be fine. Relius wanders through the many things he wishes he'd said while still alone with Rebecca.” she says. Kindling. She pulls her hair back over her ear with her right hand and smiles at Relius before she leans back into the small fire. Phrases that he wants her to need to hear from him. The smoky flame irritates her eyes. and she sits back and stares at the twigs glowing red at their ends. Branches. The flame does not catch.” he hears John say as he begins to set more twigs . “you wanna try?” “Sure. “Relius. Rebecca leans over the small fire glowing faintly beneath her pursed lips. Twigs. and Relius follows Rebecca back toward the fire ring John had just closed. wavering flames. embarrassedly excited. and let them share the privacy of opinions bloated by attraction.They gather the fuel in two messy armloads. Sentiments that seal their conversations with intimacy. He builds up three layers of kindling and bark. and separates them into four piles. “Not bad. and she looks up to let the cool breeze soothe the warm pain. He sets a small pile of kindling in the center of the circle and lays small layer of birch bark over it.
why don't you get it?” Relius stands up. The chocolate's in my bag. I never fished here before. and he builds the flame into a fire. “Did you really think we'd catch any fish here. John pulls a shiny ten-penny can from his bag and fills it with cider from his thermos. “ Relius walks toward the river and listens to the placid shadows he . now become a fiery teepee in miniature. He leans another large log against the fire and they smell the pine needles burn on its small branches. “No. and the fire into a warm center. I've never caught a fish here.along the outside of the cabin. Relius. I've got cider and hot chocolate. just the whispers of an empty night. The cracking fire amplifies the silence of the night. tending it. have you Becca?” “No. metallic lid. Nothing there. keeping the flame large and flickering a few inches of their heads where they sit. one of us has to get up though and get some water from the river. John sits closest to the fire. and Rebecca tries not to look too obviously into the forest. But then again.” he says. round. He positions the can carefully over the glowing embers on the side of the fire nearest him and covers it with a thin. are you kidding. “Where did you get that?” Rebecca says. “From home.” “I’m too cold to get up. a place for them among the anonymity of the darkening forest.
invades. The water sounds calm now, like its resting, soothing into a sleepy rhythm that looks almost still in the moonlight. He stands on the bank and compares the moon in the water to the one above him. Enormous moon. He squints at the craters, sees them for an instant before they blur. Footsteps up there, he thinks, and he looks around the edges of the moon for hints of the eternal darkness behind it. He hears a drop in the water, like a small stone tossed into its smooth surface, and he scans the bank with the flashlight. Nothing there. A few ripples in the water. A wavy moon now, looking bluer. “Relius, did you fall in,” he hears Rebecca shout, and he smiles at her quiet laugh. “No, I'm all right. Be right there.” He bends down beside the river and fills the coffee can with water. Cold. But it's okay now. This is a good cold. They drink the cider and hot chocolate quietly, their eyes staring into the transient shapes that rise out of the fire. Relius imagines spirits, and dwells moment upon moment on a memory that comes and flutters in his mind for the length of a flame until the next shape awakens another remembered ghost. Rebecca looks into the fire, enjoying the warmth brought on by the beautiful threads of yellow and red and sometimes blue and sometimes green. “Fire is so beautiful,” she whispers, and Johnathan turns toward her voice
and watches the shifting shadows on her face, her white skin transformed into the canvas of the flames pouring into the air. Rebecca looks above the fire and follows its ash and glowing dust towards the sky. The night sprinkled with stars, she squints to see them less blurry, to give them the sharp edges and corners of drawn stars. Relius and John follow Rebecca's gaze, and they search for the constellations they can name, but no one says the names aloud. The fire burns smaller now, warming them less in the coolness of the night, and Rebecca turns to John and Relius and asks if maybe they should get going. They agree, and John takes the coffee can to the river and fills it with the water they will need to put the fire out completely. He pours the water carefully over the glowing bits of wood, explaining to Relius and Rebecca that embers can sometimes smolder for a full year and then out of nowhere start a huge forest fire. Relius and Rebecca listen carelessly, both enjoying the feeling of having their hands dig into the warm mixture of water and hot embers, turning it over and over again, teasing the possibility of pressing their fingers onto a coal that still glows red secretly beneath its dark and moistened face. Once the fire is out John asks Relius to help him carry the rocks away, breaking up the fire circle, hiding the rocks with their blackened sides face down in the soil. Rebecca busies herself with collecting the wet coals, and scattering them around trees and shrubs, then spreading clean earth and branches over the patch
where their fire had burned. Passing back and forth over the ground with their flashlights, they make sure they do not leave anything behind, and check for any signs of their having been there. “I like for it to look new to everyone,” John says. “Never like a park.” They follow the trail out of the woods, careful not to trip over too many roots and rocks, and Rebecca walks closely behind Relius. They take a few steps together before Relius stops, pulls the yellow inhaler from his pocket, shakes it, looks at Rebecca and mutters, pathetic, isn't it, before he finds relief in this frustrating ritual. “You have asthma?” she says. He nods and exhales slowly, tasting the bitter medicine on his tongue. Relius walks in front of Rebecca again, and she follows the pace of his feet, and she compares Relius' stride to John's. The path widens and Relius slows to let Rebecca walk beside him. “Relius,” she says hesitantly, “do you mind if I ask why you are here. I don't mean here in the woods, I mean here, like with the Flaigs. Don't you get bored?” Relius chuckles and looks away from her toward the path in front of them. The moonlight shines through the trees, though they would not be able to see without their flashlights. He points his flashlight along the right side of the path,
casting thin shadows of grass and weeds over small patches of soil and rock. Bored? he repeats to her, smiling. “No. Not bored. I just get too much time to think about things sometimes, but I wouldn't say that I get bored.” She asks Relius about the city, his friends, and tells him that John told her earlier that since Relius has been with his parents he hasn't gotten in touch with anyone and has not received a single letter. His parents must have told him that, Relius thinks, Kristina probably, who always seems worried that he feels too alone in their house, in this town. Relius tells Rebecca that there really isn't anyone he wants to hear from, that he arrived at the Flaig's home at a time when he wanted to get away from a lot, but he prefers not to say what. They walk silently for a while longer, hear one another's breathing, and smell the dampness of the season. Rebecca feels Relius stare, looks away following his gaze past her, then turns to him and offers a compassionate half smile. “John told me that your wife died,” she says. Relius looks at the earth circled in their lights. He shines the beam toward the trees and watches it vanish into darkness. Rebecca listens to his silence until he sighs and says, “yes, she did. I don't mind talking about it. She just had a lot of bad luck. We did I guess.” He aims the flashlight in front of him and tries to
shine it in front of John so he might look back and know they stopped again. He doesn’t want to visit those memories, those days of hope, those days of despair. Before she died, Renee seemed so strong, so healthy. She ran to the door to hug him when he came home from work. She was so excited, so happy. Or is that just what he wants to remember. He’s uncertain of he might have wished for and what might be an actual memory. Though he’s certain of Renee’s pain, in her joints, in her kidneys, the rashes. “It was like torture,” Relius says. And her parents made it worse. Renee spent almost two months in the hospital before she died, and her family wouldn't let him take her home to die in her own bed. “They were so damn selfish. I don't know if they really thought all that medication could cure her, or if they just could not stand the thought of her dying so young.” The doctor kept telling them it was systemic lupus, “the worst bite of the wolf.” But they didn’t want to let go. Rebecca hears tears in his voice, his words that tremble. She wants to take the flashlight from him and hold his hand, assure him that beyond his wife's death he still has the right to be held, that his love for her and her memory don’t consume him in a rigid past, that he can and should welcome new faces, new emotions into his thoughts and can still overcome his sorrow. But she cannot hear the words to say it, and she asks him if he left because of her family after she died, wondering what she should have said instead.
Relius begins walking again, and paces his steps to his words. He tells Rebecca that his wife died eight months before he left and that there were other reasons why he had to get away. He does not explain those other reasons now. He swallows hard and looks at her. “What were you getting away from today?” he says. “My family,” she says with a sad laugh, then walks a few steps silently, thinking of the guilt her parents put on her, looking briefly at Relius to see if he’ll say something about the baby she lost. She wants to tell him what her father says, but she doesn’t feel comfortable repeating the words. Would Relius agree with them, that they’d raised her better than that? She tells him that her parents expected more from her, but not that her father obsessively calls her common, his self-righteous euphemism for slut. John's flashlight shines across their feet and then on their faces. “We're still here,” she yells. She asks Relius is he believes that God punishes people. “Yeah, family's hard,” Relius says, and they catch up to John, and no one speaks and they turn and walk together. While walking ahead of Rebecca and Relius John enjoyed letting his mind wander in any direction, occasionally pausing to hear the conversation between them. As curious as he was about Relius' answers to Rebecca's questions, he
could not concentrate on them. He thought of Rebecca when they were young, he thought of Rebecca learning that she was pregnant and then losing the baby. He watches her feet move in front of him along the path, and asks himself if he loved her. I think I love Sarah, he hears himself repeating in his mind. He hadn't thought of Sarah since coming home, but now, confronted with the thought of finding pleasure with another woman, he can think only of her. Sarah, with the greenish brown eyes, the tight black curly hair. Before he left she'd told him he couldn't ever love anyone until he learned to love himself. Loving himself was not the problem he told her, as he had told everyone else who accused him of an incapacity to love. He had just not yet found someone that he felt he could love completely. How could he change anything about himself if he had not yet met someone worth changing for? She told him he was too selfish and he did not respond. He said goodbye, and came home to his family to stop thinking of her, to stop worrying about his classes, his work, himself. They walk on, their conversation waning to a soothing silence, till they hear their breathing and their footsteps combine with the breeze and the evening insects to form the distinctive sound of night. Just as they leave the dirt path, and begin walking on the asphalt road glittering in the moonlight, they hear the harsh screech of a car skidding to a stop then the quick sudden thud of a blunt collision. A scream of pain breaks into the evening, and the three friends, saying
The silence of the mass of people moving so quickly above his brother and beside him terrifies and confuses him. not the desperate pleas of fear. they find a small group of people gathered in a small circle in front of the headlights of a small car. Frederick wonders selfishly how he is to live without his brother. John runs down to the site of the accident. Beneath them one brother weeps as the other dies. He holds . His noise suggests the muffled entreaties of quickening madness. I sound ridiculous to everyone beside my brother. black traces of desperation stretching out behind the car like exclamations to mark a point of tragedy. his interpreter. With his weathered hand on his cane he lifts himself from the side of his brother. where the road they follow feeds through town and winds past the church and shoe store. John approaches the people huddled around the brothers and follows the fingers of men and women pointing to short. run toward the agonized. He turns to go. why.nothing to one another. and direct them around the scene of the developing tragedy. trembles and questions again and again. why. with words they hear as why. Near the base of the hill. he thinks in the perfect words of his mind. The dying man's brother mumbles. but has no direction. Through the crowd he hears the painful moans. in the private language of his deafness. leaving Relius and Rebecca to slow the cars that come down the hill. Staring blankly into his brother's vacant eyes. weathered wail.
and he gently places his open hand on Frederick's shoulder as Frederick lowers his head and begins to weep. John stands very still.fast to the arm of the young man standing next to him. “No.” “Is he from town?” “No. I wonder if it was even his fault. I've never seen him before. John turns the key in the ignition but does not put the car into gear. John cannot say a word. Looking past Frederick toward the hill John sees the figures of Rebecca and Relius coming down to join him. the weight of the man hardly pressing on his arm. without a way to say it. Their outlines come in and out of view as the cars at the top of the hill turn to follow the directions of the man who took over slowing traffic and pointing cars toward a different path through town. and he feels numb and aimless as he sits in the car. Relius asks him if he saw the driver of the car.” John looks over his shoulder toward the road behind them. Poor kid. A heavy silence weighs on them as they walk together toward John's car parked near the church. without a word to say. and stares fixed into his eyes. and Relius just stares into the darkness above the lights of the town. but I think it was the kid that was sitting with Father William on the curb. glances at . Rebecca continues to wipe tears that build slowly in her eyes.
her tears. John. I'm sorry. strangers who knew him vaguely. “Maybe I should drive. and don't feel too good about driving anywhere right now. It's just that I'm a bit nervous is all.” Relius says. He thinks of the boy he killed and of conversations his friends and family.” he says. “You both knew both of them all your life didn't you. “Are sure you wouldn’t mind driving.” John says. “do you think we could talk about something else?” “Come on. we just saw a man die. might have had about why he was killed.” “It's. “or go to a nursing home.” Relius feels her touch on his shoulder now. Relius thinks of the brothers and of the boy who drove the car.” “What do you think will happen to Frederick?” Rebecca says in a watery voice. I'm sorry. “That curve is dangerous as hell. I understand. I can't imagine he'll live much longer after this. How do you expect us to talk about something else?” “I know. “and everyone knows that Frederick and Richard weren't always that careful. .” she asks.Rebecca in the back seat. “ She leans forward and touches John's shoulder.” Relius says. You just held his brother's hand. “He'll probably have to go live with his family somewhere. didn't they?” “Becca. okay. They needed each other.
Exhausted by his thoughts. and goodnight to the Flaigs when they ask John about the commotion in town.“I'm fine. and he closes his eyes to stop himself from searching the room for meaning in grief. he thinks to himself as he sits behind the wheel of the car. and climbs out of the car and walks around it slowly and gets into the driver's seat after John crawls into the other side. I know why. . the gloom of the night darkens his sadness and confusion. He steers the car onto the road. and follows John's directions to Rebecca's house. for solace in solitude.” he tells Rebecca. He says hardly a word besides goodnight to Rebecca as John gets out of the car to walk her to her door.
And it’s not his body to touch – that was part of the promise. That sensation in his body. It’s not passion. this man determined to live as the illusions of himself demand? Am I a good man. wondering what waking that way might tell him of the rest of his day. exaggerated behind the cream he shaves carefully from the skin he pulls tight.FIVE He hates it. the vocation. it makes him wonder. and he hesitates at the edge of his bed. “Take my waking slow. staring at their shape in the mirror. and steps into his morning slippers. only guilt. Who is this man in his skin? Who is this man of sin. uncontrollable swells of passion. Unhappy nakedness. He showers . Forgive me. his nose. he whispers when it happens. that sarcastic hint of procreative impulse. He searches his eyes in the reflection. his lips.” he mutters. that dreaded feeling of arousal still with him. softening the face of the priest and the man. this hypocrite.
He walks. with words he's unsure of. His coffee and toast are already on the table. Reed to return to the kitchen. “Good morning. Father. walking crookedly and slowly into the kitchen. Mrs. “Good morning. humming a different song now. continues to whirl slowly in his white cup. still driven by the spoon Mrs. Reed. He sits and watches for Mrs. so finding purpose. Father William needs to be taken care of. the color of his eyes. but for Mrs. Reed had used to stir that dark elixir. Reed these apologetic bursts affirm the significance of her service to the young priest. in the years since the death of her husband. she tells her friends. and was raised like any of our husbands and sons were. from his bedroom down the stairs to the kitchen. why yes I did. and yourself?” . a song by a singer he could not name. misty air stream out the open window. Mrs. so he needs help around the rectory. however diminutive. he doesn't have a wife. Did you sleep well last night?” the widow says. Her friends don't demand explanations. He sings to himself as he dresses. The coffee. patiently waiting for her to serve him the eggs he smells and hears cooking just a few feet from him on the stove. I had a fine rest. Reed insists that she serve him.quickly and welcomes the uncomfortable coldness of the tiles and lets the warm.
Father William does not ask Mrs. Hiding his boredom has become a game of overcoming ennui. or the numerous essays he has written. Reed to say more than she offers in her own questions. No one. the limitations set on them by their unaware possession of sin within themselves. asks him of his time in Africa. He understands her reciprocal sense. Appreciating how his own turn of phrase captures that conflict in its own structure. on the epistles of Paul. and the base self that cannot hear the words of Paul. Reed wears over her rounded shoulders. Reed solely responsible. I am speaking in human terms. But do they understand the limitations as he does. he knows to ask about the shawl Mrs. her need to be asked the questions she asks. to have the opportunity to share trinkets of success without introducing them in the haughty fashion of the women she finds so rude. he hears the apostle say through him. contains in itself the noble self that hears the holy message. their morning conversations pass with similar phrases always. because of your natural limitations. in the rough structure of a lesson. he introduces the conflicting selves from the Letter to the Romans.Rehearsed. when asked about a sweater he might receive as a gift. some even published. intimidating and enviable. When asked about children in the parish he knows to ask about her son. There. . Throughout his sermons he hides what he considers the finest gems of his thoughts. and for this he does not hold Mrs.
he tells himself. And yet it is not arrogance that brings his hand to touch himself when he wakes. nor right. Father William explains in his sermon. but no one raises a hand to stop him as he walks by. Our arrogance. and imitate. Even the sweet sounds of Beethoven can distract us from the source of beauty. translucent patches of clouds stretched across the sky. for beauty belongs to God and not to man. telling one another he must be in a hurry. and the men and boys return to their hoes. Who heard Paul admit his own humanity in this sermon? Who hears Father William's own anguish at finding himself enslaved within a body filled with passions. open opportunities where his thoughts need not be justified. Small. our greatest distraction from Grace. We behold. He does not know why he can will what is right. and pernicious. Eyes stare and follow. We cannot see without sinning. anxious to close the genesis of . And the priest quickens his pace. shovels and wheelbarrels. and feel of fallibility and guilt. taste. his gait hardly changes as his stride carries him past these browning trees and hurried streams. is my greatest sin. but cannot produce beauty.Who hears him when he says that the flesh must die for the spirit to live. This silent man walks with ease. A sunny morning greets Father William as he leaves the threshold of the rectory. nor can we taste or touch. Ignorance. is our greatest sin. His walks are moments of solitude. imperfect senses that guide him so quickly toward the view. but cannot do it. sound.
Works so hard . and considers what he said to a contrite sinner. He does not pray as he walks along the gravel road that winds away from town. The priest waves hastily. Every Sunday Father William smiles to find the Mitchells in their customary place two pews back from the altar. The good man Mitchell leans forward onto the rusty steering wheel of the tractor and watches intently as the apparition traveling the gentle slope of the trail that passes by his home fades out of the shadows and emerges as the image of Father William. Father?” he calls out. “How you doing.” the priest says loudly. shorten his steps and slow his walk as he nears the home of the Mitchells. “Enjoying this fine morning? “Good morning. as though he needs to forego their customary hellos. he says of them when prompted to comment on their simplicity. Roger. “I thought Anton would be helping you in the fields this morning. The good man Mitchell sees the wave. The heavy thoughts of Frederick and Richard. or reconsiders the lack of consolation he himself would have gotten from the words he offered a grieving parent or child.his walk with a fitting revelation. though not the intention. dying in one death. He steps off to let a tractor pass. brother wasting in brother’s arms. His mother just insists he rest when he's home. no. has he left town already?” “No. Good people.
Billy. Says he drove past the whole thing. turning away premature. it's like they think they're still driving past the fields when they go through town. and Father William has not forgotten his distrust of human emotions. let's just hope that some good can come of this. His brother's children. bringing him before her friends as my brother-inlaw the priest. William Brown. Roger.” he tells the good man. Crossing the street isn't even safe anymore. and Father William. “ “Well. obeying the nonsensical formalities of their father.” Roger Mitchell says. I imagine some rest would be good for him. expecting more than news about his son. this is my brother-in-law who used to be little Billy. impatient. but couldn't stop and didn't know until this morning that it was old Richard. you . Still not used to the city I guess. Shame isn't it.” “Yes. fine. “Oh. call him Uncle Father. leaving the good man with the stalled words of a futile conversations. and never dare utter the disrespectful Uncle Billy.all week long you know. Don't even think about the folks that live here. “he come in last night just when everything happened in town. or. How is he?” Father William walks closer to the good man. Just a matter of time before someone got hurt. fine. the way people drive through here. No one looks for Billy anymore. held human emotions in low regard. His brother's wife hesitates to introduce him as her younger brother-in-law Billy.
Small breezes beneath the clapping wings of a crane that fears him. The trail ends and opens upon the lake. watching him walk away from his thin wire fence. making one pass. Staring at the ground. hearing the rhythm of his footsteps and the gentle whisper of a wind among the trees. Stepping onto these small stones. and slip slightly on the slope out of the dry creek bed he stepped into to return to his path along the road. climbing over new growth.” the good man says to the back of the priest. and parts the few bending limbs of the young crimson maples that shelter the trail. a trespasser in its sanctuary. too uncommon. He steps along the thin patch of grass bordering the lake. No one there. he joyfully brings one foot then the other down onto the more jagged little rocks that have not been crushed into the smooth soil and finer gravel that surrounds them. Father. Precious silence. He listens carefully for the quietude. and he pauses to search the rims of the water for other walkers. He follows a thin. unmarked trail away from the road. Smiling at the turtles that peek out at him like curious. other listeners. “Take care.remember him. He does not close the circle of his second stroll . Father William steps carefully onto the path. crouching under fallen trees that arc from land into water. he enjoys the subtle pressure of the hard gravel pressing into the sole of his shoe and the arch of his foot. mute observers of a mystery. then another.
Despite the sudden shudder he smiles as rows of water raise small mists upon the lake until they gradually fade into the smoothness of the surface and move off into the horizon. each instant capturing and releasing a new color. waking him to his senses. In his mind. the falling of the water is never simple. just a screen between himself and the distant trees and hills his eyes pass over. Straightening his legs out in front of him. a new shade. the day begins again.around the lake. and stares into the air above the water. slowly removing the gray mask from the blueness of heaven. . each drop. reminding him of his body. The rain. Looking hard into the rain he searches its many pieces for the mosaic they form. a new shape. A slight chill follows the breeze along his limbs. The wind rustles the life surrounding the lake. After the rain. and he hears the shadows as they stretch over the blue curves in the water and cover them with small rings that fade more quickly into one another as the calm sky recedes behind the hasty grayness of a rain cloud. magnifies as it falls. and lowers himself onto a plump and soft looking rock to serve him as a chair and then as a wall to lean upon as he brings his knees up close to his chest and hugs them for warmth. Father William stares into the sky. Either the rain masters the mime act of capturing itself and the earth that welcomes it. or he finds no art in the falling water.
The grayness behind his eyes pushes into his vision and presses against his high forehead. nor the words he should offer to Frederick and Richard's children. inaudible. they fill his silence like a stubborn song. He stares. Fragments of a prayer pass through his mind. and the onus of being human. to let his senses take in the sights. without longing. With the sadness he cannot fix his stare. and he sits in unwilling silence. finally. a mind to speak to itself. he yearns for a guiltless silence. the Lord is with thee. unable to recall the sermon he should give that evening. nor the trees. and his mind echoes in emptiness. He struggles for a thought. The pleasant morning fades into early day.the rough sensation of wet polyester rubs against his skin. Thoughts of weakness invade his body and deliberately devour his fragile temple. Free to recognize what he ought to consider. of having sin by being. Hearing the prayers in his mind. tightens into a vacuous ball of tension in his chest and he feels its confusing absence and presence pulsating inside him. A heavy dullness smothers his thoughts. he leans against the wetness of the cold rock and knows his own need for a crucified man and the words written to justify that crucifixion. nor the fish that bend so quickly into the sunlight before submersing their rainbow dance in a thudding splash. scents and sounds that surround him without judgment. at the . hardly present. and he does not see the birds his eyes pass over. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Pressing them into dirt and away from himself he refuses to welcome the tears that swell in the edges of his eyes. No one knows of their kiss. But he cannot recall what he read. His friend's face does not appear but he recalls the beautiful warmth of being held outside the doors of the divinity library. or what he wrote in those books. I don't damn you for what we've done. I have accepted a particular way of life. and their many embraces have relics only in the museum of his memory.small rocks he kicks away in front of his feet. In the books surrounding his desk in the rectory he would find the words to bring consolation to his sorrows. living images that demand his silence as they plead for mercy from his faculties of judgment. I swore myself to a life of chastity. Why force me to question . nor do I regret it. where they hover as though painted on the air itself. A rational man could tell him that his sins are not mortal. Dear God. we've only loved. We've not sinned. even in my most private moments meet my obligations to my beliefs. Who would damn us? Would you? How could his friend have known the strength of Brother William's controlled conscience. Hardly aware of the question. his friend told him. and with that acceptance I must. less aware of his inability to formulate the questions that haunt him as he walks in his own veil of hypocrisy. I simply cannot be with you again. I swore to myself that my every thought would be chaste so that no one could ever doubt the genuineness of my vows. he asks. why. William told his lover.
“ Kneeling before the altar he could not turn away from the differences between this church and his own. the stranger behind the dark honeycombed grill of the confessional in a church in a town he'd not been to before. he told himself. for the sin is in the desire. Brother William repeated more calmly. don't you. then you must know that one of us must leave. In his memory. Strike the lust out of your life. Follow the Lord and you will be fine. He continued to weep as he meditated on his prayers of contrition. “You know you have sinned. but not for his choice of lover. He weeps and listens in his mind to the voice of the priest. in a quivering whisper. my son. Shaking and frightened at his own controlled rage.” the priest told him anonymously. it cannot be. how could they follow your example if you do not trust in yourself. This stranger priest needed to know only of my lust. not in the object of that desire. “You must be contrite in your desire for forgiveness. as a servant of Christ you have been called to set an example that others might follow. knowing these prayers could merely add to his self hatred. a liar. asking forgiveness for the sin of physical love. As a child of God. my son.myself so? If you love me as you say you do. make him a hypocrite. What we have cannot be. as he prays before the altar of a roughly carved figure with unyielding . you must stop these thoughts from ever possessing your mind again.
neglected trail. tell each other he's a country priest. and fastens the joint secure. Dear Lord. and considers himself a more hateful sinner than before the priest had forgiven him his trespasses. Tracing his way back over the worn. The sun rises higher into the clearness of the blue sky. His nap brings him effortlessly into late morning. he continues across the road and through the purpleblue flowers of alfalfa. a shorter walk to the church. he says again to the heavens. he rolls his jacket into a ball to place as a pillow under his slumbering head. and the warmth dries his skin and black clothes. and he rises from his supine rest. he .white eyes over which the redness of his blood shines almost fluorescent. He unties the weathered knot. Reclining on the moist rock. He makes a half a pass around the lake until he finds the path that brought him to its solitude. forgive me. He does not stop to let the cars and trucks pass. he doubts his own reasoning. This road is wider. yawning and stretching his arms into the air and his legs into the earth. this phrase a common antidote to the oppressive silence he both yearns for and detests. A quick glimpse of Nebraska between the red lights of the slowing car. careful to stay to the narrow ditch between the neat rows. On the other side of the field he stops to repair the fence where the frayed hemp has lost its hold on the rail and the post. paved. and young men and women in cars with out-ofstate plates and from other counties stare at him.
apologizing that he could not kill it. Henry Sheldon reaches back and wipes the soil from his hand on the back of his denim overalls. but does not turn back. he mutters. He regrets the pain of the turtle. only remember it. Father William walks happily. leans into the soil and digs up more stones pressed out of the earth like tiny boils. Distracted. It does not hide in its shell when he touches it. Henry returns to his work. “Someone must have run you over.” he tells it. and he sees the blood pooling in the wound beneath the broken shell. He carries the turtle toward the pond he calls its home. and thanks him for the ride he does not take. testing the texture of the turtle where his fingers cradle it and lift it from the road.assures the elderly man that he travels the right road. . passively acknowledging the priest who walks within his own continuum. and still smiles when he leans down to consider the fractured shell of the turtle that stares at him in disbelief. He lowers his hand. and so it is that neither man sees the other. maybe she'll be fine. Henry Sheldon sees him from afar and watches the priest slow his pace before looking back in the direction from which he had come as though looking for his own tracks along the path. Father William passes. and sets it down beside the water.
like he's dumber than they are. we gotta get on.” he says. waiting for him to get up and follow. and he feels embarrassed now. He steps into the footprints left in front of him. ready to cry at the mud covering his hands and staining his knees. still laughing. and waddles less obviously from side to side as he stands still in the darkness of the woods and stares at his . and messed up making them laugh again. follows them. get up. to match the distance from one wet footprint to the next. He trips over a root he did not look for. and his eyes water briefly. sees them crouch low and whisper.” he hears. to make them laugh again. and slows his comical walk to a secretive tiptoe. laughs childishly to himself as he stops from step to step. the largest. waiting for them to help him. and he throws his hands into the mud again. and he laughs with them. He lifts himself up and watches them. “I fell down. ”Come on . happy to be with the other two. But they stand at a distance.SIX They walk quietly. shortening his long. the youngest man. Marty. until he hears them laughing ahead of him. slow stride.
” he says. “It's your turn Marty. did you do it.” he says. but he knows that he would make them mad if he talks now because he never whispers right. his heroes. “Where'd you find all that roadkill at?” Luke stares back at the bag of rotting animals on the doormat. SPIC LOVER.” Craig says.” Craig says in an eager whisper.” Marty takes the stone from his friend's hands and looks at its gray color and the black letters that cross it faintly in the moonlight. and hands him the rock. “Marty. and he crouches as they crouched. you stay here. and he laughs with them. Words writ jagged on the dirty gray. “See if you can break the big window next to the door there. and sets his backpack on the forest floor. and stares at their low shadows run quickly from the woods and slowly up the stairs to the door.” He looks at the wrinkled reflection of the moon in the large window and closes his fingers tighter around the stone. He looks at them with questioning .” they tell him. and he hears them laugh secretly in the night. words he cannot read. “break the window. “Throw it Marty. “It's not done yet. ask them did you do it. and he wants to shout when they run back to him. and does not answer.friends. “They're gonna shit when they find that bag. He pulls a large stone from the bag and looks at it in the moonlight.
and the front door opens reluctantly. “What the?” he says. The silhouette of a single body stands in the doorway. The stone hits the house. He breathes with them. and they laugh at the loud thud. loves them.eyes that hold no question. and he hears Luke say that was good.” Craig says. closing his eyes to tight slits and scanning the trees and the darkness for figures that shine wrongly or shadows that move where shadows should not be.“ . and at them. and he crouches with them lower to the ground when lights come on behind the heavy curtains covering the window he did not break. and draws his arm back ready to throw. but not the window. like a limb to their whims. a rifle at its side. and wonders at the cruel stupidity of the prank. and they cover their mouths to muffle their laughs at the man who steps onto his porch and feels the soggy mass of flesh and bones under his feet. and Marty stares frightened at the gun that lifts to a ready angle across the man's chest.” the man tells the darkness. and he looks at the house. And they laugh. and at the stone. “Here it comes. The shadowy body steps forward into its next yell. and he closes his grip around the heavy stone and hurls it toward the window reflecting the blue grayness of the moonlit night. and do not care that he trusts them. “Who's out there?” they hear the man yell. but not with him. “Cowards like you are never smart enough to run when you should. “I know you're still out there. and he says that was good in his slow. deep voice.
striking dozens of holes into the silence. the red gives way to a rough corner of cold white light. or the sounds of panicked running.Rebecca's father looks back into his house to tell his wife to get away from the door. and a silhouette stares out. and they stay crouched low until the footsteps leave the porch and the door closes.” Luke says. “That was fucking awesome. Luke glares at Marty and warns him with his eyes not to make a sound. “Don't think I won't find out who you are.” he threatens. A hand draws back a curtain in an upstairs window. He imagines the family .” he shouts.” He walks farther down the stairs and rubs his finger against the trigger of the rifle. “I aimed high on purpose.” He listens for a response from the trees. They wait.” they hear. “I figure they're all up by now. and they rise slowly and stare with Luke at the lights making the white curtain in the kitchen and the bedrooms look red and sinister. “Cowards can't hide long from their conscience. The three men hear the lead shot sprinkle harshly through the trees. He walks to the end of the porch and stands at the top of the steps.” Craig says. for aggressive taunts. “That wasn't meant to kill you. He points the gun into the trees and fires. “You come by here again and I can't promise the same. He walks across lawn and stops in front of the tree line.
across the road and into the field. frightened. filling a jar with them. and he steals the snotty bandanna from Marty's pocket and taunts him to chase him toward the truck. “I wish I could've seen that fucker’s face. of Rebecca. He remembers catching dozens of them once. Luke leading them confidently back to the truck. He lifts the bottle again. Marty and Craig wrestle in front of the truck and he turns away from them and walks toward the back of the truck to drink a second beer. hundreds of lightening bugs glow softly above the grass. irritated. He takes a long drink from the bottle. He's certain they won't be looking out the windows now. and he taps Marty and Craig hard on their arms and says let's get out of here. and tosses it into the dirt. a ridiculously large child from a race of giants. They walk without a flashlight through the woods. twists off the cap. He leans against the back of the truck and lifts his left foot against the bumper. Marty runs after him clumsily. He thinks of what they've done. or listening for sounds outside. closing his eyes to drink it down more quickly. and drains it. wanting them to know how serious this is. Luke walks calmly to the truck. In front of him.arguing inside. and he wonders where it rains. unsure why anyone would insult them.” Craig says. and likes the idea of being numb. The moon vanishes behind dark clouds. trying to use them to brighten the small tent he shared . He takes a beer from the cooler in the bed of the truck. They come out of the woods laughing loudly. He swallows and sighs.
he thinks. “It probably just flew away. and laughing at the way he says it tickles. Leave it. you're gonna end up in the Klan. “It's okay. The crickets are louder now. Come on now. and remembers what they called him when they came home.” he says mournfully.” he says. they teased him. He sits in the grass now. They went away. worried that he killed it. They toss their empty bottles into the back of the truck. tossing a beer into his lap and making Marty lose the firefly as he tries to catch the bottle in his slow hands.” Craig says.” Luke says. and Craig grabs . looking for Luke to forgive him. and he holds it away from the ground where he searches for his firefly. letting a firefly walk on his hands. Luke hands Craig a beer and they walk quietly to Marty. and sees Marty kneeling on the ground digging his fingers into a patch of dandelions and grass. “I lost it. He looks behind him to see why it's so quiet. A racist.with Joey and Evan. Most of them are flying up into the trees for the night anyway. Craig comes up beside him from nowhere and points to Marty. “Get up. let's get going. a backwoods fool. He walks around the truck and takes three beers from the cooler. too. dipshit. warned him.” he says gently. “He's still trying to catch him a firefly. and two frogs complain to each other along the road. The bottle looks tiny in his massive fingers.
three more beers from the cooler. With each turn of the animal. Matty grimaces and the soreness in his shoulder grows more intense. The sparrows do not fly by as they often do in the warmer hours. and feels an unfamiliar confusion as he thinks of the manure and the birth of the calf at once. Kristina lifting its tail. or unexpected twist in his own arm. and watches in quiet disbelief as Matty digs his arms deep into the heifer to feel for the position of the calf. Inside the barn even the cows don’t look ready for a new day. and the cats do not show off their balance along the beams running from column to column beneath the ceiling. ignoring the occasional moo. Relius walks to his side and in a delirious stupor lifts the wisping tail as Matty asks him to. a long vein of mucous and blood mapping a short trail down her hind. Soon Kristina and Matty stand at the sides of the heifer. He accelerates aggressively. Luke starts the truck and turns on the radio loudly. as Relius slowly presses one arm. the wheels lifting a dusty fog behind the truck before peeling onto the road. Stepping into the barn Relius smells the manure more intensely than usual. standing behind the heifer expected to give birth that morning. and is happy to find a song with words to match his brooding anger. He sees Matty. many of them still resting in their small patches of straw. He turns the dial until he finds a song he can sing to. then another into .
feeling carefully around the calf’s legs.the back of the quiet beast. “let her push. Matty explains to Relius . “Don’t pull. “A foot I think. Three. The sensation feels artificial to Relius. lubricant. Relius stretches his arm a little further. I think. and impending birth. And I feel a nose.” Reaching again into the heifer. still not believing that he feels the inside of an animal. smelling the pungent odor of urine.” he tells them.” “The jack?” Demonstrating on Kristina's outstretched hands.” “When the shoulder’s out well use the jack. and when he first touches a small leg or hoof he jumps back with surprise.” “How many joints do you feel?” Relius reaches in. “Two.” “You sure? Relius reaches in again. a head or a foot?” asks Matty. “Wait a minute. Three. bringing his shoulders closer together near the front of his chest. “What was it.” Kristina says. “I felt something” he says nervously. for sure. “I think it’s coming out.
and just as Relius feels the slight sensation of bringing a life into the world of the barn. Soon the gelatinous mass of the placenta passes out of the cow and drops warmly into the mound of manure beneath it. Gently he places the brace against the back of the heifer and begins to turn the axle in his hands. and Matty and Kristina laugh at the sight of Relius. his arms covered with sticky redness and his eyes glowing in pleasant shock. The blue and red veins threaten that it might spring to life itself. “Think you can do it?” Though nervous about harming the calf's fragile bones Relius manages to loop the end of the rope over the small animal's legs. He watches carefully as Matty slips the ropes over Kristina's fisted hands. and then pretends to set up the arms of the brace against the imaginary hind of the animal as he begins to twist the handle very slowly. Soon Kristina and Matty catch the calf when it falls out of its mother and they set it onto the warm. the heifer's legs tremble briefly. and nods to the young man that all is well. The small calf looks fragile and bewildered on the hay. soft. The rope twists into a tight braid. clean hay they had bundled up behind the cow soon after seeing the first vein of blood on her haunches. and she leans toward Relius.how to use the strange contraption he needs to help pull the calf from the mother. threatening to lay down before Matty forces it to its feet. he should continue to turn the axle. growing out of its own .
“Because of the calf. jokingly congratulating him for having helping the Flaig’s calf that morning. It’s still early morning when Relius goes into town to get some bread from the bakery. “It’s a genuine pleasure. “I think we should call this bull Relius. long. And he nods his consent.ooze into a being with thin. the Sheldons. And inside the small bakery. “not a bad idea.” as he reaches gently into the heifer to feel for another calf. unbalanced legs like the one now breathing heavily on the hay. and then all of them begin to applaud happily. The news of the calving had already spread quickly.” Relius says.” Mr. the Clark girls behind the counter. Reed asks him as he walks into the bakery. but like someone who has shared in the traditions of living here. the customers turn to look at him. “So how’s it feel to be a real farmer. “Why’s everyone clapping?” Relius asks the Clark girl at the counter.” “The one I delivered?” . And Relius enjoys being greeted differently now – not like a stranger or a guest.” Kristina tells her husband. The Mitchells. muttering. stare at him silently for a moment. the Erdelacs.
pleasantly surprised to find someone had already paid for it for him. But instead of indifference. He’d saved something. as had become his custom. Matty says it was gonna die. but stops midway. Relius thinks. looking around the room for an explanation of the joyful energy that dissipated with his arrival. looking around the bakery at his new friends. with this much happiness around him. Done something important for the family that was so good to him. The priest had also heard of Relius’s achievement. Relius collects his order. Today.” The revelation fills Relius with a surge of pride. and leaves the bakery. What the hell is wrong with you. he merely greets Relius by saying his name. priest. Relius turns toward the door and watches the priest step in. he meets the priest with resentment. but he doesn’t congratulate him.“You didn’t just deliver it. He’d finally done more than toss some hay or beat a carpet in the snow. Relius expected to be immune to the coldness he expected from Father William. He starts walking straight for his bicycle. While Relius waits for his order and recounts the story of the calving the door open and the murmur in the bakery fades to silence. He greets everyone in the bakery warmly. silly. and walks back toward the bakery. on this morning. but. How could you be so self-centered. He waits there for .
Father William comes out holding a large bag of bread. Relius?” “Just accuse me of whatever it is you think I’m guilty of. his own awareness that this man he hates asks the questions he refuses . Go ahead.” Father William says. yes? Just come out and say it.the priest. and soulless impanations of pumpernickel and rye. solitary intinction. “Relius. either. I can see that. “I don’t judge you. The priest will eat it alone.” “Say what.” the priest says calmly. would you. “why a young. and he senses his own paranoia.” “No.” Both men are surprised at Relius’s sudden aggression. lone communion at a table without ceremony.” Impatience and anger seethe through Relius. What do you mean. educated man like you would want to spend so much time in a town where people never talk about what interests you and where you never get a chance to talk to people who really know anything about you. but you don’t trust me. He sees Relius coming toward him. “I'm just curious. “Yes?” “Yes.” “Why don’t you walk with me?” Father William stays calm as they walk together away from the people.
unaware that he judges himself. telling the priest that Kristina and Matty know a lot about him. “Don't assume that just because I won't talk to you it means I won't open up to them. But Relius' anger does not burn in the priest. and his eyes burn with hot tears. his sins.” Relius refuses to say more about himself. can you understand that?” Relius knows he's betrays himself.” “Do you think I am hiding from someone?” he utters. the only difference is that you know what you're hiding. Relius.” he says. I just needed to get away for a while. The priest does not answer.” he says. Relius. certain that the priest challenges him to justify himself before his judgment so that he might reveal his weaknesses. you and I both know it. cautious accusations. You're hiding something.to answer even in the privacy of his thoughts. “and I think it would make a lot of sense coming from someone for whom it is true. trying to challenge the priest. and Father William continues to accuse him of duplicity in calm. He questions the priest's motivation for attacking him and asks the priest to tell him why he dislikes him so much. but I can't say that I believe it coming from you. and Relius fills the well of silence with his own words. so do John and Rebecca. I don't. “I understand what you're saying. . I didn't do anything. “The answer is no. He defends himself hastily. “I am not hiding.
tries to soothe himself enough so that his words speak of his sincere bitterness toward the priest's beliefs. and no longer spite him with irrational anger. you don't even know what it means to love someone. their home. so much that loving them terrifies you because you realize how easy it would be to lose that person and everything that person means in your life. Relius. for a few months just because they need to get away. You sit around and try to offer people advice on their lives and you don't even live a real life. a widow makes all your meals. but he stays at the priest’s side and waits for him to respond. and no one goes away from their family. I distrust you. “Father.” he says sternly. and everything you tell people seems to fit together too nicely for it to be true. Life is not like that. Relius? What have you done?” Relius evens his breaths as he listens to the priest.“I don't dislike you. You deny the simplicity of my life because you want everything to be so complicated that only you and your faith can solve it. “you are neither the judge nor the council you imagine yourself to be. tries to calm himself. And I don't mean your damn charity. No one's life makes as much sense as you pretend yours does. I mean love someone for real. You have never bought a home. . father. His hands shake and his lips quiver from his controlled rage. Relius imagines his words shattering dozens of mirrors in the priest’s mind. You don't make sense to me. What is it.
you know nothing. They deserve your respect.” “What do you do?” Relius barks. what happened to you?” “Nothing happened to me.“Young man. holding a small brown bag of nails tightly in his left hand. Doesn't that bother you at all?” “What bothers me is that you should take advantage of the trust of a good family like the Flaigs.” he says on choked words. Relius follows the priest's stare. father. say nothing. “Everything all right. I've seen you in church. .” “I could say the same to you. father. “There are more kinds of love than sexual love. Do you even know the history of your religion?” Father William hears Matty first as he walks toward them smiling.” Matty asks the two men. singing quietly to himself. you were raised with faith. They nod.” “I cannot believe that you truly believe the things you say. you know the songs. you know the prayers. “Give people false hope? That's not helpful. not your deceit. and accepts the silence. Nothing had to happen to me. Do you know how many of the husbands and wives in your church go there and pray for their marriage and then go home and don't even talk with each other. I just couldn't stand the hypocrisy and the lies any longer. and your lack of understanding does not give you the right to minimize what I do for this community.
“Don't you get into it with him.” Matty says.Relius turning away to wipe the angry tears from his cheeks. Father. “Yes you are.” Matty's gentle manner and his simple words subdue the passions of the two men. he's a stubborn one. Father. He motions to Relius that they should be on their way.” He looks at the priest shaking his head.” he tells him. and don't you underestimate him Relius. . “I guess you two probably got into some argument about philosophy or something. “you're a wise man. Relius and the priest stare briefly at one another before Relius rides off behind Matty. Father William looking down in pensive sadness at the bags in his hands. he knows a lot more than you think. He's a wise man.
“I'll be. wooden rooster turn with the early breeze. Mrs. that no one she knows would have any reason to drop roadkill on the doorstep. mulch from the stone. wiping away the dark. Rebecca sits with her mother at the kitchen table and they talk about last night. He faces his home and watches the thin.SEVEN Theodore Daugherty walks in slows steps across his lawn to inspect his house from a distance. Her mother asks her if she knows why anyone would do such a thing. and Rebecca says no. wet. Daugherty pushes back her chair and walks to the . and rubbing off the red mud with his thumb. to see if he might find anything along the trees. He reads the poorly written words and turns the rock over once more to see if there are more words on the other side.” he says. He steps carefully over the azaleas and reaches down into the pachysandra to retrieve the rock he knows he'd not put there. He sees a sharp brown scar to the left of their living room window and walks back to his house.
and wonder why he brought it into the house.window to look for her husband. look at him. and shakes his head no to his wife's offer of more coffee. her lips say. but the somber man does not answer. “What's this about?” he asks bitterly. dad. He leans toward her.” Rebecca says. Daugherty takes the coffee pot from the shelf and fills the cup her husband had left empty on the table. “What's that. “Are you going to see him today?” . The kitchen door swings open slowly and Theodore Daugherty walks into the room with the rock low in his right hand. what do you think it means?” “Is it true?” he asks. He pulls a chair from the table and sighs as he lowers himself onto it and rests his hands uncomfortably on the table. “It says spic lover. lifting the rock from her hands and reading its words again. They hear the front door close and Mrs. dad. She leans forward and reluctantly picks up the rock. “Are you in love with that young man?” It is true. He sets the rock on the table in front of his daughter and turns it slightly till the words face her. He watches his daughter for her thoughts.” she says with a mild smile. “Your father thinks he's going to find some clues out there. His daughter and wife look at the rock.
” “Worse for myself? How could loving someone make things worse. their concerns. The death of her unborn child continues to confuse her in its mystery. don't make things worse for yourself. “be careful. the black letters.Her eyes begin to water and she feels the quiet anger of offense and distrust leech from her gut to her throat and percolate slowly into her thoughts. She lets the rock roll out of her hand onto the table and listens to it rumble on the table. Why do you always have to see things dad’s way?” Rebecca searches the room for an exit. “Becca. the grainy stains left where her father wiped soil and mulch from its surface. the wet rock. where unknowns do not matter. “Why wouldn't I tell him. You've been through a lot already. though does not remember in response to what. and she takes up the stone and holds it close to her nose. Not a door. and she cannot order her life. smelling the different colors.” she hears her father say. but a place she could step into where emotions find quietude. the possibilities of its meaning allude her. “I might.” her mother says. and her eyes stay fixed on the words that violate the smell and color of the stone. “Will you tell him about this. trying to measure their thoughts. not a window. watching her parents.” she hears herself say. align her .” she says.
What do her parents want. significance. puts it in their quiet faces and sees it. She feels their judgment now. She hears her parents. They are silent now.hopes with her fears. More confusion now. why the anger. her memories of love and loss. looks for the fingers. Her mother's eyes water and her father's fix on the rock. Inside. Do they blame her. Outside. her father rolls the rock back and forth on the table. enough to tease out purpose. Does not want to touch it. And where is the exit. Not knowing why someone would throw a rock at her house. but she hears distrust in their quiet stares. the lingering shadows. or anything to shield her from the cold wind and morning drizzle. looks at the words and thinks of the hand that wrote them. and backs quickly away from the table. accept the accusations written on a rock. Her mother covers her mouth and cries. that might have held it and wrote that note.” she says. her mother talking to her behind the closing kitchen door but she does not listen. and rushes out the door without her jacket. where are the answers to the questions that have her? “I have to go. Rebecca stops on the porch. The smell of rotting animals still . liquid and airy. I have to get out of here. she tells herself. waiting for her to respond to their worries. Why the hate. She looks at the rock again. then on the empty space between himself and any object he'll not look at in the kitchen.
though anxious to get away from her parents she tries to steady herself on the bike again. She presses her left foot hard into the gravel to keep herself from falling and her heart beats harder now. and the bike feels unsteady beneath her.lingers around their small house. stretched leather. Reluctant to ride. The grass violently green under a flat. She rides. and finally settles into the rhythm of the bike. and though . She is nervous. the spinning of the wheels. and she does not see the eyes that stare wide at her in slow and deliberate hate and desire. gray. and as she rides she closes her eyes and nervously opens them. her hands unable to keep the bike in a straight line. the pedals and the chain. and she does not see the blue truck that slows as it nears her on the opposite side of the road. The seat is moist and she tilts the bike forward enough to let some water run off before she wipes the palm of her hand over the moist. and welcomes the flat evenness of the paved road. and she walks down the steps and around the side of her house to her bike. She pedals uneasily to the end of the driveway. and she feels her weight shift suddenly from left to right and left again as the front wheel twists in the wet gravel. dense sky. She pulls her bike from against the house and feels the metal cold and wet under her fingers. trying to ignore the cars that pass with their horns disturbing the hypnotic sound of the water pressed out by her tires.
The sights along the path do not draw Relius' eyes. blue truck fade into a turn. He hears curses and accusations in his mind. Wondering why she turned to watch the truck. He walks with determination and disdain. from his mind. he told himself. or each time he believes he sees the priest already walking toward him. Renee's death. Too many years of being called a sinner. No more. and she watches this large profile turn back as though embarrassed at knowing that she recognizes its awkward owner. and she squeezes the brakes and looks back over her shoulder to watch the rusty. and she stands again into the pedals of her bicycle and rides. defiant words he imagines himself hissing violently at the priest. and walks faster. His mother's sorrow. now more aware than she wishes to be of the cars that pass and the faces that turn to stare. Too many years spent unable to accept anyone's love because his father's abuse of faith convinced him he could not deserve it. she feels uncomfortable thinking that somehow she knows more than she ought to know of these three men that passed in the truck. the pins of sweat itching flatly in his hair and on his back each time he trips. the calmness almost brought on by the length of the walk. and she notices that one profile of the three strains to look through the small window over the bed of the truck. and . He forces other thoughts.she does not see them she senses an invasive stare.
. Relius stands and waits his turn with the sinners. Relius says nothing but looks at them. replacing one another at altar and exit. and recalls the similarity in color of the Christ he saw in Chachapoyas to the people of that Amazon city. from shoulder to shoulder.vowed to walk to the church and tell the priest he won’t accept his judgment. Dipping his finger into the cold water by the door. that corner pointed to by the outstretched left arm of the naked man above the altar. Inside the church Relius finds pacified and pensive parishioners usher in and out of rows. patiently and pleasantly asking anyone who arrives late to pass on before him in line. children cleansed for another week of sin. One of the many children who pass looks up at him and says “hi Relius” as he scurries through the door. He walks heavily toward the large brown doors near the eastern side of the Church. The king of the Jews holding out a frozen embrace to all of the Christians. Relius recalls the motions of a cross as he traces its watery outline from his forehead toward his navel. happy and laughing. rise and kneel. Staring up at the crucifix he wonders why their Christ does not look like any of the people in the town. Finding the end of the line near the axil of the eastern arm of the building. And they smile at his good nature. he won’t be silenced by his god.
he reminds himself. “Forgive me. and kneels beside her mother at the altar. “You know father. “It's been four years since my last confession. already whispering the first prayer on her rosary.” he whispers in a deep. for I have sinned. in her hands a similar though antiqued rosary. harsh voice. ignoring the priest. “Calderón wrote that el delito mayor del hombre es haber nacido. Father William knows this voice and to hear insincerity and mockery. the spoken one. the beads browned. Relius steps calmly into the small dark chamber. openly and without rebuke.” Relius says. Within this small room I am not Father William. the chain dulled with years of penitence. and he tries again to listen for the answer to his question. Life is a Dream. and hears the slight click of a light above the confessional warning other witnesses that a sinner has entered. inviting the sinner to speak. Do you know what that means father? It's from La Vida Es Sueño. and now admits his imperfections before the sanctifying voice of the man hidden behind a brown grill made up of a crucifix fractal. He watches carefully as the young woman steps out of the closet. and now kneels. He tries to guess what her sins might be – sins of passion or telling lies. and it means that just by being . Father. of his sins. but the ears of God.” This voice.He listens carefully to the mumbling of the girl who stepped into the confessional before him.
father. deliberate and he listens for anger in the priest.here you and I are already guilty. “Father. father. for having been born?” The priest leans forward in the confessional and glares at the face he sees move brokenly behind the screen.” The whispered rage echoes unfamiliarly to the few people still praying in the church. Get out of my confessional.” Relius enjoys the calmness he forces onto his words. His voice sounds quiet.” the priest scowls. you can't just come in here and pretend that you . As much as it might amuse you. “I promise you'll find it worth while. Can you forgive me for that sin. “that forgiveness must begin with you. to insult the beliefs of the very people in whose home you live. in a mockingly soft voice. you're here to brag. “To ridicule our faith. “Why did you come here. I am asking you to forgive me. in whose community you are accepted? You and I both know you're not here to confess. “You must know.” he says angrily. “Have you no respect for anything? You're not here to confess.” “But I do have a confession. I am confessing. and that you've come for your amusement.” the priest says. Relius. like the words of a man speaking hastily to a frustrating lover or child. “ “How dare you.” Relius says sarcastically.
his aggravation. The priest's sincerity softens the sharpness of his memories. the secret. lost him to this town. holds his hands together tightly in the shadows of the confessional. and wondering if perhaps a sincere wish for forgiveness underlies Relius' aggressive facade. You're hesitating. In their silence Relius hears the echoes of his spite. he thinks. that ran him. “I know that you're here for more reasons than to challenge me or to ridicule the beliefs you were raised with. I hear it in your voice. leans his head forward slightly and closes his eyes. You've come here to tell me something.want something that doesn't matter to you. He watches Relius' shadow shift behind the screen.” he says with question. The priest says his name again and Relius thinks of the crime. he hears himself still rehearsing the words to say forgive me for having taken so long to get rid of your beliefs. “Relius?” he says. am I . regaining his composure. “ The priest mellows his words. forgive me for having lied to myself for so long.“ Father William waits for Relius to respond. “Relius. He pauses. and he considers his past and asks if it was so. and he hears Relius sigh heavily. but he cannot say them. I can tell. And I imagine you want to say something that maybe you didn't expect to say. and if he is here now to confess that past or to confess another. What am I running from.
He does not answer Relius' request to be a man not a priest. and knows that Relius needs to be encouraged to continue. until he understands what he has done. cannot know himself. not a priest. but to you as a man. He studies the dark door leading out of his chamber and into the church. I already know that what I did is a mortal sin according to the church. But I also know that what I did can't just be judged through laws that don't have anything to do with individuals. His life collapses into questions. maybe I didn't just come here just to attack you. and finds a self that can be forgiven. his wet eyes already blurring the shades he stares into. Relius. Father William nods to his own thoughts. And Relius does not know himself. and I know it's a secular crime too.” Father William leans his elbow on the small shelf beneath the screen and rests his chin on his hand. “Father William. splintering the past into the same uncertainty as the future. It looks black.” he says in a weary voice. Sadness overcomes his body. And Relius hears himself whisper. “maybe you're right. that if he's not asked. lifts his chin from his hand and turns toward Relius. old. the bottom of the door lighter where he and other priests rubbed their feet back and forth nervously while listening to sins they'd rather not hear. “What is your sin.more guilty of something I did or of something I had done to me. he'll not say which mortal sin he's committed. Maybe I came to confess something to you.” he says quietly. and he .
his voice roughened by grief. thinking that Relius might say he killed someone to say that something he did or did not do led to someone's death. “I killed a man. Nervous curiosity tightens his nerves and muscles above his stomach. indirect admissions of masturbation. that he killed someone. these sins he's forgiven. make him guilty beyond his secrets. innocent accident. “Relius. He'd not expected Relius' sin to be so grave. by chance. the words left silent in his conscience. I can't hear you very well.” he hears a voice say. and justify the priest in his judgments. weeping words to describe betrayal. a painful pinch tightens in his kneeling knees.” his lips say. and telling the priest will change them both. His throat dries. “I killed a man.trembles. to hear the story and not the confession. lusts. he asks him what he means. hesitant. and he dislikes his own desire to ask Relius to tell him what he did. But this young man has killed another. But Relius wants honesty now. To say it louder will make it real. “I killed him. thefts. These sins he knows. Fighting his own curiosity. Confessions of adultery. by regretful. to be rid of the assumptions that haunt the spaces he shares with the priest and anyone who stands too near. lies.” he says in disbelief. he fears. and he turns to it.” Father William had not heard a confession of murder before. .
“No. “in a way. he'd wondered about it during nights awake while hearing Matty's muffled snore through the walls. or the dying body of a boy. to hear the guilt it suggests. “I mean I killed a man. not yet ready with his own. He does not imagine a landscape. wanting Relius to hear how it sounds. and sees Relius face more clearly as he lifts himself from the kneeling pad and sits on the small seat behind him. Both men stare at the screen between them now. and listens to Relius exhale slowly. echoing Relius' words. Just a gun. “Yes. just a gun and a bodiless hand. but he does not see Relius in the darkness of his imagination. yes. “Relius. neither saying a word to it. He'd thought of selfdefense when it happened. I shot him.” Relius says. “How could that be self defense?” . But he wasn't threatening my life when it happened. father. Not a man.” he says. “was it self-defense?” Relius tightens his brow to look at his memory. Father William hears Relius breathing heavily behind the screen.” “Wasn't threatening your life?” he repeats.” Father William hears the words and closes his eyes to see the image of Relius holding a gun. not wheezing now. A boy. “You shot him.” he says to the silence.” he says. He listens to the puff of medication Relius inhales twice into his lungs.
Some of the kids jumped out the window . It was late. but when I saw that I just got angry. throwing glasses and dishes.” Weeping. I was scared. But when I got downstairs all I saw were kids running all over the place. “A bunch of kids showed up in the restaurant one night and destroyed everything. worried suddenly that someone in the church might hear. I was scared. They had a surprise party for me once. I went downstairs thinking it might be the waiters or the cooks or somebody from the restaurant since they loved to play pranks on me at night. jumping on the tables. but he'd threatened me before. He presses his fingers against the screen of the confessional and closes his eyes tightly to squeeze the memory from visual silence into his words. like people were dancing or something.” he says. With his eyes closed. Someone spray painted ‘get out spic’ on the mirror behind the bar. breaking chairs. Relius sees the entire image in his mind. the motions of the children. asking him why he did it and then pushing them to the floor. He kneels again for his words to carry quietly to the priest. Sees the colors of the night. and started grabbing one kid after the other and screaming at him. Then I heard voices and lots of pounding. like glasses breaking.“I mean he wasn't threatening my life when it happened. “They destroyed my restaurant. he describes the memories he sees. and I woke up because I thought I heard something downstairs in the dining room.
“ Relius wonders if he's said enough. and when I turned on my side I saw a huge pool of blood on the floor. and he just kept pointing at me and telling me he wasn't done yet. ignoring the cop who was telling me to lie back down. He'd been harmed. laughing. My blood. I came to with a cop standing over me. I was delirious. This one kid. asking me if that's what hit me. My hair was full of blood. said too much. and I saw a few of them cut their hands on the glass and shards of wood.they broke to get in. He bows his head and is reluctant to continue. I remember just standing there. I told him I was going to call the police and was walking toward the phone by the front of the restaurant when something hit me really hard on the back of the head. looking at everything like it wasn't real. older than the other kids. He said I was lucky the brick hit me flat because a corner would probably have killed me. wounds heel. The crime against him seems so minor now. not worth the life he'd taken. holding a brick in his hand. I didn't understand. and didn't understand what I was looking at for a while. windows replaced. just stood there outside the window. I was looking right at him. To tell of the murder. and telling me he wasn't done yet. described a reality or fiction. and the only face I could describe to the cops was of the kid who stood there telling me he wasn't finished yet. . I thought I was going to die. I tried to get up. Tables and chairs can be bought again. I kept picking up things and just dropping them.
“I had to spend that night in the hospital. He feels cold. and he lowers his head and waits for the wisdom he prays for. I just walked back and forth around the room. It made the restaurant so dark. and cannot settle on any of the words or phrases passing through his mind. reprobate. The only thing anyone had done was to put plywood over the broken windows. I was kicking around the . “Relius. no one really wanted to deal with it right away. and he feels relieved that the priest listens with compassion and not the accusation he expected.” he says. and he feels ashamed. He takes a kerchief from his pocket and dries his eyes and nose. assure him that he understands. and besides. “what have I done?” Father William lifts his hand to the screen and touches it. though his thoughts have not given words.but nothing had been taken from him. wanting to console Relius. hoping that words will yield thoughts.” Relius cries. “My god. “how did you come to kill this boy?” Relius has to calm himself to be able to hear Father William. “and when I got back the next day I thought everything would be cleaned up. crosses his arms over his chest and holds himself in a sad embrace. while I was waiting for some friends to get there to help me clean up. But the police said they wanted to collect more evidence. But he does not understand. He has no rehearsed response. father. That night. and didn't know where to begin.” he says.
still intact. I kept thinking about when my mother gave me that picture. laughing. knowing that someone was about to hit me. not as Relius. not done. It was beginning to wear . feeling really alone. and all I could remember was that kid's face. The frame was in pieces all over the floor. It was so pathetic. Standing there. When I found the picture I just broke down. A cop was there when I got back. holding the image of his bandaged head behind the red letters shouting at him to get out. and the picture was cut up.broken glass behind the bar and found the picture of my father holding up the first dollar he ever made. He lowers his voice to a cool tone of anger and contempt. but he left before I found the picture. anonymous letters cursing him. feeling betrayed by everybody. I got so angry. He does not weep now. and Father William hears Relius speak as though reporting something he had seen. and I remember just standing there. behind the bar. I'd clean it or paint it as soon as it came up. but it would always be back in a day or two. to remember him. but as an anonymous trespasser in a room in a home his family had built and he had considered his own. “During the next few months after everything happened I'd constantly find graffiti on the walls and windows outside.” Relius pauses and remembers seeing himself in the mirror. asking me to talk to my father.
He asked me what I wanted . He turned off the main route. instead I started to followed him in my car. I don't know when he realized I was following him. the one the cops kept telling me they couldn't identify. But the whole time I was gone I kept thinking about what things might look like when I got back. and people kept telling me they thought I needed to get away for a while. to just disappear for a few days in California. I saw him walking past the restaurant. and followed a thin. I went in right behind him. I didn’t stop.me out. I decided to come back early from the trip and when I got home I saw that kid. like he knew something I didn't. He didn't see me at first. and I followed him out of the neighborhood. that they would take care of things. Instead it made me even more nervous about trying to go on. He was laughing. but I'm pretty sure he went out there on purpose. After two months I decided to take a short vacation. I saw him look at me when I parked behind him. I didn't know what I was going to do. and out through the western suburbs and into farm country. I followed him to the end of the street and watched him get into a car parked in the back of the school parking lot. the one who told me he wasn't finished yet. and then pulled into a park. the tables. Going away didn't help me the way it should have. and he came walking over to my car with a big smile on his face. windy road past an old quarry. and didn't even remember that I kept a gun in the car. I kept imagining the windows broken again. just looking into the windows and walking.
I don't even remember reaching under the seat. He started walking toward my car again. I locked the door. Like I couldn't let him feel in control this time. While we were walking I tried talking to him. I wish I'd left then. I had the gun out the whole time. but was still laughing at me. but didn't give shit. I didn't want to kill him. but by the time he was about five feet from my car I jumped out and stood there pointing the gun at him. make him feel powerless.and I asked him if he recognized me. He opened his trunk and I saw him pull a crowbar out. Eventually he stopped and walked back to his car. He said he did. and then he started pounding on the window and screaming and laughing at me. He put his hand on the door and tried to open it. It was like he thought the whole thing was a joke. He made me feel sorry for him. I pointed the gun at his face. why they did that to the restaurant. but he just stood there. I felt like I had to stand up to him. I wish wasn't so stupid. He was so . He stopped walking. and I swear I don't know why I didn't just leave. I told him to get back. I wanted to make him do something. Laughing. I asked him what he had against me. to sit and wait to see what he would do. so I told him to walk toward the path along the river. We walked for a long time. but I wasn't pointing it at him or anything. He told me a bunch of nonsense about too many foreigners in America. The same insane smile I saw that night. that I was overreacting or something. Any time he turned to say something I lifted it up and told him to turn around.
That he'd listened to this kind of bullshit for so long that it got in the way of who he really was. blood all over the snow. But that's when it happened. He was coming at me with this little knife. and I lifted the gun and shot him. We stood by the river for almost an hour and he didn't say anything to me. I ran back to my car and just drove away. but he just laughed and told me to fuck off. The knife was so small. Anything I said. he'd just laugh and insult me. We walked down to the river and he turned around and asked me what I was going to do. I figured that was it. and I kept having stupid thoughts about how the snow would cover everything. I remember it was snowing like crazy then. I walked over to him still expecting him to be fine. and then before I knew he was lunging at me with a knife in his hand. thinking maybe he was a good kid who'd just fallen in with the wrong people. I don't know where he had the knife. I tried talking to him about it.naive. But I couldn't see it. he just wanted more than he thought he could get out of life. When I made him drop the crowbar. just insulted me. I knew it looked like I'd dragged him out there just to shoot him. When I saw him falling back I didn't know what had happened. I was standing there with the gun pointed at his feet. or anyone foreign. and no one would . But as soon as I saw him lying there. I panicked. If it was in his pocket. and I knew that he wasn't really angry with me. tried to tell him that I understood where he was coming from. I shot him just once and hit him right in the chest. or what.
I wrote a letter and sent it to my brother. “Father. I didn't have any idea where I was. mistaking it for quiet . I stood there for a while and didn't know what to do.” Relius says to the priest's confusion. I didn't know how big the woods were behind the junkyard. Was this a confession or another way to hide from his guilt by telling it to a man who could not hear it as a man. and I went all the way to the back of it. and drove right into a pile of cars. No one was around so I got some rocks and broke the windows and then took off the plates and cut up the seats.” Relius listens for the echoes of his crime in the confessional. then got in my car and started driving around again. and it didn't make any sense. Murphy Fields. Then I just started walking. He wonders what the priest might ask him. and I tossed a few pieces of junk on top of it and around it. I drove all over the place after that and the only place I stopped was to throw the gun into a waterfall. but as an ear for something Relius does not even believe in. I thought about packing some things. and I got lost. and if he heard him as a man or as a priest. That's when Matty found me.know what kind of car was there. I kept taking small roads for about eight or nine hours and then saw a junkyard and just pulled right into it. I was just insane. but I just couldn't. The only thing I grabbed was a flashlight. By the time I got home. The snow started covering the car. It was huge. and I just kept walking. The first phone I saw I called 911 and just left the receiver off the hook and scratched a note in the wall saying dead boy.
He wishes he'd stayed home. I followed him into the woods and shot him. inadequate. John?” Relius thinks of anyone else. Rebecca. He would not have bought a gun.” “Father. and considers what he would have told her.” he hears himself tell the man. and anyone else that comes to mind he sees with calm faces waiting to distort when they hear of his crime. the Flaigs. and leans away from the screen and listens to Relius breathe. you need to go to the police. She might have convinced him to leave. “what now?” Father William rejects the cautious phrases rushing to his mind. . to find life elsewhere. gone to the police with the gun and confessed. please.” “Have you told anyone else.castigation. to begin for himself with the experience he had. His fingers unwrap stiffly from one another and he rubs his hands in hard circles over his eyes. But Relius hides now. Who would believe that I didn't go there just to kill him. you know I can't do that. A few vandals striking the windows and chairs of the restaurant wouldn't have pressed him into such severe depression. “Relius. “They can help you if you go to them and explain what happened. John. Inadequate. but he cannot stop. He misses Renee. I murdered a kid. though tells himself that none of this would have happened if she hadn't died. the experience they shared. not run.
I won't deny it.” he shouts in a whisper. otherwise it . If the police find me.not lied. It would just drag up too much bitterness. “I haven't told lies. I've thought about turning myself in.” The priest hears Relius rise from the kneeling pad again. You can't just stay here the rest of your life. I'm going to stay here as long as I can. “Is your name really Relius?” he says. understanding the priest's distrust.” he says patiently. manipulate the bind of secrecy in the confessional. I simply haven't told anyone my reason for being here. but until then I'm going to live here. then I'll answer for it. He wants to feel like he lives somewhere with people who know him like Renee knew him. “Relius sit down. You know that. and he sees his silhouette stand in the diffused light. “ His defiant assertiveness angers the priest. “ “Relius. father. “This is madness. you know that your confession must be contrite. and he questions if Relius merely tries to manipulate him now. “Yes.” he says. “Don't you think you'll have to tell Rebecca? You can't love someone with something like this hidden from them. not hiding in openness. You did something terribly wrong and you need to answer for it. “You're the first person I've told. but what would it accomplish? It wouldn't bring the kid back. I've thought about going back for a long time.” “Father.
“But I don't want your faith. can you forgive me as a person? Accept my apology for the sake of today and tomorrow and not for when I die?” Relius remembers the spite that brought him to the church. Though you don't believe in God. But that does not mean I'm going to turn you in. You didn't answer me before.” “Nothing according to whom.means nothing. an agent. To me I haven't sinned against your faith or your commandments. I can't absolve you. father. “I'm sorry. and will always be a sin so long as humanity evaluates itself. father. And I don't see how being hypocritical now should win me any sort of eternal life. that does not mean I can remove myself from my purpose here. Father. or disrespect the confidence they now share. in this church.” “Relius. the anger that made him wait to be the last person the priest would hear that day. but now that you know. but does not want to insult Father William's beliefs. He wants to be honest now. And even though you don't believe in the God of this church. I think what you're asking of me is something you need to find in . Can't you please forgive me as a person. what I did was a sin before your faith ever existed.” “So you don't forgive me?” “Relius.” he says. he does hear you in this confessional. In this confessional I am a priest.
I'm not an ignorant man. He leans between them and whispers loudly. I know that. and looks out into the church to signal Relius to follow him. He sounds unfamiliar to himself. and we could speak privately. Telling you to go pray the rosary right now wouldn't help you.yourself. and he looks at the confessional door. and in the wings. with familiar words. No one is there at the moment. You shouldn't assume that wearing this collar cuts thoughts off before they reach my head. perhaps years. “Would you mind if we stepped out of the confessional and left the church. I even lost someone. with the rhythm of conversation.” Father William hears himself speaking as the man that Relius sought in the church. not of authority. closes the panel door. He steps up to the altar and walks through the white door to the right of the tabernacle. I think the conversation you need we could better have in the rectory. I promise that everything you tell me will be kept in confidence. An elderly couple still prays. but they do not turn toward the footsteps of the priest.” Father William steps from the confessional and looks toward the altar. and he imagines the church beyond it. Relius. Relius steps . and thinks they should find a more appropriate place for him to be the friend that Relius needs. and Relius and the elderly couple see the church darken from the back toward the front. Father William feels the last heavy switch pop under his fingers. a voice he's not heard himself use in many months. I lived before I became I priest.
girlishly sharing their surprise that a priest was still a man. he recalls a vacation in Israel.” his lover snickered. and Relius asks him if he ever locks the door. “how else could priests only be men. While he unlocks the door Father William looks into Relius' eyes and knows that Relius sees him as a man without a collar. but stands looking at the bookshelves when Father . “No need. Relius and Father William leave through the back door of the church. Father William points to a room to the left of the foyer and directs Relius toward a large. and cross to the rectory. That's the distinction. without a book of answers. “The penis is essential.” the priest tells him. In an instant of untraceable memory. The rectory smells old. Relius searches the room for photographs. like an office or a library. His lover laughed at the story.” And they laughed. The church values its dormant presence. and they walk along the stone sidewalk toward the street. how the elderly women laughed and pointed with their painted brows at his bathing suite. The candles seem smaller than the ones he lit as an altar boy. not its absence. and young Brother William knew that his lover's vows were not for life. and he wonders where they keep the relics of this church's saint. black leather couch before he disappears to make the coffee he offered. without truth.reluctantly onto the red carpet of the altar and walks slowly toward the white door where Father William waits for him.
Their conversation leads them through each man's past. They shake hands at the doorstep. Each man quietly considers the possibility that their animosity had become friendship. He wants to know if she blames him for it. family and loves. and Relius says goodnight without hearing of Brother William's lover. His thoughts wander. and merely remember Renee.William carries two ceramic mugs of coffee into the room. of his occasional desire to leave. though choosing carefully the words to describe his friends. or if he’ll finally be able to stop asking so many questions of himself and of the people he cares about and loves. and he quietly searches the past and guesses about the future and Rebecca gets more and more frustrated with his silence. though Father William says he understands Relius' guilty hesitation to stand in the present with Rebecca. He wants to know if tomorrow will bring more of this. and the mix of faith and superstition in Peru. panic. Father William shares his motivation for joining the clergy. She watches his eyes shift slowly to follow the movements of her hands or . and say goodbye. Relius tells of his family. Silence hides their skepticism. Each man speaks honestly to the other. Relius doesn’t say a word when Rebecca tells him about the roadkill and the rock. if part of her agrees with her father.
Even you’re going to leave sometime aren't you. she’s wanted to leave for years.feet. He just smiles sadly and shakes his head while staring at the leaves under Rebecca’s feet. She wants to leave. She watches his eyes move from left to right. She imagines he looks at nothing. right to left. Rebecca asks him if he’s worried about the people who threw the rock at her parents’ house. she asks him why he’s being so quiet. What if they do something more than just throw a rock at someone's house? What if they throw it at him? What if they had thrown it at her while she was riding over here to see him? . It’s not so easy for her to start over she tells him. Why do you stay here?” Relius doesn’t answer. But she can’t. “ Rebecca hates this question. and starts to get angry with him for being bored to hear about something so important. “I don't really know if I even want to live anywhere else.” he says. “Why wouldn't I stay here?” “Because of stuff like last night. “I don’t know why you stay here. She wanted to leave when she got pregnant. She wanted to leave after the miscarriage. She’s not like Relius. Wanting to stay calm. Any list she’s made up of where to go and how to live there seemed incomplete and impossible.
She nods when Relius says that they’ll do anything out in the open.” My father said that. but not priests. especially the bad things we do. and punish him by binding him with the knowledge of his crime. isn’t it? That Adam and Eve were tossed from the Garden for asking too many questions – for knowing too much. priests are punished more than anyone else is.” “That’s nonsense. they’re cowards. He describes their conversation in the confessional. and even judge people. she thinks. he tells her. and once priests know anything about us.“Becca. and she thought he was wrong too.” “So?” “So. but she does not believe him.” he says. nor is she sure that Relius is right when he says that people are getting pretty used to having him around. “It’s weird. they’re not allowed to say anything. “don’t worry about them. He’s even getting along with the priest. don’t you think. Since when do you care about a priest’s suffering anyway?” . the urge he had to confess to him in the church. The rest of us are allowed to hear things and talk about them. They’re punished with the silent awareness that everyone around them is sick and depraved. They’re only allowed to tell god – not even themselves.
he wonders. hate. Maybe I did want to kill him. his blood exploding onto the freshly fallen snow. and its piercing certainty thunders in his thoughts. The entire tragedy revived out of sequence in his mind. About Renee.“I talked to him for a long time. I told him in confession. What made it the right time to tell the priest and not her? “Don’t be upset. He hears the gunshot echo through the months since he killed the boy.” “What did you tell him?” “About myself mostly. meditating on the image of the young man falling again. That’s different. and he looks past the hair that falls . and he looks over to Rebecca’s eyes.” Relius leans away from her and lets her hand fall gently onto her knee. resentful that Relius felt more comfortable talking with the priest than with her. “I think I can tell you now too. She’d asked him before why he was here. or carelessness. and he glares at the shapeless gray sky. He wants to tell her.” he says. and he would always say that he’d tell her when the time was right. and he feels confused and doesn’t know if he killed the boy out of revenge.” Rebecca is angry now. Will he sound weak to her? Cruel? Cowardly? He takes a deep breath. Why I came here. but just imagining the words he’ll use makes him question himself.
tells her that he is here because he killed a boy.” And Relius hears the story of the restaurant. What am I supposed to say. certain that she’d misunderstood him. and. “What do you mean?” she says. He sees anger and sympathy then confusion in her eyes and lips. and how his eyes stung when he stared at his wet hands.” Forgiving you wouldn’t mean anything. A fiction he hates. The boy jumps at him more quickly as he tells her. Maybe you should just accept what you did and try to reconcile it with yourself. And he tells her the color of the car he abandoned intact in the junkyard. a story he regrets. the words cannot contain the vertigo. Don't ask me to do it for you. as confession or revelation. the insane desire for revenge. staring into the air beyond her. the woods. He remembers the way the blood blurred his vision after he’d gotten up from being hit. the quiet calm of guilt.onto her shoulders. she wants to say and she asks him why he should need her forgiveness. I shot him. but agrees that no one would believe it was selfdefense. Relius. However told.” . and he remembers things he did not tell the priest. “You killed someone. He remembers running his hand through his hair. the gun. and the death. “Can you forgive me?” “I don't know what to say. “I mean I killed someone. She does not ask why he avoids the police.
that’s not what I was getting at. long and white. and compelling him to keep the secret would force the priest to carry the same burned of guilt he bore. Looking away. Only two people know. and Relius not only confessed the murder. but talked about his life as well. do you want me to leave with you?” “No. He feels her nails. and whispers his name. When he told the priest. he’d expected to do so spitefully. and he likes to feel his warmth surround them. she sighs as though to herself.He looks deflated. Relius leans forward to take Rebecca's hand. It was not just a sin told in the isolated anonymity of a confessional. Why? Do you think you’d be better off somewhere else with me?” “I don’t know. But the relief of telling the truth calmed his spite. letting her fingertips rest in his. Her hands feel cold. “Does anyone else know?” she says. it was a sin talked about in terms of a lifetime and a family.” . As though telling him in confession. and caresses the smooth line of skin raised slightly above the delicate vein beneath.” “Relius. under his fingertips. left alone by her response. hatefully. “Relius.
just the peanuts.EIGHT His large fingers pinch each shell gently before dropping one. sometimes two salty peanuts into his mouth. Marty. Here.” . Bite down like this. “Don't eat the shells. And once it’s broke crack it open and eat the peanuts. Marty holds the bag. the red and white stripes hardly visible under the grip of his wide fingers.
” “I ain't trying to worry him. No point in getting him all worried. I won't get sick. “ “Marty.“But the shell’s salty. I won't get sick.” “Should we follow them?” “No. What about when you get sick later?” “I won't get sick. You bring the cards. you’re my wigger. Luke. Damn it. bitch. you won't get sick. I like it.” “What’s a wigger?” Marty says. I just like to eat it all. wigger?” “Damn. I just think he needs to learn some things is all. Can't you ever just relax and enjoy yourself. Luke.” “Shut up. “ “What if they leave? Then what?” “They won’t. you see them over there. If I say you’re my wigger. She's with that fucking spic. why you so serious all the time. Craig. we'll find them later. It matters.” “Look.” . Craig. “Shut up. There she is. I just don't get you sometimes. man. It matters. will I?” “No. She'll see. Don’t call me that that. Just leave him alone. retard. Walking around like it just doesn't matter.
” she says. looks up at him and whispers ‘fuck you. it’s not what you think. He turns and sees Marty on the ground. “I haven’t been here in years. In the dusk light she recognizes Marty’s outline as the figure in the truck. Father William smiles at Relius and Rebecca. and she knows that they were the ones who slowed and stared at her. pleased to see them come by . smiling.’ “What was that about?” He asks Rebecca? “Don’t worry about him. Luke and Craig picking him up. Luke would get embarrassed for Marty and fight anyone teased him. “Are you okay?” She smiles at him. Luke. feeling Relius’s stare among all the people who watch him. It’ll be fun. “Does the priest have to read at these things?” Rebecca spots the small stage set up for town talent and leads Relius toward it.” As they walk toward the stage Relius hears a small commotion behind them. Relius feels the tension in her hand.” Rebecca tells him that even when they were in school.Rebecca sees Luke and his cronies turn away from her as she and Relius walk by. “Don’t worry. and nods.
sometimes happy. and their laughter echoes into his brooding thoughts and pull him . and the children laugh. He doesn’t stay there long. and they marvel at his hero. he cherishes this moment.for the story. Their voices. a time to lose himself in voices and fairytales. that distance between himself and his happiness lets a vague melancholy creep into him. a friendly one. a time to let go of sermons and lessons. today. And the strange tension of longing for a moment that he’s already in. And they giggle at his old woman’s voice. The children still laugh at the last line he’d read. these stories. This is a precious time for him. His monsters never sound scary. these words. Father William's monsters growl with humor and thrill the children – though the parents always understand that his are sad and lonely creatures. stories read to him by his mother. stories that gave him so much shelter when he couldn’t understand himself or his perceptions. can make the children laugh and feel safe. when he preaches. He wants this happiness. they always do. though deep and gruff. the words. imply admonition and judgment. He reads stories from his own childhood. though. And the children scream. In church. sometimes meek. The children gasp. are soft. But today. the first time Father William talks like a monster. even the rare elegant phrases from the Bible. and Father William laughs with them.
And they watch the ogre. They point to him.back into the moment. each branch of a different tree. and he hides behind the imaginary trees he pushes apart with his hands. He pauses more deliberately to let an image loom sure and living in the worlds behind their young faces. neighbors and whisper. and he rises from his chair to walk like the ogre. each child pushing aside a different branch. husbands. and this man wishes that his performance could endure. and when Father William rises from his chair to thank the parents and their children. behind him for his friends. Marty stops and laughs with the children. He does not notice that they walk on. forgetting to follow Craig and Luke past the crowd encircling the stage. His eyes widen . They do not see Father William. and he is each child as they look for the ogre through the trees with him. less encumbered by thoughts that lead him away from the world he creates in the imaginations of the children. Marty looks beside him. The parents wait patiently behind their children. His pace seems clearer to him now. and continues. He looks at the words waiting at his fingertips. friends. and this man yearns to remain invisible. and watch with curious delight the spectacle of Father William without composure and without reserve. and they listen as he wanders around his fire and sings his ogre songs and grunts his ogre grunts. lean into the ears of their wives.
We told you where we were going.” Luke stares coldly at both of them.and he turns his head quickly.” “Don't call him a moron. His heavy feet lead him out of the crowd. Marty?” “I was listening to the story. old lumber. He walks through the crowd. and he stands at its edge with his hands at his side. “What happened to you.” “You get scared?” “No. Craig. I wasn't scared. thoughtlessly driving his hands and enormous shape through the groups of friends and families.” “Man. But I couldn’t find you. Terrified. and he calls out for Luke and Craig. Marty walks in front of his friends into the park. “I figure everyone. He stops again and looks behind himself once more. and branches looks enormous in the center of . Sometimes you're such a moron. angry with himself for repeating a word he knew would hurt and confuse this giant boy he was chosen to protect. he turns toward the strong hand he feels on his shoulder. Who can stay away from a bonfire?” The mound of timber. looking in all directions for the direction he should take. don't you ever listen. “Who's coming tonight?” Craig says.
“What you burnin there. Marty?” The young man’s question surprises and embarrasses him. into motivation for his hate. He moves steadily toward the table and sits with his back to his friends. only Luke and Craig.” he says. and he vainly looks inward to find them. He likes the way the flames reflect off the beer bottles in their hands. “Nothing. He’s not used to talking to other people. If you change your mind do it soon. eager to burn the handful of leaves he picked up. for his inclination to determine the fate of others.” Marty doesn’t want to answer the boy anymore. to know their significance. Marty walks toward it. we’re gonna light this thing in a bit. His thoughts creep full of significance into the focus of his observations. “Nothing? All right. and yet he shapes this nothingness into meaning. A young man tending to the bonfire watches Marty place the handful of leaves carefully against the branches.the field. Everyone and everything he sees moves through a clear glue. of . He looks for Luke and Craig and sees them by the light of the small fires groups of friends have made around the bonfire ring. and he senses thoughts rise at the nape of his neck. The alcohol feels heavy in Luke’s mind and burns in his blood. and finds nothing.
like they’re not impressed by the enormous fire they’re about to make. quieting everyone. “What’s going on?” he whispers to Rebecca. .” And Relius notices that along the outside of the fire things burn in different colors. “They’re watching their stuff burn. He glances at Rebecca. Relius looks around the fire. “Some people are letting things go. A small flame starts deep inside the bonfire. No one says a word. and other couples silently praying together. shoes. In the mournful crackle of the fire Relius thinks of what he could burn. Or maybe they’re a bit frightened of it. “Did you put anything in there?” Rebecca smiles. pointing with his beer bottle. and in those colors he sees the shapes of dolls. He understands rituals. records.” Relius nods. even something that looks like a small boat.” he says. When he sees Relius and Rebecca he turns to his friends.those two lovers he despises. at the faces reflected in the growing flames. The high school boys tending the bonfire look surprisingly calm to Relius. and he sees some couples holding hands. of course not. he thinks. and some are making wishes. Their eyeballs look large and excited. the need for renewal. a small laugh. “There they are.
which words belong and which words he ignored. Why. looking at the ruins of an Incan wall. fireworks and bats. Fine. the louder the children sing. Night and day. Her words echo individually in his mind. deleted. each word in isolation. It reminds him of being a child in Peru. Listening. She talks about the bonfire. So many memories coming together at once. blending together into a feeling of a memory if not a real memory of anything. Relius. he and his brother running from a man in a costume of firecrackers. the millions of beans spread out to dry on the cement. Beyond Rebecca’s silhouette.There’s not much anymore. with or without significance. The more the bonfire grows. Dizzying. The memories have softened some. He wants to tell Rebecca about the funny thoughts he had as a child. each word taken from its natural order in the phrase she intended and forced to stand alone. and he strains to listen. he sees an evening of shapes marked by small frames of light in the dark. but his thoughts carry him elsewhere. It reminds him of looking up at the bats flying just above the lights in the town square. Relius looks for the texture of the darkness. They were in the desert. even of Renee. . Listen. This. Relius sighs deeply. There are so many children here. he hears the words “bone fire”. thoughts about memory and breaths. Me. He loses track of what the words could have meant. in Peru. and he repeats them over and over to himself. playing and singing around the bonfire.
digging his toes into the sand. and combining to make patterns in the valley of ourselves. still a boy. wondering if he didn’t just breath in their bodies but their thoughts as well. But only certain experiences can make it. but older. like certain words or thoughts or things we've seen. and sometimes they're able to bounce out of all the caves and valleys of our brains and spring off our tongues. Words too.” Years later.” his father said. frustrate us and become the images that haunt us in our sleep. It sure would help make sense of non-sequiturs or utter nonsense.“We’re breathing them in right now. or even simplicity and genius. he thought. . The things we learn. and they have to be in the right order. “Our ancestors are in the dust. He said it to a teacher once. The new things we learn have to pass through this valley before they can be part of memory. Things that don't make it. remembering the dust. With your first breath you inhale the ghosts of history in the room. and echo in our brains. Trying to imagine where they go. When we get older these thoughts settle in our minds. Happiness and sadness could be like the sun and storms. where we kept them. Told her that maybe words and experiences are like part of a whole landscape in our minds. like waters that shape the valleys and weather the surfaces of our brains. maybe. Maybe your first breath determines everything about who you’ll become. Relius stared at the ocean.
if these words that carry him away from her. She looks through the thin clouds at the waning constellations. away from their conversation. red and orange.” the mother says. and more children push through the legs of their parents and strangers to watch the spits of yellow. and she wonders now as he speaks.Nightmares. A child near Rebecca points to the fire and tells her parents there is blue there. the circle of people widens. During the . and the whiteness of the clouds. and more people watch the smoke climb into the sparks that fly above the fire. And Rebecca doesn’t know what to say when he tells her about it now. Relius once told her that he had learned a better silence since his childhood. watching them. are his silence. honey. Rebecca leans forward to hold his hands more tightly. and the wisps of smoke that fade into the night sky. “Do you know why it's blue?” the fathers ask. Relius distrusts the blackness of the night. And the circle grows. As the bonfire grows. and neither of them hears nor sees the three young men sitting quietly near them. and the night hovers from the heavens to the earth. and Relius thinks of the isolation of the blueness of the day. and stares instead into its blueness. waiting for them. it’s blue. His teacher laughed. so did his classmates. “Yes.
he rubs his hand together and grins madly any time he looks at Luke and asks him what they are going to do. and he can’t resist her beautiful happiness. he just grabs Marty hard by the arm and pulls him along. Craig walks quickly back and forth between Luke and Marty. The way . Even the stars share in the darkness. and he follows her past the fire and toward a small bath lit by lanterns. he thoughtlessly passes Luke and walks to within a few feet of her until Craig pulls him back and screams at him in a whisper. Let’s go of his hand and jumps in front of him.” Relius does not hear them. leading his two friends. Luke does not look at the fire or the stars.day colors divide. His eyes meet Luke’s again. Marty cannot understand his attraction to the red glow of the fire reflected in the face he had caressed with his fantasies. Drawn to her as though to a possession. but Luke doesn’t say anything. He moves closer now. turning back and glaring every few steps at the giant who pauses to watch the glowing faces that smile happily and bounce as they sing. but the night envelopes everything and the heavens have no privilege over their horizons. “What the fuck is wrong with you. Her excitement distracts him from his thoughts about Luke. His eyes stay fixed on Relius. but he’s aware of the anger nearby. and he watches him with hatred and Rebecca with spite.
” he says. “Write something on it. where other couples stop and walk back to the fire. a wish. The couples walk along slowly. where the architects of the path could not continue the illusion and reluctantly allowed the path to dwindle to a narrow brown patch without ornamental fire and touched only by moments of grass and gravel. Rebecca insists that they keep walking together into the darker turns in the trail. past the final lantern. leading into the darker veins of this forest and along the abandoned trails. “What do you expect to see?” The birch trees glow white in the moonlight. But the path simply leads to that last torch. and small torches that stand nobly in the wet soil and impress the walkers with the fantasy that at the end of this path they will find beauty. “I can't see anything. or a revelation of the reasons behind that insecure passion they feel as a pleasant pain enveloping their hearts in its supple pressure.” Rebecca pulls a key from her pocket and begins to carve a word into it.lit by manifold shades of blue and red. Relius walks up to a birch and picks a small sheet of birch from the ground. At the final torch. . the dark spots in the bark staring at them like a hundred eyes. leaving each other enough room to feel like they’re walking alone.
he’s about to yell back at her. just hurry. “Relius. and he turns toward it. I’ll be right back.“What are you writing?” “Really want to know?” “Yeah.” He listens to the quiet cracks of the branches in the night. and then he hears her scream. he does not see her . and he hears the feint hum of the bonfire and the singing. “I’m fine. “Good choice. He hears something like a whisper over his shoulder.” “Keep singing.” he says. “You okay?” he shouts. and in the enormous shadows cast by the turn and counterturn of sun and moon. “stay here.” Relius nods. but then hears the rough voices surrounding her. and thinks it must be there river. but sees nothing there. no!” she yells. He tells Rebecca to sing to him as he walks a few steps farther into the trees.” “Shame. He grins at first. would you. enough to have some privacy to relieve himself without embarrassing her. but he does not hear her. It’s just a spider.” Rebecca sings quietly.
and does not see the bruises on her breasts where Marty groped vainly for pleasure.” Craig pulls Rebecca’s arms behind her back and holds her there. chest. give me your flashlight.” Marty hands Luke his flashlight. He pulls fiercely at his belt. Rebecca spits at him. “Marty. “he can’t do shit for you. “See. Luke kicks Relius in the head once more and then walks toward Rebecca. snaps it sharply at the men around Rebecca. and swinging the buckle in the air. He kicks at the ground. . searching it for a stone or log.” he says to Rebecca. but finds nothing besides thin branches and hardened soil. tackles him. watching the light reflect off Rebecca’s tears. struggling to breathe. and then stands above him to urinate on him. and Luke shouts out words of hate. bringing him hard to the ground. Craig jumps at Relius.torn blouse. and Luke slaps her hard across the face. and gut. Nothing. Luke laughs at the site of Relius curled on the ground. and stands behind him. and Luke turns to her and laughs. and orders his sycophant to hold the spic down as he punches and kicks at his face. “You’re an animal!” Rebecca screams. making her watch as Luke kicks Relius again and again in the face and stomach.
and then follows him away into the woods. His friend dies. He looks toward the lights that seem both near and distant.” he says. The three men run in all directions. ignoring the lights that come at them from every turn. Marty cannot run. Held by his own terror that he has broken something beautiful. and an army of voices comes rushing toward them. Luke heard the gunshot. and then stares in disbelief at the man who holds the gun that shot him. and tries to find Luke among the shadows they surround. Rebecca screams out in absolute terror as dozens of lights suddenly shine into the forest.” “Luke don’t. He sees Luke step over Relius and bend down to whisper something to him. Luke don’t. the terror having taken all the strength from her limps. and his shouts echo through the disturbed peace of the night. As he runs over Relius he kicks him again in the chest. Craig drops Rebecca heavily to the ground.“How did you ever become such a slut. “Luke don’t. and startle the men and women who had . and runs back to Craig. The light that shines on Marty's face freezes him in its pellucid grip. He reaches up to touch her face and Craig tightens his hold on her arms. Craig charges madly at a police officer.” he mocks. denying their escape. and then turns to call out to Luke and Marty.
or have thoughts of mourning. The hateful man and the slow one are lead away. not to hear words of hate.” The bruises on her face stand out in the light of the cars and the spotlights.” Rebecca says. and Relius can clearly see her torn blouse under the blanket.simply gone out to celebrate. “I don't know. . gently asking. her arms wrapped protectively around Rebecca.” A police officer whispers into Father William’s ear. He ribs are bandaged and his lungs burn and his saliva tastes like blood. and begins to cry. Father William speaks softly. He shakes his head. and the cruel one carried. “we need to get away from here. “What happened here. Kristina helps Rebecca over to Relius’s side. I can't stay here anymore. Father William kneels beside Relius and listens to him inhale pure oxygen through the plastic mask covering his face. Her trembling body tells him she is weeping. Father. Relius?” Relius lifts the oxygen mask from his face. still trembling. As the doctor examines Relius. “Relius. Relius looks silently to Kristina. and the priest apologizes to Relius and then follows the officer toward the parking lot.
does not understand why he must repeat again and again that he was just doing what Luke and Craig told him to do. “how are you doing. Luke cannot come see you. but he offers no response to Father William's question. where is Luke?” “Luke is fine. How are you doing?” “Is Luke going to come see me?” “No. and so the priest asks him again. Marty?” “Father. Martin. Luke did a very bad thing and he cannot go wherever he wants to anymore. Weeping still. the boyish man does not understand his guilt. His red swollen eyes look up at the priest when he hears the chair move beside him. He is in another room a lot like . you need to worry about yourself now.NINE He rests his face in his large hands and does not notice the police officers who open the door and escort Father William into the room. son.
” “But you can come. soothing whisper calms Marty. but he cannot blame his friend. He begins to weep again and Father William leans toward him to wrap his arm around his shoulder and hold him while he whispers a prayer for him. Luke hurt that girl and that boy very badly. prepared for conflict. He cannot lie to the priest. why can't he?” “Martin.yours. I hurt them. knowing that this man must answer to a different justice. Down the hall. Father William finds Luke. in a room more isolated and emptier than Marty's. He leans back defiantly in his chair. the large man loses himself in that silent confusion that people call his idiocy. and soon Father William stands to leave the room.” “Didn't Luke tell you to do that? Weren't you just doing what your friend asked you to do?” Marty stares with a look of bewilderment at Father William's collar. Father William's deep. so now he is in trouble.” “But I did it. for this man lives with a different innocence. Trying to sort the questions in his mind. past Marty's parents standing with their heads bowed in shame. happy that . and trying to quiet one voice in his head with another. he knows that lying to the priest is wrong.
Right and wrong. slow. carelessly colliding with the image of the half dressed woman. and does not move except to close his eyes in few. He leans forward in the chair.” . He waits for look to turn toward him and say something. Father William pulls a chair from the wall near the door and sets it in front of the incarcerated man. He wants to use this silence to think of things to say.” he says finally. Father? Do you want to save me? I don't need that kind of shit. deliberate blinks. his eyes stay level with the thoughts that fill the bare wall before him. Every thought that jumps into his head sounds contrived and dishonest. thoughtlessly reading the calendar on the wall. will you talk with me?” “What do you want. to mine the wisdom entitled to the cloth. Father William senses his own insecurity as he considers how to approach Luke. He’s knows the defiance is a rejection of him too. resting his elbows on his knees and resting his chin on his thumbs.everyone knows his anger. But nothing comes. He does not acknowledge the priest. not just the judgments of others. and he grins. just platitudes he’d used before to guard himself from ignorance. Father William takes in the details of the room. You know that’s bullshit. But even he wasn’t certain when he told the sheriff that there’s good in everyone. “Luke. “Luke. and he’d find it in Luke. Minutes pass without words.
Father?” “No thank you. “Without right and wrong what justifies what you tried to do to Relius and Rebecca?” Luke snickers. Just made a fresh pot. angling his stare like a knife set to cut.” . I meant we’ve got it wrong. he did. the priest thinks. tell me. “Give me some respect. “I didn't say that there ain't no right and no wrong. you should just leave now. “Okay. Father?” he says. and says. “He beat up your friend pretty badly” “Yes.” Luke tilts his head toward the priest.So it’s about morality.” “Come on. laughing. I should be on my way. If you don’t believe me. Father. “Want some coffee.” Father William sits up in his chair.” The coffee tastes sweeter than Father William like it.” The Sheriff stops Father William as he steps out of the interrogation room. I think about things too.” “Have some. “As much as you deserve. studies Luke’s face. but he appreciates the silence of sipping it.
” Relius holds up a t-shirt. but because of how the conversation had made him feel. “It was Rebecca too. Not that he agreed with Luke.” His people. “I don’t hate him because he’s a wetback. right?” “That’s right. “It wasn’t just because of how you look you know.” Relius says. Father William asked him not use that word.” . watching him pack. wetback. but prefers instead to set the coffee on the table and leave. Not a phrase he expected to hear from the sheriff. The following day Father William wakes with a phone call.“Relius.” “Odd name.” Luke said. Suppose he’s going back to his people now. folds it once. He’d spent the night talking with Relius. “Can I leave some books with you. “Just until we find a place. and Luke asked him if he intended to listen or just to preach. and talking about Luke.” Father William has been hesitant to tell him about his conversation with Luke. Relius. He wants to know what the sheriff means by his people. and then tosses it aside.
Rebecca had no right to forget what she had done. I saw what he did. I was there.” “I’m sorry. Father? Because we don’t have enough niggers and Chinese?” The logic of a tormented mind. if you want to reread it. .“Rebecca?” “Luke had issues with her morality.” “You mean you have issues with her morality.” “You’re sorry? Sorry about what?” Both conversations kept him up until morning. I heard him. “I put Pascal there. Don’t you think I know? No matter what he says to you or anyone else. that’ not it. She could abandon her past. I know. At the heart of Luke’s hatred was a perverse moral argument. .” “You don’t want to know what Luke said?” “Why the fu-. “Do you think we’re stupid.” “No. her upbringing and believe anything he told her. . . Relius arrived and gave her a way to avoid having to answer to herself. why do you have such a need to tell me.” “Then why say it?” Relius takes a pile of books and sets them in front of the priest. sorry. the morality of a . For him.
Father William was able to piece together what he wishes he’d said to Luke.” “You're oversimplifying things. He hears an angry .” Father William said. people aren’t different enough from one another. You just don’t get it. Diversity. To Luke and his friends the priest’s sermons had become the voice of betrayal. telling him that he wasn’t good enough for this country. foreign in Luke’s mouth. because here. in this small town.” The phone rings again. Luke heard them as the new words of judgment. He tried to tell Luke that Relius was a good person. do you?” On the phone this morning.” “You’re forgetting where you come from.” he said. “my country. The words he’d used sounded out of place. Multiculturalism. and that his way of thinking made it impossible for him to see that. different beliefs and skin colors doesn’t mean that you have to give up having values. “I don’t give a shit if you think he’s good.” “Having difference around. through phone call after phone call from anxious or angry parents.forgotten boy who learned to hate as a man. “I respect what I learned. but he won’t answer it now. One angry father asked if he was going to “bring a nigger into town next.” he said. it just means that you have to expand the parameters of your values. “why is that wrong.
“If you don't like the way you're judged by your people than you just run off and find people who judge you different.voice. If you were to leave here and go live in another country. but everyone has it. there’s no sanctuary in that. living among new faces. “ The only thing Luke said that stung. It’s your thoughts that you can’t get away from. “It's getting so nothing matters anymore. It was a naïve thing to say. you might assimilate to some of their customs and traditions. That’s how Father William has come to understand guilt. “Watch your back priest. It’s the proof for Father William of God. Guilt stirred in him when Luke said it. There’s an impulse in all of us to be honest. Thoughts that latch onto memories and compel you with their quiet honesty. something only someone who’d stayed in the same place all his life could say. Running.” and hang up. maybe a young man Luke’s age warn him.” Luke said. as quiet thoughts that rage privately in your mind.” he told Relius. “God put this awareness in each of us so that we might know what to expect from ourselves and from other people. It was something Father William knew intimately. but you would never be able to replace the voice of right within you with another voice chosen for you by . Everyone has that impulse. “no one can escape that. Guilt is the smothering of that impulse. It may be nurtured differently in different countries or different cities. adjusting to a new dialect and customs.
He remembers the purity of purpose he felt as a missionary. narrow.” Luke said. his image faintly reflected in the glass protecting the photograph.them. brown. get your lies ready for all the people who look up to you and trust you. ” “I'm not going to ask you for forgiveness. his face. He looks at the children surrounding him in the photograph. his eyes.” he whispers. playfully Padrecito. himself set apart from them with his black shirt and white collar. and I imagine most of them end up looking back on their lives with some regret. not reddish. not straight like theirs. standing unusually tall. red. He stands beside one of the large. He looks proud among the children who called him Padre. He ignores the other photographs in the room and does not . The phone rings again. not round. not consciously. and he clothes the door so he won’t have to hear the answering machine. How the children and their parents witnessed the presence of God in the words they learned to spell and read and the medicines he would promise them. looking strong among their inflated. His hair.“ Father William goes to his study. rounded bellies. Father. Even people who think they can have to reckon with themselves one day. Go write up a sermon. No one can do that. at least. “El Cura. and stares at the photographs on the wall. leather chairs where so many expectant mothers. engaged couples and grieving relatives have sat. “Why don't you just go.
He gets ready to putt. round tin cup in front of the fireplace.reminisce about his vacation in Israel. getting the ball. He misses often. and trying again. but tries to loose himself in the rhythm of putting. It’s silent again. He tells himself unwillingly that if this one goes in he will be fine. walks to the back of the couch and grabs his putter. He sets a golf ball carefully on the floor and bounces softly back and forth on his feet before gently striking the ball and trying to send it into the cup. He bounces again on his heels and ignores the ringing of the phone and the deep sorrow creeping through his body. he weeps and silently utters the trembling words. He kicks at the flat. Moving it with the tip of his shoe he positions it closer to the center of the mantle. He falls to his knees. or his walk around the pyramids.” PART TWO . dear God. “forgive me. but cannot. and the tears that fall from his eyes pull with forceful melancholy on his body and the onus of his doubt supplicates him. He opens the office door and listens for the phone. forgive me.
“What’s it matter?” “I just want you to knock. They knew they had to get away. looking back at Relius. “You knock.” Relius says. but neither of them was prepared to arrive at John’s apartment and rely on him for a place to stay. is that okay?” “Fine.ONE Relius and Rebecca argued for the first two hours of their drive.” Rebecca hesitates before she knocks. They look weary when they arrive. and they know it. and didn’t talk for the last three. . and shaking her head.
and Relius sleeps as Rebecca wakes. At night. She’s giving up. “I've just been reading and watching some TV. takes his medication often. He wakes late into the morning. He has trouble just circling jobs to call about. The night simply slows the movement into another cycle of doing nothing. She’s letting herself become passive and idle. it matters. and wonders. what Rebecca does while he’s out. He doesn’t want to talk with anyone. day after day. and hasn’t followed up on a single conversation. in bed. and he hates her for it. and seeing him dress for work or school makes Relius uneasy with himself.” she says. When they hug. and Rebecca weeps as Relius turns away from the red numbers on the clock and searches with his hand for the coolness of the fabric on the underside of the pillow where Rebecca sleeps. all of them feel the sadness they share.” he says. He’ll go out and walk by the stores or buildings. and he worries it’s contagious. . a heaviness holds them. and just keep going. John tries to smile warmly when he sees them. and he wants to help them heal. He wants them to feel welcome. and they kiss goodnight to avoid telling one another that sleeping doesn’t separate their days. It’s a busy time for John.“See.
bottles and square or round plastic containers of all sizes. Relius sets his cereal bowl on the table and pulls a section of the newspaper from under the page Rebecca reads. and knows that Relius is not looking for something to eat. “Want the apartment listings?” He looks at her with the same anger she saw in the car as they drove to the city.” Relius doesn’t respond. Are you accusing me of not trying. Rebecca looks down at the newspaper on the table. But he doesn’t say anything until he turns from the fridge and sees her. Anything he’d say would come out with too much bitterness. surveys the bags. Force yourself to get up earlier and go out and do something. Rebecca watches him from the table near the window.” “Sleep well?” “What’s well?” “Maybe you should sleep less.In the kitchen Relius stands with the refrigerator door open. he wants to say. He stares at the shelves.” she tells him. ”I don't want cereal. boxes. She wants me to make everything . He knows what she wants from him. “I have the milk and cereal. “Are you ever going to wear anything besides pajamas?” he snaps.
she won’t even open the door. She’d told him that he could work as a restaurant manager. She sat there. “That’s so fucking stupid. and worried that she’d pass out from trying not to breathe too loudly. He just doesn’t care. “But they weren’t even inside. that guilt of making someone that loves you suffer.” Relius said. he thinks. How can he be so cruel? she thought. and knew that it made Relius angry. obviously disgusted with her.better. But Relius won’t harm Rebecca – not like his father hurt him. And her sense of guilt doubles his own. He yelled at her last night. She told Relius that when someone knocked yesterday morning she hid in the bedroom closet. People walking behind me. the judgments and accusations that he’s certain would make her cry. people that I can’t see looking at me. He has no idea how terrifying it is. carry the burden. a place for her to live. Rebecca pulls the classifieds from the newspaper and pushes them toward the center of the table. the fear of taking advantage of John. She began to cry. frightened . His anger shocked her. completely still. for over an hour she said. He feels what his father must have felt when Relius cried as a child – that selfhatred. just before John got home. He knows what he wants to say to her. She hasn’t left the apartment once since they got there. Relius glances at the classifieds and huffs. magnifies it.” he shouted. find a job.
Be a waiter. He picks up the remote and turns it on but doesn’t look at the channel. But she was right. he could work in a restaurant. cash. less insignificant – at least he hopes it will. only down. How could she forget that he can’t have that past anymore? It doesn’t matter that he owned a restaurant. Can’t she see that? Nothing. And working anywhere would ease the self-hatred. There are memories there that sadden Rebecca as she looks at the old woman. At the kitchen table Rebecca turns to look out the window onto the street below. The elderly woman does not look up. no paperwork.her. She settles her worn face on the bed of her folded arms. get paid under the table. He’s nothing now. Across the way she sees an older woman adjusting a pillow on the windowsill under her sagging arms. The pain in Rebecca’s eyes startles Relius. She hears Relius talking in the other room. make him feel less lazy. He doesn’t recognize Rebecca . no taxes. Relius takes the classifieds and sits sluggishly on the couch in front of the television. and seems to sigh deeply and almost smile as her eyes follow some object that Rebecca cannot see on the street beneath her window. nobody. and she hears him hang up the phone and walk into the kitchen.
An older woman walks by. It’s a warm day. her chair turned toward the window and her eyes reflecting . professional. He wonders if Rebecca will ever regain confidence in her beauty and strength. He likes the colors. “I think I found a job.” she says. but admiring them brings up feelings of guilt. He doesn’t want to feel what they do. “Yeah.” he says. the longing and the loneliness.” “Are you going in today?” “Tomorrow. respect her. He imagines her sitting at the kitchen table. and he doesn’t know how to be there for someone who’s hardly there in herself. “Restaurant. throwing the canvass grocery bags at him. sees their eyes follow them. and the girls all look beautiful. He notices other men that notice the girls.” “Can you pick up the groceries today?” “It’s not like you will.” “Fuck you. the smells. frightened woman.in this mournful. She leaves him alone in the kitchen. Fuck me. learn from her. He wants to think of Rebecca the way he did just four days ago. He wants to admire her. elegant. She’s becoming a stranger to him now.” He’s relieved to be in the grocery store.
it might upset her. John’s friend.” Caitlin knocks once more at the door. louder than before. She stopped moving. it makes her insecure just to look through the door viewer and see who it is. Rebecca.” “Okay. Still dressed in her pajamas. waiting for it to ring again. The answering machine picks up. . John. dig through it once more. a woman. I’ll let you know. Rebecca was walking by the door when she heard the knock. and she holds her breath. Maybe her age. but doesn’t open the door. are you there? I’m Caitlin. She sees Caitlin put the phone back in her purse. The telephone in the apartment begins to ring. but she hears the woman in the hall talking into her phone. It doesn’t. “What should I do?” she says. “Hello? Hello. Bye. “Yeah. But I don’t think I should. maybe to John.” “I don’t know. and Rebecca sees the woman in the hall holding a cell phone to her face. Hello?” Rebecca looks at the phone. Rebecca sees her search through her purse for something.miniature impressions of the windowpane and the small word it frames. and pull a key from it. Rebecca watches. I have it. There’s a girl standing there. maybe younger.
. John heard them arguing. She’d already found a note in one of his books once. Just the thought of sitting with a stranger. and every time she feels something in one of his pockets. makes her tense and nervous. He insisted that it was already there when he bought the book. and no one wrote it to him.She hears the rough sound of the key in the lock. she fears finding a phone number or a condom. “I love you” written in the margins of a random page. She starts folding and unfolding the clothes she and Relius had brought with them. someone who knows about her. but stops herself. Caitlin walks toward the bathroom and is about to knock. She leaves a note on the inside of the front door telling Rebecca that she’d come by and would be back in a few minutes. and she runs as quietly as she can toward the bathroom. anything to convince her that he won’t stay with her. She locks the door and turns on the shower just as Caitlin resolves to open the door and step into the apartment. about what happened to them. John had told them about Caitlin. He said it was hard for him to talk about. and when Relius told him what it was about she felt embarrassed. Rebecca doesn’t like waiting for Caitlin to come back. that he didn’t write it to anyone. betrayed that Relius would let her look so pitiful to John.
Relius.” But Relius didn’t want to hear about it. “Rebecca wasn’t raped. expensive shoes. but he felt like he knew they guy enough. She dresses like a confident. It’s okay. Rebecca rarely opens any of the cabinets other than the one John told them they could use for all their food and spices. but she would never open John’s cabinets. or talk about it. He left the room before John mentioned Caitlin’s therapist. urban woman – short skirt. Not small women like Caitlin. or at least warn Caitlin. “That’s not the point. silk blouse. Not . They weren’t friends. “You like Chinese tea?” “I’ve had green tea. Caitlin insists on making tea for them. or should have know him well enough to stop him. as small as a child. or shift through John’s shelf in the refrigerator.” “This is Jasmine.because he knew the guy who raped her. Large people endure what she did. But she’s so small.” Relius said bitterly when John told him Caitlin. Sometimes she needed an ingredient or just a bit of bread. Rebecca thought Caitlin would be taller than she is.” The tea came from John’s cabinets.
But Rebecca doesn’t want to talk with Caitlin. Caitlin.so. Rebecca folds her napkin and picks at the crumbs left on her plate by the croissant that Caitlin brought with her. just five days ago. “John takes honey in his. and she can sense that Caitlin expects her to say something about herself as well. A week ago Caitlin wouldn’t have come to console Rebecca. She tries to look up whenever she thinks Caitlin might be looking away. Perhaps if they had met a week ago Rebecca wouldn’t think Caitlin sips her tea too loudly. another woman. Do you?” The tea is too hot to taste. or not notice. She plucked the tea from his shelf full of teas. Caitlin would not be here out of an obligation she feels to share her strengths with others. but their eyes meet over the table. and Rebecca wouldn’t resent hearing about Caitlin’s feminist mother and leftist father. not vulnerability. It’s fine that Caitlin cares enough to come over and meet a stranger. Caitlin . but it feels good to hold it. politics Caitlin says she agrees with. She would have come just to meet her – another friend of John. and share with her the pain of her assault. Caitlin senses skepticism in Rebecca’s silence. or the troublesome politics of her parents. but finds too oppressive all the same. But today she’s an intruder. They would have both been different people. an intruder who talks endlessly about herself and her family. and she pulled the milk from his space in the refrigerator door.
“Well. angry girl her father insults. I lost the baby. Her faith in her own thoughts instead of God is what Rebecca’s father meant when he told her that truth and goodness cannot be found in transient things. Faith.” “Yeah.” She tells Caitlin about her father’s discomfort with Relius. his indifference to what she does. But I knew what he thought. My dad thought it was because of God’s judgment. While she talks about her father. Made him jealous. “Because he’s Hispanic?” “Maybe. She wonders if she really is the manipulative. he said. My mom always stopped him from saying it. anchors them in truth. she judges herself. but now they sound so contrived. A genuine passion for life requires reason and the wisdom to see that knowledge without faith is the most arrogant kind of ignorance. There’s no need to worry about lust in the proper love of life. and when that faith is sound and the anchor strong then one is blessed and able to love life without being enslaved to it. I think it might be that Relius accepted me when my dad couldn’t.tells her things she’s said openly to so many strangers in groups or sessions. Rebecca hears her father arguing with Caitlin. And .” Caitlin must be the type of person her father worried she’d become. “Did John tell you I was pregnant?” Rebecca’s interruption startles Caitlin. um.
She showered again and put on a skirt that always made her feel attractive and in control. The more he thought about life. then you're lucky. Though she wonders if Caitlin is here because she aspires to being someone people like Rebecca should admire.” Caitlin’s visit had made Rebecca self conscious. and he wanted things to matter. “My dad says he believes in God because he has to. Relius watches Rebecca in the kitchen.” she says. and if he doesn't then it doesn't matter. “It’s kind of simplistic. She stood in the kitchen now. . and calmly cleans the chicken he’d brought him. an awkward though alluring sight to Relius. isn’t it?” She says through an embarrassed laugh. the more he felt like nothing mattered. He figured why take the risk of not believing and finding out too late that you’re wrong.” Rebecca chuckles at her father’s argument. She looked at herself in the mirror for almost an hour. “You know it’s funny.she sees what her father would perceive as Caitlin’s arrogance and ignorance. If God exists. Her clothes have never look so sloppy on her. like my mom and me. And she disagrees with him. “I was hoping you’d bring home this stuff. She tosses spices confidently into the oiled pans. and her body had never felt so foreign.
and turning pages loudly in his books and magazines.dressed so nicely to make him a dinner she’d found in one of John’s cookbooks.” They lay in bed together.” “Ah-hee day gayeena. “How do you pronounce it again?” “Aji de gallina.” she says with a smile. But how long will it last. “Does he drink?” “Don’t you know?” Not knowing if John drinks made Relius aware of how little he knew his . He went straight into his room. That Caitlin recommended. like he was hiding something and laughing to himself about a joke no one else could see or hear. anything. and Relius recalls the strange look on John's face when he came home. again. To see her doing something.” Rebecca said. giggling to himself. and sat there all evening. “So are you going to call her?” “Call who?” “The therapist. So beautiful.” “I was thinking that maybe I should. “Maybe he’s drunk.
He breathes heavily. for letting her know that she couldn’t even follow a fucking recipe. from the chicken spilled on her blouse and skirt. the aji. His fingers feel the small pearls of sweat beading above her eyes and lips. grayly visible in the evening silence of the room. trying desperately to lighten the weight of his own thoughts. Another headache from lack of sleep. and turns again toward the window in frustration when sleep refuses to come. invites sleep into her mind. Neither of them says a word and they both detest the heat. to numb the dull pain behind his eyes. He touches her shoulder. She does not turn. but she could tell that he didn’t like it. Her thoughts carry her through the open window into the lamplight of the street.friend. she sighs and looks into the ceiling. . She hated him for not hiding his thoughts. She closes her eyes. She does not listen to his breathing. Relius ate the chicken. and she got up from the table. But he wants to get thoughts of John out of his mind. The lamp simply shines. The streetlight fans the emptiness beneath it with a cool white band of illumination. Dinner did not go well. and so Relius reaches out to feel Rebecca's brow. While they were eating some of the sauce. and she does not hear any cars pass. She let it happen. No one walks under the lamp.
His fingers soften their grip on her shoulder. shaping them in the night for the observer that is not there. a cool sheen that wraps delicately around them. fear of grief. waiting for her to respond. no longer concerned that if they leave the window open through the night. fixing her eyes on nothing. a slight pull might bring her to the moment and return her to his side.” he says.changed into her sweatpants and sweatshirt. it will be open in the morning. What’s it matter if the old woman across the way. “Becca. She stares now merely to stare. and they finished the meal without talking to one another. and the dull light of the streetlamp catches briefly at the tear that Relius does not see map its . watches her and listens. talk to me. his voice softened by the quiver of confused sadness. when she presses her fat arms onto her pillow. “Please.” And he curls his fingers on her shoulder and hopes that a small force.” she hears him say. “Becca. “Becca. Can't you talk to me?” He leans onto his elbow and watches her silhouette against the light coming in from the street. sees them half naked in bed? “Becca. She lies on her side and his eyes fix on the smooth slope of her waist. The light of the street lamp reflects off her eyelids. what’s happening to us?” He listens.
and Rebecca opens her eyes to watch a second tear make a small spot on the blue pillowcase. The bed shakes slightly under Relius' weight as he turns. .solitary way to Rebecca's pillow.
“My name is Julio. His eyes are set deep. elegantly thin in his black pants and white shirt. have a past that justifies the intimidation John senses in himself while sitting beside him as they wait for the manager to arrive. A tall man. John finds him intriguing.“ Telling Julio he doesn’t speak Spanish embarrasses John. fascinating. Julio smiles as he packs his cigarettes into the palm of his left hand and asks Relius “el abla español?” “He wants to know if you speak Spanish. invites them to follow him through a door in the corner of the kitchen. and wants Julio to be more than a waiter at a restaurant where his friend might work. and the skin around his lips is gray and tight. To him Julio should be a man of mystery.ELEVEN Only a few employees meet the two young men who walk into the restaurant.” Relius says.” he tells them in English. It makes him . his accent breaking into beautiful rhythm with the long and careful pronunciation of his short name.
“my English is no very good. Like him. his friend Alan admired the miniscule details in Moby Dick. He forgets that he speaks French. nervous sensation into John’s chest. like an inadequate friend to Relius. “If you want to talk in Spanish. and Alan was sitting back handsomely. When they were in his car at the end of the night. and they talked about whale boats. Alan put up his hands.” he said. He wonders if Relius notices his attraction to Julio. “Slow down there. and didn’t call Alan again. Alan noticed. They’d gone out for a few drinks.” Julio’s smile puts a heavy. John couldn’t help but lean forward as he used to lean forward to kiss a girlfriend goodnight. buddy. “Thas aright. and rushed out of the car and into his apartment. and breathes out over his shoulder away from Relius. I don't mind. they’d talked about women and school. He takes a long and deliberate drag.” Julio says. and wasn’t surprised when Alan .feel self-conscious. so I ask so maybe we could espeak espanish. Once he leaned in too close to a friend who was dropping him off at his apartment. and even to Relius. You esmoke?” John pulls carefully at the cigarette Julio had extended for him and taps the filtered end on the table twice before bringing it between his lips and picking up the white fold of matches to light it. and thinks only of how ignorant he must seem to Julio. It’s a sensation he has often felt around beautiful men. And John reddened.
a smile that suggests warmth and a very private humility. He wears his hair cut neatly above his eyes and evenly above his collar. and most of the busboys are from Mexico or Puerto Rico. John had never heard his friend's name said without sounding like ‘reallyus. Billy is an elegant man. Billy walks into the room while Relius patiently tries to convince Julio that he does not know the Peruvian family that lives around the corner and shares his last name. “You need a job too. Six of the waiters are from Chile.” Billy laughs. He smells of confident cologne and cigarettes and smiles occasionally as he speaks . gesturing toward anyone that walks by.’ and he whispers to himself. He goes around the restaurant. or you just taking care of Relius?” he asks John. but everyone calls him Billy. . four from Columbia. but they all curse differently. Julio says that Billy is a Puerto Rican born and raised in Florida.didn’t come around to see his antique whaling map. “Julio thinks all South Americans are related. They all speak Spanish to one another. shortening the e and lengthening his understanding that Relius has a past which he does not know. Relius. Julio tells Relius that the manager’s name is Guillermo. telling Relius his name and where he’s from.
and two blocks away. John picks a sailing magazine off the shelf. “Boob jobs” “Think so” “Does anyone really like them that way? Like a mannequin?” Relius looks up at the magazines again. John has walked along this street many times. “Do you think the food there is any good?” “At the restaurant? Hope so. Just a around the corner. It’s an avenue filled with an array of lights illuminating everything from wine bars to live peep shows. John follows his eyes. They walk on past the newsstand.” There are lots of bars and restaurants near the restaurant. as if to say he just doesn’t understand the attraction. is the center of the tourist industry. and smiles.” Relius says. or else I won't be working there for long.The man behind the magazine stand smokes the same brand of cigarette Julio offered him. Relius’s eyes glance at the adult magazines along the side of the stand. looking at the newsstand owner. He shakes his head. He’s had conversations . before I was married. “Did you ever smoke?” “Long time ago.
He regretted leaving a small pile of tokens in the booth. He remembers the relief he felt the first time he went into a video booth. and he’s gone inside shops with video booths. he let the arousal control him. maybe his age.with the girls who work the register at the strip bars. He knew he sounded terrified and confused. and chose a booth that another man. He closed the door.” he said. “What do you want?” John’s voice shook. He flipped through the channels and found several different kinds of adult films. and when he didn’t he someone’s eye staring in at him. from the most amateurish to the professional. He was sitting with his feet on the chair. and he didn’t know any of its unwritten rules. The man put his mouth to the hole. John pulled up his pants and ran out of the booth. John went to the back of the room. but he didn’t want to go back in there to get them. He’d never been to one before. . and locked it. and as he sat there. touching himself when he noticed a finger come through a hole in the wall next to him. and dropped his tokens into the slots next to the monitor. “I could help you with that. but surprisingly handsome stepped out of. The finger kept gesturing for him to come toward it.
” John says. He’d been in only a few days.The sex. or at least. the offer of it so freely and so secretly. Learned all about single malt scotch. The waitress brings them two glasses of Glenmorangie Scotch along with a bottle of water and a single straw. then take a sip.” He dips the straw gently into the bottle and seals the open end with this thumb. He lets two tiny drops of water fall into each glass of scotch. and it was already a place set on undoing him. watch. “Then it’s stored for a couple years in sherry casks. “This stuff is aged in American pine. then lets a few more fall. This place lines its walls with bottles of expensive wines and liquors.” John picks up the bottle of water and the straw. It’s been so long since Relius has sat in a bar. stirs them. They sit on a couch along the wall and John says he’d like to order for both of them. . bewildered him. Like this. “Smell your scotch.” “Why do you know that?” “I was here one day during a tasting. forcing him to reconsider his passions. and the need to keep them solitary. the anonymity.
Orange-green eyes. John looks over his shoulder at the women Relius admires.” “Is that where you met?” “No. They look so similar to one another.” “Was she Peruvian?” “American. and fair skin. and Relius listens to them laugh and joke about their jobs and their work habits. all of them. Two groups of young men and women in business dress sit at the other couches along the opposite wall. their hair pulled tight. the men and the women.” he says.“Now take another sip.” “That’s how scotch blooms. At this hour there aren’t that many people in the bar. “Impressive. we met at a concert.” Relius grins. From San Francisco. The scotch makes it easier for him to look at these women. “Those girls look indestructible. their makeup subtle. their suits cut slim. aren’t you.” Relius laughs.” “You’re quite the farmer boy.” “What concert?” . like that girl. They are beautiful. “What was Renee like?” “She had reddish brown hair.
but he doesn’t walk smoothly either. Relius rubs his fingers against the red velvet walls. “sure. John hands Relius a pack of tokens and the walk slowly toward the back of the store. “You wouldn’t believe it. He doesn’t stumble.Relius snickers. They want sensations. why not. A young couple walks past them. In this placed every person has a purpose. He doesn’t think of his wife when he’s . and this afternoon he had four.” when John asks him if he wants to go into the video booths with him. and he just nods and says. the girl holding tightly at her boyfriend’s arm.” It’s been almost a year since Relius had a drink. The man in the blue business suit comes to comfort his stale body.” “Tell me. In this place every person has a purpose. Solitary men in business suits want to comfort their stale bodies.” “Psychedelic Furs. anything but the dead doldrums of their homes. and stares through a swoon at the video boxes and novelties in the shelves. A monitor above the register shows a plump girl dancing in a small room with red lights and yellow lights.
they only see a gay man walking next to another gay man. closing the door and having a secret self. still building their lives. Relius turns around. John watches out of the corner of his eye to see which one might be like him. The people who populate their hopes and fantasies. and he drops in token after token to keep the curtain open.here.” one of the boys says to Relius. and the quieted voices telling him to stop. they have futures that cannot be compromised so easily by enjoying themselves now. he doesn’t think of work or his bills. a side to him that no one knows about. They don’t see John. And he gets through the first seconds of guilt. and he’s relieved and addicted to the anxious excitement of sitting in the booth.” . They’re the assurance other men need. “Pardon me. they’re the indifferent to consequences. Because he can look at the live girls now and doesn’t mind if they see him come while they dance for him. He doesn’t think of anything but the nervous fear that someone might see him. A group of four or five college boys prowls among the video booths. fag. And that’s the purpose of young men like Relius and John. “Move fag. They’re handsome.” “He told you to move. indifferent to tomorrow. But these boys play a role here.
One of them wears a purple tie with an argyle shirt. all right. and stupidly confident in their own bravado. another wears a college sweatshirt. A security guard steps into the end of the hallway they walk along. “Come on. so much waiting to come out. Let’s go. you’re all right. are you.” John grabs Relius by the shoulder.Relius steps up to these boys. Why not hit the strip instead. “You’re not very bright. Slightly sobered by the tension. So much anger there. “Time for you to leave. Not worth the trouble. me? “No. but he has a stick and a radio. They have no idea that Relius killed someone. laughing. Come on guys. and John’s frightened now of what Relius might do.” John points to himself. these children. They don’t have any experience behind their eyes.” The college boys walk out in a group. . not threatening at all. And here these ridiculous idiots think they’re just harassing a random person. He’s a small man.” But the rage boiling in Relius’s eyes surprises even John. Relius and John suddenly notice the group of men that had surrounded them to watch the tension build. The rest might as well be wearing a uniform of oxford shirts and khaki pants.
“We’d a backed you. She wanted to shatter the coffee pot in the sink. it spilled over the edge. that she would not have to be alone. coffee grounds on the floor. Relius laughs. coffee grounds in the grout. She knew that Relius would be gone if she woke in the morning. even something as stupid as make coffee. She did get up for a few hours. There were coffee grounds in the butter tray. Instead she set down the pot and walked back to her bed. “Maybe next time. Just as everyone rushed around along the street below for lunch. amused to see the bravado shift so quickly to these anonymous men who would not even look at one another just a moment ago. She measured the water and ground the beans.” Relius says. everywhere. like pocks. she stood in the kitchen trying to make a cup of coffee. but as she was about to pour the coffee from the grinder into the filter. crawled back into bed. but she hoped that sleeping into the late afternoon. Rebecca woke when the sun began to set. The smell of the coffee grounds on her . She couldn’t sleep right away. put all her frustrated anger into shards of glass.“You should’ve just hit ‘em. ridiculing her and reminding her that she just couldn’t do anything right.” a voice says.” another voice says.
She tossed in lotions and perfumes. She tied a knot in the bag and left it at the foot of the bed. She got up and collected the scented candles Relius has bought to soothe her. Short legs that looked like they touched at the back of her neck. and she wanted to get rid of everything. Rebecca saw that young girl once. hating herself for pitying the girl. She tossed them in a plastic bag. Walking so awkwardly. and so she slept through the . too many clothes in the drawers. Too quiet. Rebecca stood at the door. John said they were loud because the girl who lives there uses a walker. too much dust on the windowsills. She felt ashamed to look at her. and small arms. her bones bent at such strange angles. and she wanted the shame to be gone. She slept again. to go with her exhaustion. She could hear the neighbors upstairs.fingers sickened. But she didn’t want Relius to think less of her. And long after the girls had gone passed. fall in love like we do. She doesn’t know how what we do can fuck up our lives. watched your pass by in the hallway. All the smells were too strong now. She felt this shame while Relius slept last night. The room was too messy to sleep. guilty to think that this girl must be jealous of women like her. She needed to get it off. even less. She must looks at us and wish she could do what we do. but did not rest. get all the smells out of the room. She felt it again this morning when she didn’t answer him before he left. anything with a scent. hating herself for believing that this girl could be jealous of her.
” Relius reads the inscription above the church doors. only slightly drunk now. Or maybe touching himself and knowing that someone else touched himself as well just made the whole phantom of masturbation less critical. Instead of sex they talk about the church they walk past. “This right here is the house of God. and into the evening. less present. Maybe the liquor still quieted the voices of his conscience. knowing.day. Relius expected to feel awkward to walk with John outside of the video booths. and opened her eyes with regret. She took the letters from her mother. the love notes from Relius. “This is the house of God. “Haec Est Domus Dei. with morbid certainty. that no matter what she did. I am the house of God?“ “Doesn’t matter if you don’t know Latin. Do you think they mean the building. no matter what she wore or made thought. or what they thought about. she couldn’t avoid the shame of who she’d become.” he tells John. and she tore them to pieces. They didn’t even talk about the man who came out of the booth just next to John’s. They didn’t talk about what they’d watched. or that once you read the words you're supposed to think to yourself. tightening his belt and walking hastily toward the exit. the pages ripped from her diary.” .
and Relius wonders if they come back here at night to sleep and make those stains themselves. and his sincere eyes scan the buildings across the way.” John says.A teenage couple sits on the stairs of the church. a rough beard growing under his gray skin. Inside the foyer of the apartment building Relius waits patiently for John to find his key to the mailbox and gather his envelopes and the magazine forced carelessly into the narrow slot. Neither of them seems bothered by the urine stains on the cements blocks behind them. “There’s a letter for you. Relius remembers Peru. He takes a drag from his cigarette. handing Relius the bunch of . Despite his goodness he cannot hide the harsh look that his neighbors see in him. black streak.” Outside a storefront a thin. foreign looking man stands and waits for customers to feel comfortable enough to walk past him and into his small shop filled with things he used to sell in a bazaar. and he squints at the setting sun and seems to close his eyes as he looks down to press the point of his shoe onto the pavement and smother another cigarette butt into a small. and wonders if the man is happy. his black mustache yellowed. “Would you ever piss on a church?” “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. the boy and the girl both dressed in black and smoking cigarettes.
“Have you eaten anything?” Relius says. John hands him two breath mints. almost angry. pausing in the hallway to look again at the letter. “What’s that?” Relius looks at the envelope. Rebecca grabs at a handful of her unkempt hair.envelopes. “Have you read it?” she asks him. swollen eyes. suck on the other.” Rebecca mumbles something incoherent and reaches into the top drawer and pulls out a pair of fabric scissors. “It's from Father William. though nervous. “It’s a letter. and she tosses another on the floor after touching it to her bloodshot. that the priest might write to judge him. He takes the letter out of the envelope and starts to read it quietly to . From Father William. feeling happy that the priest remembers him. “does it look like I’ve thought about it?” Rebecca sees the envelope in Relius’s hand.” Rebecca looks like she’s been standing by the bed for hours when Relius walks into the room.” Relius tells John. “Chew one. Crumpled tissues cover the bed and the floor.
and she keeps her cold fingers stiff and straight in his hand. and pries it gently from Rebecca's fingers. Rebecca begins to cut randomly at her hair. “Becca.” as he closes the door. the look of secure happiness in her eyes. Resentment grows. The photographs on the night table measure their distance. She resents his love. and she wonders if her parents. “I can’t keep doing this he says. She wants him to comfort her. Relius grabs the orange handle of the scissors. who stare so fixedly out at her. His warm hands feel foreign to her.himself. . She wants him to put the scissors away and hold her. As he reads. you need to talk to someone. Relius drops the envelope and letter on the bed and rushes to stop her. and instead he just sits there on the bed staring at her hairs on the carpet. She won’t accept his reassurances.” “Who? Like Father William? What good would that do?” Rebecca stares at her hair on the beige carpet. He pulls his hand away from hers and leaves the room. she wants to tell him. but she’s afraid to talk. This isn’t me. and she resents herself. ever endured this kind of sadness. retreating into a moment of simplicity so far from the complexity of this moment that she does not recognize her own smile.
She unfolds the letter carefully. one floor above me. and a sink. but the shame is too powerful now. I washed in the sink. She stares at the closed door and withdraws into her own closed emotions. away from where I slept. I was still a student then and I had gone walking around the city looking for a way to make the hours pass quickly so that I might not have to return to my apartment. and she leans forward slowly to pick them up. She sits with her feet on the bed. laying the pages open on her lap and pressing them flat with the palms of her hands. She wants to yell at him. so that I could feel like I did more that day than just sit in my room and dwell on my future. a bed. hugging her knees tightly against her chest. I wanted just to be somewhere. and . on the tenth floor. and had to use a common toilet outside of my apartment. Relius had left the envelope and letter on the bed. I remember it so vividly. a dresser. and had nothing in it beside a card table with a red felt top. an uncomfortable yellow chair. The apartment I had was an old maid's quarters. be angry. This morning I woke to a memory of a day I spent many years ago in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. upright and fetal.Words stumble at the impasse of her insecurities and confusion. It was a room really. I really should not call it an apartment. Dear Relius.
It was still early so I knew that it would be empty inside. and imagined my hands closing around the roundness of the breasts and knew that if I did touch her I would not just be thrown out. not the sexuality of her. she simply reclined. intoxicating me with your hard beauty. you arouse my suspicion of myself in wanting to touch you and to flee. but would be labeled a pervert. On this day that I woke remembering today I was walking along the river and had wandered out past the museum. sketching and writing letters in the company of great art. It was of a woman reclining. I remember writing a poem about it later that day. her hips twisted erotically. not for any erotic thrill but just because its beauty genuinely amazed me. close I think. her long body curved over the marble base. I wanted to touch the whiteness. Not the woman. She did not recline on anything in particular. and I determined to spend the morning there. I found the whiteness of the sculpture alluring. a confused young man who could not control his . I stared at this piece for a long time. and perhaps the better part of the afternoon. but funny nonetheless. I don't know if that's exactly it.after some months I began to associate it exclusively with a dreadful feeling of loneliness bordering on despair. something that began cruel white. Once I stepped inside I was drawn immediately to a sculpture by Rodin. cut so carefully into the stone that holds your color. I’m sure that many young men were drawn only to her perfect breasts.
being a religious man. Your arrival in our small community threatened the comfort I had established here. Relius. I am guided by different aesthetic drives. Without going into it. I imagine you sitting there. I wrote the first part of this letter a few times on different sheets. and started writing there. and dug up the first page I wrote. different passions. I have written to you. I asked myself that a few times. and well. Reading this letter.erotic drives enough to keep his oily hands away from this beautiful stone body. when you showed up here I thought you would try to convince people besides Matty and Kristina that you knew better. since I believe you are holding this note in your hands. that you could somehow make our lives better because you . When I met you here I thought you were a harsh man with many secrets. until I realized what I'm trying to say. So let me try to explain the connection between that memory and you. That's why this page might seem a bit crumpled to you. Today. I was not sure if I was writing to you or simply writing something that I thought I might send to you then keep for myself. and after balling up about ten or eleven sheets of paper I gave up trying to make it make sense. you are like that memory to me. just know that I have always had a very difficult time trying to feel comfortable anywhere. wondering why I decided to share this memory with you. As it is now. and part of that mistrust came from the insecurity I had at not knowing where you come from. I did not trust you.
Like the whiteness of the sculpture. But you did not care about doing that. and I admire that. like Rodin's sculpture in my memory. They hate or fear you because they believe your difference emanates from your physical distinctions. your spirit. Relius. You have a rare strength.were not from here. and how people perceive you based on your physical ethnicity. for people to see the body that Rodin shaped. who you've become in mind and spirit. the enormous potential that you were born into. what makes you different is a quality that they cannot perceive. and sometimes it seems that who you are was fashioned by God merely to support your mind. It was easier. my friend. I think. not to change anything. You left our town because people associated your difference with your dark hair and dark skin. fate or chance (as I think you would see it) cut away till it arrived at your essential form. not the whiteness that makes that body shockingly . Out of the enormity of life. When I think of the difficulties you face I find myself concluding that much of it has to do with the disparity between who you are. the hand of God. an ability to listen carefully and compassionately even to things you disagree with strongly. your mind envelops you. They do not see that. is that in you I was also lured by something that other people would not understand. You came here to find something. The similarity between you and my memory of Rodin's sculpture. but I am getting off track. and I am certain it still is. I am not sure that you found it before you were forced to leave.
without too much of an emphasis on gestures.beautiful. Relius. Many experiences contributed to who you are. Just be there for her now. This does not mean that you are responsible for their emotions and insecurities. whether you consider them positives or negatives. Relius. You are a rare friend. but certainly as a part of her needs you . whether you know and understand yourself or not. Perhaps I am writing this letter to assure you that you can be there for Rebecca. Her parents tell me of her letters. it merely means that you can be there for people as few people can be. I wonder if this note makes any sense to you.without words. and Kristina occasionally mentions things John tells her. and I realize that Rebecca is not doing well. so will you find support in her. your strength will help both you and Rebecca. Soon. One can’t touch the shadows on Rodin's reclining nude. but because they are visible they are clumped together with the tactile curves of the marble. and I worry that you blame yourself for what Rebecca might be going through. that your absence is horribly noticeable. I think of you and Rebecca in the city. she will be there for you again. If you understand it as a protracted way to tell you that I miss your friendship. and as Rebecca finds support in you. . Be strong. and for certain people the precious turmoil that is your personality provides a powerful source of strength to affirm them in their own moments of weakness. Relius. Maybe not as you assume. Relius. Trust in yourself.
staring at the window. light-looking mound of scrambled eggs. Rebecca folds the letter into its carefully creased thirds. confusion pools in her swollen eyes. the soft. She tucks the letter into the envelope. plastic cup look inviting. hesitating knock at the door. Anger and sadness collide within the mix of her thoughts and emotions. William. like an atavistic happiness.Do not hesitate to call on me if you need someone to talk to. The fruit smoothed out like a thin paste over the toast. With much confidence and respect. waits for Relius. She does not answer the soft. but merely turns to take in the image of Relius glancing into the room before opening the door wide and carrying the tray of food to the bed. sets it on her lap and. the coffee in the cobalt mug and the orange juice in the tall pink. .
She hears the stiff sound of the cards being shuffled and tapped three times on the table in her father’s room. A dull. saving its unfiltered light for the cards her father spreads on the table to begin and begin his escape through solitaire. . and she knows he sits at the table between his bed and the window. Their familiar outlines don’t frighten her anymore. The gargoyles on the building across the street are just shadows against the night sky.A young girl sits at a window and watches a man lower his head before continuing his walk. preparing them for the alternating dance of red and black in declining rank. reddish yellow light bleeds into the living room from beneath his door. the broken Tiffany lamp looking sad. since her father told her that a gargoyle is just a spout that lets the buildings gargle. From their idle mimicry the watchful monsters stare out of their silhouettes. She hears her father awake in his bedroom. glowing from the city lights. And he taps the deck of cards on the table once more. their arched backs making them look forever awake. casting its colorful glow on the walls. the sound of cards being shuffled and knocked against a table. not pretty. and she listens more carefully now to hear him spread the cards out in their neat rows. She knows how her father's fingers massage the deck until all fifty-two cards fit tightly into the pile in his hand. eternally pained to watch over the building beneath their curled claws.
and it shrinks and darkens into the shape of a man who stands there with his hands pushing the curtains apart. “That girl’s at her window again. It casts faint shadows on the white lace curtains. Relius backs away from the window and Rebecca sits up in bed. and she watches the stranger lean out the open window to look down into the street. She follows one of these shadows as it moves from the bed to the door or perhaps a dresser and back again. He looks briefly across the street toward her window. She can see his chest. the dark line hairs above his navel. and she turns quickly to see if the light beneath her father's door could reveal her silhouette.” He walks to his side of the bed and turns off the lamp. She can only make out one silhouette behind the curtains.A light turns on in the apartment across the street. Do you think they ever sleep?” “Just turn off the light and come back to bed. She wonders what they’re saying. “Her dad’s up too. and he pauses for a moment until the darkness does not seem so thick and his eyes adjust to the .” he tells her. but can’t imagine a conversation between a man and a woman. but can’t pull herself away from watching strangers at night. Are they lovers? Husband and wife? Poor relatives sharing a small room? She’s sleepy now. She notices another figure that rises in the bed and seems to turn to speak to the first shadow.
He watches her empty window and hollow thoughts blank his mind. Better than having them sleep in your living room. “Aren’t you glad you had that extra room?” “Yeah. The tranquility of the morning collides quietly with their slumber and the warm touch of the sun searches through the dew covered windows for a body to warm and a spirit to stir to wakefulness.” John says. A quick sparkle of light reflects off her glasses. Relius sighs.faded light glowing faintly behind the curtains. He looks at the one solitary figure that moves sullen and melancholic along the sidewalk. taking another . Parting the curtains only slightly he sees the light turn off in the room next to the one where the girl stares. “My hair look any better this morning?” “You going somewhere? Frank coughs and passes the joint to John.” “I’m not really glad about anything right now. and turns toward the incomplete darkness of the room and walks quietly to his side of the bed. higher than before. Rebecca sits up and listens to Relius breathe. He lifts his inhaler from the table and squeezes the medicine twice into his lungs. and he assumes that she has gotten up from the window now and gone to her bed.
John hasn’t looked at his watch since this morning. So he chose these friends for today. They’d started the ritual in college. Take care of each other. especially with jobs and bigger apartments. It was just the truth. ‘Hey guys. man. he can enjoy himself with them. after a few tokes in the morning. John first met Nathan in the cafeteria. No one. We don’t .’ It wasn’t what he felt. He left before Relius and Rebecca woke. Everyone had just gotten back from winter break and Frank nudged John and said. ‘spending the day with some friends today. Not Caitlin. it wasn’t what he wanted to feel. He has friends. it was easy to keep it alive.’ it says. No one would ever write ‘take care of each other’ to him. He wrote them a note. There’s no one it could refer to. and that’s a thought he’d rather not have.long drag before passing it to Nathan. and since they all stayed in the city after graduation. he has more than one person to worry about in his life. Nathan plays guitar and goes to law school. not Rachel. because he knew these friends always like to have a few drinks in the afternoon. He didn’t want to say anything. But not John. and that was unbearable to share with them. Jealous men think his handsome face and perfect voice make his impossible life easier than it would be for them. He reads men’s magazines and works as chef at night. And there was Nathan. “Look at him. crumpled in his pocket. at least. Not a girl. but he has it with him now.
“But that’s the thing. “You should be careful.” John was being careful. like John. and disliked only by people who were uncertain of themselves. though. He wanted to know about Nathan.” Nathan said. for men. He came back golden. everyone’s friend. And John couldn’t help but feel like Aschenbach. But Nathan would only talk about himself in isolation. tan instead of pale. He was just Nathan. not about himself and women or about himself and men. unwillingly and self-consciously seduced. when they went to a diner after a late party.” he chuckled. “You know. “when you’re alone. Last year.have a chance. “when I’m alone I’m just as down on myself as they are. it’s very seductive to be asked so many questions about yourself.” Nathan had vacationed that winter in Bermuda.” John said. for him. and uncomfortable with his self-confidence. For the rest of use it’s an all the time kind of thing. he wanted to know if Nathan had the same feelings he did. Nathan glowed like a modern Tadzio. with shorter hair and greener eyes.” . John was certain that Nathan knew how he felt. “ “That’s the difference. at home in the snow. Surrounded by pale boys who’d spent the holidays in the city or.
“Be careful. at Frank’s house. But Caitlin’s not there today. That’s why. Frank hollers like a college kid on Spring Break. bearing her breasts to all of them. the greater strangers they would become. and her absence makes the woman that Nathan brought seem larger to everyone. . and when he describes Sam stripping off her t-shirt in a pool hall. He’s not boisterous and energized by it like Frank. is loud and uninhibited. and she knows that having her with him help John hide part of himself from Nathan and Frank. Nathan has never felt as close to him. the second to test his attractions. at least John thinks so. she happily shows them just how she did it. She laughs at all the stories Nathan tells about her. He uses the first drink to soften his emotions. As though the longer they knew one another. Nathan had said hello to him less and less. Caitlin doesn’t protest anymore when John insists she come along. Samantha. The lawless physics of friendship often confused and sometimes angered John. Until they started running into each other here. This girl. Nathan and Sam laugh. and the third to quiet himself. Since that day. when he gets together with these friends.” Perhaps John has been too careful. She understands that John needs her there. nor overly flirtatious like Nathan. it’s always easier to smoke and drink with them. He has a method with them now.
Dark hair. John shakes his head. and Relius questions why he brought Father William’s letter with him to work. white shirts and black pants – his appearance doesn’t matter here as long as he shaves when he gets to work and combs his hair. dark eyes. or her from it. They ask about Lucha Reyes’ music. it’s somewhere they’ve been. . He likes learning the habits of the other waiters. Relius feels closer to them. safer. “you go girl.” and leaves. or if Rebecca had put it there to keep it from her. These men ask different questions about Peru. Through Peru.and Veronica yells. It was a hasty thought when he saw the letter in his dresser drawer. The folded papers in his back pocket feel intrusive here. To them. “sorry. He didn’t remember putting it there. “You gonna show us yours?” Nathan cackles. He can be anyone he wants to be here. not today. and he enjoys the rumors about Billy and Javier. The restaurant has become an unexpected refuge for Relius.” John stands up. and wondered if the papers had slipped into the drawer with a pile of clothes. Peru isn’t an exotic mystery. or know someone else from. they ask about the shanty towns outside of Lima. or been through.
” “To the states?” “No.” “But not the music?” “I’ve heard of it. his arm wrapped around Kazim. tell this man about criollo music. What’d I tell you. “I know they’re good work horses. “Too bad.” Kazim is older than Relius and most of the waiters in the restaurant.” Relius says.” “See. He’s . Peru. Kazim?” “In Persia.He knows she read it.” Julio grins. “I can tell you a couple things about criollo horses. “Relius. man. “practically a gringo.” Julio says in Spanish. but don’t know enough to say anything. and knows what she thinks of it and his friendship with Father William. “Nope.” “Don’t know any criollo music?” Julio’s feigned surprise is obvious to Relius.” “What do you know about the horses?” Kazim asks. My grandfather used to bring them over from Argentina.” “Where did you learn Spanish.
The sole light bulb above him. make him feel like he’s part of an inquisition. “You’ll make a great dentist. or an interrogation. Kazim. the odd stains that cover it. he complained to Relius about still working as a busboy after so many years. and is one of only two non-Latinos.worked there since he was sixteen. He takes notes in these books. He unfolds it and spreads all the pages out on the table. The words of the priest sound so familiar. so confusing in their confession . “I have criollo music. If he works a double shift he’ll stay in this cellar for his entire break. Despite his age.” Kazim says. The day they met. their parents. Instead he goes down to the basement and sits on an old chair at an old table and reads by what looks like an old light-bulb. busboys or kitchen staff out back to take his break. he has the letter to read. “I like it.” Relius seldom joins the other waiters. their girlfriend’s names. and still having to wear blue shirts instead of white ones.” Relius laughs. reading through poetry and re-reading some of the books that he’d bought since he started working. where they’re from. always jotting down his thoughts lightly in pencil. and sometimes whispering to himself. Kazim has the curiosity of someone much younger. He constantly asks questions about people – what they do. Tonight.
so much that he cannot expect from himself. and through this soft murmur of sentiments . He knows that she wonders why he is not there beside her on the couch.” he whispered to her dying mind. always a bit cooler than the main dining room. “I'm so sorry. on the last day of her life. I love you. and the words merely echoed among the other words she could not speak. but she was already too far from her own voice. Looking at her convinced him that the doctors were wrong. only see him through blurry glaze of tears and too much sleep. and he wonders why the priest should expect so much from him. understand the passionate beauty not in the body but in its envelope. and she knew from the shaking of his body. I loved you. and the arch of his neck that if he would lift his head from her arms she would see the painful guilt of failing to keep death out of her body.of compassion. fading away with her like he faded with Renee. When she was dying. Relius thinks of Rebecca. her eyes stayed open. It’s never hot in the cellar. watching TV. They just didn’t understand her the way he did. she wished she could tell him. She could not hear him. He imagines the Rodin sculpture he describes and tries to hold the whiteness in his mind. But he can’t do that again. And he remembers the horrible sensation of feeling her hands get colder. but he feels a swell of bitter appreciation force tiny drops of perspiration to his face and neck.
He walks down the stairs holding two empty white buckets. To watch her sleep was to wait anxiously for her to wake.” John’s hands tremble as he unzips his pants. to taste the breakfast he had made for her. But her calm didn’t soothe him. And he wept uncontrollably with her hand pressed against his lips.” It’s Kazim.” Relius folds the letter quickly and puts it into his apron pocket. and he wished that he could say goodnight and not goodbye. How long you been down here?” “Ten. It’s so quiet in here. “Relius. even with the . her pain had passed. He takes one of the buckets from Kazim. He rolls the top corners of the letter with his finger. and tried to tell him that it was over now. I’ll help you. man? “We’re out of ice?” “It’s busy up there. and she could rest almost happily. “Here. to share the day with him. “You okay.and final wishes she tried to hear the words of Relius's touch. knowing that she died without doubts of love.” “More like thirty. fifteen minutes.
” the voice says gently. “Turn to number five. He sees a tan line where the young man wears a watch. He backs away slightly when the fingers touch him. Should this be arousing? Should he watch something else when he stands up and leans toward the hole in the wall? The man reaches into John’s booth again. Maybe someone stole his watch once. but doesn’t even notice what . The screen is black at first. “Give it a second. When the video starts John watches it with uncertainty. “It’s easier if you stand up. a young hand.” “What?” The man reaches into John’s booth and turns the dial to video number five. but probably takes it off when he comes here. He can’t see the tuning knob.sounds from the video. His hand moves slowly. calmly.” the man says. glances at the monitor. He can only hear his breathing and the sound of the man in the next booth switching through the channels on his monitor. and in the dim light John can see that it’s a smooth hand. so the man knows where number five is just from the feel of the dial and the clicks. John sits down on the stool and watches the stranger’s hand come toward his body. John breathes deeply.
He’d been walking for hours. with a beer or a glass of whiskey. take off his clothes and relax in the living room. There’s a note on his bedroom door. written with a shaky hand that barely pressed the pen against the page. R. or be careless in the safety of his home. “My whole fucking life is a secret. He wanted to test his passions in private. John. and wondering if anyone who did see him could sense the sex and confusion raging in his mind. He wanted more of the sensation he left behind in the booth. Rebecca is curled up on the couch. He stands up again and lets the man’s fingers close around him. He’s relieved that she doesn’t see him walk in. He angles the note toward the hall light. and John looks back down the hall to see if she’ll get up before he goes to bed. a mild way of saying that it wasn’t just his home anymore. He wanted to get home. or smell the liquor and smoke in his sweat. It would have been sarcastic. naked. when John gets home. . He’d almost knocked when he got home. R can only be Rebecca. but it feels good. if you have a chance. please leave me Caitlin’s phone number.he sees. He trembles.” he told Caitlin when she saw the pictures of his parents. thanks. and less of the small guilty feeling that visits him every now and then and reminds him that he’s not supposed to have these kinds of secrets. alone. avoiding people.
As usual. He doesn’t get up. and tightens his body. “How old was your mom when you were born?” John’s parents hadn’t ever told him why he was born late in their lives.” she said. and even heard them talk about it with his uncle. they just become part of you. Maybe when you’re born with secrets.“I thought your parents were a lot younger. When the shower door slides shut. and instead dims his lamp and tries to read another article in his magazine. that he’ll just keep going into his own room or the bathroom. finding a suitable answer to his drunken questions about why he sat in a booth and let another man touch him. Relius takes a shower after work. but she doesn’t think of her now while she . He presses his ear against it and hears the quiet sound of Relius crying in the shower. John is still awake when he hears Relius come in. John looks at the clock. but their answers always sounded insincere. He hears Relius’s footsteps come close to his door. It’s past two in the morning. He’d asked them. Her mother taught her how to iron. he thinks. hoping that Relius won’t knock. like they guarded a secret he wasn’t supposed to know about or understand. and he hadn’t heard Rebecca at all since he came in. John gets up and walks naked towards his wall.
look mellow as they chew the hay. their large bulbous eyes staring up occasionally to watch another cow eat or a sparrow flutter to another beam. but somehow still yields to the currents of the wind and the heat of the hidden star to reveal a blue so rich that his mind hardly maintains the contrast.does it. Each one he treats gently. calming it with his voice as Kristina passes the rough brush over its stiff fur. After the cows eat their hay and cornmeal. Matty unloads the sugar beet from the trailer bed and smiles to see them lick the beets enthusiastically. Matty says little to the cows as he encourages them to move aside for him to clear the soiled straw. after the walk through the darkness to the barn. white foam wetting their mouths. and Kristina brings large forkfuls of fresh straw to offer the cows as new beds and new material to soil. of what she would say to her therapist. Matty takes his time with the cows in the morning. when the sky seems like it could never thin itself of the thin dark white that defines it. She thinks instead of Caitlin. The cows wait patiently for their meal. THIRTEEN Matty's favorite days begin. breathing heavily and stretching their thick pink tongues into .
better by not being theirs. Matty and Kristina share few words during the work of the morning. On this morning. While they milk the cows. its shaft covered with brown stains. It was the fork that John convinced Relius was best for pulling the manured straw from beneath the cows. nor of his own childhood. “Was that the one? I thought it was this one. If they do talk. he knows that Relius always used. and the best to carry large loads of clean straw to spread beneath them once again. Sometimes Kristina will sing to the cows. sometimes Matty will listen. and tiny cracks. dusty smell of the barn reminds him not of John. not even of his many years spent in the barn. Today the heavy.” he says. it is of the veterinarian or of the young bull they want to buy. He adds the warm water to the milk in the green bottle and fastens .” They move together to the next cow. the husband and wife walk calmly down a row.their neighbor’s trough to eat their food. The fork he holds. Matty stands quiet above the trough to collect the soiled straw and push it out of the barn. “Relius always used this fork. Kristina wipes the teats clean for the suction while Matty walks away for a moment to prepare the milk for their newest calf. a small green stool tied tight with a rope to their waists making it easier for them to sit beside each cow and press the large suctions over the teats.
adobe home with some gifts. and respected. Relius didn’t know how she lost her vision. A few months after the baby was born. just that once her baby was born. It was about Relius’s mother and a blind woman. do you?” “Not this one. Matty tells her a story that Relius had shared with him. his want by the woman’s small. both of them watching the calf drink from the bottle. When the calf came. She wasn’t a tall woman. This small bull came just after Relius and Rebecca left.the rubbery nibble before testing the formula on his arm. but she was strong. “This little guy is going to be big bull. In their kitchen. He laughs quietly at the small calf still making small leaps into its pile of fresh straw and waits for it to see him. Holding the bottle up to the eager calf he turns to look at his wife where she stares at him over the wide back of a heifer. as Matty prepares the coffee and Kristina slices their fresh bread. but the baby was thin and sickly .” “You don’t want to sell him. She found the mother strong and healthy. This blind woman worked for their family. Relius had taken care of its mother and was looking forward to calving her. they decided not to name it.” Kristina comes over and stands behind Matty. her eyes didn’t work anymore.
“All his stories were strange like that. though knows that they would already be working at this hour.” “Doesn't sound so strange. tight . Staring at the clock just makes him away of how little he slept last night. Whenever the blind woman would nurse her baby. “Jesus took devils out of pigs. a rattle snake would stick its rattler in the baby's mouth and suckle at the woman's breast. “Yes. It was hidden in a hollowed-out beam of the woman’s bed frame. His mother and her sisters went into this blind woman's house and turned over every chair. they had to bring by a priest to bless the house.” Kristina says. already finished with the first part of the day. that someone had cursed her. probably preparing to go out to the fields.” John opens his eyes and stares impatiently at his clock. The blind woman insisted that a priest wasn’t enough. I suppose that’s right. His mother told him that one of her sisters believed the baby didn’t grow because of a snake in the house. How little he’s been sleeping for weeks now. After they got rid of the snake.looking. so they had to bring a witchdoctor by too. His muscles feel tense. dresser and bed until they found the snake.” Matty laughs softly. He doesn’t think of his parents.
so I just gave up trying. anyway. .” “You mean covet.” He smiles at his friend. Couldn't sleep either. “I'm going to tell him about all your girlfriends and how you keep taking your neighbor's wife in vain. “You all right?” “What are you doing up?” “Couldn't sleep. my son. With the light from above the sink he looks briefly into the living room before closing the door and sees Relius still sitting at the table by the window. tasting the paste of slumber on his tongue. and making him feel like he has to get up to ease the tension. adding. “You lust too much.” he whispers.” John laughs. I'm fine. He closes the door behind him quietly as he takes a few short steps to the bathroom. “God damn it. lust. What the hell does that really mean. and you must stop or be punished.” John looks at the blank sheet of paper in front of Relius. rubbing its granular remains from his eyes.” Relius says sarcastically. “I was thinking of writing about you. That I covet my neighbor’s wife.” “Yeah. covet?” “Lust. Yeah.around his bones.
Will talking to her. Rebecca does not make a sound when she finds him asleep on the couch. charlatan.“Go to sleep. and ease her deepest pain. Relius. wake her with a kiss and embrace her with the security of love. or talking to anyone really help. “do you think it’s Latin. and listens to her breathe. television icon who takes pleasure in the applause he gets for ridiculing common people . But he stands at the door and listens. He stops and whispers to Relius. He opens the door to the room. he cannot reach the invisible body of her soul. and he yearns to touch her. He wonders whether or not to wake Rebecca. the rug.” John walks down the dark hallway toward his bedroom. covet?” “Go to bed. He uncrosses his arms. the television casting the ill humor of the arrogant preacher. her shoes. toward the floor. toward himself.” John closes his door and Relius stays at the window. Her legs look beautiful and soft against the dark blue linens. at least you can sleep until the early afternoon. and he walks over to the phone and picks up the piece of paper with Caitlin's phone number. his eyes filling with a watery reminder that he cannot touch her. her emotions. He looks down now. closes the door and lifts the remote control from the table as he lowers himself onto the couch.
but doesn’t follow her. and it bothers her to know what he knows.” “What about priests?” “Cute. Relius watches her. that Father William loves him. things matter. For a while she lost her entire family. Because she loves him. my confidence. Rebecca. She lost a child. behind him he feels the presence of Rebecca. Relius opens his eyes and stares at the brown fabric of the couch. “That guy’s is an asshole. not hate him. Told her the Luke and his friends stole from her. and now she’s losing Relius. She’s angry with him. and her friends. “My faith in so much. No. and blinking hard he sits up and waits for her to say something.” she wrote. It makes her hate him. That evangelist.” “Who?” “On TV.who suffer uncommon dilemmas. and she’s responsible for how her vulnerability affects someone else.” Rebecca walks angrily into the kitchen.” And now loving Relius makes it worse. She wrote a letter to her mother. It makes her hate the feeling of loving him.” “That figures. “They stole my dignity.” “They all are. He knows she read the letter. It makes her .
She listens to Caitlin say hello a third time. marking a slow march toward the possibility of solemnity. Rebecca closes her hand over the receiver and holds it for a few minutes before she begins to dial.feel pressured to be someone she can’t be anymore. and she gets angry with him over anything.” Relius smiles. “Did you put sugar in it?” “I spit it in it. and finally hang up. Leaning back against the table. glad that she’s at least trying to make fun of their moods. Caitlin answers and Rebecca does not say a word. She walks back into the living room and sets a coffee cup in front of Relius. She dials slowly. apologizing for hanging up a minutes earlier. hearing each tone resonate in her mind. almost angrily. she drums her fingers on its underside and prepares herself to call again. The phone rings once more and she rehearses in her mind the smoothest hello. When Caitlin answers Rebecca does not hesitate to speak. Behind the door to the bathroom she hears Relius still singing to himself and wonders if he thinks of her while he sings. He looks up at her. Caitlin had .
They don’t talk much. entrust herself to a stranger. and the girl nervously smiles back. could walk behind her unnoticed. cold and lifeless. . colorful and metallic. it was fine. not driven by the urge to watch. and she walks over to the window to survey the world she cannot escape.” she asks herself. Optimism touches at Rebecca.been expecting her call and she was not surprised at all that Rebecca had hung up the first time. The reflections. “What am I going to do. colorful and clear. and a feeling of despair fills her. She smiles at the young girl who sits at the window at night. to create scenarios and conversations to explain the gestures she sees from her room across the street. men. warming her. more common. suddenly aware that calling someone would demand so much that she had been trying to avoid. Rebecca hangs up. young boys and girls walk together toward school. and happiness governs the morning. be places where people. She would have to go somewhere by herself. scan it for weaknesses. waving as though seeing Rebecca by chance. these things can be difficult. Outside small crowds gather by bus stops and newspaper shops. Rebecca explains that she lost the card Caitlin had given her. and Caitlin giving it to her again from memory. making the imminent movement through the day less ominous.
off the sunglasses of young vain young people. wondering if he knows her. she breathes deeply and tries to concentrate on the piece of paper she unfolds. a threat already to her resolve to follow the streets to the office building described to her by the voice on the phone. in the glasses of elderly men and women. His curiosity is too aggressive for Rebecca. The gray steps seem much larger and farther apart to Rebecca than when she first walked into the apartment building. The images warp and twist and curve to the shapes of their near and distant mirrors. A man turns his head to look at her over his shoulder. or the young boy who looks up at his grandmother. She looks at the direction again.on cars and windows. they absorb themselves into one another. and follows the lines she drew as . saying yes to the appointment that could be squeezed in that morning. others short and wide. Her hand wrapped tightly around the hand rail. Caitlin had promised her that this doctor's office was nearest to the apartment. hearing their conversation in her mind. becoming collages seen by a girl who stares into the face of her lover. or else not until next week. doesn’t see others as she walks reluctantly out the front door and hesitates on the threshold of the building. Rebecca sees some of these patterns. and some look tall and some thin. She nods again to the secretary.
an uncontainable argus that watches her at once from all directions. She tries to walk more slowly. She uses storefronts to look behind her without turning. in her movements. She sees a . The street sign is unfamiliar. and stop looking over her shoulder so often. and now and then she is certain of a constant image there.Caitlin directed her to the office. Along the street the eyes of the people seem to come from one enormous body. and then once at the right street she would see which numbers they could be. and will know when the time is right to attack her and maker her helpless again. no matter the direction. more calmly. someone who walks at her pace. The small changes she made on her map when she spoke with the secretary suddenly make less sense. She decides instead of concentrating on the numbers. She walks through this observing body. and none of the names nearby match the ones she’d written down on her directions. fear must show on her face. to her fears. She shudders when a small boy points to her . untamed by perspective and sinister for its power to witness her movements however fast however slow. turning to see any man or woman who looked at her as she passed. a being. She’s lost and she’ll have to ask someone for directions. and the 8 a 6 or the 6 an 8. She stops at the end of the street to get a sense of how fare she’s gone. she would follow the lines as she drew them. and Rebecca wonders if her 5 is a 5 or a 2.
and listens to the recording ask her for twenty-five cents. She can’t find the quarter in her purse. but I'm lost. with small chips in the black plastic. anxious to find a way out of this labyrinth. and she runs to it now. she finds a quarter. Not lost. tucked into a pack of gum.” “What's nearby?” . She imagines someone beating the handset against the phone booth. or against the shelf. A woman on the opposite end answers and Rebecca finds it difficult to speak. She begins to dial and looks around the intersection to find the name of the street.telephone back along the street she’d come up. A mild panic starts to hold her.” “Where are you?” “I don't know. looking for anyone that might be watching her. Lynn's patients?” “Yes. I have an appointment this morning. deep in her purse. The phone is dirty and stained. “I don't know where I am. She cradles the phone on her shoulder. She’ll need it to feel safe. make her feel frenzied. and the quarter becomes more than just a coin. She’ll need it to be calm now. and the anxious fear of being lost grips her. Finally. “Hello. She finds nothing.” “Are you one of Dr. She stares around nervously.” she whispers. smells it.
” . It says 2545 9th St. “ “Okay.” “You're not sure?” “No. I'll call you in a little while then.“Well. so you're on 9th St. This is what I want you to do. is there an address above the numbers?” “Yes.” “All right.” “I don't have another quarter. No. Look on the phone. Do you know the cross street?” “I think it's Meagan Avenue. Once you get there I want you to call again.” “Honey. Walk either direction on 9th until you get to the next intersection. I want to help you get here.” “Do you know the name of the street you're on?” “No. there's a coffee shop behind me. I can't do that.“ “Okay.” “Call collect. Call again and we'll see where you are. but I can't do that with what you're telling me. listen. and a record store next door.” “Could you ask someone nearby?” “Ask someone? No. You're probably just a couple of blocks away. Can't you just tell me how to get to your office.
She looks to her left and to her right and decides to go to her right. Forcing herself to walk on she finally comes to a phone. I can't just keep walking like this.” “Okay. again. this is stupid.” “My name. At the next intersection there is no phone and she freezes at the curb. But she knows that she has to walk. But she didn’t. twice. She opens the door and the loudness startles her. Behind her she finds a small laundry mat. She looks back and forth. Then I will talk to you again in a few minutes.” Rebecca reluctantly hangs up the phone. She walks to the door and looks through the glass.“And what's your name. and one of these women smiles at Rebecca. but the familiar humm does not come. Pressing the metal tongue once. away from where she had come. hoping that maybe she just missed one. she tells herself. My name is Rebecca. Rebecca. unsure of whether or not she wants to walk to another intersection and find another phone. She thinks of picking up the phone and asking the woman if she could just send someone to get her now. A few women with small children sit at benches near the front of the building. She listens for a dial tone and hears nothing. They must have a phone inside. scanning the four corners for a phone. Rebecca Ann Daugherty. she hopes to wake the phone from its inoperative slumber. There is a television on . while another simply stares.
back behind the soap machines. and asks if there’s a phone nearby. “I'm in a laundry mat at 9th and Burton. doll. deep breath. assuring her it will work.” “Good. She smells the warm air in the room and knows that it comes from the gray. That means your just right around the corner. where the phone might be. smiles at her again. Good. Lifting the receiver she dials the sweat-stained number on the piece of paper she pulls from her pocket. and she no longer hears it pulsating in her ears. The woman who smiled at her. If you want to be heard in this world you got to speak up.somewhere in the room. and a welcome relief soothes the flow of blood in Rebecca's body. The woman points to the back of the laundry mat. “ The building is not as she imagined. She follows the stairs to the . green. and Rebecca approaches to ask her.” Rebecca takes a long. Go back and take a left onto Burton. in an inaudible whisper. We're at the corner of Burton and tenth. The concrete walls painted beige give the impression of an asylum for the unhealthy. “I didn't hear a word you said. The same woman answers. blue and red mounds of felt she sees in the garbage cans at the end of a row of dryers. The shiny look of the phone calms her. The woman laughs. and the voices from the screen mingle uncomfortably with the many rhythms of the turning drums in the washers and dryers.
he felt close after so long.” she told him. but if my need makes me resent him than I can't love him. Inside a man and woman sit patiently opposite one another. or tell him about the dreadful mix of love and non-love within her that sometimes. “hello. a withdrawn embrace. “I'll be fine. his chin resting on his clasped hands. and the woman at the desk behind it says simply. it's the need that I have to get over. she reminds herself.” With the calm of being in the doctor's office. to wait with her and walk her home. The frosted glass moves slowly along its runners. a mumbled I love you too. “Rebecca.second floor and finds the doctor's door beside the elevator. Why did she say no. but she didn’t know how to respond to him. her hands in his before she left the apartment.gestures and words that conflict in their moment of movement and articulation. the woman reading a book. often. leaving her with truncated expressions of adoration . you must be Rebecca. insist that he not come? The need. Rebecca thinks of Relius and remembers his concern for her before she left that morning. the man with his elbows against his thighs. I love him and so I need him. certain of its inadequacy. With his arms around her. silences her. Rebecca hears the end of Pachelbel's Canon above her. He offered to come with her. Why didn't she tell him she was afraid. and his legs shaking nervously. “ . and closes the door gently behind her.
Rebecca finds herself describing her parents in very warm tones. and she speaks of Relius and her confused affections for him. unwilling to involve herself in the doctor's . talking of her mother as a strong woman who never had the chance to find her strengths. Both of them sitting on heavy tan chairs. any children. how old were you when you lost the baby? How old is Relius? Does he know you’re here? Do you ever resent your parents as you do Relius? Rebecca answers the questions absently. listening mostly. though not of its father.Rebecca starts at the sound of her own name. an unwilling participant in his own scenario of loving reason but dreading the loss of faith. The doctor looks younger than she had expected. Above her smile Rebecca spots a few small freckles. She speaks of the baby she lost. The doctor sits down with Rebecca at a small table in the corner of the room. any siblings. and says yes quietly when the doctor asks her if she prefers to be called Rebecca. Her eyes almost orange and her skin the soft color of cream. smiles to herself at the irony of its implications and the image of herself rising from a chair to talk to a psychiatrist. father. The doctor takes cursory notes. her mother. and of her father as a bright man forced into a life of simplicity. occasionally asking a question. she asks Rebecca to tell her first about her family.
a self that is in perfect harmony with its thoughts and actions. There isn't a secret me where everything makes sense. I listen to you and you sound smothered. she tells her.” The phrase echoes in her mind and makes her sound mechanistic. Rebecca asks herself.” . and listens to the doctor indifferently. so silenced. and we need to get to the real Rebecca.” “Rebecca. and it bothers me that who I am can't function. The doctor reminds her of the needs of Relius. cold. it is hard to get over an attack. the problem is with what I've been through. she wants to say. what more. “We need to know what Rebecca wants. not just by what's happened to you.exercise of discovering what is wrong with her besides the shock of having been attacked. I know who I am.” she agrees. “The real Rebecca. “ But what more. “Yes. There isn't. She feels impatient. but by what people expect from you. I am the real Rebecca. and about her own needs. “ “Yes. Loving and resenting Relius is just a sign of other issues. that's not the problem. “it is hard to get over the loss of a baby. I feel so scared all the time. and not what Rebecca thinks she wants.” “What I want is so simple. but you must realize that there are a lot of experiences piled up on top of you. I understand that you don't want to accept some of the things I am saying to you.
I don't feel like things are suffocating me. I feel like they've been taken out from under me.” “Rebecca. the people in your town. And I had a chance. but it has a lot of risks. they're all good people. Now my family blames me for leaving and Relius hardly feels like he ever wants to be near me.” .” “Things aren't on top of me. and I lost the baby. in many ways it is. and everything that was supposed to be so beautiful about it is gone. and it is. make me happy. they want to protect their children from the harsh side of life until they are old enough to handle it. Sure we work. and it was wrong. Your family. and it's only made things worse.“I'm not smothered. So much that I used to stand on is gone. Of course you grew up thinking of motherhood as a wonderful thing. When I was young I always thought about becoming a mom. And then what happened to Relius and me. and parents don't teach their children about those risks. That's what girls dream of where I'm from. but the truth is they want to do what parents everywhere want to do. I don't feel like I have to keep getting rid of things to be myself. but the main thing we learn about is becoming a mom. Things are never as simple and as happy as they seem to us when we're children. So what have I got? Nothing. what you're going through are real situations of life. I thought that loving him would protect me.
about what they could have done differently with you. Now even though they might say otherwise I am sure that they don't understand why their daughter has to hurt so much. How do you think that affects them?” “Probably makes them wonder about their faith. or maybe your father talks to you differently. Your mother and father are both religious people. This is why I said we have to find out what your needs are for you. And you don't. but I doubt it. Rebecca. Because your parents probably ask themselves questions about you. All these things. I imagine it probably makes them wonder more about you. Do you see what I am getting at? A lot of what you are feeling inside right now comes from the ways in which the people who are close to you respond to you.“Are you saying that my problem is that I was too sheltered. They may believe that because of their faith. register in your mind and affect the way you see yourself. within the guidelines of their beliefs. Maybe your mother is not as close to you as she used to be.” . you probably sense it in some ways. I mean that there is and will always be a huge difference between the way we want to look at the world and the way it actually is. and because they raised you well.” “Maybe. however big or small. that you should have a happy life. From what you told me about them. That my parents should have told me to expect a miscarriage and almost being raped?” “No.
and even the most stubbornly independent people become that way because of many factors in their lives. We .“So you think that all I have to do to figure out what's going on inside of me is to sit here and go through all the ways that I disappoint people. As much as your parents want you to be the daughter they always wished for. sometimes you just can't be. No one grows up in isolation. I just need to get over being afraid of strangers and feeling like I can't trust anyone. there will always be things inside of you that are not consistent with those expectations.” “No. on who you are. but they really do. The responses. What does that have to do with what my ability to meet other people's expectations?” “It's hard to accept that others would have such a profound affect on you. you are looking for will begin with yourself. Different experiences made up who you are. and then say if I feel guilty about it or not? That doesn't make much sense to me. You can't sort things out for yourself by yourself. and as much as you want to be that daughter. not the answers. That means that however much you want to be one way. Rebecca. but realizing that there is a difference between who you are and what people need or want is very important.” “My problem is not that I am house divided against itself. or anything like that. and you have a chemistry inside of you that is truly all your own. It would be impossible for you to figure out everything that people want from you.
Still frightened of strangers she walks reluctantly past the market where. and they didn’t grow from the bronze stems that hold them. shaped to mock the nature they imitate. and why it's so hard for you to start to rebuild after everything you've been through. She doesn’t say very much.need to help you figure out what makes you happy. And the man with the broom lowers his head and stops sweeping. A stout figure in a serape approaches the man with the broom.” Rebecca hears only that no one grows up in isolation. Outside the office Rebecca walks in the direction recommended to her by the secretary. the color of no grapes that have ever been. preferring to protect herself from the doctor’s thoughts. She walks slowly and watches as a very dark man who looks neither black nor hispanic use an old straw broom to sweep the styrofoam cups. cut stems and other litter into a large pile. since early that morning. tomatoes. Little balls of glass. and Rebecca sees anger in the quick gestures of the person in the serape. Glass grapes won’t rot. fallen cucumbers. vendors were sorting their vegetables and flowers. turning his head . What’s left of the hour passes quickly for Rebecca. her mind follows her eyes and through the glistening spheres of the botryoidal balls of glass on the table between herself and the doctor she curves around vacant thoughts that touch at her conscience without leaving any abstract imprints of having been.
Behind her she hears a small boy calling out to his mother. and she reads each street sign eagerly. and her ears hear the words that could have been to her. and looking like a blind woman who searches the building for a revelation hidden in its texture. Mama. by some generous miracle. and then looking down at his pile of litter again. though the calm she sees does not affect a calm within her. mama. She looks up at the windows of the apartment and wonders if Relius is still home. knowing that there is nothing else to look at along this path so the man knows that she intends to look away from him. He peers out . and her eyes see the child she might have had. catching in the smooth mortar. but she wants his presence. hoping that. and from the corner of her eye she senses his body turn and feels him watch her as she presses closer to the brick wall and runs her fingers against its rough surface. Beyond the alley market Rebecca breathes more easily. Guilt grips her. At this hour the people on the street walk with less haste than in the morning. each next street she reaches might be her own. and Rebecca quickens her pace and walks past the man with the broom without looking at him. The small boy runs behind his mother and wraps his arms tightly around her legs.slightly to follow the direction pointed to by the hand emerging from its woolen cover. When she stands in front of her building she cannot recall the particulars of her walk. Sad sight. he cries. She does not want to talk to him about her appointment.
and Relius knows from her avoiding eyes that she found no answers with the doctor. What happened? he asks her. But when she enters the apartment she turns away from him. whom he expected to return in good humor from her appointment. How would I dress him. Relius. Already impatient with her. softening his tone. but her eyes betray the sorrowful wish that this were not so. Rebecca closes the door to the bedroom loudly behind her and ignores Relius when he calls her name and sits at the end of the bed.from behind her and smiles at Rebecca before disappearing again behind his mother's long skirt. Rebecca smiles gently at the corners of her mouth. or tickle her. and with the self-pity he anticipates. asking her what's wrong in a tone of accusation. And through a blur of tears she finds her key and escapes again from this dreadful cage of eyes. Inside the apartment Relius has spent the morning and early afternoon reading and rereading a book he was certain should be called Septimus or Mr. he talks to her coldly. what would my child say. not of compassion. she . that this child were not another's and she not the distant observer confined to mere questions of what would my child look like. and when he hears the key in the lock he lifts the pages preserved by his bookmark and readies himself to read aloud to Rebecca. Just shut up. though sadness shakes the words. a passage he was sure she would appreciate. Smith. Hugging her pillow tightly against her face. she says sternly.
somewhere you are beautiful to eyes that my imagination envies. It's about missing you.does not answer. closer to me. embracing you in the body that I must be in finding myself in being here. and she listens to Relius fold the paper and return it to his pocket as he lifts himself off the bed and leaves the room. I left the phone number of the restaurant by the phone. and you there. He talks about what he thought might have happened at the doctor's office. She knows that he will look back at her once more before he opens the door. revised and sudden. and through her slumber she whispers I love you to his I love you. I wrote this for you while you were there. and he unfolds a piece of paper and tells her. and does not wake when Relius leans close to her face and kisses her before going to work. She sleeps. Want to hear it? He begins to read. with these coils. pulling you close. as they spread into magical fingers that close tightly around you. but lets her eyes focus on the colors outside the window. these threads of words I compose a place where you sit beside me and hear my thoughts. and does not wake until the apartment is . Hoping to reassure her of his presence. Relius begins to talk directly to Rebecca without asking more questions. and she fights the urge to press her hands into the bed and twist her body so that her eyes might see him. she does not hear him say. Do you like it? Rebecca does not say a word.
and knows that sadness begins to hold. give less life to the force of desperation now claiming her eyes as its own tools of inspection. disbelieving that this person is herself. unsure of why she drives the palm of her hand against the white cap to the small bottle she pulled from behind the mirror. and knows that she vanishes behind her image of herself. Despair. but her reflection responds with indifference. How does this voice fit that face she asks herself. In the bathroom Rebecca looks at her hair. and set her as an observer of a spectacle of which her body is a part. pull her from her self. But the image stares at her with the remove of an apparition. she whispers. she cannot believe the voice she hears is her own.empty and Relius has been working at his new job for a few hours. Relius. dear God. breathe less. again. she feels it bubbling within her. she cries out. and does not succumb to the hope she held in uttering his name. She drops the cotton to the floor. the familiar froth of sorrow beneath her breast. his love. and crying in loss she empties its contents into her . and when she speaks to it. The reflection does not seem familiar. and cannot look away from her reflection. Please. and her mind as its own arena of violence. confused at her own movement. and tries to breathe more slowly. reminding it of his presence. and she presses her fingers against the glass. Closing her eyes tightly she hopes to find more familiarity in the reflection when she looks again. she tells her reflection. God damn it. she says again. and her mind a silent witness. Relius.
She sets the cup down. She takes up the cup from the sink and fills it again and again with cold water.mouth. waiting for the sleep to come. one in front of the other. and sees the life she had desired. then lays down on the bed and rests. staring over its rim at her reflection. watching her feet move. walks slowly from the bathroom to the bedroom. Swallowing hard. . she does not understand what her hands have done. and she looks briefly at her reflection and recognizes in it the woman she had hoped to be.
Julio explaining why the tables are numbered as . and Julio. He looks at the many circles and squares and starts matching the numbers on the table to the order of the tables in his memory. He smiles at Julio and follows him to the table to look at the map of the store. not a twotop. and that it is a fourtop now. to Relius' surprise. The two men shake hands briefly. He leans forward and sets down his glass of water. Some still match. asks him in English if he is ready for his day. then rises and turns the lock to pull the reflection away from the light of the day and bring it into the cool darkness for a moment before he closes the door again behind him. but he knows that he will have to explain to Relius that a few of the tables are no longer where they used to be. careful not to place it on the white sheet of paper with a map of the restaurant.FOURTEEN Julio watches Relius from a table near the front of the restaurant. He waits for Relius to tap on the door. and that number 25 is now number 24. They talk for an hour.
Soon the other waiters arrive. He looks uncomfortable in his recent success. They talk about the food and Relius tastes small bites from the desserts that Julio sets on a table. Julio takes his time with Relius. his clothes suggesting to Relius a man too determined to reveal his private self to others. but soon he feels comfortable again and remembers how easy it was to carry these trays in his restaurant when it was still his father's. his English is okay. Relius introduces himself to everyone. Billy wears a shiny suit that fits his body loosely.they are. a syncopated form of the first name of her favorite saint. hearing his mother explaining to her friends that she wanted to name him Adeodatus. but his Spanish is perfect. Soon Billy arrives and seems pleased to see Julio taking the time to show Relius around the restaurant. So Relius . taking him out to the back of the restaurant before anyone arrives and letting him practice his balance of the large oval trays with bottles of cleansers at various stages of use. The blue and green liquids swishing back and forth in the bottles make Relius nervous. the color of his suit so unnatural it surely invites whispers behind his back from customers who find him charming though nevertheless doubt his place among their neighborhood of taste. but his father would not let her so she had to settle for Relius. he tells him. His name is Bulent. and admonishing Relius of the temper of the prep cook from Turkey. and the busboys. echoing the voice of his father in his head.
and remind her that he will be home soon. and setting fresh flowers into the small vases on each table. They follow the rest of the waiters into the . and he smiles at the busboy who tells him. flirt with him. but his thoughts are of Rebecca. He also learns how to set the tables for the evenings. I guess so. polish the silverware. and Relius becomes pensive. He enjoys the conversation he shares with Julio while they work. and he sits at the table to join the other waiters in tasting small samples of the specials for the day and new items on the menu. he learns that the waiters at this restaurant fold the napkins. the forks. He asks Julio where the pay phone is and tells himself that he will call Rebecca after everything seems settled and everyone stands around waiting for the customers to arrive. regretting the short burst of pleasure he feels in having this young woman address him. spoons. a pretty waitress tells him. During the next few hours. knives. telling him that everything is just about done and that it's time for dinner. Julio interrupts his thoughts. and goes about spreading the white table cloths. and he wishes that he and Julio and the other waiters might work more quickly so that he might remove himself to the basement of the restaurant and call her. so you were almost named golden boy. and help prepare the first batch of bread.explains his name to the few people who ask him its origin. he says. I'll tell you what else is good later. assure her that he thinks of her.
telling himself that he ought to be careful not to dial the wrong number again. take up a plate. Finally. In the main dining room he sees Billy greeting the first customers of the evening. asking him if anything might have happened to her. asking him where she might be. hoping to conceal his haste.kitchen. Wiping the sweat from his face and trying to dry his hands on his apron. and listens nervously to the first few rings of the phone. and he leaves his message for Rebecca. I'll try you again a bit later he tells her. offering them his attention to assure them that they are . and so he lets it ring some more. He lets the phone ring ten times before he presses his finger against the metal tongue that holds the receiver. Billy speaks quietly with them. The spaghetti tastes fine. he hears John's voice. and dials again. retrieves his quarter. metallic sounding on the recording. knowing that enough rings will force the machine to answer and give him the opportunity to share with Rebecca his thoughts of her. and Relius eats it quickly. The rest of the staff still eating and talking Relius excuses himself from the table and walks down the stairs toward the restrooms and the phone. He watches his fingers make the familiar pattern. and serve themselves generous portions of the meal the chef chose to make for them today. wanting to express concern though not obsession. His fingers recall the number and map out the pattern on the telephone. he walks up the stairs with questions filling his mind. The answering machine does not pick up.
and holds his breath a few seconds longer before exhaling slowly and assuring Billy that he's ready. Relius forces a smile to his face when Billy walks up to him to ask if he is ready for the night. They talk briefly about the amount in tips Relius could expect at the end of the evening. but rather the differences between them are marked by their moment of interaction. carrying plates to his tables. Relius holds up the blue inhaler in his hand. enjoying the familiarity of a shared language. and Billy tells him that he is glad to have him there.the most valued persons in the restaurant. from Billy's welcome till the end of the short walk along the pine floor and marbled walls to their table they are. With some of the customers Relius speaks comfortably and happily in Spanish. the manner in which they speak. the particulars that matter as generalized preconceptions never can. and for that moment. cherishing a feeling of independence. they become another object of disdain or appreciation to the waiter who collects the dollars and coins left on the table at the end of the meal. nor even his accent. glad to be able to help another latino find his way toward comfort in the city. Relius follows Julio throughout the evening. and wishing it might endure. taking orders for him. nor his skin. Throughout the evening Relius finds himself smiling often. Once seated. But these moments do not . and knowing that to these people his black hair does not make him different.
Behind him. the river. What does it mean. without saying a word to one another. and a dreaded. and speaks through a veil of sadness that muffles his senses. so that he might whole heartedly answer this woman's question about where in Peru he is from. his fears for her so vivid that he sees. he hears himself say. and Relius ignores him. and wonders why this phrase should form in his mind. hardly a smile from one to the other. Images of Rebecca behind his eyes. looking carefully at the man and woman sitting there . he tells her. the utterance itself brings a warm apprehension to the cavity of his chest. He smiles.no rings on significant fingers. Friendship follows its own course of madness.endure. listens. the man. he asks himself. I'm from northern Peru. but he does not think of his family's home. begin to eat. for he regrets and does not understand why his mind imagines the freedom he would have without Rebecca. and. without having to worry about her as he does now. begins to talk. Relius hears the man breathing heavily through his nostrils as he chews a thin. though familiar gloom . preferring to walk toward his own thoughts and no longer dwell on the fate of this relationship he glimpsed briefly this evening. still chewing. or to him. the jungle beyond the mountains. breaded steak he first dipped into mustard. lifting the tray away from the table. he hears himself think. Rebecca. they lift their forks before he steps away from the table. and the concomitant guilt restrains him from enjoying the evening completely.
he whispers again. nada. saying her name like a question. Billy's sense of the source of Relius' sadness soothes him. y cada ves que la llamo. why she fails herself. Relius. I think Relius should go home. Estoy bien. no contesta. he hesitates to recall the pain that brought them to the city. no. is it serious. or the work bringing you down? The customers in here can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. through her name asking himself. asking her. where she is. Julio injects in Spanish. constricting his freedom to love. Relius. Rebecca me preocupa. how he failed her. My god. Billy. and he thinks of the customers instead of himself. Billy calls out. estoy bien. Tu amiga? Si. he's pretty worried about his girlfriend. que tienes? Te pasa algo? Que? No. en serio. the sadness that lives in Rebecca. you doing all right. ella se iva al medico hoydia por la mañana. Rebecca. Te sientes mal? No. he repeats to himself.twists serpent-like around his heart. Es algo serio? Relius hears the phrase resonate in Spanish. and looking up at Julio. . eases his festering anguish.
fearful disbelief at the small hallway leading to . No. but he does not. the hands on Relius' watch appearing frozen when he glances at it quickly. and wishes he could say. the tiny movement from one black bar to the next seeming reluctant to mark the accord between time and the circular space strapped to his wrist. The black arms on the white space record the perverse eternity of each sluggish. he adds. Relius. you have a phone call. I think I should stay. He imagines her sitting alone in the apartment. yes. and let the present expand into the future. The words press into and under Relius' skin. forcing a warm. and he feels the wet veil of nervous sweat above and below his eyes. Billy's hand on his shoulder pulls Relius abruptly from his hypnotic gaze at his watch. Relius stares in hesitant. between every contact of his skin and clothes. he tells Billy.Relius feels at once relieved and annoyed to hear Julio's suggestion. thin layer of moisture to his face. passing moment. developing an intricate melodrama to justify her absence from the apartment. I think it's John. Anger that Rebecca should be so extreme and not contain the past in the past. I think I'll try calling Becca again in a little while. on his back. Resentment builds again. trying to show the proper measure of concern. pitying herself. The evening continues slowly. I need to go. or her refusal to answer the phone.
John cycles again and again through the moment he walks into the apartment to his frantic call for an ambulance. not black. and mutters. The phone. any jacket or purse. Relius sits apprehensively in the large leather chair.Billy's office. lifts the receiver. and shaking. God. how much of an hour. but he cannot think of anything. but in a home. and dropping to his knees beside the desk. surrounded by yet a few small tablets. but red. He turns the brass knob carefully. hearing a quiver in John's voice. the desk. trying to recall how many minutes. and finds the room not at all as he imagined. some round and intact. not gray and industrial. already almost weeping. He swings open the door and scans the apartment for the absences to suggest that Relius and Rebecca are both out. John? In the lapse of time between being put on hold. seeming to belong not in a restaurant. he asks himself. but lightly stained oak. he finds the neglected abandoned cap. Behind the beige door with the curious shadows cast by the dusty lamp in the hall. how long was she laying in bed like that. Violating his own expectation to collapse on the floor. two hours passed before he sets his pencil deep into the margins of his book. On the floor. Relius imagines himself already lifting the black receiver to his ear. that Rebecca would . some crushed. lays it on the table and walks into the bathroom where he finds the empty. and hearing Relius' fractured voice. stumbling on the j. plastic bottle looking coldly prophetic at the bottom of the sink. dark red.
brown line of mucous from her cheek. he finds Rebecca. he turns. Stepping from the tile back onto the wooden floor. The odor of suicide still in her mouth. and the smell of vomit suddenly claims every atom of air in the room. He leans quickly over the bed and frames her face for a moment between his trembling hands. he refuses the vain and corrupt thoughts of kissing her in death that hint faintly in his mind before being dispelled by his own censors of guilty desire. presses the palm of his hand softly on her fore-head. No response. John opens the door onto the silence. John backs away in an instant of disgust before he pinches her nostrils. her chest does not rise nor fall. The terrible sight grasps him when he sees the wet stain on the pillow beside her. and still wonders where it came from as it lingers . takes a few short steps. Removing himself from her side. and carefully draws down on her chin. and knocks softly at the door. On the bed. closes his mouth over her own and prays that his breaths might revive his dead or dying friend. and upset and fearful. looking asleep. and John immediately balls a clean pillow under her neck. He shakes his head violently to rid his mind of this unwelcome erotic impulse. He lowers his ear to her mouth and listens for her breathing. before he wipes the thin. horribly peaceful.always take with her that might be significantly present in the common spaces of the apartment.
behind his words while he tries to explain to the dispatcher his. Relius breathes slowly and reluctantly accepts the encroachment of sorrow. not peaceful. pumps. but disturbed and maintained by a frightening array of tubes. words of hope. it's Becca. and he turns toward him quickly when they approach a stop. but he watches his friend from the corner of his eye. phrases that judge him in his complicity to . When he hears Relius' voice. phrases that condemn. and electronic organs that hold and measure life but do not animate. where her sleep looks. stares at nothing down the wide. and it looks like she overdosed. Billy stares at the cars in front of him as he drives. and does not note Relius' indifference to the idle phrase he utters. He shudders. Relius ignores Billy's reluctant confidence. She'll be fine. and hears only his own phrases within his conscience. she took a lot of pills. the guilt returns. ordering and re-ordering the events that brought him to this phone. and Rebecca to that room. or when the flow of traffic slows their progress. need for help. instead of remembering. In the car with Billy. and he detests his own sickness at any shadow of pleasure in closing his lips over Rebecca's. Relius. And he continues into the silence that Relius refuses to fill. no Rebecca's. yellow corridors of the hospital and wishes that he had thought more about what to say. He searches his mind for words of comfort.
and yearns to see. and he sees his imagination alive in a shadow that to Billy is not the presence of any woman. Already his eyes concoct pictures of Rebecca on the hospital bed. smothering the tranquility of her sleep. But he does not see her. and his hopes cannot transform . Relius. the strange machines. the emergence of a living. he hopes. to see at all. still unaware of the obvious insecurity in his voice. twisted crossings of his fears to see the street. convinced that she must be fine. The veil forces quick perceptions of the qualities of Rebecca. smiling Rebecca. gives it life in his mind. the hair of a woman so similar to hers.her suicide. to see the sidewalk. And he sees Rebecca again. His thoughts blend into a powerful collection of fibers that weave a veil before his eyes. He thinks so vividly of Rebecca. but an empty space that he ignores as he watches the red lights of the car in front of him glow more brightly to signal the common rule to stop. the vanishing silhouette of a shadow that marks the power of his own willful imagination to alter the world as he desperately needs it to be. and Relius does not break from his refusal to listen. swings again toward the penumbra. the phone call from John some horrible. in that evanescent shadow. and he sees her in the hand that leans so casually out the window of the car they pass. it's her hand. Billy repeats his assurance. forcing him to look through the tight. used and idle. horrible mistake. fixed on the image of Rebecca in the shadow he is certain was hers. any person. and hopes so earnestly for her to be fine.
the sensation of her stiff. we don't really know. for death is death. He searches the halls for Rebecca. for that moment of revelation when this image. and saying. He weaves Rebecca's fingers between his own. Relius does not say a word to Billy as they walk through the doors of the hospital. still hoping that he might find her standing beside John. touching death. three days. wait for his prayers to penetrate the darkness and awaken the somnolent God. In passing the alcove of the shadow he sees only the grayness of the building. dizzy. maybe months. and call upon him to strike the . awakening a guilty awareness of betrayal to his lost wife. Relius does not look at the doctor when she begins to speak. But John waits for Relius by himself. But this moment does not come. she's in here. certain that he will wait. despite the futility of it.this reality. he does not cry. and holds him tightly in an apologetic embrace before leading him to a door. and knows again the absence of Rebecca. caught in a moment of the unreal. not a riddle to be solved for truth. still. echo gently off his mind and do not penetrate to his conscious thoughts. he watches her. My God. he knows this sense of waiting. he wonders. The doctor is with her right now. cool hands reminding him of Renee. The words coma. Relius knows. this lovely woman asleep. can I love. Confused. but simply feels her hands in his and stares. and now a betrayal to Rebecca. He waits. will withdraw from sadness and yield to soothing significance.
insignificance of this blue. . stare and do nothing. Relius stays with Rebecca for three days.flint in Relius' heart. denying its lack of meaning. or gazing at the endless skies before they yield to the transparency of night. the desire to sigh and call it beautiful. now. Puzzled. her attempts at consoling him. her education. The silent. and. but a numbing presence. afraid to sleep. he hears his loneliness. and suddenly cold. its obvious indifference. wakes constantly from his place on the cot beside her. he pulls his fingers from the tapestry of their hands. then leave the stony or sandy precipice to remove yourself to a less cautious space. recalling in Relius the disappointing sensation of staring at vast peaceful waters for the first time. he lifts himself up from the cot as the nurse carefully changes the bags of clear and yellow fluid that nourish Rebecca's patient slumber. stare. to her reason. But this flame does not build within Relius. You stop. not a color. or the soft veil of clouds in shades of white and gray. An unwelcome though familiar sensation of a suffocating blue engulfs him and overwhelms the different shades of yellow and brown of the floors and walls of the room. He listens. and in the artificial rhythmic breathing of the machine beside her. Blue. Stepping into the hall. the taste of nausea in the back of his throat. he finds the doctor and asks how long Rebecca will be in a coma. alight his mind and body with a passionate fire that burns reason as the combustible fuel of faith.
beside this vivid. touch. hear. In the room she looked at the dark. taste. and looks to see what Rebecca might have seen. The children's voices echo among the walls that mark the neighborhood. She ignores Relius' pausing presence at the door. and it was this man she thought of. they are sure. Daugherty slowly succumbs to the sorrow of bearing witness to the vivid sensations of life that smothered her own daughter's willingness to see. but now merely as a background to the photographs you share later of yourselves having lunch.where the blues are still visible. empty blue. When Rebecca's mother visited John after spending some quiet moments in the hospital with Relius and her daughter. . and does not follow his motion from the door to the window and back to the door. careful not to awaken the emptiness that silenced her daughter. she walked cautiously into Rebecca and Relius' room. dry stain on the mattress. but they cannot conceal their bitter awareness that this man brought their daughter to this city. and on which she was certain her daughter had lain her head to die. before she lay her head to rest so finally on her pillow. and wish. and held tightly to the pillow she lifted off the floor. Rebecca's parents do not blame him for the sadness of their daughter. and Mrs. She sits in the chair beside the window that Rebecca stared out of so often. and listens to hear what her daughter might have heard.
She could ask questions and wonder about things because she had some sense of herself. I just didn't know that Rebecca was this bad. maybe it was Nick and losing the baby. and when she came out here. he leans forward. I'm sure. But she couldn't. She used to talk with her mother. thinks that I'm some old-fashioned guy who never wants anything to change. Relius. Mr. Rebecca did. searching the young man beside him for meaning. She lost sight of herself. Relius. that it's hard to believe in anything these days. I don't know. . I expect. Truth is I love change.On the couch. for an explanation of his daughter's condition. She used to ask me questions about things when I would sit in the living room and read all night. and I can't say that it's really Rebecca's fault either. everyone. you're a young man. and you're probably very wise for someone your age. Daugherty. she just didn't know what to replace it with. beside Mr. but you don't know this feeling. You didn't need to call us sooner. I know we need it. You've seen people suffer. lost sight of everything we tried to teach her while she was growing up. She lost that. Relius. Now I'm not blaming you. Relius. pressing his elbows into his knees. Daugherty listens carefully to Relius' words. Sighing deeply. but the truth is. Relius yearns to escape his judging silence. I'm sorry I didn't try to call you sooner. In town. Before this all happened. Relius. including John.
I think Rebecca. but at least there are things that make sense to us for a while. . aware. that when you feel desperate. and maybe you. Takes a long breath to nourish his thoughts. into change without knowing our history. It's hard to think that a God could exist when your daughter loses a child. not wanting to deprive this man of the solace he finds in his own words of wisdom. and when your daughter herself might be dying. and couldn't really change anymore. But you see.I know life demands it. She couldn't make chance into change. you look up. . and how that change works. I don't know how religious I am myself. as he is. too. Frankly. and . But you know as well as I do. and neither is Rebecca anymore. I know that. Relius understands that he must listen. Change without knowledge is just chance. that he cannot sit silently with Relius. . so she lost herself. and his questions he keeps to himself. The only thing I don't like is going into anything. And I know that even what we think we do control is really beyond us. no. she couldn't do it. He pauses. but must utter the words he had restricted for years to the privacy of his conscience. and chance is what scares me. and she just kept trying to find a way through that made sense to her and made her happy. Relius. I don't think that we can control everything in our lives. got stuck in chance. Everything that's happened to her over the last couple years seemed to be out of her control. you look past the ceiling. You're not religious. Relius. lost control in her life.
she's just assuring herself. or a religious person. or an artist. She's not expecting God to come down and make everything better. That means you don't have to be real smart. It's not like reason. that has to be tested. Her mother is praying for her now. you just take what there is and pray that it changes. and torn apart. and it's not like imagination. But Rebecca gave up on the idea of prayer. that things will be different. that they'll change. That's why she's in the hospital now. but the problem seems to be with the prayer. think of that. Relius. and what you wish to be true. I think that prayer is like another part of us. I guess. With prayer you're already giving yourself hope. It would have calmed her fears enough so that she could look beyond herself. because it's such an easy way to know the alternatives to what you're going through. cause you don't make things up. and examined. Mr. but at least it would have kept some hope alive. Everyone can pray.you pray. When you pray you want to combine what you know to be true. I don't believe we're supposed to pray for things. not God. I expect. Not that prayer would have made everything better. Don't you? Don't you just ache to have someone hear you? I guess the problems come when you think your prayers aren't answered. in the most personal and direct way that she can. too. something that has to take over where reason and imagination just can't say anymore. Daugherty lifts his elbows from his knees and sits back again in the .
His wife steps out of the doorway where she had stood listening to him. and forces an uncomfortable smile through his frown.chair. and he yields willingly to the silence. and he looks back at her over his shoulder. . He wishes he could look into her eyes with hope. but his sadness pulls his glance to the floor in front of him. covers her hand with his own. and walks to the back of the couch and rests her hand on Relius' shoulder. The warmth of her palm surprises Relius. not at all knowing what words he might speak.
he says privately. He does not trust her. in the voiceless words of his mind. or placidly in front of the suspended television. it looks just like the scales of a rainbow trout. He listens. Relius turns impatiently toward every sudden yell for help or random scream. and tries to convince him that the medication really helps her. you let it beat you. . and does not understand the weakness he accuses her of in his thoughts. staring at the uneven glaze.FIFTEEN In that room surrounded by patients who sit quietly along the wall. This is an amazing green. Rebecca shares with him the pleasure she discovered of spinning clay on a wheel. touching the rough edges where she carved her initials and the year into the sandcolored bottom of the mug. You gave in. He takes up the cup and rotates it slowly in his hands. but withdraws into hesitation when she speaks of the day when she leaves this hospital. he tells her. and they have their chance to live together again.
I've only been here a couple weeks and you think I'm ready to leave already? No. that's why this one turned out sort of black. it is pretty. how long do you think you'll stay here. See. and waits to calm himself before asking her. He wants her eyes to meet his. cannot claim emotions that are not his. Do you like it though? The cup? Yeah. that's not what I meant. He responds with angry silence. watching her look past him. Relius stares around the room. He wants her to see that he cannot offer his love. he rubs his fingers hard against his eyelids. Becca? God. I'm just wondering what they told you. I'll just make you a new one. in an unsure voice. How long do the doctors think you have to be here before you'll start to feel like yourself again? She takes the cup from his hand and sets it beside the other ones in a row in front of her. but I couldn't get the enamel to do that again. He does not want to listen. Relius. looking coldly into her eyes. it's beautiful. I love you. She leans forward again and tells him. Impatient with the vacuous words they share. Have you tried putting any water in it yet? No.Yeah. If it does. I tried to match that color. away from him. She leans back in the aluminum chair and looks at the cups and . does not want to hear the fractured space between them in her voice. but I'm sure it won't leak.
looks at him. He listens in disbelief. . the woman he does not know. . Relius. and abandons . own terms of defense in the silent dialogue of his mind before he closes his lips tightly over his teeth. Relius? I'm not here to be myself again. I'm not accusing you of wasting your time here. I'm here so they can help me figure out how to be myself at all. and let her. He stops. desperate to step away from the painful silence Relius forced upon them. I can't believe how hateful you can be. Suppressing the tears but not the red that stains her eyes. he hears her say. ignorance. her. her stare demands him. coldness. or of just being here to be away from everything. and he hears himself too late. know that he doubts her. then leans forward again and bends the row of cups with her forearms. his words already reflected in her vacant. accusing him of selfishness. I just. still lingering in the infinitely reducible space between them. you're really over reacting. Unsure of whether or not to finish his thought. she pushes the chair back under the table. and she attacks him. I don't know if I can love you. but cannot. Becca. leaning forward and continuing in a hissing whisper. you're unbelievable. and did not understand. bewildered stare. reminds himself that he must not react to everything she says. he hears her say. he says. He tries to look away. Where have you been. Rebecca lifts herself out of the gray chair. and struggles to contain his impulse toward antagonism. He hears his own words. that he doubts them.
Relius would covet her simplicity of thought if he knew it. Confused and regretful. moving across the room. but he sees judgment in her staring eyes. he stands for a few minutes on the steps leading away from the building and waits for his thoughts to return. he hears the man asking with his inquisitive. silent look from behind the desk. or a consideration of his abrupt departure. not even a man. and finds in her gaze a reflection of his own indictment of himself. continues walking toward the glass doors and steps into the warmth of the day. Relius sighs. and even the woman who does stare fixedly at his motion toward the door does not register a thought of his motion. He imagines John pulling into the parking lot and walking absently toward the hospital. Relius quietly pushes himself away from the table and lifts the chair from the ground as he slides it back into place. and finds judgment once again in questioning stare the man directs at him while lifting the straps to his hands. At the reception desk Relius waits patiently for the large man to return his bag to him.Relius to the cold quiet of sudden shame and loneliness. Few eyes watch him as he leaves the room. A friend. But John is not there. Overcome with bewilderment. Why are you already leaving. and the . he is no more than a stranger. to her. He looks back and forth across the yard and toward the parking lot searching for an alternative to returning to the empty apartment he had moved into a few days before.
and he tries for a few minutes to listen to the news. and tries. a position of greater relevance to the mocking pedestrians and the ridiculing driver who parks behind Relius' car later that evening than to Relius himself. meaningless questions about how he and Rebecca are doing. or pieces of songs satisfy. He leaves the car with the rear wheel comically lifted onto the curb. A few miles from his apartment Relius hears the silence in the car and turns the black knob of the radio in the small cradle of his thumb and forefinger.desire to see him does not revert his inclination to avoid him as he has avoided anyone else who might ask him questions. uninformed assurance that everything will be fine. Relius feels almost meditative while he tries to squeeze his car into the space where a car much smaller than his had once determined the distance available to him now between the enormous black car in front and the smaller green one behind. None of the songs. Nothing. tired. but cannot avoid the urge to adjust the rearview mirror so that his eyes might look into his eyes. always followed with the hollow. He had forgotten how barren this apartment seemed every time he . to a talk radio show. and finds no one waiting for him in the parking lot. to the overblown linguistic gestures of a man who thinks himself more holy than his audience. He settles briefly into the heat of the imprisoned air. Relius walks toward the car. Listening only to the sounds of his car and the sounds of streets.
orange chair Julio had given him. he mumbles back. careful not to sit on the gray white stains left there from moments of hunger. you know it's not a church anymore.returned to it. supporting the long shelves that bow under the weight of his books. half whispers. The milk crates and cinder blocks along the wall could look fashionable if they were not a necessity. The letters twisted into the glass tubes do not glow blue in the daylight. but here they are. and small whims of decoration. but mark the building with a dull frosted white sign reading Golgotha Bar. He does not give the cab driver the address of John's apartment. lust or carelessness. after taking a slow deep breath. knows without a doubt that he wants to do nothing. Father William nods quickly at the silver and white haired women as they say Hello Father to him on the streets of the city. half shouts. When the driver hears him and sees the white collar. He says the name aloud to himself before knocking at the large wooden door. and Father William does not answer. He sits down in the musty. records. but sits unsteadily on the black vinyl. shit. Father William laughs quietly to himself when the car stops in front of the transfigured church. don't you. and finally. The young man who opens the door does not recognize Father . but instead asks to be dropped off at an old church he knew had been turned into a bar.
Pam. but she's still here. priest. Come inside. With unexpected resentment. elegant woman walking toward him in the mirror behind the bar. She never was. What are you doing here? How did you know that I'd be here? . I'm an old friend of hers. William? Is that really you. Is she here now? Who's asking? My name is William. but I guess you're alright. and sits patiently waiting for the return of the rude boy who let him in. or the surprised expressions of Pamela. a showcase of fine wood and polished brass fittings. It's me. She isn't the owner. I know that.William. The young man leads Father William to a long dark bar. At the bar Father William asks a young woman for a merlot. this isn't a church anymore. he scornfully tells the man. I am here looking for a person. and sees a mature. Yes. young man. Could you tell me if this bar is still owned by Pamela Wininger? No. and he has no reason to. I am not here looking for a church. He stirs the last few sips in the bottom of his glass. I don't know if she'll know who you are.
When I was in the seminary it was different. Pam. I need your help. Thank you. Are you in love with him? No. I wouldn't expect you to call me anything else. .I never really lost track of you. that's why I'm here. I needed to talk with you then because you were the first person I ever felt that I loved. you know. and I really couldn't think of anyone else to turn to. It's not like that at all. I didn't expect to come here. of holding someone and being held? William smiles and remembers her stubborn directness. and I was unsure of whether I was feeling love or a fascination with a passion that everything I learned was telling me was wrong. William. Don't you miss the feeling of loving someone. I always managed to run into someone who knew what you were up to. I never thought you would really go through with it. and I don't think he lives too far from here. and when I started feeling those sensations in the seminary it confused me. but a young man I'm trying to help lives in the city now. You look wonderful. You became a priest. Even through the seminary. her beautiful harshness. So you really did it. Do you mind if I call you William? Of course I don't mind. that's not it. Actually. I need to talk to someone about what I can do to help a young friend of mine.
Do you ever think of me that way anymore? Pam. I just couldn't help but ask. William takes another sip of wine. this environment always makes me feel like someone is trying to seduce me. William. I'm sorry. what's the problem. Pam. he says. Where is he from? I've never heard that name before. I love him as I wish I could love all men.You helped me a lot then. it's not a selfish love. Not here. please. It's a sad situation. He's originally from Peru. tell me. Still attracted to the dark ones aren't you. Let's go somewhere else. Relius. but now I need to talk with you about how I can be there for a friend who needs to understand his own role in love. but to ask her that she not turn him from his thoughts of Relius. . No wait. His name is Relius. If I do love Relius. women. So. that she not belittle his need for her at this moment. Sometimes I feel like I'm the reason you became a priest. or like I should be trying to seduce someone. but I don't think it's a Spanish name. to tell you the truth. not to say no. William. shaking his head slightly. that's not why I'm here. He sets the empty glass of wine on a table beside him. Why don't you tell me your friend's name so we can talk about his situation more easily.
At every stop. Pam leads Father William out a door in the back of the bar. Do you mind walking in the rain. William? . I had to support you. that's how I loved you. William. in scattered patterns that sometimes seem to pause until enough water builds a small drop into a larger drop that cannot support itself on the window that he stares through at the street. You were there for me at a time when very few people could bear to listen to me. as he expected. How long has it been? she asks. you supported me. and invites him to ride with her in a red German car. You were there. Father William listens to her voice and listens to the rain that slowly begins to wet the windows of the car. and a stream of water flows from that former drop until the movement of the car shakes it from its snaking form.Instead of taking him into her office. and despite your own beliefs. Does it really matter how long it's been? I think you and I have always been fortunate enough to know how to talk with one another no matter how much time passed. and the drop does not complete the journey that Father William's eyes anticipate as he follows it from the moment it settles on the window till the moment the wind carries it back into the rain or another part of the car. or stall in traffic the rain falls more slowly. despite how much you disagreed with my decision to become a priest.
It feels right. and returns to his walk with Pam away from the car and toward the path leading to the creek sheltered by the trees. Outside the city. and Father William feels at ease. idle fan. It just feels right. the steel wings belonging not to a holy messenger but to the indifferent outline of a large. not at all. you know. sidewalks and underpasses. He stares at this soft shadow for a moment. A still outline in a window resembles the silhouette of the head and rounded wings of an angel. They park beside a small picnic shelter. I don't know why. Yes it really is. but whenever it rains in the city it bothers the hell out of me and sometimes even depresses me a bit. away from the smell of the gray wetness of the parking lots. and Father William pauses for a moment behind the car to look out from the park at the windows of the apartments that stare into the small sanctuary. but whenever it rains out here it doesn't bother me at all. an optical twist. The path toward the creek widens and narrows. becoming a thin dark . hoping to see more than an illusion. The rain's wonderful.No. He looks back over his shoulder once more before leaving the image of his imagination behind him. The smell of the earth is familiar here. they stop in a small park still preserved from the leveling force of suburbia. The clouds shift above him and the angel vanishes.
The rain falling on the leaves above them seems louder than when they were in the parking lot. thinks about the many conversations he had shared with Relius. or maybe remembering something.brown line where they step off to follow a trail along the water. and they silently wonder. to the morning he and Rebecca sought his counsel before turning their car into the street leading away from the rectory. Taking his hand in hers. or when did you realize that sometimes just walking along a creek can make you smile? Were you thinking about anything just now. the many faces he saw on the young man. I don't know. What do you mean? I mean where did you learn. tell me about him. maybe I was thinking of something. Where did you learn to smile? the priest asks. or were you just smiling? I suppose I was just smiling. if above this ceiling of trees they walk under. Father William pauses in his thoughts. away from her home. sometimes turning together to look at the sudden sound they hear to the left or to the right of the path where the wind drives through the trees and shakes a few branches into a violent echo of an animal or person. from the moment he first opened the door at the Flaig's home. so. it does not rain harder. Pam says. They walk for a few minutes enjoying the sounds of the creak and the leaves. but I really think I was just .
smiling. I wish I could do that more often. When you think of me in our past do you ever see me smiling? God, William, of course I see you smiling. You smiled a hell of a lot the first time we made love. She had spoken too quickly, let the words flow to smoothly from her mind into their conversation. His silent response she hears as polite displeasure. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. No, Pam, I did not become a priest to eliminate my past, or pretend it never was. I became a priest to learn whether or not I could be a good man, to learn whether or not my own humanity, when set under the inspecting gaze of faith, could reveal anything to me that might possibly help me help others. Sometimes, it's the most perverse thing, sometimes I actually find myself envying the sins I hear about in the confessional. Their sins make them human, make them need me to ask forgiveness from God. And I think they forget that I'm not really in between them and God. I'm with them. Sometimes sitting beside them in a pew, or even when I'm behind a screen in the confessional. But who can I turn to to talk about my own humanity? Another priest? Confess myself to another man struggling with the same responsibility of refusing to find excessive pleasure in any of his senses? He pauses to let them enjoy the sounds of their
silence. Feeling her eyes on him, he continues. When I met Relius I didn't trust him, I didn't understand how he could remind me so much of myself and yet not seem to struggle with his faith. He seemed too much at ease with himself, too confident in his humanity. It sounds like it bothered you that he didn't need you. It did. I didn't realize it at first, but it did. How could he be so arrogant as to live without being answerable to God? Do you still feel that way about him? Do I still think he's arrogant? Yes. Yes, I do, but not in the same way. I used to think that he was arrogant in the face of faith and religion, now I find that he's arrogant in the face of ignorance no matter where he finds it. He has an arrogant intolerance of people who refuse to see beyond their own ideas, an impatience. And he's had to face so many limits. His own, and those of others. I live in a small town, you know. That's where I met Relius. He came there to run away from some things that he had done, things that he could no longer make sense of in himself. I think he ran away to disappear, maybe to kill himself, but instead he found his way into our town. He stayed with a very good family in our small community, and they introduced me to him, had me over to dinner to talk with him. Right away he
surprised me. How silent he became whenever I talked about faith, he didn't want to hear it anymore. He came to me once in confession, but he didn't confess. He talked with me. We left the church and continued our conversation in the rectory. Did you tell him about Drew? No. I didn't feel like I had to. We talked about love, family, even Saint Paul Twin Cities? No, the saint. He told me that he thought the Epistle to the Romans didn't just have to apply to religious people. Are you familiar with it? Relius didn't really care much about the religious message in it. What fascinated him was that Paul kept talking about speaking in human terms, repeating and repeating that there are two layers to his thinking. It's how Paul made sense of his own inclinations to do wrong, even when he knew goodness. Relius told me that he agreed with Paul, but didn't need religion to make up for the conflict in himself. There are multiple meanings to everything people tell one another, the two main ones being what a person thinks he means, and what he means based on what he is, where he's been, what he'll be. Why did he tell you this? Because it was his form of confession I think. He wanted someone else to
know how he questions himself and why. So, where is he now? I don't know. I called his apartment this morning but he didn't answer. I also called the hospital where his girlfriend is getting treatment, and they said he hasn't been there for a few days. Father William looks past the trees that border the end of the end of the path. He hears the faint sound of the cars driving across the wet, black streets, and smells the rotting leaves that lay matted along the sides of the walkway. The rain has stopped but the clouds shadow the earth with the same somber grayness of that afternoon. Pam shudders at the cold breeze that shakes the trees above them and brings a shower of cool mist to her neck. Father William pulls Pam close to him in a sad embrace. She lets his head rest on her shoulders, and does not try to quiet his sorrow. Her lips feel the wrinkles in his brow when she kisses him, a maternal kiss, and she looks through her own tears to watch his dark hair fall over her fingers as she cradles this weeping man. He breathes deeply and lifts his head to look at her. Have you tried calling him? Yes. I called him as soon as I got to the city, but there was no answer at his place. Maybe you should try calling him again. There's a phone right out by the
parking lot, you can call him and then we can go right to his place. I don't want to keep you that long. I could take a cab. William, be serious. I don't get many chances to help someone I really care about, so don't be difficult. William listens to six dull rings of the phone and after seven tells himself three more times that he will let it ring just once more. Pam walks to his side, her arms crossed at her chest, and shakes her head slightly to tell him that he should hang up now. Why don't we drive by his place. He could just have gone out to run some errands. It's really no big deal that he hasn't been home today, is it? William looks at her silently. Why are you so worried about him? she asks. The park fades in and out of the view of the child across the street from the parking lot. He sees the image of the man, somber looking, resembling a father of a friend, a stranger he had seen many times but never knew. The child sees the man, his huddled shape against the breast of the tall blond woman, and does not understand. He watches them, and watches the rain until it stops. He listens to the water falling slowly, more slowly on the window in the ceiling of his parent's bathroom. While he cannot see them, the child watches the small puddles in the sand of the baseball diamond, silent, distant breezes rippling through them slightly, sometimes just enough to make it seem that a small
animal may live in that evanescent, miniature pond. His eyes fix on the man as they emerge from the familiar path along the creak, and he does not know what it means that this man who walks with a woman and embraces her, and even held her hand, should wear the collar of a priest. Maybe he called someone to say that he doesn't want to be a priest anymore, he thinks, and follows them away from the phone and toward the red car that brought them to the park. By evening the child will forget the stage that held his attention for so long that afternoon, and when his mother asks what he did today at home, he will say nothing. At Relius' building they find the apartment number to match the one he had given Father William in his last letter. The name beside the number, framed in neglectfully patinated brass, is not Relius' but another person's, a man perhaps, the first to trouble himself to type his name onto a thin slip of paper and slide it into the narrow slot beside the white button. A. Caceres, it reads, and nothing more, the white paper grown yellow, aged with the same neglect of the brass frame, above and below it the soiled pasty marks of names added and removed, though never superimposed. A palimpsest, this name, a living presence marked in erasure, not from the name plate here, but from the room that Relius now calls his own. Who was this A. Caceres, that though no one knows him, no one has tried to remove his name or cover it either with a name
pressed out of a blue, plastic gun, or typed into a black keyboard. Perhaps everyone who has lived here since A. Caceres simply does not care. What number is it? Five. She presses the white button with her thumb, and they wait, staring at the dots in the circular speaker, for Relius to respond. No one answers. She presses the button again, watching William turn away toward the street, looking back and forth along the avenue, anticipating his young friend's sudden appearance. Still no one responds. Should I bother ringing him again? No, maybe we should just go. They step away from the door, and Father William looks up at the building, guessing which window might be Relius', hoping that he might see him staring out at them, both dreading and yearning to catch sight of him in this cold distance. He does not see him, and hardly sees anything besides the clouds reflected in the mirrored windows of the late afternoon. They walk once more past the door to the building and catch the attention of a young man come down to retrieve his newspaper. The priest taps lightly at the window and signals for the young man to open the door. The young man hesitates, but seeing the collar, comes to the door and opens it enough to peek out at them on the threshold.
. Thank you. Father. can I ask you for a favor? Yes. What's his name? Relius. He just moved in a few weeks ago. Elías? Yes. excuse me. so he has no way of knowing that we've stopped by.Can I help you. Father. surprised to see a look of question on the priest’s face. Father? Yes. a young friend of mine lives in this building. My name is Elías. he says mildly. he adds. He lives in apartment number five. I don't know if he's here but your welcome to come inside and knock on his door if you like. of course. The priest and his friend walk up the soiled plastic covering the center of the red carpet of the staircase and down the hall to Relius' apartment. and I'm afraid his buzzer may not be working. Just before they reach Relius' door the young man stops and turns to him. a face no doubt asked many times for prayer. what is it? Can you pray for me? He pauses. Number five? I think I've seen him. You’re welcome.
What do you want me to pray for? I'm going to be getting some lab test results back soon. When the phone rings he picks it up and . The young man parts with Father William and Pam and quietly opens the door at the end of the hall. and the drawers of his desk and dresser. he tells him. the ones he developed in Europe. he finds the hundreds of photographs he has collected. in Manhattan. my friend. but pray for me as well. and feels a warm wetness flush from his back to his face. My name is William. Could you just pray for me so that I can be strong enough to handle them either way? Is it an AIDS test? The young man turns suddenly pale. or perhaps the priest had not before noticed his pallor. staring or sitting in various longedfor cities that rise and fall on this earth. Until it rings he goes through the many boxes in his closets. He sets the photographs in order on the floor of his bedroom. green metal stairs up to his apartment. and the rare images taken of him standing. He sits in his room by himself and waits for the phone to ring. the ones he took from his mother's house. then follows the carpetless. I will pray for you. and I'm just scared what they might be. in California. and traces his life in the small images he captured with his old camera. Father William does not wait for the young man to offer a response. and he looks down at the cracks in the plastic cover over the carpet.
I'm worried that a young friend of mine who lives in this apartment might have hurt himself. miniature rival to the Duomo. and I haven't been able to get him to answer his phone or the door. Holding the photograph hard against his chest. If you wait a minute I can open the door for you. Father William and Pam knock a few times at the door. but you have to promise me that you won't tell him I did . looks at the white card in his hand and presses the necessary sequence of numbers and listens. he wrinkles the center of the paper. He sits on the floor in front of the photographs. Father. you've met him? Of course I've met him. please. He no longer hears the echoes of his fiercely beating heart. and smiles through a rush of tears. if you are in there open the door. I'm the manager here. Relius. May I help you. and offers a whispered prayer for William. picks up the most recent one of himself and his lover in front of the zebra striped. and calmly presses his fingers into the off button of his cordless. He listens to the voice. beige phone.walks to the window overlooking the street his parents first lived on when he was a child. Father William finally calling out. ma'am. Do you mean Relius? Yes. Yes. A door near the middle of the corridor opens and an elderly woman looks out at them.
trying to shorten . My name is Mrs. talking through every breath. You must live nearby. and talks to them in her rough. and opening his door won't help me any. What about you. You know. People here already think I go snooping around their apartments when they're not home. you don't look like you'd go very far without being able to wear the right clothes. Wotschke. Especially you. she says.it. aren't you? What harm could it do? Anyone asks I'll just say that you were here to bless his place. Away from everyone they know. My name. it’s Mrs. I've lived in this building thirty-three years. It's always strange to me when someone new moves in. Used to live here with my husband. but couldn't stand the thought of getting to know things all over again. She walks in small steps. In a few minutes they see the zoftig woman leaning on her walker coming slowly out of her apartment. But he's gone now. Pardon me. you have a grocery store. pointing with her eyes at Pam. a bank. Father? You nearby? I wanted to move away once. you live somewhere a long time. People know you. I know most of them. She locks her door. Where do you live? Nearby I suppose. Wotschke. Are you sure you don't mind? You're a priest. patient voice as she starts down the hall. The kids in this neighborhood.
Relius. Do you speak Spanish? I understand a little. Father William and Pam force their way politely through the door. Jimmy. Looks like your friend is here. You understand some Spanish too. Relius looks up at them and with his finger carefully marks his place in the green book on his lap.the distance between herself and her goal by filling it with words. say thank you quickly. She tries a few keys in the lock. some. Hi. and walk to the silhouette in the chair. who helps her vacuum the building and change the light bulbs. don't you. She does not look at the man or woman behind her until she feels a key catch and turn stiffly in the lock. he says. Father. Hello. She looks into the apartment. This is my friend Pam. Father? Yes. . inspecting it quickly for mess or order. Pam. She stops talking for a moment when she reaches Relius' door. refusing to let any silence remind her of another person's impatience and her own inability to move with the freedom she thinks they take for granted. Hi. and the man. There you go. with each one pausing to tell Father William and Pam about the keychains she gives to all the people who move into the building. and says to the priest.
because it lands in an enormous grave. Relius. because this God cares more about playing with the dice. and whatever number comes up no one can see. despair. The eternal dice. But it's not a God that can hear it. why did you read that to us? Because it tells you what I want to say. loneliness. Looks at Father . Father. God. oscura. en el hueco de inmensa sepultura. Would you mind translating it for us? I won't speak for Pam. Cesar Vallejo. Father. y esta noche sorda. and it's probably about what you believe. porque la Tierra es un dado roído y ya redondo a fuerza de rodar a la aventura. all of it. He watches them. Dios mío. and the way we make god out of that hole. It's about what you believe. too. Who wrote it? It's Vallejo. I didn't understand that. rolls into a hole. It's about loss. The dice.Listen to this. Relius. ya no podrás jugar. Do you understand it now? It's about believing in things. Looks at Pam. The earth is a corroded die. It's a prayer addressed to God. What's it called? Los dados eternos. not even god. the chance of losing someone or something. Pam. It's all right there. and it rolls and rolls until it stops in the hole of an immense sepulchre. us. It's about everything. but my Spanish isn't good enough to get poetry the first time through. que no puede parar sino en un hueco.
or make it easier to get through things. how am I supposed to deal with being helpless and still be in my own life. that she and I just don't know how to talk. Father. somber words. But we put him there. I'm right at the point where I'm supposed to need God and religion. I know why you came. Pam hears confidence in Relius' voice. and out my mind. it means that god is real. So. until I finally don't notice that I put god there for me to believe in him. tell me. that might give me what I need. It's horrible to be helpless. and finds it odd that he should speak so politely as he says such cold. How what works? The need for faith. You want to help me. Rebecca's parents probably told you that I don't go see her anymore. but pretending that it’s good just proves how much we need god and that faith isn't the answer. letting them think that it's all right to be helpless. I don't want to give you the chance to . the more I try to come up with a god. right Father? But I won't do it. He grows out of human misery. and we need to have faith. How it becomes a belief. But it's not all right. I won't. or anything.William. there he is. The more I need. Whenever people feel helpless. because I know how it works. and I let him make up rules and govern me. I forget that he comes out of my needs. Then I'm supposed to believe that because so many people go through the same thing. don't you. I don't want to give it to you.
and I was so selfish. si tú hubieras sido hombre. and even where it wasn't my fault. He told me that she tried to kill herself because she didn't know how to have faith anymore. Her father blamed me for it. What do you think. When her world fell apart. Why are you so angry with me? Damn it. necessary. now you would know how to be God. . Father? Is that why you became a priest? Did you want to be a god? Relius. Every time I thought about her sitting in John's apartment. no sientes nada de tú creación. I just don't understand what I'm supposed to do now. Relius looks down at the book. You know what else Vallejo says in this poem. calm down. Dios mío. he says. que estuviste siempre bien. God. know nothing of your creation. Y el hombre sí te sufre: el Dios es él.show me hope by trying to convince me that somehow my weakness is normal. pero tú. I knew what he meant. Father. everything just fell apart. Rebecca doesn't even make any sense to me anymore. And. I didn't understand why she couldn't just get up and get out of that damn apartment. if you had been human. you're not making any sense. I let her down. hoy supieras ser Dios. I'm not mad at you. I just got angry with her. I let her down so badly. He meant that I couldn't give his daughter enough hope for her to regain her faith in anything. who were always fine. please. thought that she was overreacting. The God is him. I feel like I've messed up everything. but you. yes. man endures you.
I thought if I helped her then I could make up for killing that boy. actually. Some of the . but instead I made things worse.when those animals tried to rape her. you make a lot of sense. What don't you agree with? Well. and I made them more complicated. Worse? How could it have gotten worse? After Becca lost the baby I tried to be there for her and let her know that there were people who wouldn't judge her for what had happened. Then when we got here I tried to help myself by being there for her. Goodness. But you did stop them. because I was there and I couldn't do anything to stop them. No. I'm sorry. Does she know what's going on? No. they took away her support system. I had no place getting into her life. She needed things to get simpler so she could understand herself. If you weren't there it would have been worse. Relius. I wanted to help her ignore all those women whispering behind her in church and on Main Street. I must sound absolutely insane to you. Father William leans back from Relius and sees Pam's eyes widen in confused disbelief. I'm not really sure what I disagree with. but I don't know if I agree with you. to be honest. she doesn't. Relius.
the way she was raised. doesn't she? I imagine she has a family. but that's not the issue here. you underestimate William a lot. your life fits into a beginning and an end that you are just a . Relius. and has had other friends. She believed that I could be there for her in ways that other people hadn't been. you don't talk like someone who believes in right and wrong the way he does. the way people treated her in high school? And what about the father of the baby she lost? What happened to him? You don't sound like a friend of Father William. What about her parents.things you were saying just didn't sound right. and even though you may interpret. I think what Pam is saying is true. or respond to it differently. Why not? Because. even with what you were just saying you must realize that you fit into a part of someone's life. But. so why should so much of it fall on your shoulders? Because she trusted me. Relius. and can't be all of it. Relius. How could you expect to be so much to one person? Becca knows other people. William? Why do you call him William? We met before I became a priest. There are so many factors that contributed to what Becca went through.
one plus one will always be two. Think about numbers. for a young man who lives in this building. Religion gives that moment meaning. and while that fact may help me make sense of it. they become a more complicated one. Doesn't that bother you? I don't believe I put it there. Relius. when we learn that this world is not enough. Haven't you ever had faith in something? . they don't become two. for Becca's parents. For me. faith and God help us find our way along that line of beginnings and endings. does not mean that I make it up. You're trivializing things. In theory. And it's through our minds that we find God. Relius. But you put that meaning there. in the realm of our minds. One plus one will always equal two. But that's not totally true either.moment of. When those clouds collide. even when reality seems to say something different. It's the way you see that moment that's different. Say that you were trying to teach a child that one and one is two and the example you used was two clouds. But if it's in your mind. Just because I became aware of it. Of course there are unusual examples. but that's just what we see. Relius. then aren't you making it up? How do you get out of your own head enough to know that something is true beyond your own knowledge of it? That's faith. I didn't put it there.
but you must have had other types of faith. Sorry. Faith doesn't mean I stop thinking about my life. Maybe not. Relius. You do it long enough and you don't find something pretty. and where is she now? She's gone. and it doesn't protect you from anything. especially the hard things. Giving it a different name so you don't feel guilty about doing it. but the questions will persist. but it does help you keep enough hope alive in yourself so that you might find meaning in the things. Questions you'll never be able to find answers to. Relius. you find confusion. Renee and I loved each other. Shouldn't faith be able to get you over things like that. Relius. inconsistency. What about love? Love? You can't have faith in love. How can you manage those questions without faith? . Love couldn't do anything. I didn't get it on my own. that you endure and overcome. and my own role in it. That's insulting. Faith doesn't give you any more control over your life. You know how hard it is to look at yourself. It just supports me as I look at my self. that just sets you up for disappointment. like the death of someone you love? You're expecting too much from faith.The faith I had my parents and my teachers told me to have. I can't help but think you're just glorifying self-deception. and millions of questions. Father. Father. Love never makes sense.
I don't associate my own questions of faith with the idea that faith is questionable.I don't know. Faith to me is just as real as that chair you're sitting on. But questioning my faith does not undo it. I see faith in the same way. but. and I've gotten as far as Vallejo. I don't see how it could. I've been reading through everything I have in my apartment trying to find something other than faith. it remains a chair. Pam. by whatever name they call it. You can't harm the archetype of the chair. Father. unless you completely pulverize it. From what I've seen so far. you can just shape and alter your own interpretation of that archetype. most attempts to replace faith just give it some other name like aesthetics or communism or naturalism. Faith is separate from whatever I make of it. I'm not sure. That's why I've been sitting here for so long. What do you think you'll find. What doesn't make sense to me is that faith is supposed to be a way of admitting an incapacity to understand things on a certain level. so what I do with it affects me not faith. and yet anyone who has faith. claims that it provides answers. you just said that the questions persist. . the same way that what you do to that chair might ruin it or make it prettier. Relius. What I question is the degree of my faith and my own ability to rely on it. Relius. Father. don't they make you question your faith too? I won't deny that I question my faith.
I think the real difference between us. Relius. every sensation. isn't it. every thought. or someone did a long time ago. The past doesn't exist anywhere. you can only do so in the present. Relius. Whereas I guess I want to put things together to find out where I am going. A little more expansively. Why is that need all right. Relius. no billions of knots that hold existence together. It's ironic. for some reason human beings need it. You're forgetting that you put faith there to begin with. if you're going to take it apart. It's like one of the senses.But. is that you want to take everything apart in order to find out where everything about you came from. even if you don't agree with what comes of it. Relius. Are you saying that I'm wasting my time? No. and all the contexts the present entails. for a priest to be telling a . Father. and your unstoppable movement toward the future. doesn't it make you wonder why throughout history people have always responded to their lives through a religion? There's something in us that needs it. everything. I just think that you need to look at things a little more expansively. while other needs supposedly lead to sin? I won't pretend to untie the millions. every fear. Your past will always be seen from your standpoint in the present. you're doing exactly what I was talking about before.
liberal to think more expansively? Maybe you're right, maybe I do need to get through more of my own issues. What about you, Pam, where do you stand? Goodness, I think it's best I stay out of this one. I have enough things to worry about already without having to tell myself that my way of worrying is wrong to begin with. Relius leans back again into his chair. He looks up at Father William and Pam and feels uncomfortable to see them leaning against the windowpane for want of any other furniture. His eyes glance again at the book in his lap, and he opens it and dramatically, quickly reads a few random lines of another poem: Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes. . . Yo no sé! Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos, la resaca de todo lo sufrido se empozara en el alma. . . Yo no sé! He laughs to himself closes the book and sets it on the arm of the chair. Relius stands up from the chair, and Father William and Pam understand the words of the gesture. You probably want some more time alone, don't you, Relius? Yes. I think it would be good for me right now. I'm sorry, I know you came up here to see me. Relius pauses, and looks at Pam, noticing for the first time the beauty of her lips, the alluring strength in her eyes. Didn't you?
Relius embraces both Father William and Pam before closing the door to the building and walking back to his apartment by himself. He hears Mrs. Wotschke snoring loudly behind her door, and imagines her in a large, cavernous room, surrounded by black and white photographs of her family in golden frames. He pictures candles and candelabra, and furniture covered with bleached or yellowed white lace made by her as a girl, or handed down to her from her mother and grandmother. He still thinks of her as he stands in front of his bookcase, wondering what she might read as he selects another book to mine for veins of truth.
SIXTEEN Relius rises early this morning and checks the list he had made the night before. He reads it a few times, puts checks beside the things he has in the apartment or the car, and adds a few items that he remembers he needs to get in the grocery store. He chooses carefully from among the clothes he had laid out on his bed, wool, cotton, warm synthetics. From one of the kitchen drawers he retrieves his pocketknife, and grabs the blue tipped matches left beside the stove by the previous tenant. He drops the box of matches into a small plastic bag, and shoves it, together with his toothbrush, a pen, and a small notebook, into the top of his backpack. He takes a black, vinyl pouch out of the pack, and surveys the contents. Compass, flashlight, moleskin, tape, a rusty fishing knife, a few garbage bags, a fork spoon and knife, pills, tablets, batteries, and another notebook. He, Rebecca and John had often talked about going camping, and Relius had started collecting these things even before they moved to the city. The pack was once John's, the knife Matty's, the compass and other items he had bought whenever
he remembered their plans to camp, and he would set them into the backpack as soon as he got home. In the grocery store he buys enough food for three days. Pasta, oatmeal, powdered milk, a few fresh vegetables for the first night, bacon for the morning, and coffee that he already imagines himself drinking by a small campfire. At home he packs the food and clothes carefully, folding the shirts, the pants tightly, lifting the backpack and testing its balance then setting it down again and rearranging everything. He takes up a book from beside his bed, looks at the cover, thinks about what he had already read, and lays it on top of the clothes in the pack. He looks at his watch and wonders if it's true that the day has not yet gone beyond 7:34. Lacing his boots, he walks around the apartment a few times, trying to make them feel more comfortable, less new. The voice on the radio beside his bed warns of a rainstorm that may arrive or pass by the next day, and he leans over the bed to turn it off, but instead finds the knob for the volume and lowers the voice to a whisper. The deep, serious voice of another man hums the news of the morning in this city, and the afternoon or evening of some other place, remote and removed from Relius' imagination. A woman's voice tells of her reasons for choosing Dismas and Gestas for two lovers in her book, but Relius does not hear her, and he closes the door to the apartment behind him,
adjusting the straps around his shoulders and waist, as he struggles to dig his hand into his pantspocket for his key. A man with a rural accent and confident beliefs says he calls from Wayne and his name is Ben, and his angry accusations murmur into the emptiness of Relius' apartment. In his car Relius hears a moment of the author's patient, self- assured response to Ben's comments before he presses the black cassette into the radio and hears the familiar music he hopes will soothe him as he drives out of the city. Few cars follow the road with Relius on this morning. His car, like all the cars, looks black to other drivers until it passes under a light or in front of another car about to turn onto the street he follows. There are no faces to look at in the other cars, and few faces to consider on the sidewalks that frame and define the roadway. A woman with a paisley shawl runs quickly across the street as the light changes, the wind carrying her hair into the small stream of air behind her, she looks over her shoulder at Relius as he begins to roll the car slowly across the intersection, and he looks quickly at her to reflect her stare and share with her a moment to launch recollection, yearning, or quiet acceptance. She turns back toward the wind. Isolated and hidden by default within an image of himself that addresses itself not to him or who he would be, but rather to another image. Slow down, he whispers. She recognizes his eyes, she thinks, though slows her thoughts to the slowing pace of her walk, and tells herself
aloud that she always thinks someone she sees quickly in the street looks like him. Perhaps he is here to surprise me. And she moves on. Clouds, many clouds pressed together into one enormous mass enshadow the city. They cast the morning in a lifeless gray, a solemn reminder of the fragility of daylight. To the north Relius sees small tufts pulled like cotton from the dark clouds above, thin threads of rain that tie the heavens to the small hills below, and are milled into braids by the rocks, roots, and slopes that guide this water yarn to the ponds and lakes where they add to the weave of the wet quilt that holds for a moment the face of the child who wakes early from his tent and stares into the water at the small fish that try to eat the droplets of rain. The color of the sky, the color between himself and anything he sees, the smell of the air coming in through his open window reminds him of a chill he felt one night when sitting up in bed, the window open, the curtain touching lightly at his cheek. The darkness he stared into, the darkness he feels in this instance of memory as the cool air caresses his face and spreads its fingers through his hair, touching him bodiless, touching him and calling him to stare absently at the black sheen of the wet road, losing its particularity, vanishing into a glimpse of recollection when as a young boy he kneeled on his bed, pressed his hands on a sill, and stared out his bedroom window at a darkness that reflected endlessly from its unknowable source. An instant of pregnant imagination. A privilege to
mold the folds of night into shape upon shape, and see there an errant knight beginning his journey toward a fountain and a giant, or fold the shades again into the phantom image of creature, black and silvery white, that moves with the breeze that shakes the water from the glistening leaves. The red lights brighten in front of him and Relius rushes to press the brake, and let the pattern flow to the to the cars behind him, and they slow down, some more than others, to stare and stare again at the officer who walks toward the car, or taps on the window, or waits patiently for the nervous girl to finish fumbling through her purse, the glovebox, or the pockets of the seats. Relius leaves the black stream of the highway and travels briefly through a busy wide street, where cars already park and leave, men and women jog patiently on the empty earlymorning sidewalks, and the drizzle startles a spider. A few miles past the brown sign with gold letters thanking him for passing through this town, Relius slows his car and follows a truck onto the gravel parking lot of a small diner. He turns to park along a fence where long stemmed plants lean over the protective logs of concrete, and he pauses, thinking for a moment that the purple petals of this flower might be glass where they've fallen on the pavement and glisten, colorless beneath a film of dew. He lifts himself slightly in his seat, looks at the false glass beads again, knows they've fallen in the wind and rain, and parks.
‘No.’ ‘Nother anybody. I remember your name being something else. her eyes all the while fixed on Relius.’ ‘Rodrigo?’ ‘Yeah.Relius walks slowly toward the door of the restaurant. ‘I seen you here before?’ she asks. looking at the cars. she pours the coffee carefully into the cup. . That's not it. ma'am. You're on one of those soapoperas. I know I know you from somewhere. he mumbles to himself as he opens the door and looks for a table. I seen you on TV.’ ‘No. A middle-aged woman walks slowly to his table and. flipping one of the four cups on the table. asks Relius if he wants any coffee this morning. Red white and blue. laughs at the self-assuredness of pasting an identity to the black plastic of a bumper. You an actor? ‘No. He nods and smiles. I'll remember 'for you leave. that's it. He laughs at the stickers on a few of the cars.’ ‘I swear I seen you somewhere. ma'am.’ ‘My name is Relius. Something like Roodreego. Just another anybody. reminded of walking with Matty and running into Father William.
and here's some crazy old lady asking you if you somebody you're not. speaking quickly. He stares into the lighter swirl of milk mixing into the dark coffee in the brown cup. and it bothers you that you come out here where nobody ought to know you. . preaching to particular sensibilities. Why don't you give me your autograph. He hopes to hear nothing he has heard before. Even the men who sit alone seem to be waiting for someone. They talk about Sunday. and just won't tell me.’ He says to end his diatribe. Never been on television. Relius listens. The woman returns with his breakfast.aren't you?’ ‘No. and mention the names and feats of men they would never meet in their churches or clubs. ma'am. an audience determined to agree with anything this man says. and he does not know what he hopes.’ ‘Well you sure look line one of those clumbian fellas on my soap. Sorry. maybe you're somebody. A heavy. I don't know. just in case. he hopes to hear familiar words or familiar tales. ‘Don't trust any of them. but no one looks up. Monday night. something. just myself.’ Relius listens to the radio as he waits for his food. and do not listen to the voice meant to keep them company in their solitary mornings. guttural voice fills the diner. You can't. He listens for sounds of his own thoughts. and Relius scans the room for responses. smiling.
murder. taking inventory. he begins to write dates and names of his life. Rebecca. He writes her . He writes another name. How come I don't remember more names. Without considering it. before he finds a clean page where he can begin his list. how could I forget Nicole. assault. ask someone who he is and leave it crumbled on a coffee table. Paul. God I've known so many people in my life. and trace himself into his own emerging history. lose it in a box. warn and written on. but cannot. His birth. the first few letters. coquettish smile. wrinkled. making judgments. he thinks. or seen in years. Relius returns the smile. But they are people he has not spoken of. Father William. John. pauses. Damnit what was his name. He tries to imagine each scenario. Do they really not matter. and he wonders what the history of this slip of paper will be. brother. His fingers flip through a few pages. my god. Will she wash it with her apron. His name. The first girlfriend. From his back pocket he pulls the small notebook and the black pen he had decided not to stuff into the backpack. Renee. and she offers him a blank piece of paper and her pencil. He looks away as she turns to another table.looking at him as though assured of the secret they keep. father. draws a line through those letters and begins again. not Paul. Nicole. and so few of them matter. takes the small blunt pencil and writes his name. ‘Just write you name for me. Renee. the colors. He erases their names. His mother.’ she whispers through an atavistic. discolored. Rebecca.
and he sees nothing. I haven't done anything. dates. but all he sees are words and lines. I can wait. He sighs. saying ‘decaf all right for now. and events over again. he tells himself. Above the word he draws a question mark. but all he thinks to add is “me. me. to the right. anything that might make these two words significant to one another. drawing a line between Renee and the murder. the regular isn't ready yet. He looks at the list. holding up a glass pot with an orange handle. He does not write a name. He follows the list from his birth to the diner. in a new order. Shit. not marking its point. Kristina. and under it he adds the name of the diner. I don't even know the name of the kid I killed. The last name he writes is Father William. Matty. he draws arrows pointing from the top and the bottom to a spot he labels Relius. me. on a new sheet of paper. wishing that some meaning might evolve from this diagram.” Between each item he draws a line and adds me. wanting to insert there a thought.’ And as she steps away he lifts the palm of his hand from the list and thinks for a moment that it might reveal something to him this . honey?’ ‘It's all right. tears it from the notebook and writes the names. breathes deeply. Murder. drawing an arrow between their names. not directing it up or down. And he looks at the list again. And he looks at the map of his life. some logic be visible in his life. and cannot find himself within it. James Robert? No. an event. Me.name above Renee and Rebecca. The woman returns to the tableside. Beside the list.
shakes his head. Nac. He circles the word a few times till the ink frames the word in a thick black band. Renee always drove slowly. and closes the notebook. Nac?’ ‘Yes. Mt. asks for the check and leaves a large tip. hoping that he might spot them as he drives and use them as guides to mark his progress. To the right of this circle he draws another question mark. better suited for someone already familiar with the roads beyond the diner. By the door he waits for the attention of an older man choosing a fresh copy of the paper from beneath the top one touched by all. to other places. He drives for a few miles . thinking of times when he had driven slowly with other people. stares at the page briefly.‘ The gentle man gives him quick directions. and the woman returns to offer him more coffee. Relius drives slowly. and Relius tries to remember a few of the names the man mentions. and asks him if he knows the best way to Nac.time. A few minutes pass. leafless branches. faded white sign hides behind a patch of red dogwood. and follows the grayblack arrow toward the small road to the left. A small. and Relius sees bleached blue letters behind the long. Above his name he writes PURPOSE in deliberate block letters. he declines. ‘You mean Mt. he remembers.
A small band of blackened stones and bricks marks where many parents. brown circling to reveal another brown. green veins browned. Turning. he sits and listens to the end of another song. orange upon red. adjusts the straps. He lifts his pack from the trunk. Before twisting the key out of the ignition. glistening wet. a circle of leaves lifts itself. the degeneracy of her voice to a rough. listens to the words he knows reflect the harsh love of men she loved. and he listens to himself walk in the silence of the natural solitude. Nac. just their tracks. the stuff churning in this aerial mill to fall again and fit the mosaic of earth without image. He hears the sad history of the woman in her voice. warming their hands . In front of the car. webbed skin between outstretched fibers that mimic fingers in a moment of stillness against the landscape they fall into. looks once more into the car and locks the doors. leading around the circle that feeds each empty site. beautiful sultriness. twisting up from the ground. wet and dry. The eroding leaves breathe out under his steps. There are no other cars in the area. lovers and friends sat listening to the river in the night. incomplete leaves. Relius steps softly out of the car. He turns onto a dirt parking lot and the dry red needles of the pine trees crush beneath the weight of the car. Leaves fall.before he passes an old quarry and a few minutes later reads his welcome to Mt.
The trail blazes become less vivid the farther he walks. He hears Rebecca suggesting where to find the driest wood and looks around for any birch he might harvest for the papery folds of resin that light so nicely on just such wet days. loose pages of birch from a patch he finds along the path and tucks them into a long narrow pocket of his jacket. He hikes for almost three hours. and the streaming of water through rounded rocks and bleached logs. He sees Renee running to stamp out the tongue of fire climbing the shoelace of his outturned boot. and Relius hears himself whistling or humming songs he had heard many years before and remembered through the melody hidden quietly in the shaking of branches in the wind. He chooses a few curling. but never to look at a map. He closes the blue cap tightly on his water bottle. and delighting in marshmallows carbonized over an open fire clumsily made with logs too wet or too large to sustain the small flame flickering out of matches put to light paper used to burn twigs. stopping to untie and tighten a boot. Few birds remain to sing in the trees on this day. set to dry beside their campfire. find comfort in an apple. feeling .around mugs of cocoa or coffee. He walks on. He follows the trail and looks only to the direction he had come and the direction he anticipates as he wipes the wetness from his lips and the sweat from his brow. Quick rabbits stare and duck away and stare at the movement they hear coming toward them. The white arrows growing apart and washed by a season of heavy rain.
stretch his vision into trees as relics of something past. where the life that swirls in the cycles of these woods becomes phantom to his presence and surrounds him in a community of vivid reminders. A spiraling walk through recollection upon recollection. His walk through these familiar shadows. a finger. catches his balance and stares back in indifferent curiosity at the root that grows like a knotted rope across the trail. an embrace to desire and to regret. and it whispers a entire story and reaches its airy fingers into the folds of his faculties and draws a smile to remember. and he walks through a moment of living mimicry.the tension of plastic threading through plastic before returning the bottle to the top of his pack. Unwelcome memories trip him as he walks. the blue dome looking unusual and out of place in this home to imperfect beauty where shapes mark artifice or imagination. shared landscape in the blend of this damp earth. . a hand. scents and sounds opens doors in the fleshy hold of his past. and he stops to listen again to the wind. and he smells the aroma of another. Memories pull at his eyes. His blue tent shakes slightly in the wind. Relius hikes for a few more miles until he finds a flat open plain where he sets down his pack. draws out the long narrow bag and patiently drives the thin aluminum stakes into the soft ground. and he stumbles forward along the path.
Relius sits beside the fire he carefully crafted that afternoon. His face glows curiously red and brown to the naive eyes that watch him inquisitively in the night. The water boils in the pot he set among the glowing embers of the vehement flame and he pours a small bagful of noodles into the bubbling liquid. He sprinkles garlic. With an old bandanna he'd never worn. taking his time. he lifts the pot from beside the fire and carefully drains the chewy. and he wanders through the night with his flashlight searching the earth and low. The fuel he had collected burns more quickly than Relius had expected. and the soft light reflects a bright glow in the surface and shines through to reveal the bottom of the pot. and they fix on the movement of his eyes and the popping and clicking .The evening comes and a new silence holds the forest. and warms his hands and feet. He shines his flashlight into the boiling water. staring above and into the flames that grow and vanish so quickly out of the formless weave of combustibles. He watches the small rounded tubes of grain tumble over one another and the stars begin to shine more brightly above him and he stares up briefly at a moon that a good jump might let him touch. yellow food. He sets a large pile of sticks and logs beside him and sits down to write by the pulsating light of the campfire. pepper and cheese over the meal on his plate and begins to eat silently. He rocks back and forth on a large log he laid near the fire and he sings quietly to himself. snapped branches for more kindling.
of the limbless orangeyellow monster in front of him. Relius does not see the animals. but he stops and reads crystalline crystalline. He shines his flashlight on his notebook to read what he has written. The pen feels heavy in his hand. and I cry and fail to close my hand and rest my arm against my chest. Why did I write that. Among the memoried vespers I see myself though cannot hear my heart as the chime to mark the moment endlessly growing. Desire in the desire not to wish. he wonders. and turns to look into the darkness and shine his flashlight into the wall of trees that could hide the form of anything that does not fall in its round frame of light. To hold as not to have. I've not sinned in the way of sinning. He shapes the same word once more. He turns the page and continues to write. To have as to have held. I've not song in thoughts of singing. He folds the cardboard cover back over the pages and closes the notebook. but hears them. expecting that it might spark a word to follow. and presses the tip of the pen into the space beside this first word. My arms embrace insomnia. The sleeping bag feels cool and wet and he lifts it in a bundle out of the tent and unrolls a rectangular pad onto the forest . he moves it slowly to write a word he does not anticipate and he reads crystalline shining black on the white page. and listen as the silence of a moment soundlessly collides with the advent of my own eternal vigil.
His eyes fill with tears. Relius sits beside the ashes and feels them for heat. He drinks a bitter coffee and enjoys the warmth of holding and eating a large bowl of oatmeal. he sighs. Staring still into the lights sparkling through the pinholes in the canopy of darkness. and scans the glowing sky for shades of rain and blues of sun.floor. What the hell happened to us? He lowers his shaking head and stares at the empty spaces around his campsite. Becca. He does not expect to sleep and wakes to a cold breeze caressing his hair and face. into peaceful sleep and does not dream of the heavens he would rend. Becca. and puts a new pot of water to boil. He says. He wakes to the morning and a familiar void of desperation within himself. A thin layer of dew shines . Oh god. He touches his pen and the notebook. and he thinks of who he might return to and tell that he had gone camping. heavy eyed. Relius sits and thinks of the day. but does not want to write. He rises long enough to feed the fire for a few more hours of warmth and draws his bag closer to the protective rocks and heavy logs. he meditates until he slips. and lifts himself from the cold bag. He turns over a few coals and tears some strips from the birch leaves in his jacket pocket and blows the small flame into a fire. God. He lays the sleeping bag out on the pad and lies down to rest and observe the slow celestial motion above him. The fire still burning. He collects the few things he had expected to store away before sleeping but did not.
to the right. and he hears himself whispering with the wind. excited run he arrives breathless at the base of the mountain. He struggles to move quickly along a thin stream of water running down the mountain. He tightens the laces on his boots. but he does not stop.off the leaves and the curved tops of the stakes tied to the tent. he does not hesitate to find the switchback trail he lost when he turned . His heart beats fiercely. each jump anticipates a pause he refuses to give. and through his nervous. slipping on the morningwet stones. but ignoring the small stinging sensation where his hands bleed in dozens of tiny red dots. The peak of a mountain begins to glow in the morning light. He runs. toward the base. He climbs quickly. looking panicked. tucks his pen and notebook into his backpack and sets it inside the tent. he slows to look to the path. to the left. that might lead him up the ridge. and he listens to his feet move quickly beneath him. scratching his hands in the gravel and pine needles. He runs toward the mountain. Without hesitating Relius begins to run. He looks again at the peak and he closes his eyes to mere slits to search the mountain for a path and wonders how he might pass that long narrow patch of white stone glittering in the sunlight. and each step. and Relius watches the beauty illuminate the sea of pine on the ridge and he wonders what he might see from a point so high and so bright. and he chooses quickly. he hears himself breathing more loudly. and he runs.
He breathes patiently now. and he thinks not of Renee nor Becca. and his eyes. and grabs at water. knowing he cannot stop the struggle. and he opens his mouth wide to force the rough air into his body. and he closes his eyes tightly to squeeze the tears from his vision. and relaxes his neck to look into blueness and wisps of white. skinless slab of the mountain. each breath a burden to swallow and heavier burden to press out. loose rocks. On a large softened baldness where the skin of the mountain had been stripped to the granite beneath he stops and hears himself breathing hard. He opens his mouth as though to utter a prayer. and he touches the rocks beneath his finger tips. He lies back on the large.to follow the stream up the mountain. and he closes his hands tightly to prepare himself to stare for the final time at the peak above him. The cold water soaks his shirt and he climbs. ignoring the small stock of breaths left him in his lungs. He slips. and counts the pebbles that he feels. nor any name. rootless twigs and moss. and feels the warmth of the rock against his back and legs. His final breaths expunge all memory from his mind. He leans back and arches his neck to search for the peak of the mountain. descending and rising again to the rhythm of his chest. do not see the birds fly close enough to cast large . His hands do not dig into pockets for the medicine he knows is not there. He breathes slowly. but merely watches the winged black specks he sees circling high above him. still open. hand over hand. until he does not struggle. foot over foot.
then twice over his still body.heavenly shadows once. .
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