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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
He turns to another page and sees more black lines. rubbing their spines softly. reading them in a café. and cracked. reading them alone at night. There’s history in the reading of each book. The Cesar Vallejo Relius had read to them is squeezed tightly into the left side of the shelf. old. tattered. Pascal. He touches the bounded pages of Pascal’s thoughts. Auden. reading them beside Rebecca in the hospital. or a reminder Relius had forgotten to remove? His finger hesitates at the top of the book and then pulls it from the shelf. with fragile white lines in the spine. We are full of things that impel us outwards. waiting to find something to tell him which book to choose first. pressed by poetry from other cultures. other worlds. He glides his fingers along the books on the second shelf. He closes the book. with a mylar cover over its delicate jacket and Baudelaire. poetry on the first shelf. searching without searching. following the black line Relius had traced under these words. Cleopatra's nose. sets it on the floor beside him.leaning on an empty space. grouped together by size and genre. a signal for him. literature on the second and history on the last. thick circle drawn around the word Diversion. and stares at the . Relius’ private thoughts of choosing these books. A deep. he reads. A yellow tab of paper sticks out of the top of Pascal’s Pensées. Rilke. Augustine’s sins and Conrad’s serpentine waters.
to fill that vast mystery. to understand the space left empty by a soul gone to paradise or a body. and again he chooses. searching through the pages for answers. smelling the cardboard and tape on his fingers.other books on the shelf. for a presence. “I miss you. its emptiness. and he trembles and takes up book after book. simply gone. and he sits on the floor crying now. a voice. and again he reads. and read it. that tell him what Relius might tell him if dying were not an end but the beginning his faith assures him it could be. He hears a voiceless call within himself to take up another book. is. covering his mouth with his hand. that interstice between possibility and permanence. and he hears Relius reading now. and offer him the impossible wisdom to know. a face. reads the underlined words with the urgency Relius might have found in them. marginal notes that refuse the silence of death. . hears these words as Relius might have heard them. tasting the dust of the room. words now.” he says and he wipes away a tear that falls on the page.
PART ONE .
It’s rough. a silence without comfort. He dreads this empty. like desert air through a frozen pipe. and wonders if this is where he’ll die or if this is where he’ll be found. He pulls a flashlight from his pocket. wonders how he . and leans forward. The air itself has joined in the conspiracy to punish him. He finds a fallen log to rest on. A silence without peace. and he feels more pain in his legs as he sits. he’s certain of it. He stops running and listens to his breathing. He crosses his arms in front of him. A silence he'd not heard before. white forest he runs through.ONE February 1991 Cold silence. and it threatens his sight. rubbing his hands along his sleeves for warmth. his thoughts.
listens for the hum of the light. he would say he couldn’t do it. they can’t find the figures hiding in the deeper shades. tires. feels the wetness of his glove where the thumb presses into the yellow plastic. He smells the dry wetness of winter. and they won’t warn him of the outlines in the darker shadows. The small glass bulb glows. Maybe he . He doesn’t remember hearing the boy say anything when he died. There’s no question now and he hates the guilt. dig it out of the glovebox before piling so many old doors. They won’t or can’t see what he needs to see. about his goodness. a horrid unity his fear and imagination break into men who follow him or animals that wait. The blood. and hoods over his car. When his friends talked about it. and the impossibility of bringing the boy back. He pushes the switch forward. Images of the murder cover every memory with questions about himself.remembered to grab it. He doesn’t trust his eyes now. and didn’t understand why they were so certain they could. listens to the batteries. The silhouettes of a winter forest blend into darkness. and reviving the life. He tries to remember other winters. but the memories refuse to come – they’ve joined the conspiracy. Maybe he wasn’t dead. and he stares into the silence. The memory of killing the boy is like an illusion. about killing anyone who would hurt their loved ones. of retrieving the bullet. He shakes the flashlight. Fades. he doesn’t remember the blood. The glow dims.
the terrifying abandonment of dying.was faking it. Not me. but he expects it to get colder tonight. he stops and looks up through the leafless branches. He whispers prayers for forgiveness quietly into the darkness. But there was blood there. and his body feels unwilling to tolerate the cold. And the smell of gunpowder on his hands. staring at nothingness did – the horror of nothing there for him. maybe the bullet missed. He wants forgiveness. The gelid limbs of birch and maple trees crack as he pushes them aside or steps through them. The bullet didn’t kill him. He hears the soft crack of a thin layer of ice. Not the gun. A pellicle of decayed leaves covers the brown leather. and he walks slowly toward the light he saw beyond the margins of the darkness. That’s what killed him. he prays. and despite his own hatred of God and religion and desperate creations of transcendent spaces and deities. acting dead. and the memory that wants to protect him from that fact. He sees the low clouds glowing to the east. The sky isn’t clear. absolutely nothing. bony fingers pointing toward a winter sky. and then rises to walk toward it. Dragging himself . A stupid battle in his frozen mind between the fact of killing. and the dead eyes of a person he’d killed staring at nothing. and his shoes swell with the freezing water he stepped into. He lumbers up a small hill and tries to find the light of a house or a gas station. Unsure if he is still walking toward the lights.
He sits on a fallen tree. a husband and a killer. looks over his shoulder and in front of him. Staring around the grove. they trouble him. and in the dying light he sees the thin . not trusting the silence he hears enveloping the darkness. For a moment he’s aware of what he has to do. His confusion and guilt leave shadows in the snow.through the darkness like an unwilling penitent. but cannot. The cold and fear exhaust him. what have I done. Panic stirs in his mind. so cold he doesn’t feel the painful tinge of his wet denim against his frozen skin. He trembles. Behind his swelling eyes. but thinks of yesterday. thinks of Renee. he stares around in all directions. with himself as witnesses. for answers to questions he cannot ask. 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. blur the distinctions between himself as son. The small bulb dims to a thin glowing wire and dies as he aims it over the fallen trees beyond the grove. searching for meaning. and he weeps quietly in the darkness. he hears the windless taunts of this hibernal forest and he wants to run. thinks of his family. None of his thoughts settle comfortably into a memory. and make him see eyes that stare in accusation from among the thorny bushes. he looks at nothing. but only his eyes move quickly. he wonders why he cries so helplessly. Lying silence. What have I done.
branches he needs. and peeling bark from the few birch he found near him. 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. pulling papers from the glovebox. His hands feel useless. and he feels a dozen pins prick his thumb each time he strikes the lighter’s small wheel. He lowers the small flame to the thin collection of twigs and strips of bark. He moves slowly. A fragile stream of smoke climbs up toward his warm breath and fades into the darkness visible. He digs again into the deep of his hip pocket and his fingers wrap tight relief around the lighter. shoving anything with his name on it into his pocket. does he have it now. He pushes past the pain in his hands and builds the twigs he'd collected into a small house of fire over the birchbark. thinking I’ll need this later. breaking the blossomless dry twigs from the ends of the trees. I’ll need this later when he found the flashlight. The firelet dies and he begins again. He tries again. The resin burns. already thinking of fire when he grabbed the lighter. The mud chills his fingers and his hands burn from the cold. his numb fingers dig into the empty corners of his pockets. but did he take it. and a few thin sticks crackle and begin to smoke. carefully now. until the . he smells it. He searches his coat for the lighter. and again.
those fears. and the glow darkens into the ash he touches mournfully when he leans into the frozen morning. No. and his mind feels like a pendulum that swings. human or otherwise. slowly. but there are no words to put to those images. And he shakes in the night. and he talks to his past. He dreams. and his phantoms fade into the forgotten. and the fire burns itself into glowing embers. . come to claim him. whose arms vanish into jagged bodies that stand like naked trees before a blackened sky. the cold and exhaustion finally close his eyes and force him into numb slumber. now on complete opaque. too slowly through a vast penumbra. pushing spittle from its ends and hissing into the night as the warmth. Throughout the night he rises and walks only a few steps from the fire to find more wood. and he breathes in the present. faceless figures whose hands bend like no hands he's seen. 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. He wipes the snow and ice from his face. he breathes at the cracking. and he opens his eyes to look into the fire and the night beyond it but he does not wake. and he refuses the figures that call to him with extended fingers. bending fingers. A large. His head aches.firelet holds a flame and the small twigs can burn a larger branch. thick log burns. the edges of his thoughts touching now on lucidity.
He tries in vain to move his legs. and take him to his judgment. and he breathes in the painful. They’re blue-white now. On this discolored morning. and let this numbness spread from his limbs to his heart. he imagines nothing. Reluctant to rise. It’s a gentle man who walks behind the dog. recognize him from a photograph or a drawing. the guilt returns.When his thoughts settle. He looks at his hands. he feels the slowness of time. I’m dying. Relius turns away from the dog's cold and curious nose and does not look at the man. cold air. and waits for the man shouting at the dog to stop before him. looks for . and his voice sounds retired. he accepts his fate. He does not move. his breathing hard. and does not look toward the barking and the snowywet steps of the dog coming toward him. not rebuild the fire. dead perhaps. His boots sound heavy. He coughs through blue lips and wonders if he should lie down in the fresh fallen snow. sore. He is an older man. With a deep sigh. The dog waits. he tells the gray day that unfolds. his second day as a man who killed another man. worn from many years of quiet work or years of quiet rest. and hears the ice-laden limbs of the trees crack with the weight of fresh snow.
and he begins to rock back and forth. The young man stares into the snow. For his part. But this young man looks . and watches him approach the stranger leaning against a log. “What did you find there boy. no sanctuary like the one he hopes for. The man leans down and rubs his hand through the dog’s thick. he thinks. waiting with less puzzlement. not yet. College boys. There are no more places to hide in that distance he searches. He does not speak to Relius. Matty had found young men in these woods before. for a friend to pass or a pheasant to fly from a bush. yellow fur. He looks at the white air of the forest. staring at different sights. usually. The man and the dog stand together now as they’ve stood a thousand times. and pats his gloved hand on its back. watches the man and the dog from the corners of his eyes. but watches for the young man to look up at him. frozen and encased in the colorless ash of the dying and the dead.” he whispers to the dog. or in a quick escape from a girl’s jealous boyfriend or angry father. that he's not strong enough to go anywhere on his own. who had too much to drink and ended up in a fight. just a hoary landscape. Not now. stares at a bleached earth that seems so ready to abandon him.his master. looking sad and confused. and knowing that another cold night would freeze him. but won't turn to them.
He follows the young man's stare into the distance.” Relius says through painful. how long he's been out here.different. Relius waits for the man to say something. “You found me. “You all right? Those shoes of yours don't look like they had this weather in mind. the jeans. “ He looks at the young man's clothes.” He pats the dog again. But the man watches him with the patience of someone who understands silence. “I didn’t find you. “Buck found you.” Matty says through a slight laugh. but his own memories intrude. Matty remembers the rows of trees his father planted just across the creek. “Yes I have. and he hears the melodies of spring and anticipates the greening blues of summer. and rubs its ears. “ . Matty heards a deep sigh from the boy and then sees the boys eyes fix on the dog and then on him. He rocks back and forth. heavy cough. looking for a sadness he might understand. the thin shoes. and Matty sees desperation in him. to ask who he is. He picks up the melted flashlight tossed in among the ashes and asks if he's been out here all night.” Relius whispers. “I followed him and there you were. the wet coat. swollen lips and a congested.
visible against the snow because of its red roof and the red shutters at each window. 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. He leans back against the log again and strains to lift himself from the cold. hopping happily through the ankle deep snow. The house looks small and white. and digging its nose into their footprints. The dog runs toward them again. Buck waiting patiently in front of it. They walk in silence until they see a house in the distance. the thin layer of ice cracking and breaking beneath their steps. That was the show . Relius leans on Matty and they walk slowly along a brown trail. and then looks up at the man come to help him. past patches of maple and beech and white flat fields where he thinks corn or wheat might grow. wet ground.Relius looks at his brown shoes. “How old is your dog?” “Buck? He must be about seven now. I thought it was like the knife. They walk carefully through the snow. black from the wetness and cold. My son named him Buck.” “Like Buck Rogers?” “Not sure. and his master no longer calls for it. Maybe. The dog runs far ahead of them.
Matty knows the feeling of cold hands. and the pinching sensation makes it hard for Relius to use his fingers. Matty stokes the fire and closes the iron door. even if just for a moment. and he rubs them together as he walks from the fire toward the couch. They do not go in through the back of the house. The sudden warmth hurts. the sensation of warm blood filling empty fingers. Matty lowers Relius onto a couch before setting his own coat on a chair beside a fire that looks eternal. Inside. Matty looks at the palms and fingers of the young man's hands and sighs with both relief and concern. Matty turns Relius’s fragile hands over in his larger. He feels innocent. He sighs again. warm hands. and his effort to give them something else to think about. He sees pain in the boy's posture and eyes. but walk around to the steps in front. Matty tells Relius that he’s lucky. His own hands look heavy to him. The one that stuttered?” Relius appreciates Matty’s light-heartedness. I can help you there. 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. almost laughs. “your fingers look a bit frostbit.with the little robot. and looks over his shoulder at the young man. right. warms his hands in front of the furnace. 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. rubbing them together.
he begins to cut away the socks.” He peels first one sock then the other off the boy's feet then leans back onto the table behind him. that doctor. comparing the build of the boy before him to the boy he raised. Matty tells Relius that the Lord must have something special in mind for him. 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. That he spared him. Relius’s feet look fine. But he kept on walking on them even after the pain would a made most folk wish the Lord take them already. the toes are white. “his feet were so frost-bit. He must be about my son’s age. Funny. right there on the couch. he thinks. Matty covers Relius with a blanket and tells him to get some sleep. the doctor called it. “his toes were black as pitch . . Sounds like something black the doctor said. but it means death. but not worrisome. Must of been bit for days before he realized. Relius wakes to his own rough breathing and the smell of kerosene burning in . meditative. “I saw a kid once. Once he has the shoes off.” Matty says when the young man stops coughing. careful not to pierce the skin. . when they took off his shoes the bottom of his foot just about came with them.” He pauses to let the young man cough.” Matty says. searching an instant of silence for the whole of a memory. necrosis. “Black as pitch.
Johnathan. his eyes fixed on the steam growing like ephemeral stalks out of the bowl the man offers him. “How's your cough?” he hears someone ask and turns toward the voice. about his friends and the buildings around his school.” he says. “My name is Relius. Matty continues to talk about his son. Relius listens. “Feeling any better?” “My lungs feel full. My real name is Matthias. and knows its library well. welcome Reelus. but everyone just calls me Matty.” Relius watches the kind man lift a ladle out of a large pot and empty it into a large bowl on the table. is just a year younger than Relius. Relius has been to John’s college. He even had a girlfriend there once.the lamp on the table beside him. So you may as well call me Matty. Will he stay long enough for Matty to know that he killed a man? . but he doesn’t mention her to Matty. but thinks instead about this small house in this small town. My wife made it this afternoon. What you say your name was? Rebus?” Matty’s son. and doesn’t live here. and if he’ll stay long enough to meet this kind man’s son. I have some soup here for you if you feel up to it. long enough to know if the kindness of the father became the kindness of the son. “What was that? You say your name is Reelus? Well. My name’s Matty.
“You'll be feeding yourself again soon. a melody Relius recognizes but cannot name.” he says. son. 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.“Eat your soup. the flavor reminds him how long it’s been since he’d eaten anything. Probably still warming up and your muscles don't trust the heat yet. He looks at Matty with an embarrassed expression of need. and hears the water run. “Thank you. His hands tremble as he tries to hold the bowl steady in his lap.” The soup warms his entire body. And he looks up at Matty before leaning forward to lift the warm bowl from the table. He hears Matty set the bowls in a sink he imagines to be large and metallic. the leather worn and faded to a darker . The couch beneath him is old. first to rinse the bowls. The song soothes him.” Relius watches Matty collect the bowls from the table and walk toward the kitchen door. his scanning of the furniture and walls. Without a word Matty sits on the table in front of him and feeds the young man the soup.” Relius hears through his thoughts. Matty begins to hum behind the swinging door. then to fill the tea kettle. Matty tilts the bowl to offer Relius the last spoonful. “You feeling warmer now? Cup of tea would keep you warm.
no dog in the snow.shade of green that makes the small brown cuts in it look natural. an orange that is too orange. the colors too vivid for the tempered woods of the room. generations of grandparents. or a slight breeze squeezing through the sill. a white dress that haunts the gray furniture and walls behind them. A beautiful woman stands beside a younger. their serious looks. their emotions and dreams kept private behind stiff faces and clothes they're . He wonders if it snows that evening. though the photograph is not black and white. Relius rubs his fingers against the large brass tacks outlining the arms of the couch. no colors. stark eyes darkened by her black hair. if it is evening. or if the dark curtains shield him from the light outside as well as the cold. God Bless Our Home hangs above The Serenity Prayer pulled in thick blue yarn. moving with the heat curling through the room. parents and friends. Their wedding picture? Relius admires their confidence. Six curtains. an apple too red. and between each pair there hangs a small painting or a sampler. and a papaya that would not grow here. Heavy curtains cover the windows. no footprints. To the right of the kitchen door he sees a photograph of this house in winter. determined farmers in suite and gown. taken from the front yard. They feel cool to his hand. two over each pair of windows. Above the fireplace more photographs of children and adults. Beside the door hangs an oil painting of a fruit basket. virile Matty. their cold roundness now welcome to his warm fingers.
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. Matty asks Relius if he’s worried he fell asleep and woke up . opposite the couch and along the wall without windows the dog sleeps under a simple. He tells Relius about the storm that iced the roads and weighed down the power lines.” he says. like backward folk who have no need for modern lights and phone lines. and you take it up when you feel ready. The table looks small in the dim light of the room. and about how the lines it didn’t weigh down it made cars slide into. A bench wraps around three sides of the table. and he looks at the kerosene lamps and the room without a television. In the far corner of the room. dark pine table. Relius hears the door swing open and Matty walks into the room and sets the teapot and cups on the table.unaccustomed to wearing for so many hours in a day.” “Do you have electricity?” Relius says. Matty looks at Relius' question with a smile. “I'll set this on the table. and Relius smells the faint aroma of kerosene as it burns in the small lamps on the tables on either side of the couch. He lifts the lid of the bench nearest him and pulls another blanket for Relius. “There's biscuits too. if you want something solid. Matty pours the two cups full and walks them over to Relius. with a solitary chair tucked under the fourth side.
Relius’s memories and Matty’s own. Relius describes coffee fields filled with banana trees. or we'll ask Kristina later. His eyes closing slowly. his nervous eyes staring up into the wavy lamplight making the ceiling look like it shudders. and fields he knew would be his to tend. You ever used a kerosene lamp at home before?” Relius shares a memory of his grandparents in Peru. I'll get it in a minute. The smell’s nicer and the light’s better. his small fingers pumping air into a lamp. imagines the young man before him with wider eyes and softer skin. John had written antiques on the box where they stored the lamps. only in reverse?” “I don't remember. and letting the lantern burn its fuel into a black string of smoke that vanishes into a dark room with a sleeping child.twenty years later.” “You know. “You know.” Matty says. like that guy. “even though we don’t use these lamps much anymore. Matty grew up in a house he knew he would own. what's his name. and . I like them more than those other ones. the guy who falls asleep and wakes up twenty years later. They both grew up in the same house. but Johnathan's memories of the farm and town were enough to have him leave. a young boy worried about being scolded by his mother for refusing to turn down the flame before he falls asleep. Matty’s son uses computers and owns a fax machine. Matty tries to see the young boy Relius describes to him. she'll know.” “You know.
He has the face of a kind man. It’s not just the pain of aging. Clear blue eyes. While Matty walks back toward him. Small nose. Matty’s hair is thin and white with a patch of sun spotted skin growing from the center. He drops another log on the fire and arranges the coals to burn more with more air. and he feels illness dull and thick in his throat and chest and behind his eyes. but the food in his body now lets him settle into the exhaustion that consumes him. it’s an injury. Relius watches Matty limp toward the fire. Matty grimaces and squeezes his left biceps with his right hand as he bends down to pick up the poker.what a cherimoya looks like. redder. his wife and their farm. Relius watches Matty and listens to his stories about his son and the farm. Relius notices that his left arm hangs almost still at his side while his right arm swings just a bit as he walks. and dark socks that his wife might have knit for him. He tries to lift himself from the couch to help Matty . look like he never has to cut them. Relius wonders how much it must have hurt Matty to let him lean on him as they walked through the woods. Finger nails thick and round. The water burns his hands and the cup drops to the floor and rolls toward its handle under the table. He spills the tea as he tries to lift it from the table. Thin lips. He wears darkgreen corduroys and a flannel shirt. and listens to him speak of his son. and wants to stay awake.
He hears each step as he walks. unfamiliar with the morning routines of this house. He wears thermals someone else had dressed him in. They’re white. My grandfather used to wear these. He lifts himself from the bed. his chest expanding into a painful emptiness. He sleeps again before Matty returns from the kitchen. . and lifting his head forces too much pressure into his sinuses. happy that Matty insists he sleep more. Relius wakes coughing. the wood floor creaking under his toes. the history of the house pressing out its own sighs and making feel ever more uncertain of his appearance. and he sits with his hands resting on the edge of a bed he doesn’t remember crawling into. When he settles his breathing and finishes staring around this unfamiliar room. He feels nauseated and lays back down on the couch. he realizes the smell that woke him was frying bacon. as he limps toward the smell of cooking food. since it didn’t wake him. with the feel of thick cheesecloth. not yet certain whether his surroundings emerge from the continuation of a dream or the confirmation of a waking hour. His mouth dry and his lips cracked.clean. but his body refuses. with gentle respect no doubt. this family. he thinks and whispers to himself.
There's bacon frying. how to behave. His eyes search the room for something he might say.” Relius does not know how to present himself this morning. “You hungry? I can make you some eggs to go with those rolls if you like. He waits for her to ask another question. Relius stands in the doorway and waits for her to turn.In the kitchen he finds a woman staring out the window above the sink. where to look. but his mind cannot form thoughts from his senses. where to sit. black boots. 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. She wears blue pants. to wake as a stranger in someone's house. Reluctant to interrupt her morning thoughts. He does not have words to speak to this situation. “That's a terrible cough you've got there. to eat as a stranger at someone's table. “Never spent the night in the berry grove myself.” She waits for him to finish coughing again. a white apron over a yellow shirt patterned with blue flowers. She sighs deeply. but she to her the color of the day outside reminds her of her son. To him she looks like she stares without intention. Much less in the . of watching him help his father bring in the fire wood. whispers something to the day. turns.
it might be severe. Two weeks pass and Relius learns to share the silence Matty and Kristina enjoy in their house. that if he’s lucky it will pass. She was tired. their silences.winter. They understand each other through raised eyebrows. She was healthy when he took this picture. soft voices when they do speak. a doctor arrives and listens to Relius' lungs. and yet it troubles him to have so much aural space for his mind to fill with guilt and lies. He tells him he has bronchial asthma. After several days of painful coughing and little sleep. The eggs are delicious. Relius envies their comfort with one another. yellow airport in Costa Rica. the greenyellow of eggs he'd eatin so often with his family in Peru. and small smiles.” She serves him crisp and fatty bacon. but chances are he’ll now have asthma for the rest of his life. sitting across from him in a tiny. He leaves the young man with a bag full of yellow and blue inhalers and a sloppy prescription scribbled on a formal. Another photograph. white sheet of paper. Alone in his room Relius pulls two small photographs from his wallet and settles on the bed. Renee. and talk in small. He stares at himself standing with his parents in front of . beautiful. turned glances. It might be mild.
the lumber and carpet stolen from the new homes about to become suburbia. A lifetime spent within the hallow valley between these homes and his mind. like smaller versions of their father's. the walls papered with pictures of naked women torn from magazines. 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. There's a cul-de-sac where older boys built a tree house. They are dressed in the simple clothes of the eager immigrant. 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. look for frogs and minnows. There's a bridge he would run across and hide under.their first house. Neither his mother nor his father smiles. 8 años. When he was ten he read how to trap a rabbit. He and his brother wear similar coats. plaid with different shades of brown. On the back of the photograph he finds his mother's handwriting in the words Relius. but when he came back to the trap after a summer in Peru he found the . neither of them did. Or could have been. He did not think it would work. The photograph reminds him that his childhood was quite simple. He was raised in the blurry town he sees beyond the borders of this photograph. His father in his first winter coat. and he and a Jewish boy named Michael set the trap at the base of the tree house.
no wisdom. He's no less naive now than he was then. so ignorance. and most of the trees there now are small and bend at the weight of a birdhouse. It might have been a squirrel. they should call it.” he tells the picture. and wonders if there'll ever be a science or an accident perfect enough to freeze memories with the same indifference as a camera. There's a deck near where the tree house used to be. the small skeleton had a tail. Perhaps the neighbors with hippies for children. or even a cat. His eyes water and he touches the picture. The new homes finally encroached on that refuge. he thinks now. what this boy thought when this picture was taken. What did you do to me.skeleton of a small animal he called a rabbit. nor who could have taken it. and wonders how this boy could be him. has nothing to do with aging. Large maple and beech he'd never counted cleared and replaced with two small tilia. “You grew up to kill someone. He doesn't remember standing with his parents for this picture. he asks his parents silent in the photograph. Atrium or atria. an open term to . 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. In his memory. the flat image of himself as a child. three fruitless cherry trees and one weeping dogwood. The tree isn't there anymore. though he does not know if this memory is held in a trap of its own.
He’s watched them and wondered if they’re rare people who don’t judge and condemn others. It’s warm in the room. He tries to think less of his guilt. He sweeps his open hand slowly across one dark blue suit and then another. a good man again. shaking his shoulders inside the suit shaped to another body. Kristina leaves the room before Relius can ask about their guest. Why death. leaving that privileged hate to their God. and not a single visitor has come by. she says. and the possibility of becoming an innocent man. not to leave wet stains in a stranger’s shirt. She looks at his reflection and . bending down to scratch at his knees where the harsh wool feels sandy against his skin. tries to focus on the present. A knock at the door disturbs Relius’ thoughts of basilicas and vaulted ceilings. hoping not to sweat too much. and Relius feels his body sweat as he tries on their son’s clothes. but Relius stands calmly in front of their son's closet and stares at the dark clothes.mock or mimic the closure of the camera. They’ll have company tonight. Relius thinks of himself wearing the clothes of a dead friend. Kristina knocks and opens the door before Relius turns to say come in. he asks the mirror. It’s Kristina. He's been in their home for three weeks now. His scalp and back itch. Wearing the clothes of a young man he's not met. the odd mingling of architecture with memory.
Maybe a bit snug. bending slowly at the knee every time she moves forward to roll the carpet. but widened with muscles he'd only seen before on his grandmother's hands.” It’s still early.” . pointing with the racket towards another racket leaning against the doorframe. He watches her hands work over the rounded top of the rolled rug. honey. Her age shows in the patience she offers her languorous right leg. Relius bends down and lifts the racket with his free hand.his bare feet and smiles. Careful not to drop the rug. “You've got it upside down. “There’s shoes for that suit in the closet. “You'll need one of these. Dressed in their son’s work clothes. not as thick as her husbands.” she says. and Kristina asks Relius to help her beat the rugs in the snow. 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 helps Kristina roll the hall carpet and take it outside. strong fingers. He walks down the porch steps toward Kristina and unrolls the rug beside the one she's already begun to beat. I think they’re your size.
Here let's turn it over. He thinks of his mother. The rounded edges of the paddle are dark and smooth. After a few minutes he feels the muscles tighten in his arms but tries to work through the stiffness to keep pace with Kristina. 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. She smiles at his efforts. . The snow beneath Kristina's rug looks flat and soiled. His grandmother would have been able to do it. and copies it. darkest in a rough square surrounding the spot where a table protected the carpet from soiled footsteps. impressed with Kristina's strength and endurance. The wicker weave of her racket looks worn yet tight. He studies her method.“What?” “The top of the rug should be facedown in the snow. indistinct outlines of the designs of the upturned rugs. and he hears a small burst of air push out of the way each time Kristina brings the racket down in a quick. his aunts.” he sighs. That's what we're cleaning. 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. “I guess I should start at this end this time. He looks at the faded.
She felt that way too when she was a girl. 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.” . “ She pauses to lift a corner of her rug and inspect the color of the snow. always trying to improve her mother’s way of making pie crusts.She watches him where he stands in his thoughts. the racket resting on his thigh. “This cold air hurting your asthma?” “No. shoveling manure and pitching hay. She tells Relius about another of John’s friends that came to visit with him on Thanksgiving. Seems to work pretty well though. that young people always want to make things better. it's not the cold. I think I'm just not in the best shape. and he’d always wanted to experience a farmer’s holiday. John told them. They were there for five days. and in five days they must have heard a hundred different ways of milking cows. but I like it. “Nope. No. I can't say that I have.” she says. His family was too far away. “Have you ever cleaned a rug this way before?” she says. She smiles and waits for Relius to finish holding his breath and exhale slowly to let the medicine fill the pockets of his lungs. Kristina says it didn’t bother her.” “It takes a little more work than paying someone to do it with machines and soaps.
Nothing there. She tells him about the fresh bread and pie she’s making. He looks at the snow under his rug. He hears Kristina call out to him. knowing that he helps them as a good . Sudden tears again. unsure of himself in this place. laughing at this strange image of himself. and they return the rugs to the house.” In the shower. He opens his eyes constantly to search for the wet hands behind him. enjoying the funny pain in his arms and legs. hoping to leave him already enjoying their sweet aroma in anticipation. Setting her racket against the doorframe she tells Relius that she has to get started with the baking for tonight. “Don’t worry. Relius takes his time smacking the rugs with his racket. He stares up at the spray of water and lets it warm his neck and chest. then sits for a moment on the porch steps. the worries that haunt. looking down at the snow she steps through and sighs to herself. and asks him to finish beating the rug on his own.” she says. the thick stream of water touches Relius’s neck like stiff fingers. always nothing there. He calls to Kristina. He doesn't respond. but takes up her racket where she left it beside the door and begins to strike the rugs again.Kristina walks over to the door. and knows she asks the silence if he’s finished. a liar to Matty and Kristina. “you have plenty of time to nap and wash up before the company arrives.
working as Relius in this house. 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. and curses him and damns him with charges of a life lived through deception. . shorten his breath. unfolds and unfolds his soul before a boundless court that judges him. cold and wet. and waits for the water to fall as water and the drain to take the foamy soap. consume him. each word he speaks consumes him in hypocrisy. devouring the tranquility of showering as Relius in this house. put strictures on his heart. waking. and he tumbles low. consume.man would help them. and he curls. and he feels the press of years upon years of guilt and shame smother his body. white basin. and trembles and waits for the crying to stop. receives him already at the end of his life. naked. reveals him as an evil man. into the large. however guilty or innocent. rupturing the calm of spanking rugs and flattened snow. certain that each gesture. and talking 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. knowing that he smiles as a gentle man would smile. fetal. stands naked in the shower now. though he lives now. in a small bathroom with pink tiles and soft blue walls.
. but will not turn toward the spectered image of himself. and pats his tears. and dresses in the Flaigs’ son’s clothes. He dries himself.He wraps the towel around his body. blurry in the steamy mirror.
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. reading the last few sentences in the pulsing light of the burning logs. The cover is used. It burns quickly. At the table he takes up one of the books he'd bought in the town bookstore. Five days have gone by since Relius arrived. then twice. looks at the flames. Yes he . float briefly with the smoke toward the open flue. Relius writes a letter and reads it once. and then drops the letter into fire. and then reads it again. adds a few words.TWO Buck sleeps under the table. the gilded letters faded to faint outlines on the false leather. barking in a high voice at an animal he might dream of. Letter to no one. and the thin ashes. curling and blackening. a man he might see. Letter to himself. He erases a few words in the beginning of the letter. He finishes reading. dusty. reads the first few words once more. some glowing. Lifting himself off the bench he walks to the fire with the letter in his hand.
listening to the second knock he thinks of how silly he was not to ask. that neither Kristina nor Matty would have been troubled or offended to tell him. not wanting to interfere at all with the visitors to their home. harsher. Relius whispers to the fire. son. he thinks. and Relius knows that their guest is a man. and he felt too embarrassed to ask Kristina. hoping to smooth the rough guilt that wrinkles his face. Men judge more bitterly than women. taking long. looking down at the drops of melted snow on his . Relius finds a priest. The muted. in silent. The third knock sounds impatient. The priest stops rubbing his leather-gloved hands together and meets Relius' eyes with a slight look of surprise in his raised brow. Now. men challenge themselves in other men and search strangers for holes. What will he ask me. come at them with more distrust. and draws a faint line under Mephisto's mockery of Faust's student.writes in the margin. “Hello. He sets the book among the others on the table and walks toward the door. louder than the previous two.” he says. not wanting to sound too curious or nervous about their company. He marks the page with his pencil and waits for the knock at the door. There. sudden discomfort. deliberate breaths. heavy thump of shoes stomping on the porch draws Relius from his book. He’d forgotten to ask Matty about tonight’s guest.
-“ “I’ve heard a lot about you. The priest leans forward and Relius turns toward the motion. accustomed to being a guest in people's homes. Why him.black shoes. “Tell me. “you must be the young man Matthias found in the berry grove. at ease. as he finally settles the heavy wool coat on the hanger and keeps it from slipping off the plastic shoulders to the floor. 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. “you've been here almost a month now. He belongs here. he’ll not want me here. let me take your coat.” he says. “Please. I'm Father William. why him. extending his hand. come in. I'm sorry. he asks himself. “ “Yes. Relius clumsily tries to fit the coat onto a hanger in the closet. yes. please. Of course. “Mind if I come in?” “Oh.” . Here. I .” Relius steps back from the door. walking through the door. The priest watches the coals glow in different shades of red. that right?” “Yeah. Father.” Relius watches Father William walk comfortably into the room. Relius looks for repeated patterns in the flames. Filled with an overwhelming awareness of his own presence. The priest settles familiarly onto the couch and waits for Relius to sit in the green chair to his left.” he says. They stare at one another and stare together at the fire.
” And he watches the priest to see if he hears his own words turned on him.” “Yes. he’ll not succumb. he’ll not say what this priest would have him say. telling Relius that he’d already had two cups . to make him question as though he’d not already questioned himself. and he’ll calm his temper with social habit. The priest stares at him silently. Is there more accusation behind that deliberate patience? Concerned with his own impatience Relius knows he should leave the room. “Yes.” the priest says slowly. “they are good people.”it would be a shame for someone to take advantage of them. But he’ll not offer himself to this doubt. if he hears his friendship and beliefs cast into the mold of manipulator and deceiver. the manipulative accusation to make him doubt himself.“Do you like it here?” “Do you mean here. their friend. The priest declines the offer. They're good people.” Relius agrees. with Matty and Kristina? Yes. It would be a shame for anyone to take advantage of their kindness. A thin layer of anger sweats into the pores of Relius’ face and between his skin and shirt. He offers the priest a cup of coffee. I like it. he’ll remember Matty and Kristina. and he’ll respect this man. their goodness.” Here is the judgment Relius anticipated.
He sees the green lights above the bar in the . He grips the steering wheel harder and presses his foot onto the accelerator. Luke drunkenly confident that deer won't cross in front of them. saying the same things. They race toward nothing. Craig lets out an excited cheer. and would change nothing if they did come to pass. and seeing the same people. the same bar. though wondering if the priest includes excessive faith among the human inclinations governed by his platitudes. That's the way of the Lord. knowing these vile fantasies always come to nothing. but simply stares at the length of road cut from darkness in the headlights. but that's not a place to go he thinks. and he scowls at them.” he hears Craig tell Marty. and Marty nervously echoes him. He can't imagine a place to go. “We're almost out of beer.today. He can only imagine a night of going to the same package store. He knows this road takes them by the bar. “Maybe I'll get some new pussy. that other cars won't hit them when he lets the truck slide into the other lane when speeding around curves. “Nothing in excess. son. Relieved. an uncomfortable sense that he hates the very life he wants to keep people like Relius from changing. and he knows he'll stop there. “Where are we going?” Craig says. He feels a tension in his thoughts.” Relius walks into the kitchen. nothing in excess.” Luke nods.
Marty. “How many beers we got left?” he says. we'll wait here.” They climb back into the truck’s cab and Craig throws the empty bottles out the window and onto the parking lot. Luke looks at the cars and thinks of their owners inside. and he lifts his foot from the gas pedal. Luke shakes his head and Marty tells Craig that he's staying with Luke. He steers onto the dirt lot behind the bar and stops. You want to stay.” “What about you.” he says. he wants to push Craig from the truck and punch Marty into thinking. Only the regulars leave their cars and trucks here. He wants to hit them. into embarrassing himself less. He drops the truck into neutral and lets the car glide down the slope into the parking lot. you comin or stayin?” Marty looks at Luke to see if he changes his mind.distance. and there are few other cars here tonight. “Hell I ain't goin in there by myself. “Why don't we go to Mercer? We can get cigarettes along the way. “about eight or nine. dejected. and not being called an idiot. “Ain't we goin inside?” “Craig. I'll just drink what we've got. Craig opens the cooler and takes a quick count. still thinking of the girls he imagined waiting for him.” “We ain’t goin in?” “I'm not. you stay. He slides open the window behind Marty and pushes him aside roughly to reach back and grab three more beers .” he says. why don't you go get us some cigarettes.
Craig hands one of the beers over Marty's head to Luke. “Fuck. A whitetail deer and her fragile slink stare into their passing. The road away from town shines black in their lights. that the water would stop flowing where he severed it with his tires. knowing that Luke doesn't like to be touched. Craig leans forward and lowers the volume of the radio.from the cooler. then sits down and stares at the road unwinding in front of them. . and the heavy bass pulsing in the truck holds them still in frightened uncertainty. He sees Marty's fingers twitch slowly. Marty leans forward and tries not to let himself be pushed against Luke. and there are only a few cars in the parking lot. and Luke looks at them before they vanish behind the truck. and pushes away Marty's hand when he reaches for the beer he set between his legs. and his lower lip hangs open and wet. languid even in his sleep. Marty's heavy head bounces with the bumps in the road.” he says. He looks for the rivulets in his mirror.” he says. “There's a market up here. and the lights of oncoming cars break in small crystals on the glass. Luke nods and looks peripherally at Marty beside him. The truck cuts through runs of water that flow from the hills to the river. The Convenient Store stands just outside of town. A few raindrops still wet the windshield. and wishes that they would not mend. but sees only the night they'd already passed through.
and he and Craig get out the car and stare at Marty from their open doors. Craig stumbles from the truck to the door.” Craig says with a drunken laugh.” and Luke hears his voice and turns to look at him. “And spics too. 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.” he yells. the young man says. “My friend will be right up with a case of beer. “On my way home.” she says. you just get off work.“There's niggers live by here.” he adds smiling. You think we'll get lucky?” Luke says nothing. The woman meets his eyes and smiles. and he tries to imitate the sober walk he sees in Luke. His feet crisscross in front of him in slow deliberate steps.” Craig says.” he tells him. and Luke shakes his head. “How you doing tonight. “This shit's warm. 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. “Just leave him alone. He wears a tired face and looks briefly at Luke and the woman behind the register. The chime above the door rings and another young man walks into the store. “Should we wake his lazy ass. .
“I don't want any problems. “You sell to niggers here. He watches him over his shoulder.” the woman says.” Luke hears him say. closing his fists at his sides.His lips narrow and he smirks at the young man. He throws his money on the counter and waits for his change. He leans toward the woman and threatens her to tell no one about them. 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. “Just leave it. and hisses “fucking nigger” at his back. not looking away. looking from left to right at the sides of the aisles but not back at the drunk boy with the beer. staring at him.” he sneers. “You just buy your beer and get out”. They walk out the door. and . 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. mister. The young man keeps walking. Craig joins Luke at the register and drops the case of beers down heavily on the counter. “Not yet. Craig's eyes narrow when the young man walks past him. “ Craig lifts the beer and taps his finger on the counter. “Now's not the time. “You got a problem.” Luke says.” Luke says.
and lowers the window. Marty wonders who him is. Threatening people. and he lets the glass door close. but Luke took the keys from the ignition. but the young man doesn't come out of the store. Luke pulls the lighter away from his cigarette.” the police officer says. The police officer walks to Luke's side of the truck and taps his flashlight on the window.Craig stops to look once more for the young man. we didn't threaten anyone. “Everything all right here.” The police officer asks where home is for them. That right?” “No sir. who smiles and waves to the police officer. officer. and he looks back and forth in unnecessary confusion.” He points to Craig. blocking Luke from pulling away from the building. Minutes pass. trying to turn on the radio. Marty is awake now.” “Got a call that you boys were making some trouble. “We gonna wait for him?” he asks Luke. “I'm getting him home now. and if Luke is all right to . Craig is laughing. They open the doors at the same time. A police car pulls into the parking lot and stops behind their truck. My friend here just had too much to drink and maybe said some things he shouldn't have. He doesn't see him. but neither man tells him. “Everything's fine.
” Luke tells him. and then pulls away from the building and out of the parking lot. “I don't want any trouble from you tonight. and they watch its lights disappear behind them. Craig begins to speak. I'll take you down myself. and nods his agreement when Luke tells him that Marty is slow.get them there himself. “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 . and he waits for the police officer to move his car. “Nigger lover. “Do you think he was followin us?” Craig says.” Luke shouts. so I want to see you pull out of here and head back home. concentrating on driving straight and not going too fast.” he says. “Just shut up. The police car follows them for a few miles toward their town. “Listen boys. After five miles the police car turns onto another road. “You're a fucking idiot. “ Craig turns and watches the police officer get into his car. and Luke does not say a word. frightening Marty and angering Craig. Now get out of my town. He shines a beam of light on Marty and asks what's wrong with him. but Luke cuts him down again. his fierce voice echoing in the truck. Got that? That’s a warning. If I get called out again tonight and find any one of you causing trouble.” he mutters and looks to Luke for approval.
“You all right. but he knows that Luke is stronger.” Luke says. “ Words boil in Craig's mind.into.” he asks. Marty ain’t but seventeen and he ain’t supposed to be drinking. wondering where Luke will go now. and does not say a word when Luke leaves Marty and him at the end of their street.” he tells the percolating water. Father . “Don't forget I'm coming by at nine tomorrow morning. then turns the truck around and disappears. worried that her twenty-year-old son had lost himself when he'd lost his faith in God. They begin the short walk up the street and to their houses when the truck stops hard beside them. He'd rid himself of God. her sorrowful effort to explain annulment to her children. “Priests. what Luke will do. relieved to be away from Luke. God damn idiot. that Luke has fought more. He does not speak. their holy bastardization. He draws into himself and stares at the light posts they pass along the road. certain that there was nothing to lose. Alone in the kitchen Relius fills the teapot and remembers his mother's tears. shaking his head. That priest. But he'd lost neither. Marty. certain that there was nothing to find. His mother took him to a priest. wondering if this one knows that he's long left their lies.
his own words of love. Furious at his failure to love Renee before her death. too false to trust in his own gestures. 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. cannot bear the burden of reality on claims of truth. I respect people for themselves. 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. not for whether or not they agree with me. that my perspectives are less limited than theirs. I’d never assume that I know more than others. he wrote to the priest. warned Relius of false love and immorality. he wrote in his letter to Father Espinoza. he wrote. 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. what now? . Angry now. moral hypocrite. No. I can’t hate people and judge them the way you do. to right and wrong.Espinoza. Furious at the years he'd lost trying to avoid the judgments of others. But what now. Relius searches his memory to know if he thought then as he believes now that cold morality cannot break the bounds of history. My morality doesn’t walk into a room with me. and he was silent when Father Espinoza wrapped his arms around his shoulders. But he never gave that letter to Father Espinoza.
Tiny bubbles of oil swirl where Relius dips the spoon. smiles sadly. Kristina taps Father William on the arm and asks him to pass Relius' bowl . Embarrassed in his solitude and his private rage. Small cuts of beef float among slices of carrots. reluctant to bring out his tears. digs his thumbs into his cheeks and tries to massage the fiery tears from his eyes. Father William says grace. His stillness stirs silent ire in the priest. wanting to hug him. and walks across the kitchen toward the stove. and stares at Relius with a frown. Soothing. Relius walks toward her and lifts the lid on the pot nearest him on the stove. Relius lifts his face from his hands and looks at her. Kristina opens the door and walks into the kitchen looking back over her shoulder saying.Relius hears voices in the other room. and chunks of potato. Delicious. She nods.” She stops. lets the door close. Laughter. making him wonder about Relius’ lack of faith. “I'll see what's keeping him. onion. celery. “You'd better wash up a bit before you go back out there. and does not trace the points of the cross on his body. offering his thanks and his faith over the food. “Do you mind if I taste?” Warm. Relius keeps his hands on his lap. he leans against the sink.” she says.
and then sets it on the plate in front of Relius. Relius nods slightly – feeling like a stranger at this table. his . his posture. It’s Pascal’s obsession with limits that Relius admires. not wanting to make his hosts uncomfortable. Relius does not answer the priest’s question. He holds the bowl while Kristina fills it. “I got them at Mr. They eat quietly until Father William looks at the pile of books where Relius had removed them from the table. They talk about Pascal and the Jansenists. But Father William cared only for the limits of philosophy.to her so she can serve the stew. “Are those yours?” he asks. “Pascal?” Relius nods.” The priest leans from the table and takes up the first book. and art in the world could never overcome the power of the Bible.” he says. philosophy.” The priest looks for religion in the young man’s face. You know that don't you? Do you ever read the Bible? It was very important to Pascal. “bon appétit. Silverstein's. He thinks of his faith. “You were raised Catholic?” he says suspiciously. “All the literature. Relius disagrees with Father William reluctantly at first. the limits of perspective that kept such a great man humble.
counting the few hikers on the trails . a soulful touch to calm him. white walls. His memory skips now. their intricate doors and enormous knobs looking antiquated and out of place amid the tall glass buildings and rushing footsteps. but he kept his hands at his sides and his patience revealed nothing more than bare. Relius stood beside the last pew. He walked the city and stood in front of imposing churches. and small wooden carvings of the death of the man hanging above the front of the room. and he walked to Saint Basil’s. Inside there were only elderly people. next to a hundred burning votive candles. for a voice to tell him something. gray men and women who did not work. stared at Haec Est Domus Dei. and wondered if it could be true. god. and a search for faith pricked at his mind. and one day. When Renee died he tried to find god. some who smelled of urine. “God’s just an echo.” he told Renee. others who stared with mournful fear out of their prayers and toward the empty altar. sighing together. as he wept through the city. waited for Him among the altar and the pews. and he read the Latin above the door. guided along a stream of images by the word god. Waited for something to appease his ghosts. And he almost prayed. They were at the Grand Canyon. and waited for a reason to go inside. Renee died and phantom thoughts replaced her.beliefs. breathing in the dust. by the empty word without a predicate. and waited to feel a real presence. he stopped in front of the church again.
That’s what they hear when they pray. they hear the echo of their screams when they go to church the next day. but the echo will come back to you from there no matter what. .against the hundreds of cars that passed them in the parking lot. Renee had told him about a Chinese artist who came to the canyon and changed his paintings forever.” he hears the priest say. “its beautiful. enormous emptiness. “He felt humbled by it. “That's God. People think that something is there. Just an echo. When they’re desperately sad and scream to god at night.” And Renee yelled out “hello!” and they heard her response from off the canyon walls. “. . disappointed with the moment. replacing Renee’s voice. Relius. another pedantic notion to set himself above others because his arrogance puts him closer to the specious source of the fantasy that guides his . been here seven years. “You can't see all the way to the bottom of the canyon. “ 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. “It's beautiful here.” she said. doesn’t it make you feel better to believe that this isn’t it? That we’re not alone? It’s just hope.” Her words fade and her gentle presence vanishes. like another prayer. and you can't see what's around that bend over there. so they believe it.” he told her then. And even if God is an echo. “Why can't you just be happy?” she sighed.
“The boy has to do what's right.” Meeting Relius' eyes. Matty. he says the young man's name. with the good food Kristina prepared and few words from Matty.” Relius says.” Father William tells Kristina and Matthias Flaig. and he leans toward Kristina as he receives his hat and coat. Shortly after the priest leaves Matty and Kristina prepare for the evening work in the barn. they tell Relius. thank you. and wonders at the worthiness of Relius. and says.life in the guise of an unfathomable mystery. “thank you. and waiting for the firewood gone to ash to mark the moment of farewells. discussing the town parish. Kristina. “Relius. and a girl supposed to have a baby soon and whose parents are trying to force the father to marry her. thinks of the goodness of the Flaigs. Setting the cup noisily onto its saucer he tries not to sound too sudden in saying its time for him to go. The evening passes quickly.” and steps out into the snow. Relius hears their footsteps sound ever fainter in the snow and . staring at the burning logs. The priest speaks often. Father William swirls the tiny bits of leaves in the final sip he does not drink. Near the end of the evening they sip from their cups in silence. “It's a nice place to stay. ready to walk home as he walks everywhere.
They both think of the glasses on the shelf. Relius examines the room in calm frustration. 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.gravel and steps inside to clear the cups and saucers from the table and wash the dishes. if she noticed his sloppy attempt. Worse yet. Same problem. but even stacked neatly they still look like foreign hands had put them there. Kristina walks toward Relius from the kitchen as he steps out of the bathroom and thanks him for doing the dishes. He tells her his arms are fine.” he smiles. Relius forces the last two glasses onto the shelf and wanders through the quiet house briefly before deciding to go to bed. the spoons a complete disarray of curves set over deep stillness. Relius wondering how she fits them in. . He closes the drawer and puts the cups and glasses away. He dries the silverware and sets the pieces in the drawer. “He’s a funny boy” she told Matty when he almost broke a glass trying to open the over-stuffed cupboard. “Damn it. His knives and forks look cluttered atop Kristina’s. just a little sore from the carpet smacking. 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. Kristina amused to think that Relius didn’t see her grab three extra glasses from the china cabinet in the dining room. unsure of how to become part of the harmony he senses.
though Relius knows he'd set the clock to wake him at four. a blackness he inhales. He sits up in bed. having brightened and disappeared in the night. A thick expanse of clouds covers the morning endlessly. As on other mornings. and the small white clock explodes into a buzz of unwinding tension. Relius steps slowly toward the window . other moments of stillness when he waits in silence to sleep or rise. insulating the earth. The green minute bars no longer glow. Quite again. he looks into the room. and is happy that he agreed to join them in the early morning. and already feels within himself. the light dormant in the bulb. Moonlight does not shine on the windowsill nor glow in the wavy. pulls again at the comforter. It vibrates the small table beside the bed. and he pulls the heavy comforter over his arms to keep warm for just a few minutes more. and he feels those vibrations when he settles the clock on his chest to search for the off button with his tired fingers. just the muffled ticking under the sheets.He goes to bed thinking that he likes the warm. dusty smell they bring home from the barn. The lamp still off. and feels the press of solitude on his body. A quiet click. other nights. enshadowing the landscape in a somberness that Relius stares into. thick glass at the bottoms of the windows. emptied by darkness.
He touches the darkness where it cools the window and leans toward the small steam circles his breath leaves on the glass. and his heart to pause less between each sudden constriction. and his pupils shrink slightly to seek the phantom Renee illuminated in his recollection. Too tired to settle the melancholy that lingers from confusing this view. and the future he wished for. confusing the constellation of this time and this place with the memories he holds of Renee. A shuddering moment he's relieved and remorseful to be shaken from by three quick knocks at the door. as though in a dream his eyes focus on images of Renee. An earth of distinctions forced into seamless singularity by the silent encroachment of blackness into the night. still infantile. “Damn.through the room he remembers but does not see. feeding from his breaths and forcing his chest to rise and fall and rise and fall more quickly. Alone. Alone too early. Nothing to look at. Nothing to fix his thoughts on. fingers spread wide. in the fluids and corporeal textures that cradle the sad memories he imagines pulsing in his chest. trying to contain the sadness. however intense or dull. . He presses his hand against his chest. this night. his emotions grip at the longing always painfully present. this silence. in his heart. this self he stands in now. invisible to him in this night. wishes for too late.” he breathes to the blindness of his open eyes.
but he looks down at himself now. pointing to the other with his chin. 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. Relius laughs a no thank you to Matty's offer to let him drive the tractor. large and small. Why didn't the light get his attention before? He opens the door and smiles and nods knowingly to Matty. just noticing the light coming in from under the door. and he settles instead onto the rounded metal over the large rear wheel to Matty's right. its length covered with a blue tarp weighed down on the sides and on top with a random collection of rocks. Matty maneuvers the tractor perfectly over the worn path from the garage to the field. as he pulls one wide door open. vibrate the same under your hands. Matty begins pulling the rocks from the bottom of the end of the tarp and .” Matty says. “We have to get the beet first. He brings the trailer to a stop at the end of a pile of something thirty feet long and eight feet wide. They don't go into the barn but the garage beside it. feet and seat. The tractors in Peru smell the same.Relius had hoped he'd be washed and dressed and ready to work before Matty knocked. trying to look awake and have this good man believe that he really will be ready in a minute.
Matty believing that Relius might need this time to meditate on the morning and to reconsider their evening with Father William. had already begun to feed. They pull the tarp back some more. “These are the beet. the silty water spilling over their hands. a mouse maybe. Matty smiles. 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.” Relius hears. Once they’ve cleared enough rocks. He drives the tongs of his fork into the pile and lifts three brown beet into the trailer. Soothed by . Relius guided by Matty's deliberate patience. Relius assuming that Matty was accustomed to the silence of filling the trailer alone.Relius echoes his actions. and thin slices of ice crack as the beet roll to the ground. Neither man wants to rupture this quiet hour.” Matty says to Relius' eyes. Matty nods to Relius. “You'll get the hang of it. his method. They'd not talked as they worked. cooling them when they lift the edges of the tarp from the ground. Both men fork a few last beet into the trailer then set their forks on top of the pile they'd collected. They work together at an even pace. Sugar beet. 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. and they pull the tarp back over the pile. Matty hands Relius one of the small pitchforks he'd pulled from the bed of the trailer. the orange yellow inside visible where a small animal.
and finally stops carefully under the ladder leading up to the various doors at different levels of the silo.” Matty tells him. supporting large loads on the tines and tossing them effortlessly and without looking through the opening in the silo.the silence they hear. tosses the pitchforks in and hears them land just under the opening before he crawls in and stands next to Matty. then back onto the road. the silence of a sun still rising. the silence of occasional bird song.” 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. “I'll let you know when we're done. Relius follows Matty into the third small portal of the silo.” . They pull themselves back onto the tractor and Matty maneuvers the trailer along a large brown circle in the grassy field. “You might want to cover your face with that kerchief there. “I think I'll be all right. They climb up. Relius watches Matty at work with the smaller fork. Matty asking Relius to carry two small pitchforks.” “Suit yourself. around the barn. I figure about a foot down. “How much do we need?” Relius asks.
“Seeing him just brought back a lot of memories. You'll get used to him. lifting a load slowly. whether or not it will be difficult to climb down the ladder.They begin work quietly together. Relius trying to imitate Matty's method. Relius listens to the corn meal strike the wall of the silo and sweep down into the wagon. and tossing it down to the unseen trailer. “I didn't dislike him. But he's a good man.” Matty nods.” he says after a long silent breath. A dark ring above the meal on the silo wall. but without betraying the goodness of this man. maybe a foot wide. “So tell me. and finding himself breathing in rhythm with the gentle man. and turns to see Matty laughing quietly. carefully. Relius . “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. “he can be a bit too much sometimes. Relius hears one of his efforts splash noisily against the silo wall missing the portal. marks the progress they've made. fading into a silence that Relius feels compelled to fill.” he continues. He wonders how high the pile might be. “That's okay.” Matty says when he stops laughing. Means well.” Matty's words linger in the silo.
wicked faith he called it. demand attention and quiet. “Yes. holds the end of the fork with the right. waiting for words to come. Waiting. He tells Matty that he’d rather talk about it another day. These thoughts. my mother mostly. sometime when things seem clearer in his head. My mother. “Your mother?” Relius stops.” Relius tells Matty of different churches in different suburbs. Relius says. as if the preachers had agreed to share the same horrid artificiality of their suits and sermons. He sets his fork in the meal and stands with one hand wrapped around the other on the end of the long handle. Matty watches the young man think and absorb himself into considerations of what to say and how much to let this silence linger. waiting to know if there is anything he'd want to talk about.” he says. Nothing helped his mother. these conversations with their possible revelations. “I . “Yes. “it is about my family.” and he stares at the shapes in the grain and listens to Matty’s breathing. all of them offering his mother the same faith.follows the ring with his eyes. He lets his left hand hang at his side. and being catholic did not keep his mother from finding easy offers of hope behind every pudgy-faced preacher.
being helped to the ground by the preacher’s young assistants. approval. the elderly men and women succumbed to heaviness of their prayers – collapsing around him. “What do you pray for. he didn’t know what it meant to make a private prayer out loud. All around him. but he does not tell Matty about feeling . And his mother wept. my son?” the preacher said.” Relius looks to Matty's eyes for interest.hated it. in front of strangers. bring him back. In the party room of an apartment building we drove by all the time.” Relius says. 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. Relius was a child when his mother took him to that charlatan. “Bring this boys father back home. And the preacher pulled at the backs of his ears. He didn’t understand what it meant for the preacher to press his hands into the backs of his ears. Lord.” And Relius felt his knees buckle and his legs begin to tremble. He continues. And Relius wept. and looked up at the ugly ceiling and repeating Relius’s prayers to God. “seeing my mother so desperate for hope and having so many people be so willing to lie to her about it. “She took me to an evangelist once. and Relius recognizes compassion in them. All he asked for was that his father return. Matty does not look down when Relius' eyes come even with his.” It’s a bitter memory. in front of old people.
It saddens Matty to hear the pain in Relius’s memory. “It was Rip Van Winkle. the priest still deserves a chance for the good he’s done in this small community. Relius looks down at Matty through the portal and watches him kick softly at the meal piled into the shaft surrounding the ladder. the guy who slept twenty years in one night.” . “I think we're done here for now.” Matty says. Washington Irving wrote it. surprised at the pile of meal they'd tossed from the silo. 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. climbing out of the portal and down the ladder.” he says.frightened. and he tries to show compassion while reminding Relius that Father William isn’t like the preacher in his memory.” Matty says. He jumps from the wagon and helps Matty sweep up any meal that fell from the wagon onto the ground. “What?” “Rip Van Winkle. “I hate that memory. Once Matty is off the ladder Relius follows.
moves it forward a few feet and lets the trailer finish emptying its load. and Matty backs the trailer in toward it. then mounts the tractor once more. reminded him of a time in his life when he had read that story. They smile together. loud enough for Relius to hear. all three. knowing that nothing here is wasted. that's right. When they open the door to the barn they see Kristina already spreading new straw behind and under the cows. the dust or the sun. attach the suctions of the milking pumps. and learns from her how to feed the cows. and Relius follows Kristina now. He stops the tractor. Relius sweeps carefully. though Matty motions to Relius to take up the broom and sweep out all the remaining kernels and dust.“Oh yeah. The beet and meal begin to move off the trailer and Matty watches the pile collect on the floor of the barn. A large pile of hay runs down the center of the barn. wondering if Matty asked Kristina or if something in the morning. and even how to mix the fresh milk with warm water for the delicate. 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. anxious . “He's doing pretty well.” Relius smiles. The rungs in the trailer clear away most of the meal.” Kristina tells Matty. and presses a button at the back of the trailer.
laughs at the smallest calf that jumps again and again into its fresh pile of straw. He smiles. muscular tongues reach out to grasp at another delicious beet. the occasional moo. He walks home with them that afternoon and catches faint hints of the warm. . the large eyes that follow him while the long.stomachs of the three young bulls in the back of the barn. dusty smell of the barn on his clothes and in his nose. Relius smiles at himself. and the young man finds soothing comfort in the melodies of the barn.
but Relius knew that her maternal voice wanted him to rest and regain his strength.THREE An exhausting week of work comes to an end. and made a point of telling him not to set his clock for too early an hour. “Relius. I'm up. you up?” Kristina asks from behind the closed door. He knows that Matty and Kristina don’t work as hard on Sundays. reluctant. since they wouldn’t let him come to the barn even if he did wake up. but Kristina had insisted that he sleep in this morning. and he wants to join them in the morning for the early hours of minimal work demanded by the farm. though concerned that maybe Matty hurt his shoulder again in the barn. Relius knows from the color of the day that it is still early when he wakes.” Relius answers. and he hopes the footsteps he hears in the hallway do not stop at his door. and Relius looks forward to Sunday as a day of rest. come in. “Everything all right?” . She was kidding. “Yes.
” she says. then agrees to go with them. He likes to meet them at church so he doesn’t get put to work on a Sunday.“Yes. standing still. here she was. wavering in the breeze. Matty tells Relius that their son might be at church this morning. touching. but believing as he did that Father William was a good man. morning laugh. probably a half hour. Walking quietly along the timber trail made while collecting the lumber for the building of the church. As usual. Relius pauses. So. “Will you join us?” she says. stretching. Relius watches a solitary leaf shake at the end of a branch. 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. and the trees reach up along the path. the other leaves seeming to frame it with their . waking him for church. The sun shines. Relius prepares to join them where they wait for him in the living room. they fast until after mass on Sundays. and still tired and hungry. he tells him through a small. promising to be ready once Matty is finished in the barn. he asked Kristina to wake Relius for church. everything's fine. studies the outline of Kristina's body in the long shadow cast on the floor. Kristina does not tell Relius that Matty did not know what to make of the odd interest Father William had taken in him.
” though not to Relius. “John must already be inside. No one stands outside the church. They smile at him. the pews stained a dark brown. Relius pauses on the stairs and lets an elderly couple pass him. As they come over the top of the hill Relius sees the whiteness of the church through the trees.stillness. The church is small and simple. The trail passes between a few homes. welcome him as a stranger. and the woman leans toward Kristina and whispers something in her ear. and Matty already walks ahead of them. Kristina turns and looks at Relius and smiles. The walls are white. Matty follows Relius' eyes toward the leaf and smiles. and finds a peace he never saw in the pained faces of the crucified Christs in Peru. They go on. The gold on the altar seems foreign to this humility. along fields of corn and alfalfa. Kristina says. then turns again toward the door and they go inside. The church has enough windows to . and Relius looks up at the face of their Jesus. no one speaking. and over two small streams before they walk through the woods again. and everyone they see walks quietly and patiently through the large green doors. Kristina occasionally turning around to see if someone might come along behind them in the path. shaded and cooled by the old growth conifers that stand here in the sanctuary of stony hills. trying not to rest her leg too obviously.
thieves and killers. The stone is cold. His body itches with a nervous sweat. “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. 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. “I know. John is Matty's height. Matty showing the same reserve with Johnathan that Relius had seen with Kristina.complete the Stations of the Cross. child abductors.” . and he calms himself to speak. will he try to match my face to the faces he might have seen on television or in a newspaper. They lift their hands to one another. though thin like Relius. faces of delinquent fathers. The Flaigs see their son already waiting for them by the door on the western side of the church. The young man extends his right hand to Relius. In his hair and eyes he recalls his mother. and Relius follows the Flaigs toward their son.” he says. and each one lets in a different pattern of light. “My name is Relius. plastic letters. Will he be suspicious of me.” John says. do not wave really. The family hugs quietly. Relius runs his fingers along the rim of the stone bowl holding the holy water but does not wet them. in his lips his father. white. “my mother told me about you in a letter.
how long they've been here. and what they mean to this town. Relius sat as he watched John join one of the solemn files down the center of the church. others sad. John encouraged Relius to walk down with him to receive the Eucharist. The heavy stares of the old. Beyond his closed . Some faces looked serene.The hollow notes of the organ interrupt the conversation. Neither young man listens to the prayers or the sermon. and too many times they forgot to kneel when others knelt. already distracted. Relius watched the rows of people empty to form two lines in front of the altar. already praying. some faces showed no emotion as they chewed the body of their savior and a few girls smiled at boys who knelt. or stand when others stood. offering brief accounts of where they came from. John says leads Relius toward the stairs to the balcony where they sit apart from Matty and Kristina. his fingers braided in prayer. already meditating. The blind presence of judgment. and he kneels beside John when he returns from communion. the eager questions of the young. like ashen fingertips pointing at him and pressing into his soul. Eyes he cannot imagine. but Relius knew the priest would hesitate to set the wafer in his palm or on his tongue. John pointing to people and things. Relius and John whisper through the service. He leans toward his hands. and pinches the bridge between his eyes with his thumbs.
or daydreams. and slowly lift themselves from the padded wood where they knelt.eyes he senses the enormity of the church. it's time to go. to love and to serve the lord. Spilled from the privacy of his conscience. he hears voices whispering about him to their god. nor pray. condemning him. this church. John listens to the service now. though he hears words he'd heard before. Young parents watch . an animal of enduring fantasy. his imagination tinkers with this building. prayers. and Relius does not move until John nudges him softly with his elbow and looks at his coat. the sky shares no colors with the clouds. or a familiar shape of a toy. and they do not offer closure and farewell. Cradled in the hold of guilt. nor does he watch in masquerade through the curious eyes of boys or girls. Outside. saying with his eyes. and they see children search the different folds of gray for outlines of an ancient president's beard. Relius does not sing. and quietly sit and listen. singling him out. condemning him. these people. making Relius at once enormous and miniscule among them. pick up your coat. that his fiercest judge does not stare from the wrinkled face of an exhausted man or woman. the final prayers and songs. and they close their thoughts. the sole voice in this silent house. and Relius wonders how much it means to him to consume the body of Christ. Father William speaks. he forgets that he breaths for the inquisitors he dreads.
follow their glances to the sky and look for God there. “Too much in him to be undone so fast. grasping fast. “Still cloudy. “ “So what did you think of our church?” Kristina says to Relius as he walks . The cobbler and the carpenter. “Do you think Relius enjoyed it. pressing a thumb softly into this brother’s arm as he always does before they reach the final step.their children.” Matty says. A brother without eyes beside a brother without ears. silent among the animal outlines their children see in the clouds. and they guide one another clumsily through a familiar world become loudly black and silently unknown. even in the lonely world they experience for one another. but still two. Richard's head shakes constantly when he strains to understand the words he watches form on someone’s lips.” Frederick mumbles to Richard.” Kristina asks her husband as the young men walk toward them. Frederick grasping tightly at his brother’s arm. hoping somehow to see through his brother's eyes. Half a man and half a man. and Frederick pinches harder into his brother's arm. never one. and Frederick hears. The old brothers leave the church. in shape or shadow. Richard sees. and guides him slowly down the stairs. “Doubt it.” “You don’t think it helped him to be around people with hope?” “Don’t know if that’s what he’s looking for.
closer to them. “He's wondering about the young man with you. not plain.” Relius says mildly.” Matty begins to say. but his words are quieted by the languorous approach of Frederick and his brother. The brothers wear brown suits. but his words endure as atavisms. seized and deformed by time. the hands of a man who worked an entire life to harden them and . and no one besides his brother understands. Has it always been that way?” “No. a new white to Relius. hands so similar to his grandfather's. “Did you find it very plain?” “No. first to Richard then to Frederick. Their shirts are white. blue white.” Frederick says. deprived of melody by vicious hemorrhage. 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. Richard struggles to greet them and mold his thoughts into conversation. Relius glances at the spots on their hands. Kristina introduces him and Relius extends his hand.” “No thorns?” John says. “One thing I noticed though was that your Jesus looks a lot happier than ours. A warm. embarrassed and hurried to interpret his brother's noises as actual words. tattered relics. thinking of the thin layer of gold covering the altar of a random church among his memories of Peru. “Yeah. There wasn’t any blood dripping down his forehead either.
what face Frederick's fingers sculpt in negative. Frederick asks the Flaigs what they think . a common assumption that his blindness requires silence for him to see. too. when he was Relius' age. Instead of asking about Relius. No one speaks while Frederick reaches out to touch Relius' face. the misshapen brown felt hats. Relius wonders at the familiarity of their small. and then is silent as the pads of the fragile man's fingers touch lightly at his closed eyes and lips.protect them from the hammer and nails of his duty to the citizens of this small town. the white hairs growing thin and awkwardly from their ears. 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. and Kristina wonders. caramel colored eyes. Standing silently as the Flaigs ask Frederick about his son in Pittsburgh. Frederick's fingers rub against the roughness of Relius' face. as Relius does. and Relius says he probably needs to shave again. and steps away from Relius without commenting on the person he might have discovered standing there in his blindness. His brother brings his searching hand to the young man. Relius smiles shyly and looks down as he hears the Flaigs describe him to Frederick. turns his empty eyes toward the space between Relius and Matty and says his hair used to be as black as a raven’s. Frederick does not say a word. Frederick nods.
He asks if he heard right. Relius hears wrinkles and labor in Frederick’s voice. telling her she was more like them than she’d admit. the implications. They talk about the sadness of the parents. he was like her. the times when things were different. “I hear Nick is the father. They talk about the father of the baby. if not better. and how she might have changed.” Frederick says. 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. and John is surprised to hear that Nick could be the father of Rebecca Daugherty's child. teasing her. and John thinks of his friends whose fathers' absences would certainly have made life more bearable for them. John and Relius listen quietly to the conversation. and John thinks of how much they were like her. they called her. A wannabe. that she's pregnant. and how he has changed. He stares over the church and imagines a Rebecca he might describe to Relius. Relius thinks of his own father's presence with regret. He cannot fathom the possibility. His immaturity. . mocking her zealous parents. when girls wouldn't run around like they do today. though eye one another in common disagreement when talk turns to the need for fathers to be home with the children. His responsibility.of the Daugherty girl over in the valley. He remembers Nick with the boys ridiculing Rebecca. of motherhood. and not married.
but he imagines they talk about the same things the other men talk about . and he watches the children play and his eyes shift vacantly across the space between himself and the people beside him. . If we had a child things would be different Relius believes. When Renee died I wouldn't have been left so alone. And as he listens to everyone’s words dwindle into the silence of goodbye. I wouldn't be here now. their arms crossed. Before the brothers turn and begin their patient walk toward their home. Three young men. conversations he does not hear. Moments pass. staring at the crowd. and wishes the doctor had been wrong. before they were married. He thinks instead of having a child. and though every pregnancy test told them there was no child. She was two months late once.Relius does not know Rebecca and has never met her parents or Nick. Relius withdraws into his losses and regrets and stands in her absence rather than the presence of the Flaigs and these two withering men. unsure of their future together or apart. I would never have killed that boy. stand away from everyone. still in college. they both believed she could be pregnant. Relius can’t hear them. He thinks of that child now. that she hadn’t missed here period just because she’d been prescribed the wrong type of pill.the weekend and the football games that afternoon. They dreaded the possibility then. of the child he wishes he had with Renee. maybe his age.
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. that an English mass would lead to perdition. the old priest. heard how conservative they are. the children. Matty and Kristina start along the path toward home with John and Relius following at a distance. He tells Relius the story of Theodore Daugherty as a young man. The brothers walk slowly away. at a pace that could hardly bring them closer to anything but their final hours. that English could never hold the mystery of God with the efficiency and beauty of Latin. about his efforts to convince everyone. smiling to her smile. He describes Theodore . and whispers something everyone assumes is god bless you.Richard pats each member of the Flaig family on the arm. Looking up from the twisted. knotted roots that lay across the earth of his next step along the fire trail. John asks Relius is he's already met the Daughertys. The priest sees Relius standing beside Kristina and nods to her. dragging their feet through small steps like penitents on constant pilgrimage. 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. laughing and shaking hands with the men and women who come to him with thanks or need. the adults. leans briefly on Relius' shoulder.
“Daugherty was right.” Relius asks. “Do you think he ever really read any Dante. God and women. frail footbridge over the second stream and listens to the water and points out a good swimming hole to Relius. That’s how he thinks. and stands quietly amused and surprised when John tells him about studying Dante in college and reading what he had written about Latin. I’m sure if Daugherty had read Dante he would have mentioned something about that too. Something like that. even though she talks first in the Bible?” “Yeah. or something like that.” John says. the knowledge of his mind would follow. You know. and he sighs at his wavy reflection in the water.” John stops in the middle of the quaint. their . and when a teacher asked him if he ever read any Dante. women being unworthy of the language of God. he said that if a man believed in his heart.” he tells Relius.” “Didn’t Dante believe Eve couldn’t have said anything before Adam. “Rebecca's dad is pretty critical of other people. “but I what I don’t understand is when he ever could have taken the time to read anything about Dante.Daugherty coming to his high school and lecturing to the students about how someone named Dante believed Latin was the real language of God. John waves to his parents when they turn to say that they'll see him at home. much less by him.
silent walk together having let him recall more details about Mr.” Relius smiles. “He once told me I wasn't going to amount to anything. I knew a kid once who used to jerk off underneath his robe. altar boy.” “You were an altar boy?” “Yup. He told my parents they’d made a mistake by not forcing me to be an altar boy. “but every time he was up . John laughs uneasily. . “I was an altar boy too when I was a kid. I don’t think you missed out on anything. Daugherty.” John says.” “What?” “Nothing.” Relius says.” Relius wonders if he’d said too much.” “. But I didn’t get what you were supposed to get from it. I liked it. not wanting to join too willingly in the perverted boy’s disrespect.” “You didn’t like it?” “No.” “Like what?” “I learned that it was a sham. and offended John. I just said altar boy. Till I was fourteen. . The priests were mostly liars and the altar boys were probably the worst kids in the church. “He didn’t think anyone knew.
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. the suburbs. his smile and small stares. And he studies John’s face. 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. “So why did Daugherty say that to you. Daugherty told John he’d not amount to much. to see if John thinks he was the overly aroused altar boy. But John does not think of ecumenical onanism. Just because you wouldn’t be an . I was totally shocked when I realized what he was doing the first time.there you’d suddenly see him hunch over a little and get really tense. “No. he thinks of other misspent passions. and his eyes would just stare straight ahead until it was over.” They walk together quietly again and in the silence Relius remembers that he’d not heard why Mr. his own.” Relius asks.” “Did anyone else notice? Like a priest? “Are you kidding. “Say what?” “That you wouldn’t amount to anything.
That’s Rebecca. She used to flirt with everyone and acted like she knew more about what people needed then they did. But I’m not so sure anymore. They walk now. breeze. She always had to feel like she was in . that’s what I used to think. caressing soundscape of water. not wanting to interrupt the solemn. and looking at the wooden bolts that hold the rails together where they haven't yet been replaced with new. bluebird and trees. John explains that Rebecca wasn't like her parents so much in what they thought. Just like her father. I didn’t know about Rebecca either.” Relius walks back and forth on the small bridge testing the cracked planks with his weight. Rebecca did everything to an extreme. I still haven’t amounted to much so he might be right about me after all. I think part of it was just his way of making sure I knew I wasn’t good enough for Rebecca.” “So what do you think now?” “Do you mean do I think that he was wrong about Rebecca and me? I don’t know.altar boy?” “You know.” “The girl who’s pregnant?” “Yeah. 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. steel ones. quietly.
John admired Rebecca as much as he was frustrated by her. He believed she pretended to be strong so that her friends wouldn't realize how much she actually listened to her parents. but to amplify a moment as he utters it anew. without words. a person to a lifetime and that lifetime to living. and breathing out more heavily. “I guess we were all kind of messed up at times. Changing his tone.control. the feel of the air remind him of his obligation not to simplify the past in recollection. John adds. growing up here and knowing about other worlds mostly through magazines or books or people who . the smell of the wet soil beneath his feet. and at least once accused her of putting on a face to hide the fears that consumed her privately. She asserts opinions. “If she's with Nick she must have changed. Rebecca is more like the girls John knows now in the city. He doubted her sincerity. he senses that a precious memory should contain in its awakening the invisible fibers of being that connect a moment to a moment. without sense.” John says. But he doesn't know what she might be like now. nor how to say it. and even the last time they saw each other they didn't talk. the sound of his steps. taste or sensation a frozen vignette of the past. John stops himself from saying more. The prick in his conscience reminds him. not like the girls he knew in town. Yet unsure why. though he's unsure what he means by change. It's been over a year since he's seen her. that the singularity of a memory should not render that remembered laugh. refuses assumptions.
” Relius says. he ran into her in town and was surprised how attractive she was. women. But he doesn't believe he's above her. And the fictions hold. that there is greater peace in these woods than among the company of men. and he runs his fingers through the Queen Anne's Lace at the end of the trail. not because they have to. though that four years ago. “to do things for no better reason than to spite her parents. It was hard to know how much of the fiction we saw from the outside was actually fiction. he sometimes just gets frustrated with what he calls Rebecca's simplicity. He says they didn't talk much even then because Rebecca thinks he thinks he's too good for her.” he tells Relius' critical stare.” Fictions abound in Relius' memories as well. when he was home from college.moved here from the city every once in a while. that tell them birds fly to offer weary souls sights of freedom and beauty. John tells Relius he never had a real conversation with Rebecca. “Fiction. that Renee could have lived if he loved her more truly. Above her. “What bothered me was how hard she tried.” . Just as they reach the house Relius asks John how long it's been since he had a real conversation with Rebecca. fictions that convinced him. convince him. fictions that hold him accountable for failing the unreasonable dreams of a father. fabrications of mind and desire. and there are fictions they walk through now.
hoping to silence Relius’ poor joke. and he does not hear John and Kristina in the kitchen. “Maybe she just wasn't my type. He does not regret his words. but that John failed to find humor in them. so she could go from perfect lover to righteous mother.” Relius says. right?” Relius laughs at the image in his mind of a girl making love wearing a nun's habit. But John does not laugh. a shared commitment between a father and his son about places they’d been and places they’ve yet to be. and reads the note a father had written to his son when giving him this book on his birthday. Next summer we’ll go to Alaska.“I get it. John wondering if he overreacted.” he says sharply. “you wanted a bad girl with a conscience. 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. A private history in those words. does not hear . Embarrassed at offending John so quickly into their friendship. Next summer we’ll go to Alaska. and he resents Relius' sudden judgment. Relius forces a nervous smile to his lips. 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. Relius wondering if it would be wiser to let John begin their next conversation. in the city? These questions fill Relius’ thoughts.
Kristina sees that the two young men do not say more than hello to one another. They smile. Grown to like that whistle myself. wakes Relius from his sleep. but Relius does not look up at him as he expects. happily describing their behavior toward one another as that of brothers. “No.” Matty asks the young man. maybe talk. and she breaks their silence.” . and he follows the hollow flutesong into the living room where Matty stands at a window and watches the trees glow silverblack and shudder.” “Yeah. Kind of like the wind's song. It was the chimney I guess. and spend dinner enjoying the pleasant stories of John as a child. “The rain wake you too.John say that he'll gladly sleep in the guestroom so Relius won't feel out of place. and Relius hears the pellets of water strike the window and the roof. accept a new mood for the evening. 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. The flue doesn't close tight as it used to. Thought for a minute that someone was playing a flute in the living room. without melody. 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. When John steps out of the kitchen he wants to sit beside Relius and read. random. A whistle. Rusted some over the years.
distracted by the terrible beauty of the storm. looking from Matty toward the storm then to Matty again. their bases wider. Gusts of wind drive the rain harder into the window. Relius listens to a different silence in the room. and as soon as Matty steps into the dark corridor and his soft footsteps fade behind a quietly opened then closed door. “Drink some tea.” Relius watches Matty walk across the room toward the shadows of the hallway and turns toward the window again and parts the curtain. “No. “Don't stay out here too long. Outside the lightening seems to lift the trees in the air. He hears Matty's footsteps stop behind him.” Matty tells him. he says. “but if this wind keeps up we'll probably have to go out by the apple grove tomorrow.“Storms pretty bad.” Relius nods. I'll wake you when we go.” he says mildly.” Matty lets the curtain fall and rests his hand paternally on Relius's shoulder. “always helps me sleep. We'll have to clear them out so it doesn't spread. and he looks over his shoulder at him. and looks again for the strikes of lightening in the dark. isn't it. . making their limbs larger.” Relius says. Some diseased trees out there that won't hold up in this storm. and hears a new melody of fluesong and speckled rain. you'll need to be rested to work the trees. “You worried?” Matty breathes the cool air from the window.
hears the ends of the book rub against the tabletop. then lifts it and sets it back where John had left it. and another strike of lightening. Relius thinks. pressing it with sudden shock and childlike fear. In the quiet of the receding storm. the distant rumbles of thunder.and the thunder sounds an angry roar through the woods and into the house. He remembers Matty's suggestion of tea. no longer sounding a tempest around the house. and tries to decipher the script written with a ruler at the bottoms of the illustrations. He opens it. The storm is quiet now. He steps away from the window and walks to the couch. his skin. He rests for just a few minutes with his eyes staring at the ceiling. then sleeps. He balances the book on a glass coaster on the table and spins it. a few notes reminding him of The Swan of Tuonela. It's closer now. . Relius opens his hand against his chest and feels his heart beat through his ribs. wonders why John would have an interest Wright Cyclone Engines. On the coffee table he finds a book John must have been reading after he went to bed. hastening it. and unfolds a few of the old engine diagrams. the whistle of the flue sounds louder. and in the small puddles he saw illuminated in the lightening flashes outside. and a peal of thunder shocks the rhythm of Relius' heart. He watches it slow. a gift from Renee. but prefers instead to return to his room and fall asleep listening to the softer percussions of rain on the windows. his shirt. the roof.
and the trailer slows and they hear Matty talking to them. Both young men ride quietly. trying to shift their weight away from the rattling in their backsides. The trailer stops in the outer swing of a curve and Matty turns toward them. John the axe. John and Relius ride in the empty trailer as Matty steers the tractor toward the grove of fallen trees. Relius thinks. and covers his mouth and yawns smally toward the back of the trailer. adjusting themselves now and then in the empty trailer. broken trunks and upturned roots trace . Wetwood’s got to them. Relius holds the yellow chainsaw. this time to tell Relius to be careful with the chainsaw between his legs. laughing at the soreness he knows they feel from sitting in the trailer. so we have to get them out of there before the disease spreads to the roots. Johnathan looks up at Relius and opens his mouth in a wide yawn. “You'll be up soon enough.” he says.” he says to Relius. John opens his mouth again. and Relius wipes his hand across the dew moistening the sides of the trailer. ” Not possible.A cold morning mist hovers over the wet earth outside. This morning smells wetter than others. Most of the ones that fell are diseased. You see those apple trees over there. Relius feels himself begin to yawn in his ears. “You boys' butts okay. “There used to be about twelve more maple standing there. and the wedge and hammer rattle toward the back of the trailer.
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. Looking meditative. he does not say a word and walks along . He lifts the chainsaw from the trailer and nods to John and Relius to collect the axe and the spike and follow him. and the trailer slowly completes its path around the curve and they follow the road toward the apple trees. The gloves feel cold around his fingers. Relius does not stop staring at the fallen trees. Still sore. especially when two of the men look like visitors in this landscape. They wait for Matty to back the trailer up to the edge of the grove and they pull their gloves from their jackets. 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. Matty jumps from the tractor and stands at a distance from the young men.jagged shapes along the grove's horizon. and wonders just how much Matty thinks three men can handle. and Relius wears gloves borrowed from Matty. John wears gloves he proudly told Relius have lasted him more than a year. and the work to be done there seems endless. He stares at the trees and squeezes the muscles in his upper arm with his right hand. he massages the muscles. 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.
the fallen tree cutting away the branches that might get in the way when he cuts the trunk. When Relius takes the axe John watches him and offers a few hints about how to chop with less effort. “Be sure to get all the cuts with slime on them. at how many times Relius must bring down the axe for a crack to begin to split the log. He presses his foot against each log and rolls it away from the former uniformity of the tree toward John and Relius. tying the branches tightly with . at the chips Relius cuts from the edge of the stump with each missaimed pass of the axe. John stands with him until he sees Relius bring the axe down more confidently. should they begin cutting away the branches on the other trees with the axe. Matty squints into the sawdust and gray glare of the day and calmly turns the tree into logs. how his hands are apart when he pulls the axe back over his head. he then walks over to the branches cut from the fallen trees and begins to collect them. should they collect the branches Matty's already cut. Relius watches John. and he tries to memorize his motion. but together at the cut. Lifting the muttering motor slowly above the trunk. Relius looks to John to know what he should do. John smiles mildly at Relius' inability to find the weak veins running against the rings in each stump.” Matty says. learn it in his mind so that he can feel it with his body. He makes bundles of the cut branches. the way he swings the axe.
Jealousy. too many openings without direction. Can he be using us? Confident that he knows more about himself than we do. He drops a heavy armful of split wood onto the pile that so much work has not made larger. Relius drinks the hot coffee quickly from his new thermos. knowing that not knowing Relius enough leaves too many questions to turn into competition. their shoes and pants covered with mud and sawdust. John thinks. That we’re naïve. and imagines that Relius gives up on it. His mother told him about Relius’ honesty. Thirsty. Why jealousy.twine and carrying them to the trailer. asks him if he’s alright. and Matty hands them the sandwiches Kristina gave them as they left in the early morning. John taps him on the shoulder. my mother tried to talk with him about it. Why is he here? My father asked him. Their arms are sore. It burns. that Relius thinks this log is better left to John. He watches Relius from a distance. about his reluctance to borrow money from them. Relius wonders how many hours they've cut and loaded wood into the back of the trailer. Distrust too. But Relius seems honest. Who is this man cutting wood in front of my father? Relius. . sees him get frustrated with a large log Matty had just cut from the base of an old tree. and takes a moment of rest by spreading the logs evenly along the boards of the trailer. maybe. but the sensation feels good where it lingers in his chest. about how open he was with his father about Father William.
Staring into nothingness. without interest. napkin. the folly John imagines. Relius says he does remember the grove. Turning back toward their work. expecting Relius might laugh at the folly that brought him there. John turns toward Relius and offers a smile. not at the leaves. that the air they smell is the breath of this earth. and sandwichbag into the lunch box and sets it near the front of the trailer. Sighing deeply and signaling the end of their break. looking not at anything. Reluctantly. “Do you remember that spot?” he says. not at the dull grayish blue coming through the trees. but he does not smile and does not say more. The three men stare silently into the forest. they see the forest entire and are silent. safe from the weight of the wood should it shift. John patiently waits for his father to finish. without particulars. not at the path that lead them into the forest. that the birds they hear live in the branches. Relius then adds his. though which Relius does not know.and he feels his blood warm. They view nature as it lives. Matty takes a step closer to his son and tells him that just a few hundred feet from where they are he found Relius. He follows Matty toward the newest pile of cut logs and takes up the axe. without a sense that the deer they see runs among the trees. . Matty carefully tucks his thermos. then adds his own articles to the lunch box.
a marionette cut from its strings. and walks over to it. He splits the next log with ease. the impact of the bullet sending him forward and backward at once. Turning toward the log.” he says. and the next. alone. looks at him. “I'll tell you later. and he takes two puffs from the inhaler he hates to carry in his pockets. John's question echoes in his mind as he lifts the axe over his shoulder. He recalls seeing the blood of the young man where he fell in the snow. He breathes deeply. the heavy blade bounces off the cold earth and locks in the bone of his shin. Relius does not hear John's shout over his own screams. He takes up the axe where he had set it beside John. and stands it up on its end. his mind carries him from the log and his pass with the axe falls short of the mark he had seen in the rings. looks at the large log he had left for the abler hands of John. and hears John abruptly though amicably ask why he ended up in this part of the woods. 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. tapping the weight of the axe tentatively. Chipping noiselessly at the side of the bark. He touches the blade to the sweet spot cracking the rings of the log. cut from its shapeless place in the tree. he tilts it back toward him. Seizing the log as best he can.The cold slows his breathing. Smiles at his smile. and the pain . cautiously against the log. Distracted.
Matty ties the rope around Relius' thigh. . their words meaningless. Matty tells John to rest Relius' head on his lap and to set a piece of bark between his teeth. their motions foreign. certain that a wound bleeds his entire body. and John feels the sinews tighten in Relius' neck.surges through his entire body. John had already unhooked the trailer. throwing him to the ground. John and Matty move like liquid around him. Relius does not understand why John runs to the tractor. careful not to touch the handle until he's ready. his hands gripping his knee tightly above the wound. moaning. Relius feels himself carried by the two men to the tractor. and sees him bite hard into his lip and the bark as Matty pulls the axe from his shin. running toward them with a length of rope swinging viciously in his hands. frantic. He sees John. Numb now. a ghost. Relius' wild eyes betray the turmoil in his calming limbs. but they might have to take it out so it won't do any more damage on their way to the hospital. Kristina sees the tractor from the kitchen window and knows that they return early. does not understand why Matty says it's better to leave the axe where it is usually. and he throws his head back hard against John's legs. and she whispers dear God over the rush of concern that tightens her chest and sets her hands to tremble. though carefully out of the grove. and knows that they return without the trailer. and they move swiftly.
that he'll be fine. He leans back against the seat and. though. Relius tries to bear the pain more quietly. wondering what might . Matty. assure them that it looks worse than it is. John hands her the ice and the hydrogen peroxide he'd quickly gotten from the bathroom. The liquid hisses as it whitens the skin and blood around his open cut. frightened young man into their house. It smells different from the tractor. concentrates on each field they pass. the barn. They set Relius on the couch. 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. “The cut's very deep. Kristina sends John to get ice from the kitchen and begins to loosen the tourniquet on Relius' thigh. He's not been in a car with the Flaigs before. Her quiet authority calms the three men. and she takes the car keys from the hook beside the door. uneasy. and he eases himself carefully into the car beside John and behind Kristina. He tries to speak calmly now. did not have an image of Matty driving as he does now. struggling to stall his moans. and they see the agony in his watery eyes.” she says.” and she motions to John and Matty to lift Relius. “We have to take you to the hospital. It smells foreign to the world in which he'd placed the Flaigs.Drying her hands on her apron she hurries to the living room and watches her husband and son carry a pallid. Calmer now.
grow there next season. She is with him. he prayed his words might find home in her heart and revive her. “You see that small house over by where the creek turns down south. no longer pain. Numbness now. quieting behind an image of himself standing over Renee's bed. Too rare. trying to settle the panic in herself. Renee. No. a physical presence as real as the sorrow . that his words be more than words. her fingers colder than usual. I love you. He used to come over a lot. though thinks he needs to hear a voice and continues. he tells her. her husband and Relius. fading. Impossible. but it is the same spot. knows he may not listen. I love you. Relius hears. John?” “Lupus. that one burnt down about twenty years back.” she says. her nails an odd yellow. though.” She looks back at Relius.” Lupus. have motion and dimension. what might be growing there now. “His brother's son built that house there.” Kristina says.” John says impatiently. Pressing his fingers tighter around her hand. Not lupus. unaware of his mother's efforts. her son. What's that called that she has. “You'll probably meet him sometime. in colorless inexact memory her hand in his. “that's where Matty was born. It's not the same house anymore. but since his wife took ill he pretty much stays home with her whenever he can. “Jenny has Lupus. Mom. told her. pointing over the middle of the car. Renee. that they become agents. and their voices sound distant.
Relius cradled in her son’s arms.” he says gently. frightening her son with words and tears from somewhere they'd not been. see her. “Please. “we're almost there.scraping in his chest. his words echo into the present. and he wants to go to her now. weeping. and in his delirium Relius looks up from the hand he kissed into the eyes he wished could look. can not be. he told his family.” His mother turns and sees this wrong pieta. too unbearable. he cried. and he wishes it'd not be. hesitant and worried that anything he'd say would make her death too real. how death resembles thoughts interrupted on the verge of becoming. I knew her enough to create an entire life for her in my mind. . and John wonders why Relius weeps. and he looks for that life now. that living he's sure endured despite her death. wants to feel her caress on his brow. “Don't leave me” John hears him say. share everything with her. into his own. and in his punctured delusion he understands how he might bring her back. losing her. Oh dear god why. And he sees himself alone in her room. Oh dear god why. and trembling. waiting to call the doctors. even sadly. why Relius cries with words of loss. Try to breathe easy. Renee. hear her concerned voice.” he whispered. And through his trembling tears Relius sees himself beside Renee. “Relius. and not be such a stranger in his own pain. see her. that her death were not a memory but a mistake. and he recalls his lies. And he recalls his solitude. what the wound has opened.
thoughts from too separate a reality. his allergies. what his thoughts could have been in the car. and he waits in quiet pain for the doctor. he imagines Renee might be waiting for him at the hospital. and wakening Relius to wonder. then watches the doctor cut away the bandage Kristina had wrapped around his leg. Renee should know. and unsure why. we've got to get you inside. answers questions about his blood. not loving. and he believes the words in his mind grasp wholly at the mysteries beyond his reckoning. thoughts he cannot recall. Something so serious. Relius feels present again as they pass through the hospital doors. and smiles when the doctor smiles. Sorrowfully. he knows this much. John startles Relius when he pushes him forward gently and says. as he hangs his arms from Matty and John's shoulders. her death a horrible mistake that she woke from when people stopped waiting. Impossible to have so much pain without the possibility of happiness.These arms around him hold him wrongly. we're here. and drives his nails hard into the table he sits on as the doctor anesthetizes and cleans his wound then stitches the . Renee should be there. but not loving. and remembers when Matty found him.” and holds back his screams. and he calls her death loss and so expects to find her. “he'll be okay. warm and strong. “come on. And his delirium welcomes the illusion of death as misunderstanding.” his voice vanishing the soothing delirium Relius had found. And unwillingly.
“You don't look so good. after he drinks down the painkillers. passive looking man with hands better suited to holding pens and turning pages. “Thank you. and he nods agreement to the doctor's instructions to finish the bottle of antibiotics even if he feels fine. Ted. He comes closer to them and Relius compares him to his expectations.” Matty tells Relius and his wife. heavy leather boots. and the family pauses for a moment outside the hospital before Matty walks off to get the car. not tending to God's fields. Daugherty sees the Flaigs waiting for him in front of the hospital doors. He closes his eyes tightly as he walks toward them. Kristina pushes the wheelchair. and he wonders if the young man in the wheelchair is the young man he'd heard about in town. He is not the figure of Rebecca's father Relius had fit to John's description.” Relius says. “I wonder if they're doing all right. casually wiping at his face. Everything all right?” Kristina says in a . 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. He does not seem like an austere. and a worn red jacket. ascetic. determined to hide the redness in his eyes. the moist skin above his afternoon beard.skin shut. This man wears rough corduroy pants. “I think that's Daugherty's car.” Mr.
“without calling on the children to bring His message. He waits for them to speak. molds his rough skin with her soft . I pray some good will come from all this somehow. Ted.” He stands still with his hands in front of him holding the handles of the bag of clothes he brought for his daughter.” “I'm so sorry. “Jenny was up all night.” he says dryly. their gestures. His eyes meet Kristina's.” Kristina takes the man's hand into her own. the reflection of the wheelchair curved and wicked in the glass. “I'm fine. wonders what he understands of this moment. reserved and reluctant to force this good man to tell too many of his sorrows. what he knows of their failures. stares past the Flaigs at the hospital doors behind them. Too many bad memories. He tells them that his daughter lost the baby. but the Flaigs are quiet. “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. I can't imagine what you must be going through. “It's Rebecca. Started bleeding last night. and searches their faces.worried voice. “praying that everything would be fine by today. to say something to ease this silence that demands he say more.” he tells her. He looks at the young man in the wheelchair.” He sighs heavily. for judgment.” he says regretfully.
” “God bless. “God bless you. I know that Jenny would love to have you. Matty. and Relius knows the generosity of .” she says turning toward her husband and son. We'll keep you in our prayers this Sunday. and the doctor told her to rest for a few days. if you don't mind. He hardly lifts his head as he turns to wave a thankful goodbye to them before letting the door close behind him. He offers to take the wheelchair in for them. noticing a face he’d never seen on Daugherty before. The family waves and silently watches as Theodore Daugherty walks slowly through the hospital doors.” “Thank you.” “Oh no. but Becca just wants to be alone she says.touch. Maybe later.“ “I'll do my best. Kristina. sir. I understand. He sees Theodore Daugherty standing aside now but not going into the hospital. “Tell Jenny and Rebecca that our prayers are with them. but does not ask who he is. Ted. and stands waiting for all of them to sit in the car again. and comforts him. Kristina.” John says.” Matty gets the car and stops with the back door in front of Relius. son. Daugherty helps John and Kristina settle Relius in the car. No one speaks the entire drive home. what happened to his leg. You take care of yourself. If you don't mind we might stop in tomorrow evening to give you some company. Mr. “Please give Becca my best.
the Flaigs enough to comprehend that they truly feel the sadness of their friends. .
she didn't need her father’s assurance that he alone would not be damned. but he could not. not to condemn. hopeful and absent. but with certain judgment of her. and she heard the words of his customary prayers and homiletic musings come at her without appeal to God. trying not to judge her.” he said. “Please go with them. She heard him struggle to speak like a consoling father. a habit of faith to direct her thoughts to a mystery. but she didn't want his forgiveness. “Your mother and I can forgive you.” she says to her father as she backs away from the window and her image fills the yellow glow reflected in the glass. where she might consign her thoughts to a being she cannot comprehend.FOUR She watched them talk with her father. The impulse to pray silences her. She resents surrendering her thoughts to God but believes her anger and confusion point to her father and not her father's savior. 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 doctor.” He hands his daughter the small suitcase his wife had given him and steps back toward the door. Something happened to the young man living with them. “John was there. “It was the Flaigs.” He picks up the Bible from where he'd set it on table the night before.Her words vanish into the moments before her father walks through the door and stares coldly. she .” “Do you believe that?” She remembers the strange look of the doctor when she said bitterly that God will fix it. daddy?” she says. “They send their best. “Can you go home yet?” “The doctor said I should be fine. she thinks. before reluctantly asking if she feels better. but I asked them to wait a while until your mother feels more like seeing people.” “What did you say?” “Told him we'd be all right. “Who was that you were talking to out there. They may come by the house some time. you're not my daughter. unsure of her father's emotions. judged her. nervous. but he judged her anger not her honesty. “What did the doctor say?” he asks.” he says. thinking you're not my daughter. He came in just after you left and asked how you and mom would take this. Her father's question still asking. an admirer of her father.
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.
she says. maybe you . caressing the babies. frightened of more silence. at the color photographs of cells dividing into tiny people. Death growing in the tender darkness where she imagined little limbs of a child. listens for answers in the quiet room. before falling open and twisted onto a neat row of shoes she's not worn for months.” her mother whispers nervously through the dark line of the slightly open door. “Becca. She touches the images with wet and trembling fingers. She looks around the room to see what her daughter might have thrown or dropped. Her daughter's swollen. She closes the book on her lap. “Becca.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. and she cannot respond. is everything all right?” The soft whispers Rebecca's mother hears when she walks into the room are not her daughter's prayers. reluctant taps on the door do not surprise her. but she does not answer. Confused. red eyes confront her with questions. Awake. The shy. “Becca. and throws the book forcefully into the closet. 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. the fluttering pages giving harsh melody to her scream. but does not see the book. mourning these small deaths so useful in books for the living.
Her mother listens quietly. Wishing her daughter weren’t so much like her husband. She doesn’t want to think about them talking about her behind her back. hearing their failure to help her daughter. patting the folded towel on her lap.” she says sharply. I think you need to be with more people. she hardly listens to herself tell her daughter that her friends will be there.should come to church with us this Sunday. mom. and that maybe being around people her age would help her.” she says. So naive. Nick did not seem like a friend to her daughter. Who are her daughter’s friends? She doesn’t know them anymore. She saw him buying . It would be so much easier just to stay home. Such a gruff boy. So naive.” Rebecca looks at her mother in disbelief. “Friends? Who are my friends. in her hands that fold the damp towel again and again on her lap. “Won't you please just go to church with us. She wonders which words might soothe her daughter’s pain. “That would be terrible. She tells her mother that he doesn’t want to be there with everyone staring at her. She sees simplicity in the movement of her mother's eyes. Feeling the looped fabric of the towel with her finger tips. and she repeats the words to herself silently. and let her accept the faith she thinks could heal her. Never shaven. They might be more understanding. who?” Rebecca’s question surprises her mother – makes her remember what she’d just said to her.
Just give it a chance. Of course he left. If you see him and don't feel like talking with him. listening to her mother. “Maybe John will be there. Why would John talk to her. He doesn't know what it's like. that's fine.beer so many times. like she always does. “John?” Rebecca says. but her mother cannot give. Is it Nick? Are you still thinking about him?” Wrong words. unable to talk to a child that disappointed her so much. unfolds it and begins to fold it again. Rebecca needs her mother now. “He’s from good parents. Sharing pie recipes with Kristina. “John is a good boy. And she resents her. she tells herself. I’ll try. He'd be just as uncomfortable as anyone else. She remembers the Flaigs. been a father to him. She sits on the bed beside her mother and takes the folded towel from her lap. Her helplessness. “I know. She’ll just listen to her. and laughing at picnics with their husbands. Maybe her husband should have talked to him more.” she says. Johnathan was a good boy. talking to yourself and crying like that. Their children used to play together when they were young.” her mother says. She folds it. and always needs more than she does. But Rebecca knows that her mother is struggling now. and Rebecca turns her .” Rebecca pities her mother. I can't stand the thought of having you sitting around the house all the time. mom.
It’s impossible to reduce the complexity of life just to fit the words that describe it. but she cannot. She wants to tell her she agrees. “You're kidding. that he is not worth her sorrow. It’s in everything. touching her on the shoulder. all . Love with virtue. The lesson for her daughter. and glares at her.swollen eyes toward her mother. She reminds her daughter that they made this mistake together. She knows her mother’s platitudes. and knows that they do nothing to help her. trying to recall her husband’s words. “He can go to hell. hoping to contain the words she feels slipping past her lips. nebulous.” she says bitterly. and that she can’t damn him just because he’s frightened and doesn’t have anything to lead him to right. that Nick should be forgotten.” “Rebecca. Love is not a lesson. It’s not some special part of life that’s separate from the ordinary sorrows and arguments of everyday. and fragile. Like it’s incompatible with just being. she tells her. what she’d talked about with her husband. something that doesn’t fit reality and has to be nurtured and protected and lived by just like her faith. For her to love the right way she has to get over the kinds of love her parents wish for her. Rebecca breathes deeply. Why does her mother always have to treat love like a special relic.” Her mother says. is to learn to love as God intended. It’s bodiless. Instead she says what she believes is right.
Relius has felt a need to respect their kindness by joining them every Sunday. Relius cannot belittle the beliefs of a . Sitting alone in the living room. and it suffers when you try to understand it like a mystery of faith. Quietly. they watch one another for signs of weakness before the mother sighs and pushes herself up from the bed. staring around the room with a look of confusion and fear. “It’s not my responsibility. but she knows that her mother is crying now. 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. giving her mind a puzzle to unscramble as she sits in silence. no longer willing to offer her mother an audience for her well-intended words of wisdom. I'll go.” she says as her mother leaves the room. her hands to her mouth. “Mom. her head low.” Rebecca says to the mirror. Since the first time he went to mass with the Flaigs. Rebecca wants to say more.the wrinkles and arteries of our lives. Rebecca's thoughts flood her sensibility. 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. these thoughts must confront the warmth of the smile that greets him in the face of Kristina Flaig.
he recalls his reasons for distrusting that specious peace. and Relius greets her gestures without recalling . looking at the cross above the door. Inside the church John leads Relius toward the woman he smiled at and said was Rebecca. she would understand his reluctance. Rebecca wonders why John is home. hear from her lovely little variations on common words. perhaps refusal. and wishes Relius wouldn't say he'd heard a lot about her. not Renee. shyness about her recent past. She waves to them from her pew at the back of the church. and feel from her the soft touch of slender fingers within his hands. and Relius wonders if. alone in his room. refusing to pray. He introduces Relius to avoid the silence he heard coming between them. and asks him how long he expects to stay. In her maternal warmth he senses the peace available in her faith. He doesn't. The family no longer goes to church together. a reluctance to talk too sincerely. They greet each other quietly. and he watches Relius look at Rebecca. and whose deep sincerity of faith he sometimes envies. But Rebecca was Rebecca. Relius had hoped Rebecca would remind him of Renee. John hears discomfort in her voice. and John and Relius leave home early this morning. with small hellos and soft handshakes. and yet every evening.woman whose goodness he admires. after all she has endured. and waits with her arms crossed as they walk toward her. He wished to see in her hints of his wife's eyes. to return to the faith of his parents.
he says quietly.a memory. the color of her lips. too beautiful. Boys who believe the rumors about this girl. the skin swollen from tears. the lost baby. 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. She's beautiful. Men and women. Prayers are whispered. She tells them briefly about her parents. mildly encouraging her to spend some time away from her parents. wondering if she imagines how to spell his name. Guilty stares from men who admire the curves of her eyes. She does not mention the hospital. Their children stare. parents. and the mothers follow their husband's stares and turn distrustful curses in their minds. girls who fear such rumors about themselves. Just as the organ sounds through the church she turns to Relius and says I'm sorry I didn't catch your name. . In the minutes before the service John invites Rebecca to fish with them after church. Becca. Relius. and nods slightly and offers a small smile when John asks her if she's doing okay. watch Rebecca. Some of them notice the dark circles under her eyes. now or in years of sexuality. and listens to her repeat it. how they tell her to get on with her life but are the first to get in the way. She smiles at John and the other boy whose name they never remember and jealousy pinches their moral efforts. silent insults are checked by this church and a community of forgiveness.
They're familiar. John. Maybe later we can talk. and assure her that he understands why she'd not chew god's body. her eyes looking down toward the empty space of thought. lean forward in the silence of the footsteps and the faint notes of the organ. And he looks at her arms folded across her stomach. and Relius watches Rebecca. Maybe there's something they share that I can't be part of. with . Maybe John will give us a chance to talk alone while we're baiting hooks or building a fire. 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. and she's excited to disappear within a room where songs. that he knows Father William's dull humanity. though. No one will look at me now.Rebecca sits between John and Relius in the church. She's relieved to hear the first notes from the organ. the self of her uncertainty. But he can't. The mass passed quickly. and Relius and Rebecca both felt relieved not to be the only ones sitting in the empty pews during communion. prayers and directed movements silence the selves that judge. Is that a stare of longing or distraction? John is handsome. comfortable. And Rebecca watches John walk toward them. Maybe I'll catch her when she slips into the river. sheltered from the judgments that surround her. Attraction would be easy. Fishing. Relius wanted to say something to Rebecca. toward the blank floors of confusion. of forgetting. her hands tucked under her elbows.
and he listens absently to the final hymn. his place that is not here. and looks for the citizens that populate his past. and Relius' black hair envelopes his thoughts as a mark of his difference. he thinks. gray rock. I won't wish for anything.features Rebecca has grown up to find attractive. They'd talked only briefly as they walked toward the river. and reduce fortuitous days to the fantasy of memory and the illusion of a trackable self. and John and Rebecca wonder why Relius is so silent when they leave the church. memory fragments too incomplete to offer metonyms of some whole that he'd know with them. his transient presence. Rebecca thought of her child. probably similar to Nick. 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. and why he says “nothing” with so much sadness when they ask him what he's thinking about. flat. When her mind would wander. and the mass ends around him. 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. common recollections of people Relius had never met. the habitat of memory. phantoms that endure with familiar names and spectral faces. Relius and Rebecca sit on a large. her eyes . and Relius listened to stories she shared with John. who take up relics of his past and arrange them into significance.
but in this place he wishes for a sensation. It's not me.would water – giving them a glow that Relius caught as a sparkle. a sublime urge to recover yesterday and yesterday. and the cool colors of the forest. and rupture the hold of incident on identity. and that's enough. and try to shift her thoughts to this moment. Beside her now. This is not a place of renewal. but the number of leaves in a tree make it neither more nor less a tree. a soft texture she could not feel if she climbed down from the rock to touch it. and he cannot subtract this river from this landscape nor add an image to its measureless serenity. and send flutters through the mirrored remainders of a life not evenly divisible from then into today. . and looks at the trees with leaves he could count. to be with John and Relius. the tips tapping a small rhythm on the hard rock. and not let herself fade into a painful memory destined to walk with her always. slender in this community of farmers and hard work. and heard her words and quiet laugh make her approachable. gentle in her sadness and occasional hints of bitterness. Relius watched Rebecca's modesty soften her beauty. In the shadows of the trail. this is not a place where Relius could be other than his past. Her fingers bend delicately. Relius smiles at math become self. and she’d hold back quiet tears. and Rebecca watches the water wash endlessly over a rounded rock she cannot see.
and the breeze over the river carries the scent of leaves. 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. Not him. She looks for John along the riverbank and thinks she hears him in the brush below the boulder she and Relius sit on. “If there are I've never seen one.” he tells the warmth above him.chrome in its hasty reflection of the sunlight. The sun burns hot.” “What do you say. John climbs up on the rock and sits beside Relius. laughing. until it vanishes into the catkins of an arching willow.” “There's trout. soil and fields still drying from the recent rains. grass. a bird. John lies down and stares up at the white haze in the cloudless sky. “brook and rainbow.” he says.” “There any catfish around here. . “No. Maybe next time. “Have you caught anything. They're delicious if you catch one.” he says. Up stream about two or three miles from here there's lost of em though.” Rebecca says. “Not even a nibble. brown in its quick clarity. following its flow through the air. “You guys see any fish from up here. a martin.” Relius.” Rebecca says.
During the day or at night?” “Either. when was the last time you just sat around staring at the sky?” “Can't even think back that far.” “Why?” “I don't know. Been too long I guess.” “Right now feels really good.” “Is that necessarily a good thing. .” Relius says. At least for a little while. is it a good thing?” “Does it have to be?” “Guess not.“I'd say I'm more relaxed than I've been in a while. Becca. “What?” “Is that a good thing?” “What do you think Becca.” “Why?” “Why. and if I stare straight up everything else seems to disappear. 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.” “Yeah.
It was a strange place to grow up. Bigger than the memories I have of growing up in the states.” “How bigger?” “Bigger because they involve stuff that most kids I grew up with in the states would not believe. “I think I'm gonna nap.” “How old were you?” .Doesn't matter if it's good or bad. smell her?.” Rebecca says. it helps. then trace a swirling path away from her. mostly. Relius? Have any good stories about Peru?” “Too many.” Relius smiles. Summers and vacations. A solitary heavy bumble bee vibrates its hairy body among them. Like when my brother and I went down a branch of the Amazon in a raft. I suppose I didn't.” “Did you grow up there?” “No. Maybe that's why my memories are what they are. shot from the airy chamber of an ethereal gun. “Either of you know any good stories?” “Well. Relius opens his eyes and watches the bee hum over Rebecca.” “What do you mean?” “The memories always seem like escapes.
I thought it was pretty amazing then. “ “Were there really piranhas?” “No. Up stream there were. and their mouths keep . didn't know that the catfish basically sat there like rocks. and then all of a sudden. “Did you catch any catfish?” “No.” “What happened?” “My mom and her sisters were watching us from the bank. gut em. and a couple of them ran into the water. Their mouths open and close when you fry them. Don't know if they really believed us or not.“I was twelve. 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. my brother was sixteen. Slice em.” “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. My mom and my aunts started screaming. but around there there were only catfish and bugs.” “Hmm. telling us to be careful. they might have been playing along for the hell of it. He'd come out with us sometimes in the raft and catch them with his bare hand. We were paddling along. but my uncle did. Catfish. something like twenty miles away. without saying anything to each other.” Rebecca says. you know. fry em.
but sees its red light coloring sky.” “I don't think I have the right lure. “Yeah. “Any luck.” “Want to build a fire?” John says. it was nice to fish for a while.” John says. Relius felt a few tugs on the lure.” “Maybe not. He baits a few hooks and casts thoughtlessly into the river. John and Rebecca look asleep and Relius climbs down from the rock and takes up John's fishing rob from the bank. They're not hungry.” They close their eyes again and enjoy the silence together. The small splash of the lure sounds large in the silence of the dimming day. and he smiles when he hears Rebecca and John talking above him.” she says.” Relius imitates a fish. “No. chilly enough to stand their hairs on end. and lost only two hooks in a log or among thick weeds. “That's disgusting. awake now from a longer nap than anyone expected. and send chills through their softly shuddering bodies. The cloudless evening does not enclose the warmth of the day. .going bloop bloop the whole time. and sits down beside Rebecca. But tasty. He does not see the sun set. Still. and the breeze feels cool now. and Relius winds the line to cast again.
even though I didn't know who you were. staring at the cold she sees coming over the horizon hidden behind the trees.” “It made you look really dark. Rebecca saying she thinks they would find more dry wood out in the open than on the floor of the forest.” “Dark?” “Yeah. and which had also come up in conversation when they lay on the rock. and they find many large logs.“God yes. hugging her arms tightly across her chest.” “Why'd you shave it?” “I don't know.” . They walk back to the river. you know. I could tell you weren't from here. “Did you have a beard then?” “Probably. which happened to be the first time she saw him. 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. too large to cut. Rebecca volunteers herself and Relius to find the dry sticks and birchbark they need while John looks for the rocks to contain it. and Rebecca mocks Relius as she reminds him of the stubbornness that brought him to the hospital.” Rebecca chatters.
“Unless you’re sure it’ll bug me.” “What sort of job?” “His dad's a doctor just like his dad was. “You know what changed. He went to high school. knowing the instant he paused that he'd asked the wrong question. “so I usually have a beard by the end of the week.” “What was Nick like?” “Nick. I used to think he was. an obvious one. Graduated. Can I ask you something. so he just worked in his dad's office. But I was wondering about what he was like before that. Should it? Just made wonder where you were from. Nick broke the chain.” “So what changed?” Relius says too quickly.” he says reluctantly. “I hate to shave.” he says. I'm sorry I know about that. Nick isn't like anyone worth talking about. a stupid one. Started working for his parents till he got a job in town. Didn't want to be a doctor though.” Relius breaks another dry branch from a fallen tree.“Did that bother you?” “No. Before that he was like other guys around here. More interested .” “Before that.” “Yeah. and then shave again for Sunday. not yet sure how to phrase as a question the pulsebeat of desire he feels curling below his neck.
needs to be. and unsought jealousy bleeds through tiny holes of his imagination.” She laughs nervously. 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. could we talk about something else? Nick's not someone I care to bring up anymore.” “Like a mechanic?” “No. He drops the branches onto the others and waits for Rebecca to come back with her own bundle. Not knowing Nick intimidates him. I should have let my crush on him die in high school. But it's too sudden. He wants to compliment her now. well sort of.” Relius walks toward the treeline along the bank. and convince her that he admires her as she wants to be admired. “What did you like about him?” “Relius. but only after he messed them up more at first. . Yeah. pins doubt to his mind. The load in her arms triples Relius' efforts. He could fix most things. and he laughs at her stubbornness. tell her he's noticed the beautiful color of her eyes. A bad mistake. And maybe he's just attracted to her because he wants to be.in cars. her need to snap and carry any branch she thought could burn. he tells himself. remembering something she’d rather forget. Take it easy Relius.
He searches among the twigs they'd collected. Kindling. Twigs. and separates them into four piles. You're strong. He builds up three layers of kindling and bark. embarrassedly excited.” he hears John say as he begins to set more twigs . The smoky flame irritates her eyes. Phrases that he wants her to need to hear from him. “Not bad. and Relius follows Rebecca back toward the fire ring John had just closed.” he says. Rebecca leans over the small fire glowing faintly beneath her pursed lips. and she sits back and stares at the twigs glowing red at their ends. then houses them in a small cabin of fresh and blackened twigs. “you wanna try?” “Sure. 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. “Relius. wavering flames. and she looks up to let the cool breeze soothe the warm pain. Branches. You're beautiful. Relius wanders through the many things he wishes he'd said while still alone with Rebecca. He sets a small pile of kindling in the center of the circle and lays small layer of birch bark over it. and let them share the privacy of opinions bloated by attraction. The flame does not catch. You'll be fine.They gather the fuel in two messy armloads. Sentiments that seal their conversations with intimacy.” she says. She pulls her hair back over her ear with her right hand and smiles at Relius before she leans back into the small fire.
“From home. “Where did you get that?” Rebecca says. one of us has to get up though and get some water from the river. “ Relius walks toward the river and listens to the placid shadows he . keeping the flame large and flickering a few inches of their heads where they sit. a place for them among the anonymity of the darkening forest. have you Becca?” “No. tending it. I've never caught a fish here. John sits closest to the fire. John pulls a shiny ten-penny can from his bag and fills it with cider from his thermos. I've got cider and hot chocolate. But then again. and he builds the flame into a fire. Nothing there.” he says. “Did you really think we'd catch any fish here. “No. and Rebecca tries not to look too obviously into the forest. The chocolate's in my bag. now become a fiery teepee in miniature. I never fished here before. are you kidding. He positions the can carefully over the glowing embers on the side of the fire nearest him and covers it with a thin. why don't you get it?” Relius stands up. metallic lid.” “I’m too cold to get up. The cracking fire amplifies the silence of the night. and the fire into a warm center. He leans another large log against the fire and they smell the pine needles burn on its small branches. round. Relius.along the outside of the cabin. just the whispers of an empty night.
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
John approaches the people huddled around the brothers and follows the fingers of men and women pointing to short. Near the base of the hill. Staring blankly into his brother's vacant eyes. and direct them around the scene of the developing tragedy. not the desperate pleas of fear. trembles and questions again and again. I sound ridiculous to everyone beside my brother.nothing to one another. they find a small group of people gathered in a small circle in front of the headlights of a small car. With his weathered hand on his cane he lifts himself from the side of his brother. but has no direction. black traces of desperation stretching out behind the car like exclamations to mark a point of tragedy. The silence of the mass of people moving so quickly above his brother and beside him terrifies and confuses him. Through the crowd he hears the painful moans. He holds . with words they hear as why. why. His noise suggests the muffled entreaties of quickening madness. Frederick wonders selfishly how he is to live without his brother. run toward the agonized. John runs down to the site of the accident. weathered wail. Beneath them one brother weeps as the other dies. He turns to go. where the road they follow feeds through town and winds past the church and shoe store. why. in the private language of his deafness. he thinks in the perfect words of his mind. his interpreter. leaving Relius and Rebecca to slow the cars that come down the hill. The dying man's brother mumbles.
I wonder if it was even his fault. and Relius just stares into the darkness above the lights of the town. Poor kid.” John looks over his shoulder toward the road behind them. Relius asks him if he saw the driver of the car.fast to the arm of the young man standing next to him. “No. and he feels numb and aimless as he sits in the car. John turns the key in the ignition but does not put the car into gear. and he gently places his open hand on Frederick's shoulder as Frederick lowers his head and begins to weep. A heavy silence weighs on them as they walk together toward John's car parked near the church. without a way to say it. glances at . I've never seen him before. and stares fixed into his eyes. the weight of the man hardly pressing on his arm. Rebecca continues to wipe tears that build slowly in her eyes. but I think it was the kid that was sitting with Father William on the curb. Looking past Frederick toward the hill John sees the figures of Rebecca and Relius coming down to join him. John stands very still. without a word to say. 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. John cannot say a word.” “Is he from town?” “No.
It's just that I'm a bit nervous is all. I'm sorry.” “What do you think will happen to Frederick?” Rebecca says in a watery voice. They needed each other.” he says. “ She leans forward and touches John's shoulder. I understand. Relius thinks of the brothers and of the boy who drove the car. okay.” “It's. “and everyone knows that Frederick and Richard weren't always that careful. I'm sorry. . John. You just held his brother's hand.” she asks. “or go to a nursing home.” John says. “That curve is dangerous as hell. “Are sure you wouldn’t mind driving. “do you think we could talk about something else?” “Come on. He thinks of the boy he killed and of conversations his friends and family.” Relius says. her tears.” Relius says.Rebecca in the back seat. “He'll probably have to go live with his family somewhere. and don't feel too good about driving anywhere right now. How do you expect us to talk about something else?” “I know. I can't imagine he'll live much longer after this. strangers who knew him vaguely. “You both knew both of them all your life didn't you. didn't they?” “Becca. “Maybe I should drive. we just saw a man die.” Relius feels her touch on his shoulder now. might have had about why he was killed.
Exhausted by his thoughts. He steers the car onto the road. he thinks to himself as he sits behind the wheel of the car. and follows John's directions to Rebecca's house.“I'm fine. and goodnight to the Flaigs when they ask John about the commotion in town. and he closes his eyes to stop himself from searching the room for meaning in grief. . He says hardly a word besides goodnight to Rebecca as John gets out of the car to walk her to her door. for solace in solitude. 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.” he tells Rebecca. the gloom of the night darkens his sadness and confusion.
his nose. that dreaded feeling of arousal still with him. this hypocrite. the vocation. softening the face of the priest and the man. He searches his eyes in the reflection. “Take my waking slow. and he hesitates at the edge of his bed. Who is this man in his skin? Who is this man of sin.” he mutters. Unhappy nakedness. Forgive me. that sarcastic hint of procreative impulse. he whispers when it happens. wondering what waking that way might tell him of the rest of his day. uncontrollable swells of passion. it makes him wonder. exaggerated behind the cream he shaves carefully from the skin he pulls tight. And it’s not his body to touch – that was part of the promise. this man determined to live as the illusions of himself demand? Am I a good man.FIVE He hates it. He showers . and steps into his morning slippers. his lips. staring at their shape in the mirror. It’s not passion. That sensation in his body. only guilt.
however diminutive. so finding purpose. Reed had used to stir that dark elixir. humming a different song now. so he needs help around the rectory. Mrs. He walks. misty air stream out the open window. He sings to himself as he dresses. why yes I did. “Good morning. he doesn't have a wife. Did you sleep well last night?” the widow says. I had a fine rest. and yourself?” . Reed to return to the kitchen. and was raised like any of our husbands and sons were. He sits and watches for Mrs.quickly and welcomes the uncomfortable coldness of the tiles and lets the warm. Reed insists that she serve him. His coffee and toast are already on the table. Reed these apologetic bursts affirm the significance of her service to the young priest. The coffee. continues to whirl slowly in his white cup. Mrs. in the years since the death of her husband. from his bedroom down the stairs to the kitchen. still driven by the spoon Mrs. but for Mrs. Her friends don't demand explanations. a song by a singer he could not name. “Good morning. with words he's unsure of. Reed. Father William needs to be taken care of. walking crookedly and slowly into the kitchen. patiently waiting for her to serve him the eggs he smells and hears cooking just a few feet from him on the stove. she tells her friends. Father. the color of his eyes.
Hiding his boredom has become a game of overcoming ennui. her need to be asked the questions she asks. There. Father William does not ask Mrs. Reed to say more than she offers in her own questions. he knows to ask about the shawl Mrs. intimidating and enviable. and for this he does not hold Mrs. When asked about children in the parish he knows to ask about her son. some even published. asks him of his time in Africa. because of your natural limitations. Reed wears over her rounded shoulders. Appreciating how his own turn of phrase captures that conflict in its own structure. the limitations set on them by their unaware possession of sin within themselves. I am speaking in human terms. No one. But do they understand the limitations as he does. when asked about a sweater he might receive as a gift. on the epistles of Paul. Throughout his sermons he hides what he considers the finest gems of his thoughts. he introduces the conflicting selves from the Letter to the Romans.Rehearsed. and the base self that cannot hear the words of Paul. contains in itself the noble self that hears the holy message. to have the opportunity to share trinkets of success without introducing them in the haughty fashion of the women she finds so rude. . in the rough structure of a lesson. Reed solely responsible. He understands her reciprocal sense. their morning conversations pass with similar phrases always. or the numerous essays he has written. he hears the apostle say through him.
Father William explains in his sermon. our greatest distraction from Grace. taste. imperfect senses that guide him so quickly toward the view.Who hears him when he says that the flesh must die for the spirit to live. but cannot produce beauty. And the priest quickens his pace. shovels and wheelbarrels. and pernicious. is our greatest sin. but no one raises a hand to stop him as he walks by. 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. nor can we taste or touch. telling one another he must be in a hurry. Eyes stare and follow. His walks are moments of solitude. and imitate. This silent man walks with ease. anxious to close the genesis of . but cannot do it. We cannot see without sinning. and the men and boys return to their hoes. his gait hardly changes as his stride carries him past these browning trees and hurried streams. A sunny morning greets Father William as he leaves the threshold of the rectory. nor right. We behold. and feel of fallibility and guilt. He does not know why he can will what is right. sound. he tells himself. Even the sweet sounds of Beethoven can distract us from the source of beauty. open opportunities where his thoughts need not be justified. is my greatest sin. Ignorance. translucent patches of clouds stretched across the sky. Small. And yet it is not arrogance that brings his hand to touch himself when he wakes. Our arrogance. for beauty belongs to God and not to man.
Father?” he calls out. as though he needs to forego their customary hellos. 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. Every Sunday Father William smiles to find the Mitchells in their customary place two pews back from the altar. He does not pray as he walks along the gravel road that winds away from town. His mother just insists he rest when he's home. dying in one death. Works so hard . “Enjoying this fine morning? “Good morning. He steps off to let a tractor pass. he says of them when prompted to comment on their simplicity. The priest waves hastily. though not the intention. The good man Mitchell sees the wave. Good people.” the priest says loudly. brother wasting in brother’s arms.his walk with a fitting revelation. Roger. shorten his steps and slow his walk as he nears the home of the Mitchells. “I thought Anton would be helping you in the fields this morning. 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. “How you doing. no. has he left town already?” “No. and considers what he said to a contrite sinner.
I imagine some rest would be good for him. His brother's children. “ “Well. this is my brother-in-law who used to be little Billy. impatient. Says he drove past the whole thing. William Brown. and never dare utter the disrespectful Uncle Billy. expecting more than news about his son. or. and Father William.” “Yes. His brother's wife hesitates to introduce him as her younger brother-in-law Billy. the way people drive through here. let's just hope that some good can come of this.all week long you know. fine. Roger. it's like they think they're still driving past the fields when they go through town. “Oh. Billy. call him Uncle Father. How is he?” Father William walks closer to the good man. and Father William has not forgotten his distrust of human emotions. held human emotions in low regard. leaving the good man with the stalled words of a futile conversations. but couldn't stop and didn't know until this morning that it was old Richard. Just a matter of time before someone got hurt. fine. bringing him before her friends as my brother-inlaw the priest. No one looks for Billy anymore. Crossing the street isn't even safe anymore.” Roger Mitchell says. Still not used to the city I guess. Don't even think about the folks that live here. you . turning away premature. Shame isn't it. “he come in last night just when everything happened in town. obeying the nonsensical formalities of their father.” he tells the good man.
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. He listens carefully for the quietude. too uncommon. then another. “Take care. climbing over new growth. a trespasser in its sanctuary. he enjoys the subtle pressure of the hard gravel pressing into the sole of his shoe and the arch of his foot. Smiling at the turtles that peek out at him like curious. mute observers of a mystery. Small breezes beneath the clapping wings of a crane that fears him. Stepping onto these small stones. Precious silence.” the good man says to the back of the priest. and he pauses to search the rims of the water for other walkers. He follows a thin. Father. making one pass. hearing the rhythm of his footsteps and the gentle whisper of a wind among the trees. No one there. watching him walk away from his thin wire fence. Staring at the ground. The trail ends and opens upon the lake. Father William steps carefully onto the path. and parts the few bending limbs of the young crimson maples that shelter the trail.remember him. He steps along the thin patch of grass bordering the lake. He does not close the circle of his second stroll . crouching under fallen trees that arc from land into water. other listeners. and slip slightly on the slope out of the dry creek bed he stepped into to return to his path along the road. unmarked trail away from the road.
a new shape. The wind rustles the life surrounding the lake. . reminding him of his body. Straightening his legs out in front of him. 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. each drop. magnifies as it falls.around the lake. Either the rain masters the mime act of capturing itself and the earth that welcomes it. 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. the day begins again. slowly removing the gray mask from the blueness of heaven. After the rain. A slight chill follows the breeze along his limbs. and stares into the air above the water. The rain. or he finds no art in the falling water. a new shade. the falling of the water is never simple. Looking hard into the rain he searches its many pieces for the mosaic they form. each instant capturing and releasing a new color. just a screen between himself and the distant trees and hills his eyes pass over. 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. In his mind. waking him to his senses. Father William stares into the sky.
Fragments of a prayer pass through his mind. nor the words he should offer to Frederick and Richard's children. they fill his silence like a stubborn song. a mind to speak to itself. Hearing the prayers in his mind. and his mind echoes in emptiness. Thoughts of weakness invade his body and deliberately devour his fragile temple. finally. The grayness behind his eyes pushes into his vision and presses against his high forehead. without longing.the rough sensation of wet polyester rubs against his skin. With the sadness he cannot fix his stare. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. and he does not see the birds his eyes pass over. Free to recognize what he ought to consider. of having sin by being. the Lord is with thee. unable to recall the sermon he should give that evening. tightens into a vacuous ball of tension in his chest and he feels its confusing absence and presence pulsating inside him. nor the fish that bend so quickly into the sunlight before submersing their rainbow dance in a thudding splash. A heavy dullness smothers his thoughts. hardly present. nor the trees. and he sits in unwilling silence. to let his senses take in the sights. at the . inaudible. 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. He stares. scents and sounds that surround him without judgment. and the onus of being human. he yearns for a guiltless silence. He struggles for a thought. The pleasant morning fades into early day.
A rational man could tell him that his sins are not mortal. and with that acceptance I must. I swore myself to a life of chastity. William told his lover. 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. why. I swore to myself that my every thought would be chaste so that no one could ever doubt the genuineness of my vows. nor do I regret it. and their many embraces have relics only in the museum of his memory. even in my most private moments meet my obligations to my beliefs. we've only loved. I have accepted a particular way of life. Hardly aware of the question. I simply cannot be with you again. less aware of his inability to formulate the questions that haunt him as he walks in his own veil of hypocrisy. Dear God. I don't damn you for what we've done. We've not sinned. Why force me to question . his friend told him. No one knows of their kiss. where they hover as though painted on the air itself.small rocks he kicks away in front of his feet. Who would damn us? Would you? How could his friend have known the strength of Brother William's controlled conscience. But he cannot recall what he read. he asks. His friend's face does not appear but he recalls the beautiful warmth of being held outside the doors of the divinity library. Pressing them into dirt and away from himself he refuses to welcome the tears that swell in the edges of his eyes. or what he wrote in those books.
but not for his choice of lover. He continued to weep as he meditated on his prayers of contrition. you must stop these thoughts from ever possessing your mind again. asking forgiveness for the sin of physical love. how could they follow your example if you do not trust in yourself. for the sin is in the desire. “ 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. as a servant of Christ you have been called to set an example that others might follow. In his memory. it cannot be. “You know you have sinned. my son. Follow the Lord and you will be fine. As a child of God. He weeps and listens in his mind to the voice of the priest. make him a hypocrite. then you must know that one of us must leave.myself so? If you love me as you say you do. in a quivering whisper. don't you. Brother William repeated more calmly. my son. Shaking and frightened at his own controlled rage. What we have cannot be. not in the object of that desire. a liar.” the priest told him anonymously. This stranger priest needed to know only of my lust. “You must be contrite in your desire for forgiveness. Strike the lust out of your life. as he prays before the altar of a roughly carved figure with unyielding . he told himself. knowing these prayers could merely add to his self hatred.
He does not stop to let the cars and trucks pass. and the warmth dries his skin and black clothes. He makes a half a pass around the lake until he finds the path that brought him to its solitude. 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. This road is wider. he continues across the road and through the purpleblue flowers of alfalfa. careful to stay to the narrow ditch between the neat rows. and considers himself a more hateful sinner than before the priest had forgiven him his trespasses. The sun rises higher into the clearness of the blue sky. a shorter walk to the church. this phrase a common antidote to the oppressive silence he both yearns for and detests. Reclining on the moist rock. A quick glimpse of Nebraska between the red lights of the slowing car. and fastens the joint secure. he rolls his jacket into a ball to place as a pillow under his slumbering head. His nap brings him effortlessly into late morning. Dear Lord. yawning and stretching his arms into the air and his legs into the earth.white eyes over which the redness of his blood shines almost fluorescent. He unties the weathered knot. he says again to the heavens. he doubts his own reasoning. tell each other he's a country priest. paved. and young men and women in cars with out-ofstate plates and from other counties stare at him. he . and he rises from his supine rest. neglected trail. Tracing his way back over the worn. forgive me.
he mutters. and thanks him for the ride he does not take. maybe she'll be fine. and he sees the blood pooling in the wound beneath the broken shell. only remember it. testing the texture of the turtle where his fingers cradle it and lift it from the road. and sets it down beside the water. apologizing that he could not kill it. “Someone must have run you over. Father William passes.assures the elderly man that he travels the right road. leans into the soil and digs up more stones pressed out of the earth like tiny boils. Henry Sheldon reaches back and wipes the soil from his hand on the back of his denim overalls. and so it is that neither man sees the other. passively acknowledging the priest who walks within his own continuum. but does not turn back. Henry returns to his work. Distracted. and still smiles when he leans down to consider the fractured shell of the turtle that stares at him in disbelief. Father William walks happily. 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. . He regrets the pain of the turtle. He lowers his hand. He carries the turtle toward the pond he calls its home. It does not hide in its shell when he touches it.” he tells it.
waiting for him to get up and follow. Marty. and messed up making them laugh again. happy to be with the other two. He trips over a root he did not look for. still laughing. and he feels embarrassed now. follows them. and waddles less obviously from side to side as he stands still in the darkness of the woods and stares at his .SIX They walk quietly. and slows his comical walk to a secretive tiptoe. He lifts himself up and watches them. ”Come on . laughs childishly to himself as he stops from step to step. the youngest man. He steps into the footprints left in front of him. the largest. and his eyes water briefly. like he's dumber than they are. until he hears them laughing ahead of him. to make them laugh again.” he hears. to match the distance from one wet footprint to the next.” he says. ready to cry at the mud covering his hands and staining his knees. we gotta get on. and he throws his hands into the mud again. sees them crouch low and whisper. But they stand at a distance. waiting for them to help him. get up. and he laughs with them. slow stride. shortening his long. “I fell down.
but he knows that he would make them mad if he talks now because he never whispers right. He looks at them with questioning . you stay here.” they tell him. “Where'd you find all that roadkill at?” Luke stares back at the bag of rotting animals on the doormat. “Throw it Marty. and stares at their low shadows run quickly from the woods and slowly up the stairs to the door. and he crouches as they crouched. and does not answer.” he says. and hands him the rock. his heroes. ask them did you do it. He pulls a large stone from the bag and looks at it in the moonlight. and he laughs with them.” he says. “It's your turn Marty. words he cannot read.friends. SPIC LOVER. “break the window. “They're gonna shit when they find that bag. “Marty. “It's not done yet.” He looks at the wrinkled reflection of the moon in the large window and closes his fingers tighter around the stone. and he wants to shout when they run back to him. and he hears them laugh secretly in the night. “See if you can break the big window next to the door there. did you do it. Words writ jagged on the dirty gray. and sets his backpack on the forest floor.” Craig says.” 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.” Craig says in an eager whisper.
and he says that was good in his slow. but not with him. The shadowy body steps forward into its next yell. and the front door opens reluctantly. and he crouches with them lower to the ground when lights come on behind the heavy curtains covering the window he did not break.” Craig says. and draws his arm back ready to throw.eyes that hold no question. And they laugh. 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. “Here it comes. and wonders at the cruel stupidity of the prank. “Cowards like you are never smart enough to run when you should. and he closes his grip around the heavy stone and hurls it toward the window reflecting the blue grayness of the moonlit night.“ . but not the window. He breathes with them. and he hears Luke say that was good. and Marty stares frightened at the gun that lifts to a ready angle across the man's chest. and he looks at the house. The stone hits the house. 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 the stone. “Who's out there?” they hear the man yell. a rifle at its side. and do not care that he trusts them. “I know you're still out there. like a limb to their whims. “What the?” he says. loves them. deep voice. and at them. and they laugh at the loud thud. The silhouette of a single body stands in the doorway.” the man tells the darkness.
” he threatens.” Luke says.Rebecca's father looks back into his house to tell his wife to get away from the door. and they stay crouched low until the footsteps leave the porch and the door closes.” He walks farther down the stairs and rubs his finger against the trigger of the rifle. He walks across lawn and stops in front of the tree line.” He listens for a response from the trees.” they hear. “I aimed high on purpose. or the sounds of panicked running. They wait.” Craig says. 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. “I figure they're all up by now. the red gives way to a rough corner of cold white light. for aggressive taunts. He points the gun into the trees and fires. “That wasn't meant to kill you. A hand draws back a curtain in an upstairs window. and a silhouette stares out. striking dozens of holes into the silence. He walks to the end of the porch and stands at the top of the steps. “You come by here again and I can't promise the same. He imagines the family . “Don't think I won't find out who you are. The three men hear the lead shot sprinkle harshly through the trees. “That was fucking awesome. Luke glares at Marty and warns him with his eyes not to make a sound.” he shouts. “Cowards can't hide long from their conscience.
and he taps Marty and Craig hard on their arms and says let's get out of here. He swallows and sighs. frightened. unsure why anyone would insult them. or listening for sounds outside.” Craig says. irritated. They walk without a flashlight through the woods. He leans against the back of the truck and lifts his left foot against the bumper. and likes the idea of being numb. He remembers catching dozens of them once. across the road and into the field. of Rebecca. He lifts the bottle again. a ridiculously large child from a race of giants. Luke walks calmly to the truck. In front of him. They come out of the woods laughing loudly. 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. Luke leading them confidently back to the truck. He takes a beer from the cooler in the bed of the truck. trying to use them to brighten the small tent he shared . filling a jar with them. Marty runs after him clumsily. He's certain they won't be looking out the windows now. and tosses it into the dirt. He takes a long drink from the bottle. “I wish I could've seen that fucker’s face. and drains it. closing his eyes to drink it down more quickly. He thinks of what they've done. The moon vanishes behind dark clouds.arguing inside. twists off the cap. wanting them to know how serious this is. hundreds of lightening bugs glow softly above the grass. and he wonders where it rains. and he steals the snotty bandanna from Marty's pocket and taunts him to chase him toward the truck.
and Craig grabs . worried that he killed it. and sees Marty kneeling on the ground digging his fingers into a patch of dandelions and grass. let's get going. They went away. Craig comes up beside him from nowhere and points to Marty. Leave it. The bottle looks tiny in his massive fingers.” he says gently. “He's still trying to catch him a firefly. The crickets are louder now.with Joey and Evan.” he says. He looks behind him to see why it's so quiet. dipshit. “It probably just flew away. too. 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 hands Craig a beer and they walk quietly to Marty. you're gonna end up in the Klan. warned him. “Get up. they teased him. and he holds it away from the ground where he searches for his firefly. and laughing at the way he says it tickles. He walks around the truck and takes three beers from the cooler. and remembers what they called him when they came home. They toss their empty bottles into the back of the truck. he thinks. A racist.” Luke says. and two frogs complain to each other along the road. He sits in the grass now. Most of them are flying up into the trees for the night anyway. “It's okay. letting a firefly walk on his hands. looking for Luke to forgive him. Come on now. “I lost it.” he says mournfully. a backwoods fool.
and is happy to find a song with words to match his brooding anger. or unexpected twist in his own arm. as Relius slowly presses one arm. He sees Matty. and feels an unfamiliar confusion as he thinks of the manure and the birth of the calf at once. With each turn of the animal. standing behind the heifer expected to give birth that morning. The sparrows do not fly by as they often do in the warmer hours. Inside the barn even the cows don’t look ready for a new day. He accelerates aggressively.three more beers from the cooler. the wheels lifting a dusty fog behind the truck before peeling onto the road. a long vein of mucous and blood mapping a short trail down her hind. then another into . He turns the dial until he finds a song he can sing to. Stepping into the barn Relius smells the manure more intensely than usual. Soon Kristina and Matty stand at the sides of the heifer. Matty grimaces and the soreness in his shoulder grows more intense. Kristina lifting its tail. Relius walks to his side and in a delirious stupor lifts the wisping tail as Matty asks him to. Luke starts the truck and turns on the radio loudly. and the cats do not show off their balance along the beams running from column to column beneath the ceiling. many of them still resting in their small patches of straw. and watches in quiet disbelief as Matty digs his arms deep into the heifer to feel for the position of the calf. ignoring the occasional moo.
bringing his shoulders closer together near the front of his chest.” “When the shoulder’s out well use the jack. “I think it’s coming out.” “You sure? Relius reaches in again. and impending birth. “What was it. for sure. and when he first touches a small leg or hoof he jumps back with surprise. “Two. Three. smelling the pungent odor of urine.” “The jack?” Demonstrating on Kristina's outstretched hands.the back of the quiet beast. lubricant. “Don’t pull. Three. still not believing that he feels the inside of an animal. “let her push. feeling carefully around the calf’s legs. And I feel a nose.” Kristina says. Relius stretches his arm a little further.” Reaching again into the heifer. I think. “I felt something” he says nervously. The sensation feels artificial to Relius. a head or a foot?” asks Matty.” he tells them. “Wait a minute. “A foot I think.” “How many joints do you feel?” Relius reaches in. Matty explains to Relius .
Soon the gelatinous mass of the placenta passes out of the cow and drops warmly into the mound of manure beneath it. growing out of its own . threatening to lay down before Matty forces it to its feet. He watches carefully as Matty slips the ropes over Kristina's fisted hands. clean hay they had bundled up behind the cow soon after seeing the first vein of blood on her haunches. Gently he places the brace against the back of the heifer and begins to turn the axle in his hands. and nods to the young man that all is well. 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. he should continue to turn the axle. his arms covered with sticky redness and his eyes glowing in pleasant shock. “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. The small calf looks fragile and bewildered on the hay. The rope twists into a tight braid. and just as Relius feels the slight sensation of bringing a life into the world of the barn. and she leans toward Relius. soft. the heifer's legs tremble briefly. and Matty and Kristina laugh at the sight of Relius. The blue and red veins threaten that it might spring to life itself. Soon Kristina and Matty catch the calf when it falls out of its mother and they set it onto the warm.how to use the strange contraption he needs to help pull the calf from the mother.
“not a bad idea. “It’s a genuine pleasure. And he nods his consent. The news of the calving had already spread quickly.” Kristina tells her husband. the Clark girls behind the counter.” Mr.” as he reaches gently into the heifer to feel for another calf. “So how’s it feel to be a real farmer. the Erdelacs. unbalanced legs like the one now breathing heavily on the hay. Reed asks him as he walks into the bakery.” “The one I delivered?” . “Why’s everyone clapping?” Relius asks the Clark girl at the counter. the customers turn to look at him.ooze into a being with thin. the Sheldons. And Relius enjoys being greeted differently now – not like a stranger or a guest. jokingly congratulating him for having helping the Flaig’s calf that morning.” Relius says. long. but like someone who has shared in the traditions of living here. “Because of the calf. and then all of them begin to applaud happily. stare at him silently for a moment. muttering. And inside the small bakery. It’s still early morning when Relius goes into town to get some bread from the bakery. “I think we should call this bull Relius. The Mitchells.
priest. Relius turns toward the door and watches the priest step in.“You didn’t just deliver it.” The revelation fills Relius with a surge of pride. What the hell is wrong with you. Today. But instead of indifference. but. and walks back toward the bakery. The priest had also heard of Relius’s achievement. He’d saved something. Matty says it was gonna die. looking around the bakery at his new friends. looking around the room for an explanation of the joyful energy that dissipated with his arrival. Relius collects his order. 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. silly. he merely greets Relius by saying his name. He waits there for . pleasantly surprised to find someone had already paid for it for him. How could you be so self-centered. but stops midway. he meets the priest with resentment. He greets everyone in the bakery warmly. He starts walking straight for his bicycle. Done something important for the family that was so good to him. He’d finally done more than toss some hay or beat a carpet in the snow. but he doesn’t congratulate him. and leaves the bakery. Relius thinks. on this morning. with this much happiness around him. as had become his custom. Relius expected to be immune to the coldness he expected from Father William.
solitary intinction. lone communion at a table without ceremony. “Relius.” “No.” “Say what. “why a young. “I'm just curious. and soulless impanations of pumpernickel and rye. but you don’t trust me. The priest will eat it alone.” the priest says calmly. Go ahead. and he senses his own paranoia.” Both men are surprised at Relius’s sudden aggression.” Impatience and anger seethe through Relius. I can see that. yes? Just come out and say it. He sees Relius coming toward him. Father William comes out holding a large bag of bread. “I don’t judge you.” “Why don’t you walk with me?” Father William stays calm as they walk together away from the people. “Yes?” “Yes. 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.the priest. his own awareness that this man he hates asks the questions he refuses . would you. either. Relius?” “Just accuse me of whatever it is you think I’m guilty of. What do you mean.” Father William says.
” he says. but I can't say that I believe it coming from you. The priest does not answer. “I am not hiding. I just needed to get away for a while.” “Do you think I am hiding from someone?” he utters. can you understand that?” Relius knows he's betrays himself.” he says. He questions the priest's motivation for attacking him and asks the priest to tell him why he dislikes him so much.to answer even in the privacy of his thoughts. “The answer is no. so do John and Rebecca. He defends himself hastily. You're hiding something. and his eyes burn with hot tears. unaware that he judges himself. Relius. the only difference is that you know what you're hiding. and Father William continues to accuse him of duplicity in calm. “I understand what you're saying. cautious accusations. his sins. telling the priest that Kristina and Matty know a lot about him. you and I both know it. Relius. I don't. “Don't assume that just because I won't talk to you it means I won't open up to them. .” Relius refuses to say more about himself. But Relius' anger does not burn in the priest. I didn't do anything. and Relius fills the well of silence with his own words. “and I think it would make a lot of sense coming from someone for whom it is true. trying to challenge the priest. certain that the priest challenges him to justify himself before his judgment so that he might reveal his weaknesses.
And I don't mean your damn charity. You deny the simplicity of my life because you want everything to be so complicated that only you and your faith can solve it. Relius? What have you done?” Relius evens his breaths as he listens to the priest. and no longer spite him with irrational anger. tries to calm himself. but he stays at the priest’s side and waits for him to respond.“I don't dislike you. No one's life makes as much sense as you pretend yours does. Relius imagines his words shattering dozens of mirrors in the priest’s mind. Relius. His hands shake and his lips quiver from his controlled rage. 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. . I distrust you. What is it.” he says sternly. and no one goes away from their family. a widow makes all your meals. father. for a few months just because they need to get away. “you are neither the judge nor the council you imagine yourself to be. tries to soothe himself enough so that his words speak of his sincere bitterness toward the priest's beliefs. You sit around and try to offer people advice on their lives and you don't even live a real life. You don't make sense to me. I mean love someone for real. You have never bought a home. their home. Life is not like that. and everything you tell people seems to fit together too nicely for it to be true. “Father. you don't even know what it means to love someone.
father.” he says on choked words. holding a small brown bag of nails tightly in his left hand. Do you even know the history of your religion?” Father William hears Matty first as he walks toward them smiling. . “There are more kinds of love than sexual love. you know nothing. say nothing. and your lack of understanding does not give you the right to minimize what I do for this community. father.“Young man. “Give people false hope? That's not helpful. and accepts the silence. I've seen you in church. 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 cannot believe that you truly believe the things you say.” “I could say the same to you. you were raised with faith. Relius follows the priest's stare.” Matty asks the two men. I just couldn't stand the hypocrisy and the lies any longer. They nod. you know the songs. “Everything all right.” “What do you do?” Relius barks. what happened to you?” “Nothing happened to me. singing quietly to himself. Nothing had to happen to me. They deserve your respect. 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. not your deceit. you know the prayers.
he knows a lot more than you think. He motions to Relius that they should be on their way. Father William looking down in pensive sadness at the bags in his hands.Relius turning away to wipe the angry tears from his cheeks.” Matty's gentle manner and his simple words subdue the passions of the two men.” Matty says. Father. Relius and the priest stare briefly at one another before Relius rides off behind Matty. and don't you underestimate him Relius.” he tells him. “I guess you two probably got into some argument about philosophy or something. Father. “Yes you are. . “you're a wise man. “Don't you get into it with him. He's a wise man. he's a stubborn one.” He looks at the priest shaking his head.
“I'll be. wiping away the dark. that no one she knows would have any reason to drop roadkill on the doorstep. mulch from the stone.SEVEN Theodore Daugherty walks in slows steps across his lawn to inspect his house from a distance. wooden rooster turn with the early breeze. Rebecca sits with her mother at the kitchen table and they talk about last night. Mrs. wet. He steps carefully over the azaleas and reaches down into the pachysandra to retrieve the rock he knows he'd not put there. 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 faces his home and watches the thin. to see if he might find anything along the trees. Daugherty pushes back her chair and walks to the . Her mother asks her if she knows why anyone would do such a thing. He sees a sharp brown scar to the left of their living room window and walks back to his house.” he says. and Rebecca says no. and rubbing off the red mud with his thumb.
dad.” she says with a mild smile. “It says spic lover. He watches his daughter for her thoughts. dad. They hear the front door close and Mrs. “Your father thinks he's going to find some clues out there. “Are you in love with that young man?” It is true. and shakes his head no to his wife's offer of more coffee. His daughter and wife look at the rock. “Are you going to see him today?” . but the somber man does not answer. lifting the rock from her hands and reading its words again. He leans toward her. what do you think it means?” “Is it true?” he asks.window to look for her husband. “What's this about?” he asks bitterly. He pulls a chair from the table and sighs as he lowers himself onto it and rests his hands uncomfortably on the table. The kitchen door swings open slowly and Theodore Daugherty walks into the room with the rock low in his right hand. “What's that. He sets the rock on the table in front of his daughter and turns it slightly till the words face her. She leans forward and reluctantly picks up the rock. Daugherty takes the coffee pot from the shelf and fills the cup her husband had left empty on the table. her lips say. look at him. and wonder why he brought it into the house.” Rebecca says.
” she hears herself say. “be careful. “Why wouldn't I tell him. but a place she could step into where emotions find quietude. Why do you always have to see things dad’s way?” Rebecca searches the room for an exit. though does not remember in response to what. She lets the rock roll out of her hand onto the table and listens to it rumble on the table.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.” her mother says. Not a door.” she hears her father say. smelling the different colors. “Will you tell him about this. and her eyes stay fixed on the words that violate the smell and color of the stone. the wet rock. You've been through a lot already. not a window. the grainy stains left where her father wiped soil and mulch from its surface. watching her parents.” she says. where unknowns do not matter. trying to measure their thoughts. the possibilities of its meaning allude her. don't make things worse for yourself.” “Worse for myself? How could loving someone make things worse. the black letters. The death of her unborn child continues to confuse her in its mystery. align her . and she takes up the stone and holds it close to her nose. their concerns. “Becca. “I might. and she cannot order her life.
They are silent now. Rebecca stops on the porch. And where is the exit. Why the hate. the lingering shadows. then on the empty space between himself and any object he'll not look at in the kitchen. Inside. her father rolls the rock back and forth on the table. why the anger. I have to get out of here. Her mother's eyes water and her father's fix on the rock. Do they blame her. She feels their judgment now. but she hears distrust in their quiet stares. looks at the words and thinks of the hand that wrote them. She hears her parents.hopes with her fears. her mother talking to her behind the closing kitchen door but she does not listen. waiting for her to respond to their worries.” she says. She looks at the rock again. or anything to shield her from the cold wind and morning drizzle. Does not want to touch it. puts it in their quiet faces and sees it. where are the answers to the questions that have her? “I have to go. Not knowing why someone would throw a rock at her house. Her mother covers her mouth and cries. liquid and airy. accept the accusations written on a rock. What do her parents want. and backs quickly away from the table. More confusion now. The smell of rotting animals still . Outside. her memories of love and loss. looks for the fingers. that might have held it and wrote that note. significance. enough to tease out purpose. she tells herself. and rushes out the door without her jacket.
and the bike feels unsteady beneath her. gray. and finally settles into the rhythm of the bike. dense sky. and though . stretched leather. the pedals and the chain.lingers around their small house. though anxious to get away from her parents she tries to steady herself on the bike again. trying to ignore the cars that pass with their horns disturbing the hypnotic sound of the water pressed out by her tires. and she feels her weight shift suddenly from left to right and left again as the front wheel twists in the wet gravel. She presses her left foot hard into the gravel to keep herself from falling and her heart beats harder now. She is nervous. and she walks down the steps and around the side of her house to her bike. She pulls her bike from against the house and feels the metal cold and wet under her fingers. and welcomes the flat evenness of the paved road. The grass violently green under a flat. She pedals uneasily to the end of the driveway. and as she rides she closes her eyes and nervously opens them. her hands unable to keep the bike in a straight line. Reluctant to ride. and she does not see the eyes that stare wide at her in slow and deliberate hate and desire. She rides. the spinning of the wheels. 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 she does not see the blue truck that slows as it nears her on the opposite side of the road.
Wondering why she turned to watch the truck. or each time he believes he sees the priest already walking toward him. and she notices that one profile of the three strains to look through the small window over the bed of the truck. and she stands again into the pedals of her bicycle and rides. He walks with determination and disdain. and . the calmness almost brought on by the length of the walk. blue truck fade into a turn. the pins of sweat itching flatly in his hair and on his back each time he trips. Renee's death.she does not see them she senses an invasive stare. and walks faster. His mother's sorrow. No more. and she squeezes the brakes and looks back over her shoulder to watch the rusty. defiant words he imagines himself hissing violently at the priest. Too many years spent unable to accept anyone's love because his father's abuse of faith convinced him he could not deserve it. He hears curses and accusations in his mind. from his mind. Too many years of being called a sinner. she feels uncomfortable thinking that somehow she knows more than she ought to know of these three men that passed in the truck. he told himself. The sights along the path do not draw Relius' eyes. He forces other thoughts. and she watches this large profile turn back as though embarrassed at knowing that she recognizes its awkward owner. now more aware than she wishes to be of the cars that pass and the faces that turn to stare.
Relius recalls the motions of a cross as he traces its watery outline from his forehead toward his navel. Staring up at the crucifix he wonders why their Christ does not look like any of the people in the town. Inside the church Relius finds pacified and pensive parishioners usher in and out of rows. . The king of the Jews holding out a frozen embrace to all of the Christians. that corner pointed to by the outstretched left arm of the naked man above the altar.vowed to walk to the church and tell the priest he won’t accept his judgment. children cleansed for another week of sin. he won’t be silenced by his god. patiently and pleasantly asking anyone who arrives late to pass on before him in line. rise and kneel. Finding the end of the line near the axil of the eastern arm of the building. Dipping his finger into the cold water by the door. And they smile at his good nature. and recalls the similarity in color of the Christ he saw in Chachapoyas to the people of that Amazon city. replacing one another at altar and exit. from shoulder to shoulder. Relius stands and waits his turn with the sinners. happy and laughing. He walks heavily toward the large brown doors near the eastern side of the Church. One of the many children who pass looks up at him and says “hi Relius” as he scurries through the door. Relius says nothing but looks at them.
already whispering the first prayer on her rosary. and now admits his imperfections before the sanctifying voice of the man hidden behind a brown grill made up of a crucifix fractal. Father. Life is a Dream. and hears the slight click of a light above the confessional warning other witnesses that a sinner has entered. and it means that just by being . Within this small room I am not Father William. inviting the sinner to speak. the beads browned. of his sins.” Relius says.” This voice. “Forgive me.” he whispers in a deep. the spoken one. the chain dulled with years of penitence. but the ears of God. He tries to guess what her sins might be – sins of passion or telling lies. Father William knows this voice and to hear insincerity and mockery. “It's been four years since my last confession. Relius steps calmly into the small dark chamber. he reminds himself. in her hands a similar though antiqued rosary. for I have sinned. and he tries again to listen for the answer to his question. and now kneels. Do you know what that means father? It's from La Vida Es Sueño. harsh voice. “Calderón wrote that el delito mayor del hombre es haber nacido. and kneels beside her mother at the altar. He watches carefully as the young woman steps out of the closet. openly and without rebuke.He listens carefully to the mumbling of the girl who stepped into the confessional before him. “You know father. ignoring the priest.
” Relius enjoys the calmness he forces onto his words. Relius. “You must know.” The whispered rage echoes unfamiliarly to the few people still praying in the church.here you and I are already guilty. As much as it might amuse you. “Have you no respect for anything? You're not here to confess. “I promise you'll find it worth while. His voice sounds quiet. like the words of a man speaking hastily to a frustrating lover or child. Get out of my confessional. you can't just come in here and pretend that you . father. to insult the beliefs of the very people in whose home you live.” the priest scowls.” “But I do have a confession. I am asking you to forgive me. “To ridicule our faith. Can you forgive me for that sin. you're here to brag.” the priest says. “ “How dare you. “Father. in whose community you are accepted? You and I both know you're not here to confess. in a mockingly soft voice. “that forgiveness must begin with you. for having been born?” The priest leans forward in the confessional and glares at the face he sees move brokenly behind the screen. and that you've come for your amusement. deliberate and he listens for anger in the priest. I am confessing. father. “Why did you come here.” he says angrily.” Relius says sarcastically.
“ The priest mellows his words. and if he is here now to confess that past or to confess another. and he hears Relius sigh heavily. The priest's sincerity softens the sharpness of his memories. his aggravation.” he says with question. leans his head forward slightly and closes his eyes. I can tell. he hears himself still rehearsing the words to say forgive me for having taken so long to get rid of your beliefs. What am I running from. The priest says his name again and Relius thinks of the crime. You're hesitating. “Relius?” he says. and wondering if perhaps a sincere wish for forgiveness underlies Relius' aggressive facade. he thinks. but he cannot say them. “Relius. I hear it in your voice. lost him to this town.want something that doesn't matter to you. the secret. He watches Relius' shadow shift behind the screen. holds his hands together tightly in the shadows of the confessional. “I know that you're here for more reasons than to challenge me or to ridicule the beliefs you were raised with. And I imagine you want to say something that maybe you didn't expect to say. forgive me for having lied to myself for so long. He pauses. You've come here to tell me something. In their silence Relius hears the echoes of his spite. am I .“ Father William waits for Relius to respond. regaining his composure. and he considers his past and asks if it was so. that ran him.
more guilty of something I did or of something I had done to me. “Father William. and I know it's a secular crime too. “What is your sin. but to you as a man. 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. not a priest. maybe I didn't just come here just to attack you. until he understands what he has done. splintering the past into the same uncertainty as the future. Father William nods to his own thoughts. And Relius does not know himself. It looks black.” Father William leans his elbow on the small shelf beneath the screen and rests his chin on his hand. His life collapses into questions. And Relius hears himself whisper. and finds a self that can be forgiven. But I also know that what I did can't just be judged through laws that don't have anything to do with individuals. Maybe I came to confess something to you.” he says in a weary voice.” he says quietly. “maybe you're right. lifts his chin from his hand and turns toward Relius. I already know that what I did is a mortal sin according to the church. and he . cannot know himself. He studies the dark door leading out of his chamber and into the church. and knows that Relius needs to be encouraged to continue. he'll not say which mortal sin he's committed. that if he's not asked. old. He does not answer Relius' request to be a man not a priest. Relius. his wet eyes already blurring the shades he stares into. Sadness overcomes his body.
” he says in disbelief. by regretful. thinking that Relius might say he killed someone to say that something he did or did not do led to someone's death. . I can't hear you very well.” he hears a voice say. thefts. His throat dries. “I killed a man. by chance. innocent accident. his voice roughened by grief. and telling the priest will change them both. hesitant. and justify the priest in his judgments. he fears.trembles. make him guilty beyond his secrets. weeping words to describe betrayal.” his lips say. To say it louder will make it real. to be rid of the assumptions that haunt the spaces he shares with the priest and anyone who stands too near. that he killed someone. indirect admissions of masturbation. He'd not expected Relius' sin to be so grave.” Father William had not heard a confession of murder before. the words left silent in his conscience. “I killed him. These sins he knows. a painful pinch tightens in his kneeling knees. lies. Nervous curiosity tightens his nerves and muscles above his stomach. lusts. and he turns to it. these sins he's forgiven. “Relius. he asks him what he means. But this young man has killed another. But Relius wants honesty now. Fighting his own curiosity. “I killed a man. Confessions of adultery. to hear the story and not the confession. and he dislikes his own desire to ask Relius to tell him what he did.
just a gun and a bodiless hand. He does not imagine a landscape. neither saying a word to it. “How could that be self defense?” . A boy. “I mean I killed a man. not wheezing now. father. to hear the guilt it suggests. not yet ready with his own.” he says to the silence.” Father William hears the words and closes his eyes to see the image of Relius holding a gun. Both men stare at the screen between them now. and listens to Relius exhale slowly. Father William hears Relius breathing heavily behind the screen. “was it self-defense?” Relius tightens his brow to look at his memory.” he says. “Yes. but he does not see Relius in the darkness of his imagination. echoing Relius' words. Just a gun. yes. or the dying body of a boy. I shot him.” Relius says.” “Wasn't threatening your life?” he repeats. He'd thought of selfdefense when it happened. and sees Relius face more clearly as he lifts himself from the kneeling pad and sits on the small seat behind him. “You shot him.“No. “in a way. He listens to the puff of medication Relius inhales twice into his lungs.” he says. wanting Relius to hear how it sounds. But he wasn't threatening my life when it happened. “Relius. Not a man. he'd wondered about it during nights awake while hearing Matty's muffled snore through the walls.
asking him why he did it and then pushing them to the floor. Someone spray painted ‘get out spic’ on the mirror behind the bar. “A bunch of kids showed up in the restaurant one night and destroyed everything. They had a surprise party for me once. He kneels again for his words to carry quietly to the priest. but he'd threatened me before. I was scared. Some of the kids jumped out the window .” he says. It was late.“I mean he wasn't threatening my life when it happened. he describes the memories he sees. throwing glasses and dishes. and I woke up because I thought I heard something downstairs in the dining room. 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. the motions of the children. but when I saw that I just got angry.” Weeping. With his eyes closed. I was scared. But when I got downstairs all I saw were kids running all over the place. Then I heard voices and lots of pounding. worried suddenly that someone in the church might hear. jumping on the tables. 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. breaking chairs. “They destroyed my restaurant. like people were dancing or something. like glasses breaking. and started grabbing one kid after the other and screaming at him. Relius sees the entire image in his mind. Sees the colors of the night.
and telling me he wasn't done yet. My blood. I kept picking up things and just dropping them. 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. laughing. He bows his head and is reluctant to continue. holding a brick in his hand. windows replaced. I was delirious. I came to with a cop standing over me. and he just kept pointing at me and telling me he wasn't done yet. just stood there outside the window. wounds heel. and I saw a few of them cut their hands on the glass and shards of wood. asking me if that's what hit me. He'd been harmed. ignoring the cop who was telling me to lie back down. My hair was full of blood. Tables and chairs can be bought again. I remember just standing there. and when I turned on my side I saw a huge pool of blood on the floor. The crime against him seems so minor now. older than the other kids. I didn't understand. . I thought I was going to die.they broke to get in. and didn't understand what I was looking at for a while. To tell of the murder. said too much. looking at everything like it wasn't real. This one kid. I was looking right at him. He said I was lucky the brick hit me flat because a corner would probably have killed me. 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. not worth the life he'd taken. I tried to get up. “ Relius wonders if he's said enough.
But the police said they wanted to collect more evidence. He takes a kerchief from his pocket and dries his eyes and nose. and cannot settle on any of the words or phrases passing through his mind. I just walked back and forth around the room. though his thoughts have not given words. I was kicking around the . It made the restaurant so dark.” he says. father. “I had to spend that night in the hospital. hoping that words will yield thoughts.but nothing had been taken from him. But he does not understand. and he feels relieved that the priest listens with compassion and not the accusation he expected. “how did you come to kill this boy?” Relius has to calm himself to be able to hear Father William. 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. and besides. wanting to console Relius. He feels cold. and didn't know where to begin. “My god. The only thing anyone had done was to put plywood over the broken windows. He has no rehearsed response. no one really wanted to deal with it right away.” he says. “Relius. That night. and he lowers his head and waits for the wisdom he prays for. “what have I done?” Father William lifts his hand to the screen and touches it. “and when I got back the next day I thought everything would be cleaned up.” Relius cries. and he feels ashamed. assure him that he understands. reprobate.
It was so pathetic. Standing there. I kept thinking about when my mother gave me that picture. feeling betrayed by everybody. It was beginning to wear . holding the image of his bandaged head behind the red letters shouting at him to get out. “During the next few months after everything happened I'd constantly find graffiti on the walls and windows outside. and I remember just standing there. The frame was in pieces all over the floor. not as Relius. asking me to talk to my father. not done. and the picture was cut up. A cop was there when I got back. When I found the picture I just broke down. to remember him. behind the bar. He lowers his voice to a cool tone of anger and contempt. still intact. but it would always be back in a day or two.” Relius pauses and remembers seeing himself in the mirror. He does not weep now. anonymous letters cursing him.broken glass behind the bar and found the picture of my father holding up the first dollar he ever made. laughing. but he left before I found the picture. feeling really alone. and all I could remember was that kid's face. I got so angry. knowing that someone was about to hit me. I'd clean it or paint it as soon as it came up. and Father William hears Relius speak as though reporting something he had seen. but as an anonymous trespasser in a room in a home his family had built and he had considered his own.
but I'm pretty sure he went out there on purpose. He asked me what I wanted . and followed a thin. like he knew something I didn't. He turned off the main route. I saw him walking past the restaurant. Going away didn't help me the way it should have. and people kept telling me they thought I needed to get away for a while. windy road past an old quarry. to just disappear for a few days in California. and out through the western suburbs and into farm country. I kept imagining the windows broken again. I decided to come back early from the trip and when I got home I saw that kid. I didn't know what I was going to do. just looking into the windows and walking. 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. that they would take care of things. and then pulled into a park. instead I started to followed him in my car. He was laughing. Instead it made me even more nervous about trying to go on.me out. the tables. After two months I decided to take a short vacation. the one who told me he wasn't finished yet. and I followed him out of the neighborhood. I went in right behind him. I don't know when he realized I was following him. and he came walking over to my car with a big smile on his face. He didn't see me at first. But the whole time I was gone I kept thinking about what things might look like when I got back. I saw him look at me when I parked behind him. the one the cops kept telling me they couldn't identify. I didn’t stop. and didn't even remember that I kept a gun in the car.
Laughing. The same insane smile I saw that night. but he just stood there. but by the time he was about five feet from my car I jumped out and stood there pointing the gun at him. I told him to get back. to sit and wait to see what he would do. He stopped walking. Any time he turned to say something I lifted it up and told him to turn around. and then he started pounding on the window and screaming and laughing at me. Eventually he stopped and walked back to his car. why they did that to the restaurant. I didn't want to kill him. He opened his trunk and I saw him pull a crowbar out. I had the gun out the whole time. He started walking toward my car again. but was still laughing at me.and I asked him if he recognized me. I felt like I had to stand up to him. I wish I'd left then. Like I couldn't let him feel in control this time. that I was overreacting or something. He was so . I asked him what he had against me. but I wasn't pointing it at him or anything. He told me a bunch of nonsense about too many foreigners in America. and I swear I don't know why I didn't just leave. but didn't give shit. While we were walking I tried talking to him. He made me feel sorry for him. It was like he thought the whole thing was a joke. He put his hand on the door and tried to open it. make him feel powerless. I don't even remember reaching under the seat. He said he did. We walked for a long time. I wanted to make him do something. I pointed the gun at his face. I wish wasn't so stupid. so I told him to walk toward the path along the river. I locked the door.
naive. thinking maybe he was a good kid who'd just fallen in with the wrong people. But that's when it happened. blood all over the snow. 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. But I couldn't see it. I don't know where he had the knife. I figured that was it. and no one would . But as soon as I saw him lying there. I walked over to him still expecting him to be fine. and I knew that he wasn't really angry with me. I was standing there with the gun pointed at his feet. but he just laughed and told me to fuck off. I ran back to my car and just drove away. Anything I said. and I kept having stupid thoughts about how the snow would cover everything. We stood by the river for almost an hour and he didn't say anything to me. or anyone foreign. The knife was so small. He was coming at me with this little knife. he just wanted more than he thought he could get out of life. When I saw him falling back I didn't know what had happened. just insulted me. That he'd listened to this kind of bullshit for so long that it got in the way of who he really was. tried to tell him that I understood where he was coming from. I remember it was snowing like crazy then. If it was in his pocket. When I made him drop the crowbar. I panicked. I shot him just once and hit him right in the chest. and then before I knew he was lunging at me with a knife in his hand. and I lifted the gun and shot him. I tried talking to him about it. I knew it looked like I'd dragged him out there just to shoot him. or what.
and if he heard him as a man or as a priest. He wonders what the priest might ask him. then got in my car and started driving around again. I thought about packing some things. The snow started covering the car. I didn't know how big the woods were behind the junkyard. and I tossed a few pieces of junk on top of it and around it. and I got lost. It was huge. I stood there for a while and didn't know what to do. I wrote a letter and sent it to my brother. 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. mistaking it for quiet . Then I just started walking.” Relius listens for the echoes of his crime in the confessional. and I went all the way to the back of it. I kept taking small roads for about eight or nine hours and then saw a junkyard and just pulled right into it. No one was around so I got some rocks and broke the windows and then took off the plates and cut up the seats. 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.” Relius says to the priest's confusion. I was just insane. but I just couldn't. I didn't have any idea where I was. “Father. 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. That's when Matty found me. By the time I got home. and I just kept walking. and drove right into a pile of cars. Murphy Fields.know what kind of car was there. The only thing I grabbed was a flashlight. and it didn't make any sense.
” “Father. inadequate. She might have convinced him to leave. to begin for himself with the experience he had. He would not have bought a gun. and leans away from the screen and listens to Relius breathe.” “Have you told anyone else. you know I can't do that. gone to the police with the gun and confessed. John. I followed him into the woods and shot him. to find life elsewhere. He misses Renee. the experience they shared. But Relius hides now. but he cannot stop. you need to go to the police.castigation. He wishes he'd stayed home. . Rebecca. Who would believe that I didn't go there just to kill him. John?” Relius thinks of anyone else. “They can help you if you go to them and explain what happened. the Flaigs. A few vandals striking the windows and chairs of the restaurant wouldn't have pressed him into such severe depression.” he hears himself tell the man. His fingers unwrap stiffly from one another and he rubs his hands in hard circles over his eyes. and anyone else that comes to mind he sees with calm faces waiting to distort when they hear of his crime. Inadequate. though tells himself that none of this would have happened if she hadn't died. “Relius. not run. please. “what now?” Father William rejects the cautious phrases rushing to his mind. and considers what he would have told her. I murdered a kid.
father. you know that your confession must be contrite. not hiding in openness. manipulate the bind of secrecy in the confessional. and he questions if Relius merely tries to manipulate him now. “Don't you think you'll have to tell Rebecca? You can't love someone with something like this hidden from them. “I haven't told lies.not lied. It would just drag up too much bitterness. I've thought about going back for a long time. “Relius sit down. I simply haven't told anyone my reason for being here. but what would it accomplish? It wouldn't bring the kid back. I'm going to stay here as long as I can. You know that. He wants to feel like he lives somewhere with people who know him like Renee knew him. I won't deny it. understanding the priest's distrust.” The priest hears Relius rise from the kneeling pad again. otherwise it . You did something terribly wrong and you need to answer for it.” he shouts in a whisper. “ His defiant assertiveness angers the priest.” “Father. and he sees his silhouette stand in the diffused light. “This is madness. If the police find me. “Is your name really Relius?” he says. You can't just stay here the rest of your life. but until then I'm going to live here. “ “Relius.” he says patiently. then I'll answer for it. I've thought about turning myself in.” he says. “Yes. “You're the first person I've told.
” “So you don't forgive me?” “Relius. the anger that made him wait to be the last person the priest would hear that day. But that does not mean I'm going to turn you in. I can't absolve you. Father. To me I haven't sinned against your faith or your commandments. 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. I think what you're asking of me is something you need to find in . but now that you know. And I don't see how being hypocritical now should win me any sort of eternal life. he does hear you in this confessional.means nothing. He wants to be honest now. And even though you don't believe in the God of this church. You didn't answer me before. but does not want to insult Father William's beliefs. “I'm sorry. “But I don't want your faith. that does not mean I can remove myself from my purpose here. an agent.” he says. in this church. In this confessional I am a priest. father. what I did was a sin before your faith ever existed. or disrespect the confidence they now share.” “Nothing according to whom.” “Relius. father. and will always be a sin so long as humanity evaluates itself. Can't you please forgive me as a person.
with the rhythm of conversation. Relius steps . No one is there at the moment. with familiar words. and thinks they should find a more appropriate place for him to be the friend that Relius needs. Father William feels the last heavy switch pop under his fingers. not of authority. and looks out into the church to signal Relius to follow him. and he looks at the confessional door. perhaps years. Telling you to go pray the rosary right now wouldn't help you. He leans between them and whispers loudly. Relius. I know that. An elderly couple still prays. I think the conversation you need we could better have in the rectory. and he imagines the church beyond it. I promise that everything you tell me will be kept in confidence. a voice he's not heard himself use in many months. You shouldn't assume that wearing this collar cuts thoughts off before they reach my head. He steps up to the altar and walks through the white door to the right of the tabernacle. closes the panel door. but they do not turn toward the footsteps of the priest.” Father William hears himself speaking as the man that Relius sought in the church. I lived before I became I priest. “Would you mind if we stepped out of the confessional and left the church. I'm not an ignorant man. and Relius and the elderly couple see the church darken from the back toward the front. I even lost someone.yourself.” Father William steps from the confessional and looks toward the altar. and in the wings. and we could speak privately. He sounds unfamiliar to himself.
His lover laughed at the story. Father William points to a room to the left of the foyer and directs Relius toward a large. without a book of answers. and young Brother William knew that his lover's vows were not for life. girlishly sharing their surprise that a priest was still a man. That's the distinction.” And they laughed. The rectory smells old. “No need. but stands looking at the bookshelves when Father . The church values its dormant presence. Relius and Father William leave through the back door of the church. not its absence.” his lover snickered. and they walk along the stone sidewalk toward the street. he recalls a vacation in Israel. While he unlocks the door Father William looks into Relius' eyes and knows that Relius sees him as a man without a collar. and Relius asks him if he ever locks the door. black leather couch before he disappears to make the coffee he offered. like an office or a library. how the elderly women laughed and pointed with their painted brows at his bathing suite. “how else could priests only be men. The candles seem smaller than the ones he lit as an altar boy. “The penis is essential. Relius searches the room for photographs.” the priest tells him. and he wonders where they keep the relics of this church's saint. without truth.reluctantly onto the red carpet of the altar and walks slowly toward the white door where Father William waits for him. and cross to the rectory. In an instant of untraceable memory.
Silence hides their skepticism. or if he’ll finally be able to stop asking so many questions of himself and of the people he cares about and loves. family and loves. Their conversation leads them through each man's past. though choosing carefully the words to describe his friends. Relius tells of his family. panic. Relius doesn’t say a word when Rebecca tells him about the roadkill and the rock. Father William shares his motivation for joining the clergy. and merely remember Renee. He wants to know if tomorrow will bring more of this. though Father William says he understands Relius' guilty hesitation to stand in the present with Rebecca. They shake hands at the doorstep.William carries two ceramic mugs of coffee into the room. Each man quietly considers the possibility that their animosity had become friendship. of his occasional desire to leave. if part of her agrees with her father. He wants to know if she blames him for it. and he quietly searches the past and guesses about the future and Rebecca gets more and more frustrated with his silence. and Relius says goodnight without hearing of Brother William's lover. and say goodbye. and the mix of faith and superstition in Peru. His thoughts wander. Each man speaks honestly to the other. She watches his eyes shift slowly to follow the movements of her hands or .
and starts to get angry with him for being bored to hear about something so important. 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? . “I don't really know if I even want to live anywhere else. Any list she’s made up of where to go and how to live there seemed incomplete and impossible.feet. “ Rebecca hates this question. she’s wanted to leave for years. She imagines he looks at nothing. Rebecca asks him if he’s worried about the people who threw the rock at her parents’ house. But she can’t. right to left. she asks him why he’s being so quiet. “Why wouldn't I stay here?” “Because of stuff like last night. “I don’t know why you stay here. She wanted to leave after the miscarriage. He just smiles sadly and shakes his head while staring at the leaves under Rebecca’s feet. Even you’re going to leave sometime aren't you. She watches his eyes move from left to right. It’s not so easy for her to start over she tells him. She’s not like Relius. Why do you stay here?” Relius doesn’t answer. Wanting to stay calm. She wants to leave. She wanted to leave when she got pregnant.” he says.
they’re cowards. They’re punished with the silent awareness that everyone around them is sick and depraved. especially the bad things we do. They’re only allowed to tell god – not even themselves.“Becca. isn’t it? That Adam and Eve were tossed from the Garden for asking too many questions – for knowing too much. The rest of us are allowed to hear things and talk about them. “don’t worry about them. She nods when Relius says that they’ll do anything out in the open. Since when do you care about a priest’s suffering anyway?” .” “So?” “So. nor is she sure that Relius is right when he says that people are getting pretty used to having him around. He describes their conversation in the confessional. and once priests know anything about us. he tells her. priests are punished more than anyone else is. but she does not believe him. the urge he had to confess to him in the church. don’t you think. and she thought he was wrong too. she thinks. He’s even getting along with the priest. “It’s weird.” “That’s nonsense. and punish him by binding him with the knowledge of his crime. but not priests. and even judge people.” he says.” My father said that. they’re not allowed to say anything.
What made it the right time to tell the priest and not her? “Don’t be upset. and he looks past the hair that falls . or carelessness. and he feels confused and doesn’t know if he killed the boy out of revenge.” “What did you tell him?” “About myself mostly. his blood exploding onto the freshly fallen snow. He hears the gunshot echo through the months since he killed the boy. The entire tragedy revived out of sequence in his mind. and he would always say that he’d tell her when the time was right. and he glares at the shapeless gray sky. I told him in confession.“I talked to him for a long time. he wonders.” Rebecca is angry now. About Renee. He wants to tell her.” Relius leans away from her and lets her hand fall gently onto her knee. and he looks over to Rebecca’s eyes. Will he sound weak to her? Cruel? Cowardly? He takes a deep breath. She’d asked him before why he was here. Maybe I did want to kill him. hate.” he says. but just imagining the words he’ll use makes him question himself. That’s different. meditating on the image of the young man falling again. and its piercing certainty thunders in his thoughts. resentful that Relius felt more comfortable talking with the priest than with her. “I think I can tell you now too. Why I came here.
Maybe you should just accept what you did and try to reconcile it with yourself. she wants to say and she asks him why he should need her forgiveness. She does not ask why he avoids the police. the insane desire for revenge. He sees anger and sympathy then confusion in her eyes and lips. “Can you forgive me?” “I don't know what to say. tells her that he is here because he killed a boy. “I mean I killed someone. but agrees that no one would believe it was selfdefense. And he tells her the color of the car he abandoned intact in the junkyard. “You killed someone. “What do you mean?” she says.” Forgiving you wouldn’t mean anything. and he remembers things he did not tell the priest. He remembers the way the blood blurred his vision after he’d gotten up from being hit. the words cannot contain the vertigo. What am I supposed to say. Don't ask me to do it for you.onto her shoulders.” And Relius hears the story of the restaurant. the gun. the woods. The boy jumps at him more quickly as he tells her. the quiet calm of guilt. as confession or revelation. and the death. and how his eyes stung when he stared at his wet hands.” . and. a story he regrets. He remembers running his hand through his hair. However told. staring into the air beyond her. I shot him. certain that she’d misunderstood him. A fiction he hates. Relius.
“Relius. under his fingertips. Looking away. Her hands feel cold. As though telling him in confession. and compelling him to keep the secret would force the priest to carry the same burned of guilt he bore. letting her fingertips rest in his. and Relius not only confessed the murder. she sighs as though to herself. “Does anyone else know?” she says. and whispers his name.” “Relius. But the relief of telling the truth calmed his spite. and he likes to feel his warmth surround them. He feels her nails. it was a sin talked about in terms of a lifetime and a family. Why? Do you think you’d be better off somewhere else with me?” “I don’t know. do you want me to leave with you?” “No.” . he’d expected to do so spitefully. but talked about his life as well. It was not just a sin told in the isolated anonymity of a confessional. left alone by her response. and caresses the smooth line of skin raised slightly above the delicate vein beneath. Relius leans forward to take Rebecca's hand. Only two people know. When he told the priest. that’s not what I was getting at. long and white. hatefully.He looks deflated.
Marty. Bite down like this.” . Marty holds the bag. sometimes two salty peanuts into his mouth. And once it’s broke crack it open and eat the peanuts.EIGHT His large fingers pinch each shell gently before dropping one. the red and white stripes hardly visible under the grip of his wide fingers. Here. “Don't eat the shells. just the peanuts.
you’re my wigger. I won't get sick. I like it. “ “Marty. It matters.“But the shell’s salty. Walking around like it just doesn't matter. will I?” “No. Can't you ever just relax and enjoy yourself.” “Look. Luke. No point in getting him all worried. Luke. man. bitch.” . Damn it. why you so serious all the time. Don’t call me that that. you won't get sick. I won't get sick. “ “What if they leave? Then what?” “They won’t.” “What’s a wigger?” Marty says.” “I ain't trying to worry him. Craig. we'll find them later. you see them over there.” “Should we follow them?” “No. She's with that fucking spic. “Shut up. It matters. I just think he needs to learn some things is all. There she is. If I say you’re my wigger. Just leave him alone. You bring the cards. retard. Craig. I just like to eat it all. She'll see. wigger?” “Damn. What about when you get sick later?” “I won't get sick. I just don't get you sometimes.” “Shut up.
“Does the priest have to read at these things?” Rebecca spots the small stage set up for town talent and leads Relius toward it.” she says. looks up at him and whispers ‘fuck you. It’ll be fun. In the dusk light she recognizes Marty’s outline as the figure in the truck. and she knows that they were the ones who slowed and stared at her.Rebecca sees Luke and his cronies turn away from her as she and Relius walk by. “I haven’t been here in years.’ “What was that about?” He asks Rebecca? “Don’t worry about him.” As they walk toward the stage Relius hears a small commotion behind them. “Are you okay?” She smiles at him. He turns and sees Marty on the ground. Luke would get embarrassed for Marty and fight anyone teased him. “Don’t worry. Relius feels the tension in her hand.” Rebecca tells him that even when they were in school. Luke. Father William smiles at Relius and Rebecca. and nods. pleased to see them come by . Luke and Craig picking him up. smiling. feeling Relius’s stare among all the people who watch him. it’s not what you think.
are soft. In church. the first time Father William talks like a monster. a time to lose himself in voices and fairytales. that distance between himself and his happiness lets a vague melancholy creep into him. This is a precious time for him. imply admonition and judgment.for the story. and Father William laughs with them. can make the children laugh and feel safe. though. stories read to him by his mother. they always do. He reads stories from his own childhood. a time to let go of sermons and lessons. a friendly one. though deep and gruff. And the children scream. even the rare elegant phrases from the Bible. He doesn’t stay there long. The children gasp. sometimes happy. the words. these stories. His monsters never sound scary. He wants this happiness. And the strange tension of longing for a moment that he’s already in. And they giggle at his old woman’s voice. today. But today. these words. The children still laugh at the last line he’d read. stories that gave him so much shelter when he couldn’t understand himself or his perceptions. when he preaches. Father William's monsters growl with humor and thrill the children – though the parents always understand that his are sad and lonely creatures. he cherishes this moment. sometimes meek. and they marvel at his hero. Their voices. and their laughter echoes into his brooding thoughts and pull him . and the children laugh.
And they watch the ogre. and this man yearns to remain invisible. He pauses more deliberately to let an image loom sure and living in the worlds behind their young faces. and this man wishes that his performance could endure. lean into the ears of their wives. and he hides behind the imaginary trees he pushes apart with his hands. Marty stops and laughs with the children. and watch with curious delight the spectacle of Father William without composure and without reserve. husbands. each child pushing aside a different branch. and he is each child as they look for the ogre through the trees with him. neighbors and whisper. each branch of a different tree. forgetting to follow Craig and Luke past the crowd encircling the stage. He looks at the words waiting at his fingertips. They do not see Father William. and continues. His pace seems clearer to him now. and they listen as he wanders around his fire and sings his ogre songs and grunts his ogre grunts. Marty looks beside him. less encumbered by thoughts that lead him away from the world he creates in the imaginations of the children. friends. His eyes widen . behind him for his friends.back into the moment. and he rises from his chair to walk like the ogre. He does not notice that they walk on. They point to him. The parents wait patiently behind their children. and when Father William rises from his chair to thank the parents and their children.
thoughtlessly driving his hands and enormous shape through the groups of friends and families. His heavy feet lead him out of the crowd. But I couldn’t find you. and branches looks enormous in the center of . and he calls out for Luke and Craig. don't you ever listen. “I figure everyone.” Luke stares coldly at both of them. I wasn't scared. old lumber. He walks through the crowd. Terrified.” “Man. he turns toward the strong hand he feels on his shoulder. Sometimes you're such a moron. He stops again and looks behind himself once more. and he stands at its edge with his hands at his side. “What happened to you. “Who's coming tonight?” Craig says.” “You get scared?” “No. We told you where we were going.” “Don't call him a moron.and he turns his head quickly. angry with himself for repeating a word he knew would hurt and confuse this giant boy he was chosen to protect. looking in all directions for the direction he should take. Craig. Marty walks in front of his friends into the park. Who can stay away from a bonfire?” The mound of timber. Marty?” “I was listening to the story.
and finds nothing. “Nothing? All right. He moves steadily toward the table and sits with his back to his friends.” Marty doesn’t want to answer the boy anymore.the field. He’s not used to talking to other people. His thoughts creep full of significance into the focus of his observations. “What you burnin there. and he vainly looks inward to find them. He likes the way the flames reflect off the beer bottles in their hands. Everyone and everything he sees moves through a clear glue. A young man tending to the bonfire watches Marty place the handful of leaves carefully against the branches. we’re gonna light this thing in a bit. The alcohol feels heavy in Luke’s mind and burns in his blood. 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. eager to burn the handful of leaves he picked up. only Luke and Craig. Marty?” The young man’s question surprises and embarrasses him. If you change your mind do it soon.” he says. of . Marty walks toward it. and yet he shapes this nothingness into meaning. for his inclination to determine the fate of others. to know their significance. into motivation for his hate. “Nothing. and he senses thoughts rise at the nape of his neck.
Their eyeballs look large and excited. “Some people are letting things go. . The high school boys tending the bonfire look surprisingly calm to Relius. at the faces reflected in the growing flames. and in those colors he sees the shapes of dolls. quieting everyone. and some are making wishes. he thinks. Relius looks around the fire. even something that looks like a small boat. and he sees some couples holding hands. and other couples silently praying together. He glances at Rebecca. of course not.” he says.” And Relius notices that along the outside of the fire things burn in different colors. shoes. A small flame starts deep inside the bonfire. When he sees Relius and Rebecca he turns to his friends. “They’re watching their stuff burn. like they’re not impressed by the enormous fire they’re about to make. pointing with his beer bottle. Or maybe they’re a bit frightened of it. the need for renewal. “There they are. In the mournful crackle of the fire Relius thinks of what he could burn. “Did you put anything in there?” Rebecca smiles. No one says a word. a small laugh.those two lovers he despises. records. He understands rituals.” Relius nods. “What’s going on?” he whispers to Rebecca.
The memories have softened some. and he strains to listen. playing and singing around the bonfire.There’s not much anymore. he hears the words “bone fire”. He loses track of what the words could have meant. Dizzying. The more the bonfire grows. Listening. with or without significance. She talks about the bonfire. each word in isolation. deleted. the louder the children sing. looking at the ruins of an Incan wall. Relius looks for the texture of the darkness. They were in the desert. but his thoughts carry him elsewhere. even of Renee. Her words echo individually in his mind. There are so many children here. Me. He wants to tell Rebecca about the funny thoughts he had as a child. thoughts about memory and breaths. Why. Relius. in Peru. which words belong and which words he ignored. It reminds him of being a child in Peru. Beyond Rebecca’s silhouette. fireworks and bats. Listen. each word taken from its natural order in the phrase she intended and forced to stand alone. . Relius sighs deeply. It reminds him of looking up at the bats flying just above the lights in the town square. he and his brother running from a man in a costume of firecrackers. blending together into a feeling of a memory if not a real memory of anything. the millions of beans spread out to dry on the cement. and he repeats them over and over to himself. Night and day. he sees an evening of shapes marked by small frames of light in the dark. This. Fine. So many memories coming together at once.
Trying to imagine where they go. where we kept them. remembering the dust. and sometimes they're able to bounce out of all the caves and valleys of our brains and spring off our tongues. The things we learn. . But only certain experiences can make it. Maybe your first breath determines everything about who you’ll become. He said it to a teacher once. “Our ancestors are in the dust.” Years later. and combining to make patterns in the valley of ourselves. but older. or even simplicity and genius.” his father said. wondering if he didn’t just breath in their bodies but their thoughts as well. frustrate us and become the images that haunt us in our sleep. and echo in our brains. he thought. When we get older these thoughts settle in our minds. Things that don't make it. like certain words or thoughts or things we've seen. The new things we learn have to pass through this valley before they can be part of memory. With your first breath you inhale the ghosts of history in the room. Happiness and sadness could be like the sun and storms. and they have to be in the right order. Relius stared at the ocean. digging his toes into the sand. Words too. It sure would help make sense of non-sequiturs or utter nonsense. maybe. Told her that maybe words and experiences are like part of a whole landscape in our minds.“We’re breathing them in right now. still a boy. like waters that shape the valleys and weather the surfaces of our brains.
are his silence. and more people watch the smoke climb into the sparks that fly above the fire. honey. and neither of them hears nor sees the three young men sitting quietly near them. and Relius thinks of the isolation of the blueness of the day. red and orange. And the circle grows. and the night hovers from the heavens to the earth. and the wisps of smoke that fade into the night sky. “Yes. so did his classmates. A child near Rebecca points to the fire and tells her parents there is blue there. During the . Relius distrusts the blackness of the night.Nightmares. Relius once told her that he had learned a better silence since his childhood. it’s blue. and she wonders now as he speaks. if these words that carry him away from her. watching them. And Rebecca doesn’t know what to say when he tells her about it now. waiting for them.” the mother says. Rebecca leans forward to hold his hands more tightly. the circle of people widens. away from their conversation. His teacher laughed. “Do you know why it's blue?” the fathers ask. and the whiteness of the clouds. She looks through the thin clouds at the waning constellations. and more children push through the legs of their parents and strangers to watch the spits of yellow. and stares instead into its blueness. As the bonfire grows.
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. he rubs his hand together and grins madly any time he looks at Luke and asks him what they are going to do. Drawn to her as though to a possession. The way .day colors divide. His eyes meet Luke’s again. His eyes stay fixed on Relius. 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. and he watches him with hatred and Rebecca with spite. Let’s go of his hand and jumps in front of him. He moves closer now. but Luke doesn’t say anything. Her excitement distracts him from his thoughts about Luke. Luke does not look at the fire or the stars.” Relius does not hear them. he just grabs Marty hard by the arm and pulls him along. Craig walks quickly back and forth between Luke and Marty. and he can’t resist her beautiful happiness. but the night envelopes everything and the heavens have no privilege over their horizons. Marty cannot understand his attraction to the red glow of the fire reflected in the face he had caressed with his fantasies. Even the stars share in the darkness. and he follows her past the fire and toward a small bath lit by lanterns. but he’s aware of the anger nearby. “What the fuck is wrong with you. leading his two friends.
where other couples stop and walk back to the fire. . the dark spots in the bark staring at them like a hundred eyes. “What do you expect to see?” The birch trees glow white in the moonlight. But the path simply leads to that last torch. Relius walks up to a birch and picks a small sheet of birch from the ground. a wish.” he says.lit by manifold shades of blue and red. The couples walk along slowly.” Rebecca pulls a key from her pocket and begins to carve a word into it. “I can't see anything. leading into the darker veins of this forest and along the abandoned trails. past the final lantern. “Write something on it. Rebecca insists that they keep walking together into the darker turns in the trail. At the final torch. or a revelation of the reasons behind that insecure passion they feel as a pleasant pain enveloping their hearts in its supple pressure. leaving each other enough room to feel like they’re walking alone. 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. 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.
he’s about to yell back at her.” He listens to the quiet cracks of the branches in the night. “Good choice. but he does not hear her. and thinks it must be there river. “Relius. “You okay?” he shouts. and then he hears her scream.” Rebecca sings quietly. He hears something like a whisper over his shoulder. and he turns toward it. I’ll be right back. He tells Rebecca to sing to him as he walks a few steps farther into the trees.” he says. no!” she yells. he does not see her . but sees nothing there. He grins at first.“What are you writing?” “Really want to know?” “Yeah. and he hears the feint hum of the bonfire and the singing. and in the enormous shadows cast by the turn and counterturn of sun and moon.” “Shame. but then hears the rough voices surrounding her. enough to have some privacy to relieve himself without embarrassing her. just hurry. “I’m fine. “stay here.” Relius nods. It’s just a spider. would you.” “Keep singing.
and Luke turns to her and laughs. and stands behind him. and Luke slaps her hard across the face. chest. making her watch as Luke kicks Relius again and again in the face and stomach. Luke laughs at the site of Relius curled on the ground. and swinging the buckle in the air. bringing him hard to the ground. He kicks at the ground. and does not see the bruises on her breasts where Marty groped vainly for pleasure. and Luke shouts out words of hate. “See. but finds nothing besides thin branches and hardened soil. and gut. Nothing. snaps it sharply at the men around Rebecca.torn blouse.” Marty hands Luke his flashlight. “You’re an animal!” Rebecca screams. Rebecca spits at him. He pulls fiercely at his belt. watching the light reflect off Rebecca’s tears. tackles him.” Craig pulls Rebecca’s arms behind her back and holds her there. and then stands above him to urinate on him.” he says to Rebecca. searching it for a stone or log. “Marty. Luke kicks Relius in the head once more and then walks toward Rebecca. struggling to breathe. give me your flashlight. and orders his sycophant to hold the spic down as he punches and kicks at his face. “he can’t do shit for you. . Craig jumps at Relius.
and then follows him away into the woods. and an army of voices comes rushing toward them. The three men run in all directions. ignoring the lights that come at them from every turn. and his shouts echo through the disturbed peace of the night. and then stares in disbelief at the man who holds the gun that shot him. Craig drops Rebecca heavily to the ground. Marty cannot run. “Luke don’t. He sees Luke step over Relius and bend down to whisper something to him. The light that shines on Marty's face freezes him in its pellucid grip.” he says.” “Luke don’t. He looks toward the lights that seem both near and distant. denying their escape. Luke don’t. He reaches up to touch her face and Craig tightens his hold on her arms. Luke heard the gunshot. As he runs over Relius he kicks him again in the chest. and startle the men and women who had .“How did you ever become such a slut. the terror having taken all the strength from her limps. Held by his own terror that he has broken something beautiful. and then turns to call out to Luke and Marty. 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.” he mocks. Craig charges madly at a police officer. His friend dies. and runs back to Craig.
not to hear words of hate. “What happened here.” A police officer whispers into Father William’s ear. . I can't stay here anymore. “I don't know. Father.” Rebecca says.” The bruises on her face stand out in the light of the cars and the spotlights. The hateful man and the slow one are lead away. and the priest apologizes to Relius and then follows the officer toward the parking lot. Father William speaks softly. “Relius. Her trembling body tells him she is weeping. still trembling. and begins to cry. As the doctor examines Relius. Father William kneels beside Relius and listens to him inhale pure oxygen through the plastic mask covering his face. Relius?” Relius lifts the oxygen mask from his face. Kristina helps Rebecca over to Relius’s side. and Relius can clearly see her torn blouse under the blanket.simply gone out to celebrate. or have thoughts of mourning. and the cruel one carried. her arms wrapped protectively around Rebecca. “we need to get away from here. Relius looks silently to Kristina. gently asking. He ribs are bandaged and his lungs burn and his saliva tastes like blood. He shakes his head.
and so the priest asks him again. Martin.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. Weeping still. you need to worry about yourself now. where is Luke?” “Luke is fine. Luke did a very bad thing and he cannot go wherever he wants to anymore. “how are you doing. but he offers no response to Father William's question. Marty?” “Father. How are you doing?” “Is Luke going to come see me?” “No. 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. does not understand why he must repeat again and again that he was just doing what Luke and Craig told him to do. He is in another room a lot like . Luke cannot come see you.
prepared for conflict. why can't he?” “Martin.” “But I did it. so now he is in trouble. Father William finds Luke. but he cannot blame his friend. I hurt them. Father William's deep. in a room more isolated and emptier than Marty's.” “But you can come. Luke hurt that girl and that boy very badly. he knows that lying to the priest is wrong.” “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. He cannot lie to the priest. He leans back defiantly in his chair. knowing that this man must answer to a different justice. soothing whisper calms Marty. Down the hall. and soon Father William stands to leave the room. and trying to quiet one voice in his head with another. Trying to sort the questions in his mind. 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. the large man loses himself in that silent confusion that people call his idiocy.yours. past Marty's parents standing with their heads bowed in shame. happy that . for this man lives with a different innocence.
Father William senses his own insecurity as he considers how to approach Luke. You know that’s bullshit. He leans forward in the chair. “Luke. He waits for look to turn toward him and say something. Every thought that jumps into his head sounds contrived and dishonest. just platitudes he’d used before to guard himself from ignorance. Father William takes in the details of the room. deliberate blinks. to mine the wisdom entitled to the cloth. and does not move except to close his eyes in few. But nothing comes. Father? Do you want to save me? I don't need that kind of shit. his eyes stay level with the thoughts that fill the bare wall before him. and he’d find it in Luke. He’s knows the defiance is a rejection of him too. Minutes pass without words. He wants to use this silence to think of things to say. thoughtlessly reading the calendar on the wall. and he grins. Father William pulls a chair from the wall near the door and sets it in front of the incarcerated man. He does not acknowledge the priest. not just the judgments of others. resting his elbows on his knees and resting his chin on his thumbs.” he says finally. “Luke. Right and wrong. slow. But even he wasn’t certain when he told the sheriff that there’s good in everyone.everyone knows his anger. carelessly colliding with the image of the half dressed woman. will you talk with me?” “What do you want.” .
Father. you should just leave now. angling his stare like a knife set to cut. tell me. laughing. “Without right and wrong what justifies what you tried to do to Relius and Rebecca?” Luke snickers. I meant we’ve got it wrong. studies Luke’s face. I think about things too.So it’s about morality.” “Come on. If you don’t believe me. but he appreciates the silence of sipping it. “As much as you deserve. “Give me some respect. I should be on my way. Father?” “No thank you.” The coffee tastes sweeter than Father William like it.” Father William sits up in his chair.” Luke tilts his head toward the priest. he did. “I didn't say that there ain't no right and no wrong.” . and says.” The Sheriff stops Father William as he steps out of the interrogation room. the priest thinks. “Want some coffee. Father?” he says.” “Have some. Just made a fresh pot. “Okay. “He beat up your friend pretty badly” “Yes.
” Relius says. “Just until we find a place. Relius.” His people. “It wasn’t just because of how you look you know.” . He wants to know what the sheriff means by his people. and then tosses it aside. Suppose he’s going back to his people now. Not that he agreed with Luke. The following day Father William wakes with a phone call. watching him pack.” Luke said. wetback. right?” “That’s right.” “Odd name. and talking about Luke. folds it once. but prefers instead to set the coffee on the table and leave. Father William asked him not use that word.” Relius holds up a t-shirt. He’d spent the night talking with Relius. “Can I leave some books with you. but because of how the conversation had made him feel.” Father William has been hesitant to tell him about his conversation with Luke. and Luke asked him if he intended to listen or just to preach. “It was Rebecca too.“Relius. Not a phrase he expected to hear from the sheriff. “I don’t hate him because he’s a wetback.
Relius arrived and gave her a way to avoid having to answer to herself. her upbringing and believe anything he told her. “I put Pascal there. At the heart of Luke’s hatred was a perverse moral argument.” “You mean you have issues with her morality.” “No.” “You don’t want to know what Luke said?” “Why the fu-. I saw what he did. “Do you think we’re stupid. . Rebecca had no right to forget what she had done. I heard him.” “Then why say it?” Relius takes a pile of books and sets them in front of the priest.” “You’re sorry? Sorry about what?” Both conversations kept him up until morning. why do you have such a need to tell me. if you want to reread it.” “I’m sorry. . She could abandon her past. sorry. that’ not it.“Rebecca?” “Luke had issues with her morality. the morality of a . . I know. Father? Because we don’t have enough niggers and Chinese?” The logic of a tormented mind. . I was there. Don’t you think I know? No matter what he says to you or anyone else. For him.
do you?” On the phone this morning. Luke heard them as the new words of judgment. but he won’t answer it now. foreign in Luke’s mouth. “why is that wrong.” he said. You just don’t get it. people aren’t different enough from one another. The words he’d used sounded out of place. “I respect what I learned. One angry father asked if he was going to “bring a nigger into town next.” “You’re forgetting where you come from. “my country. Father William was able to piece together what he wishes he’d said to Luke.” “Having difference around.” he said. telling him that he wasn’t good enough for this country.” The phone rings again.forgotten boy who learned to hate as a man. through phone call after phone call from anxious or angry parents. He tried to tell Luke that Relius was a good person. Multiculturalism. different beliefs and skin colors doesn’t mean that you have to give up having values. He hears an angry .” “You're oversimplifying things. “I don’t give a shit if you think he’s good. and that his way of thinking made it impossible for him to see that. To Luke and his friends the priest’s sermons had become the voice of betrayal. in this small town.” Father William said. it just means that you have to expand the parameters of your values. because here. Diversity.
” he told Relius. as quiet thoughts that rage privately in your mind. “Watch your back priest. There’s an impulse in all of us to be honest.” Luke said. living among new faces. Guilt stirred in him when Luke said it. “God put this awareness in each of us so that we might know what to expect from ourselves and from other people. That’s how Father William has come to understand guilt. there’s no sanctuary in that. It’s your thoughts that you can’t get away from. It was something Father William knew intimately. something only someone who’d stayed in the same place all his life could say. Thoughts that latch onto memories and compel you with their quiet honesty. “It's getting so nothing matters anymore. but everyone has it. adjusting to a new dialect and customs.” and hang up. It’s the proof for Father William of God. but you would never be able to replace the voice of right within you with another voice chosen for you by . Guilt is the smothering of that impulse. Everyone has that impulse.voice. It was a naïve thing to say. “no one can escape that. Running. “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. It may be nurtured differently in different countries or different cities. “ The only thing Luke said that stung. maybe a young man Luke’s age warn him. If you were to leave here and go live in another country. you might assimilate to some of their customs and traditions.
red. “El Cura.” Luke said. engaged couples and grieving relatives have sat. Even people who think they can have to reckon with themselves one day. leather chairs where so many expectant mothers. 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. No one can do that. his eyes. Father. narrow. not reddish. He remembers the purity of purpose he felt as a missionary. standing unusually tall. his face. get your lies ready for all the people who look up to you and trust you. brown. not round.“ Father William goes to his study. ” “I'm not going to ask you for forgiveness. not straight like theirs. He looks proud among the children who called him Padre. rounded bellies. He looks at the children surrounding him in the photograph. “Why don't you just go. He stands beside one of the large. himself set apart from them with his black shirt and white collar. Go write up a sermon.them.” he whispers. and I imagine most of them end up looking back on their lives with some regret. not consciously. his image faintly reflected in the glass protecting the photograph. His hair. playfully Padrecito. The phone rings again. and he clothes the door so he won’t have to hear the answering machine. and stares at the photographs on the wall. He ignores the other photographs in the room and does not . looking strong among their inflated. at least.
He gets ready to putt. He falls to his knees. He kicks at the flat.reminisce about his vacation in Israel. “forgive me. Moving it with the tip of his shoe he positions it closer to the center of the mantle. round tin cup in front of the fireplace. and trying again. getting the ball. dear God. forgive me. He bounces again on his heels and ignores the ringing of the phone and the deep sorrow creeping through his body. walks to the back of the couch and grabs his putter. or his walk around the pyramids. and the tears that fall from his eyes pull with forceful melancholy on his body and the onus of his doubt supplicates him. he weeps and silently utters the trembling words.” PART TWO . He tells himself unwillingly that if this one goes in he will be fine. but tries to loose himself in the rhythm of putting. It’s silent again. He opens the office door and listens for the phone. 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 misses often. but cannot.
ONE Relius and Rebecca argued for the first two hours of their drive. and they know it. . “What’s it matter?” “I just want you to knock. and shaking her head. They knew they had to get away. looking back at Relius.” Rebecca hesitates before she knocks. but neither of them was prepared to arrive at John’s apartment and rely on him for a place to stay. “You knock.” Relius says. is that okay?” “Fine. They look weary when they arrive. and didn’t talk for the last three.
all of them feel the sadness they share. and Relius sleeps as Rebecca wakes. what Rebecca does while he’s out. 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. John tries to smile warmly when he sees them. and he worries it’s contagious. When they hug. She’s letting herself become passive and idle. He’ll go out and walk by the stores or buildings. It’s a busy time for John.“See. and seeing him dress for work or school makes Relius uneasy with himself. and he hates her for it.” she says. and they kiss goodnight to avoid telling one another that sleeping doesn’t separate their days. and wonders. and just keep going. He doesn’t want to talk with anyone. At night. He has trouble just circling jobs to call about. and he wants to help them heal. it matters. The night simply slows the movement into another cycle of doing nothing. and hasn’t followed up on a single conversation. in bed. . He wakes late into the morning. takes his medication often.” he says. a heaviness holds them. day after day. “I've just been reading and watching some TV. She’s giving up. He wants them to feel welcome.
“Are you ever going to wear anything besides pajamas?” he snaps. Rebecca watches him from the table near the window. Force yourself to get up earlier and go out and do something. he wants to say. Anything he’d say would come out with too much bitterness. surveys the bags. Are you accusing me of not trying.” she tells him. He knows what she wants from him. 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. bottles and square or round plastic containers of all sizes. But he doesn’t say anything until he turns from the fridge and sees her.” “Sleep well?” “What’s well?” “Maybe you should sleep less. Rebecca looks down at the newspaper on the table. She wants me to make everything . “I have the milk and cereal. boxes.” Relius doesn’t respond.In the kitchen Relius stands with the refrigerator door open. ”I don't want cereal. He stares at the shelves. Relius sets his cereal bowl on the table and pulls a section of the newspaper from under the page Rebecca reads.
a place for her to live.” he shouted. She sat there. His anger shocked her. He yelled at her last night. the fear of taking advantage of John.” Relius said. And her sense of guilt doubles his own. just before John got home. find a job. “But they weren’t even inside. She began to cry. How can he be so cruel? she thought. and knew that it made Relius angry. He just doesn’t care. Rebecca pulls the classifieds from the newspaper and pushes them toward the center of the table. magnifies it. he thinks. She hasn’t left the apartment once since they got there. that guilt of making someone that loves you suffer. carry the burden. She’d told him that he could work as a restaurant manager. He feels what his father must have felt when Relius cried as a child – that selfhatred. “That’s so fucking stupid. People walking behind me. she won’t even open the door. She told Relius that when someone knocked yesterday morning she hid in the bedroom closet. people that I can’t see looking at me. completely still. obviously disgusted with her. Relius glances at the classifieds and huffs. But Relius won’t harm Rebecca – not like his father hurt him.better. and worried that she’d pass out from trying not to breathe too loudly. He knows what he wants to say to her. frightened . He has no idea how terrifying it is. for over an hour she said. the judgments and accusations that he’s certain would make her cry.
cash. get paid under the table. and seems to sigh deeply and almost smile as her eyes follow some object that Rebecca cannot see on the street beneath her window. He doesn’t recognize Rebecca . He’s nothing now. She settles her worn face on the bed of her folded arms. She hears Relius talking in the other room. Relius takes the classifieds and sits sluggishly on the couch in front of the television. make him feel less lazy. and she hears him hang up the phone and walk into the kitchen. no paperwork. The elderly woman does not look up. At the kitchen table Rebecca turns to look out the window onto the street below. How could she forget that he can’t have that past anymore? It doesn’t matter that he owned a restaurant. And working anywhere would ease the self-hatred. nobody. no taxes. Across the way she sees an older woman adjusting a pillow on the windowsill under her sagging arms. He picks up the remote and turns it on but doesn’t look at the channel. less insignificant – at least he hopes it will. Can’t she see that? Nothing. But she was right. There are memories there that sadden Rebecca as she looks at the old woman. Be a waiter. he could work in a restaurant.her. The pain in Rebecca’s eyes startles Relius. only down.
Fuck me. and he doesn’t know how to be there for someone who’s hardly there in herself.” He’s relieved to be in the grocery store. “Yeah. An older woman walks by. respect her.” she says. It’s a warm day. She leaves him alone in the kitchen.” he says. “Restaurant. He wonders if Rebecca will ever regain confidence in her beauty and strength. sees their eyes follow them. learn from her. He wants to think of Rebecca the way he did just four days ago. He doesn’t want to feel what they do. the smells. elegant. He wants to admire her. professional. She’s becoming a stranger to him now. He notices other men that notice the girls.” “Can you pick up the groceries today?” “It’s not like you will. frightened woman.in this mournful. “I think I found a job. her chair turned toward the window and her eyes reflecting .” “Fuck you. the longing and the loneliness. throwing the canvass grocery bags at him.” “Are you going in today?” “Tomorrow. He likes the colors. but admiring them brings up feelings of guilt. and the girls all look beautiful. He imagines her sitting at the kitchen table.
Rebecca watches. but doesn’t open the door. John’s friend. The answering machine picks up. Bye. It doesn’t. There’s a girl standing there.” “Okay. She stopped moving. Rebecca sees her search through her purse for something. Still dressed in her pajamas. Maybe her age. maybe to John. Hello?” Rebecca looks at the phone. it might upset her. it makes her insecure just to look through the door viewer and see who it is. a woman. and Rebecca sees the woman in the hall holding a cell phone to her face. and she holds her breath. But I don’t think I should. “Yeah. “What should I do?” she says. and pull a key from it. Rebecca was walking by the door when she heard the knock. dig through it once more. . maybe younger. “Hello? Hello. but she hears the woman in the hall talking into her phone. waiting for it to ring again. I have it. She sees Caitlin put the phone back in her purse. louder than before. John. I’ll let you know. are you there? I’m Caitlin. The telephone in the apartment begins to ring.” Caitlin knocks once more at the door.” “I don’t know. Rebecca.miniature impressions of the windowpane and the small word it frames.
Caitlin walks toward the bathroom and is about to knock. She’d already found a note in one of his books once. and she runs as quietly as she can toward the bathroom. she fears finding a phone number or a condom. and every time she feels something in one of his pockets. Just the thought of sitting with a stranger. She starts folding and unfolding the clothes she and Relius had brought with them. John had told them about Caitlin. and no one wrote it to him. anything to convince her that he won’t stay with her. makes her tense and nervous. and when Relius told him what it was about she felt embarrassed.She hears the rough sound of the key in the lock. She locks the door and turns on the shower just as Caitlin resolves to open the door and step into the apartment. someone who knows about her. “I love you” written in the margins of a random page. about what happened to them. betrayed that Relius would let her look so pitiful to John. that he didn’t write it to anyone. He insisted that it was already there when he bought the book. . but stops herself. 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. Rebecca doesn’t like waiting for Caitlin to come back. He said it was hard for him to talk about. John heard them arguing.
Relius. Large people endure what she did.” Relius said bitterly when John told him Caitlin. urban woman – short skirt. “You like Chinese tea?” “I’ve had green tea. He left the room before John mentioned Caitlin’s therapist. or at least warn Caitlin. Caitlin insists on making tea for them. But she’s so small. “That’s not the point. They weren’t friends. or talk about it. She dresses like a confident. It’s okay. but he felt like he knew they guy enough. Sometimes she needed an ingredient or just a bit of bread. expensive shoes. Rebecca thought Caitlin would be taller than she is. Rebecca rarely opens any of the cabinets other than the one John told them they could use for all their food and spices. as small as a child. or shift through John’s shelf in the refrigerator. Not small women like Caitlin.” But Relius didn’t want to hear about it. but she would never open John’s cabinets. silk blouse. or should have know him well enough to stop him. Not .” The tea came from John’s cabinets. “Rebecca wasn’t raped.because he knew the guy who raped her.” “This is Jasmine.
She plucked the tea from his shelf full of teas. She would have come just to meet her – another friend of John. another woman.so. but their eyes meet over the table. an intruder who talks endlessly about herself and her family. not vulnerability. It’s fine that Caitlin cares enough to come over and meet a stranger. She tries to look up whenever she thinks Caitlin might be looking away. Caitlin would not be here out of an obligation she feels to share her strengths with others. Caitlin . but finds too oppressive all the same. “John takes honey in his. and she pulled the milk from his space in the refrigerator door. but it feels good to hold it. Perhaps if they had met a week ago Rebecca wouldn’t think Caitlin sips her tea too loudly. and Rebecca wouldn’t resent hearing about Caitlin’s feminist mother and leftist father. Caitlin senses skepticism in Rebecca’s silence. or not notice. Do you?” The tea is too hot to taste. They would have both been different people. Caitlin. politics Caitlin says she agrees with. A week ago Caitlin wouldn’t have come to console Rebecca. But Rebecca doesn’t want to talk with Caitlin. Rebecca folds her napkin and picks at the crumbs left on her plate by the croissant that Caitlin brought with her. or the troublesome politics of her parents. and share with her the pain of her assault. just five days ago. But today she’s an intruder. and she can sense that Caitlin expects her to say something about herself as well.
“Because he’s Hispanic?” “Maybe. um. And . I lost the baby. While she talks about her father. My dad thought it was because of God’s judgment. 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. his indifference to what she does. angry girl her father insults. Made him jealous. anchors them in truth. he said.” She tells Caitlin about her father’s discomfort with Relius. and when that faith is sound and the anchor strong then one is blessed and able to love life without being enslaved to it. A genuine passion for life requires reason and the wisdom to see that knowledge without faith is the most arrogant kind of ignorance. But I knew what he thought.” Caitlin must be the type of person her father worried she’d become. I think it might be that Relius accepted me when my dad couldn’t. she judges herself. Faith. She wonders if she really is the manipulative.tells her things she’s said openly to so many strangers in groups or sessions.” “Yeah. There’s no need to worry about lust in the proper love of life. but now they sound so contrived. “Did John tell you I was pregnant?” Rebecca’s interruption startles Caitlin. Rebecca hears her father arguing with Caitlin. “Well. My mom always stopped him from saying it.
” Caitlin’s visit had made Rebecca self conscious.” she says. Though she wonders if Caitlin is here because she aspires to being someone people like Rebecca should admire. And she disagrees with him.” Rebecca chuckles at her father’s argument. She tosses spices confidently into the oiled pans. “My dad says he believes in God because he has to. The more he thought about life. Her clothes have never look so sloppy on her. She looked at herself in the mirror for almost an hour. He figured why take the risk of not believing and finding out too late that you’re wrong. and he wanted things to matter.she sees what her father would perceive as Caitlin’s arrogance and ignorance. isn’t it?” She says through an embarrassed laugh. “It’s kind of simplistic. “I was hoping you’d bring home this stuff. If God exists. like my mom and me. the more he felt like nothing mattered. “You know it’s funny. and her body had never felt so foreign. She showered again and put on a skirt that always made her feel attractive and in control. . and calmly cleans the chicken he’d brought him. and if he doesn't then it doesn't matter. Relius watches Rebecca in the kitchen. an awkward though alluring sight to Relius. She stood in the kitchen now. then you're lucky.
dressed so nicely to make him a dinner she’d found in one of John’s cookbooks.” “I was thinking that maybe I should. He went straight into his room. and Relius recalls the strange look on John's face when he came home. To see her doing something. anything.” “Ah-hee day gayeena. and sat there all evening. and turning pages loudly in his books and magazines. like he was hiding something and laughing to himself about a joke no one else could see or hear. “Maybe he’s drunk. giggling to himself. “How do you pronounce it again?” “Aji de gallina.” They lay in bed together. again. “Does he drink?” “Don’t you know?” Not knowing if John drinks made Relius aware of how little he knew his .” Rebecca said. That Caitlin recommended. “So are you going to call her?” “Call who?” “The therapist.” she says with a smile. So beautiful. But how long will it last.
Her thoughts carry her through the open window into the lamplight of the street. He breathes heavily. . and turns again toward the window in frustration when sleep refuses to come. and so Relius reaches out to feel Rebecca's brow. Another headache from lack of sleep. and she does not hear any cars pass. the aji. While they were eating some of the sauce. She does not listen to his breathing. grayly visible in the evening silence of the room. trying desperately to lighten the weight of his own thoughts. invites sleep into her mind. No one walks under the lamp. She let it happen. for letting her know that she couldn’t even follow a fucking recipe. from the chicken spilled on her blouse and skirt. She closes her eyes. The lamp simply shines. Dinner did not go well. but she could tell that he didn’t like it. The streetlight fans the emptiness beneath it with a cool white band of illumination. He touches her shoulder. to numb the dull pain behind his eyes. She does not turn. and she got up from the table. But he wants to get thoughts of John out of his mind.friend. She hated him for not hiding his thoughts. His fingers feel the small pearls of sweat beading above her eyes and lips. Relius ate the chicken. Neither of them says a word and they both detest the heat. she sighs and looks into the ceiling.
What’s it matter if the old woman across the way. She stares now merely to stare. waiting for her to respond. fear of grief. it will be open in the morning. no longer concerned that if they leave the window open through the night. and they finished the meal without talking to one another. talk to me.” he says. The light of the street lamp reflects off her eyelids. Can't you talk to me?” He leans onto his elbow and watches her silhouette against the light coming in from the street. watches her and listens. shaping them in the night for the observer that is not there. sees them half naked in bed? “Becca. his voice softened by the quiver of confused sadness. “Please. “Becca. fixing her eyes on nothing. when she presses her fat arms onto her pillow. a cool sheen that wraps delicately around them. what’s happening to us?” He listens. “Becca. “Becca.” And he curls his fingers on her shoulder and hopes that a small force. His fingers soften their grip on her shoulder.” she hears him say.changed into her sweatpants and sweatshirt. She lies on her side and his eyes fix on the smooth slope of her waist. a slight pull might bring her to the moment and return her to his side. and the dull light of the streetlamp catches briefly at the tear that Relius does not see map its .
. and Rebecca opens her eyes to watch a second tear make a small spot on the blue pillowcase.solitary way to Rebecca's pillow. The bed shakes slightly under Relius' weight as he turns.
His eyes are set deep.“ Telling Julio he doesn’t speak Spanish embarrasses John. It makes him . have a past that justifies the intimidation John senses in himself while sitting beside him as they wait for the manager to arrive. 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. and the skin around his lips is gray and tight. invites them to follow him through a door in the corner of the kitchen. “My name is Julio. and wants Julio to be more than a waiter at a restaurant where his friend might work. his accent breaking into beautiful rhythm with the long and careful pronunciation of his short name. To him Julio should be a man of mystery. A tall man. fascinating.” Relius says. John finds him intriguing.” he tells them in English.ELEVEN Only a few employees meet the two young men who walk into the restaurant. elegantly thin in his black pants and white shirt.
and wasn’t surprised when Alan . “If you want to talk in Spanish. Alan put up his hands. He takes a long and deliberate drag. and they talked about whale boats. “Thas aright. and thinks only of how ignorant he must seem to Julio. Alan noticed. He wonders if Relius notices his attraction to Julio. When they were in his car at the end of the night. I don't mind. Like him. and Alan was sitting back handsomely. Once he leaned in too close to a friend who was dropping him off at his apartment. like an inadequate friend to Relius. and even to Relius. John couldn’t help but lean forward as he used to lean forward to kiss a girlfriend goodnight.feel self-conscious. He forgets that he speaks French. And John reddened.” Julio’s smile puts a heavy. and rushed out of the car and into his apartment. They’d gone out for a few drinks.” he said. It’s a sensation he has often felt around beautiful men. his friend Alan admired the miniscule details in Moby Dick. buddy. and didn’t call Alan again. nervous sensation into John’s chest.” Julio says. so I ask so maybe we could espeak espanish. 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. “Slow down there. they’d talked about women and school. and breathes out over his shoulder away from Relius. “my English is no very good.
He smells of confident cologne and cigarettes and smiles occasionally as he speaks . gesturing toward anyone that walks by. Julio tells Relius that the manager’s name is Guillermo. Relius. They all speak Spanish to one another. He goes around the restaurant. telling Relius his name and where he’s from. but everyone calls him Billy.a smile that suggests warmth and a very private humility. “You need a job too. “Julio thinks all South Americans are related. 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. or you just taking care of Relius?” he asks John.didn’t come around to see his antique whaling map. He wears his hair cut neatly above his eyes and evenly above his collar. John had never heard his friend's name said without sounding like ‘reallyus. Julio says that Billy is a Puerto Rican born and raised in Florida.’ and he whispers to himself. and most of the busboys are from Mexico or Puerto Rico. Billy is an elegant man. four from Columbia. shortening the e and lengthening his understanding that Relius has a past which he does not know. Six of the waiters are from Chile.” Billy laughs. . but they all curse differently.
It’s an avenue filled with an array of lights illuminating everything from wine bars to live peep shows. They walk on past the newsstand. Just a around the corner. before I was married. or else I won't be working there for long. 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.” There are lots of bars and restaurants near the restaurant. Relius’s eyes glance at the adult magazines along the side of the stand. “Did you ever smoke?” “Long time ago. and smiles. looking at the newsstand owner. He’s had conversations . “Do you think the food there is any good?” “At the restaurant? Hope so. as if to say he just doesn’t understand the attraction. John follows his eyes. He shakes his head. and two blocks away. John has walked along this street many times.The man behind the magazine stand smokes the same brand of cigarette Julio offered him. is the center of the tourist industry.” Relius says.
He remembers the relief he felt the first time he went into a video booth. from the most amateurish to the professional. and he didn’t know any of its unwritten rules. He closed the door. The finger kept gesturing for him to come toward it. and chose a booth that another man. He was sitting with his feet on the chair. and locked it. . and he’s gone inside shops with video booths. “I could help you with that. maybe his age.” he said. He regretted leaving a small pile of tokens in the booth. and as he sat there. He knew he sounded terrified and confused. and when he didn’t he someone’s eye staring in at him. “What do you want?” John’s voice shook. but he didn’t want to go back in there to get them. John pulled up his pants and ran out of the booth. John went to the back of the room. touching himself when he noticed a finger come through a hole in the wall next to him. but surprisingly handsome stepped out of. He flipped through the channels and found several different kinds of adult films. He’d never been to one before.with the girls who work the register at the strip bars. he let the arousal control him. and dropped his tokens into the slots next to the monitor. The man put his mouth to the hole.
” John says. stirs them. This place lines its walls with bottles of expensive wines and liquors. He’d been in only a few days. . “Smell your scotch.The sex. then take a sip.” “Why do you know that?” “I was here one day during a tasting. the anonymity. and the need to keep them solitary. “Then it’s stored for a couple years in sherry casks. the offer of it so freely and so secretly. watch.” He dips the straw gently into the bottle and seals the open end with this thumb. The waitress brings them two glasses of Glenmorangie Scotch along with a bottle of water and a single straw. They sit on a couch along the wall and John says he’d like to order for both of them. Learned all about single malt scotch. He lets two tiny drops of water fall into each glass of scotch. or at least. and it was already a place set on undoing him. forcing him to reconsider his passions. then lets a few more fall.” John picks up the bottle of water and the straw. It’s been so long since Relius has sat in a bar. bewildered him. “This stuff is aged in American pine. Like this.
From San Francisco. their hair pulled tight. “Those girls look indestructible. Orange-green eyes. their makeup subtle.” “You’re quite the farmer boy.” “Is that where you met?” “No. “Impressive. like that girl. we met at a concert.” “Was she Peruvian?” “American. The scotch makes it easier for him to look at these women. and fair skin.” “That’s how scotch blooms. Two groups of young men and women in business dress sit at the other couches along the opposite wall. the men and the women. John looks over his shoulder at the women Relius admires. At this hour there aren’t that many people in the bar. all of them.” “What concert?” . their suits cut slim.“Now take another sip. aren’t you.” he says. They are beautiful. “What was Renee like?” “She had reddish brown hair. and Relius listens to them laugh and joke about their jobs and their work habits.” Relius laughs.” Relius grins. They look so similar to one another.
A young couple walks past them. anything but the dead doldrums of their homes. why not.” It’s been almost a year since Relius had a drink. In this placed every person has a purpose. “sure. Solitary men in business suits want to comfort their stale bodies. A monitor above the register shows a plump girl dancing in a small room with red lights and yellow lights.” when John asks him if he wants to go into the video booths with him. He doesn’t think of his wife when he’s . the girl holding tightly at her boyfriend’s arm.” “Psychedelic Furs. The man in the blue business suit comes to comfort his stale body. “You wouldn’t believe it.” “Tell me. and stares through a swoon at the video boxes and novelties in the shelves. John hands Relius a pack of tokens and the walk slowly toward the back of the store.Relius snickers. but he doesn’t walk smoothly either. and this afternoon he had four. They want sensations. Relius rubs his fingers against the red velvet walls. and he just nods and says. In this place every person has a purpose. He doesn’t stumble.
The people who populate their hopes and fantasies. Because he can look at the live girls now and doesn’t mind if they see him come while they dance for him.” . A group of four or five college boys prowls among the video booths. He doesn’t think of anything but the nervous fear that someone might see him. They don’t see John.” one of the boys says to Relius. and he’s relieved and addicted to the anxious excitement of sitting in the booth. “Pardon me. fag. they’re the indifferent to consequences. they have futures that cannot be compromised so easily by enjoying themselves now. They’re handsome. indifferent to tomorrow. “Move fag. They’re the assurance other men need. and he drops in token after token to keep the curtain open. And that’s the purpose of young men like Relius and John. still building their lives. And he gets through the first seconds of guilt. Relius turns around. closing the door and having a secret self. and the quieted voices telling him to stop. But these boys play a role here. a side to him that no one knows about. John watches out of the corner of his eye to see which one might be like him.here. they only see a gay man walking next to another gay man.” “He told you to move. he doesn’t think of work or his bills.
these children. One of them wears a purple tie with an argyle shirt. . The rest might as well be wearing a uniform of oxford shirts and khaki pants. “You’re not very bright.Relius steps up to these boys. are you. but he has a stick and a radio. Come on guys. So much anger there. laughing. Let’s go. A security guard steps into the end of the hallway they walk along. not threatening at all. They don’t have any experience behind their eyes. And here these ridiculous idiots think they’re just harassing a random person.” 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. all right. another wears a college sweatshirt. Why not hit the strip instead. and stupidly confident in their own bravado.” The college boys walk out in a group. Slightly sobered by the tension. and John’s frightened now of what Relius might do.” John grabs Relius by the shoulder. you’re all right. “Come on. He’s a small man.” John points to himself. so much waiting to come out. Not worth the trouble. me? “No. “Time for you to leave. They have no idea that Relius killed someone.
” a voice says. Rebecca woke when the sun began to set. coffee grounds in the grout. ridiculing her and reminding her that she just couldn’t do anything right. Instead she set down the pot and walked back to her bed.” another voice says. She couldn’t sleep right away. She did get up for a few hours. put all her frustrated anger into shards of glass. Relius laughs. crawled back into bed. she stood in the kitchen trying to make a cup of coffee. Just as everyone rushed around along the street below for lunch.“You should’ve just hit ‘em. that she would not have to be alone.” Relius says. everywhere. but she hoped that sleeping into the late afternoon. it spilled over the edge. like pocks. amused to see the bravado shift so quickly to these anonymous men who would not even look at one another just a moment ago. but as she was about to pour the coffee from the grinder into the filter. The smell of the coffee grounds on her . She measured the water and ground the beans. even something as stupid as make coffee. “Maybe next time. “We’d a backed you. coffee grounds on the floor. She knew that Relius would be gone if she woke in the morning. She wanted to shatter the coffee pot in the sink. There were coffee grounds in the butter tray.
She tossed in lotions and perfumes. hating herself for believing that this girl could be jealous of her. even less. She slept again. anything with a scent. too much dust on the windowsills. watched your pass by in the hallway. Rebecca saw that young girl once. fall in love like we do. She got up and collected the scented candles Relius has bought to soothe her. She felt it again this morning when she didn’t answer him before he left. get all the smells out of the room. Too quiet. to go with her exhaustion.fingers sickened. too many clothes in the drawers. The room was too messy to sleep. her bones bent at such strange angles. She doesn’t know how what we do can fuck up our lives. She felt this shame while Relius slept last night. guilty to think that this girl must be jealous of women like her. and she wanted to get rid of everything. She tied a knot in the bag and left it at the foot of the bed. But she didn’t want Relius to think less of her. John said they were loud because the girl who lives there uses a walker. but did not rest. She tossed them in a plastic bag. and so she slept through the . Rebecca stood at the door. She must looks at us and wish she could do what we do. She felt ashamed to look at her. Short legs that looked like they touched at the back of her neck. She needed to get it off. She could hear the neighbors upstairs. All the smells were too strong now. and small arms. Walking so awkwardly. And long after the girls had gone passed. and she wanted the shame to be gone. hating herself for pitying the girl.
” Relius reads the inscription above the church doors. that no matter what she did. Instead of sex they talk about the church they walk past. Or maybe touching himself and knowing that someone else touched himself as well just made the whole phantom of masturbation less critical. less present. no matter what she wore or made thought.day. the pages ripped from her diary. Maybe the liquor still quieted the voices of his conscience. “This is the house of God. only slightly drunk now. “This right here is the house of God. and she tore them to pieces.” he tells John. with morbid certainty. “Haec Est Domus Dei. Relius expected to feel awkward to walk with John outside of the video booths. tightening his belt and walking hastily toward the exit. and into the evening. She took the letters from her mother. or what they thought about. They didn’t even talk about the man who came out of the booth just next to John’s. or that once you read the words you're supposed to think to yourself.” . and opened her eyes with regret. I am the house of God?“ “Doesn’t matter if you don’t know Latin. They didn’t talk about what they’d watched. knowing. the love notes from Relius. she couldn’t avoid the shame of who she’d become. Do you think they mean the building.
his black mustache yellowed. Despite his goodness he cannot hide the harsh look that his neighbors see in him. “There’s a letter for you. a rough beard growing under his gray skin. Relius remembers Peru. and his sincere eyes scan the buildings across the way. handing Relius the bunch of . 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. and wonders if the man is happy. 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.” Outside a storefront a thin. He takes a drag from his cigarette. black streak. the boy and the girl both dressed in black and smoking cigarettes. Neither of them seems bothered by the urine stains on the cements blocks behind them.A teenage couple sits on the stairs of the church. “Would you ever piss on a church?” “I couldn’t even if I wanted to. 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 Relius wonders if they come back here at night to sleep and make those stains themselves.” John says.
He takes the letter out of the envelope and starts to read it quietly to .envelopes. though nervous.” Rebecca mumbles something incoherent and reaches into the top drawer and pulls out a pair of fabric scissors. and she tosses another on the floor after touching it to her bloodshot. John hands him two breath mints. “does it look like I’ve thought about it?” Rebecca sees the envelope in Relius’s hand.” Relius tells John.” Rebecca looks like she’s been standing by the bed for hours when Relius walks into the room. “Chew one. “It’s a letter. Crumpled tissues cover the bed and the floor. From Father William. “What’s that?” Relius looks at the envelope. Rebecca grabs at a handful of her unkempt hair. “It's from Father William. suck on the other. swollen eyes. “Have you eaten anything?” Relius says. feeling happy that the priest remembers him. pausing in the hallway to look again at the letter. that the priest might write to judge him. almost angry. “Have you read it?” she asks him.
Relius grabs the orange handle of the scissors. but she’s afraid to talk.” as he closes the door. who stare so fixedly out at her. retreating into a moment of simplicity so far from the complexity of this moment that she does not recognize her own smile. Relius drops the envelope and letter on the bed and rushes to stop her. This isn’t me. . His warm hands feel foreign to her. ever endured this kind of sadness. and she keeps her cold fingers stiff and straight in his hand. “I can’t keep doing this he says. she wants to tell him. As he reads. He pulls his hand away from hers and leaves the room. She wants him to comfort her. and pries it gently from Rebecca's fingers. Rebecca begins to cut randomly at her hair.” “Who? Like Father William? What good would that do?” Rebecca stares at her hair on the beige carpet. and she wonders if her parents. you need to talk to someone. and instead he just sits there on the bed staring at her hairs on the carpet. Resentment grows. The photographs on the night table measure their distance.himself. the look of secure happiness in her eyes. and she resents herself. She resents his love. She won’t accept his reassurances. She wants him to put the scissors away and hold her. “Becca.
She sits with her feet on the bed. so that I could feel like I did more that day than just sit in my room and dwell on my future. and had to use a common toilet outside of my apartment. I wanted just to be somewhere. Relius had left the envelope and letter on the bed. The apartment I had was an old maid's quarters. and had nothing in it beside a card table with a red felt top. Dear Relius. This morning I woke to a memory of a day I spent many years ago in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. and . She unfolds the letter carefully. laying the pages open on her lap and pressing them flat with the palms of her hands. I washed in the sink. a dresser. She wants to yell at him. It was a room really. hugging her knees tightly against her chest. away from where I slept. upright and fetal. on the tenth floor. I really should not call it an apartment. be angry. She stares at the closed door and withdraws into her own closed emotions. and a sink. 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. I remember it so vividly. a bed. an uncomfortable yellow chair. but the shame is too powerful now. and she leans forward slowly to pick them up. one floor above me.Words stumble at the impasse of her insecurities and confusion.
I stared at this piece for a long time. I don't know if that's exactly it. Once I stepped inside I was drawn immediately to a sculpture by Rodin. cut so carefully into the stone that holds your color. I wanted to touch the whiteness. something that began cruel white. She did not recline on anything in particular. and perhaps the better part of the afternoon. you arouse my suspicion of myself in wanting to touch you and to flee. she simply reclined. It was still early so I knew that it would be empty inside. I found the whiteness of the sculpture alluring. her hips twisted erotically. a confused young man who could not control his . I remember writing a poem about it later that day. I’m sure that many young men were drawn only to her perfect breasts. her long body curved over the marble base.after some months I began to associate it exclusively with a dreadful feeling of loneliness bordering on despair. sketching and writing letters in the company of great art. Not the woman. but funny nonetheless. not for any erotic thrill but just because its beauty genuinely amazed me. On this day that I woke remembering today I was walking along the river and had wandered out past the museum. and I determined to spend the morning there. not the sexuality of her. but would be labeled a pervert. close I think. 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. intoxicating me with your hard beauty. It was of a woman reclining.
I am guided by different aesthetic drives. So let me try to explain the connection between that memory and you. As it is now. and part of that mistrust came from the insecurity I had at not knowing where you come from. and well. Without going into it. and dug up the first page I wrote. I did not trust you.erotic drives enough to keep his oily hands away from this beautiful stone body. Reading this letter. when you showed up here I thought you would try to convince people besides Matty and Kristina that you knew better. Your arrival in our small community threatened the comfort I had established here. just know that I have always had a very difficult time trying to feel comfortable anywhere. Today. wondering why I decided to share this memory with you. different passions. I have written to you. I imagine you sitting there. being a religious man. and started writing there. and after balling up about ten or eleven sheets of paper I gave up trying to make it make sense. Relius. you are like that memory to me. I asked myself that a few times. until I realized what I'm trying to say. that you could somehow make our lives better because you . That's why this page might seem a bit crumpled to you. 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. When I met you here I thought you were a harsh man with many secrets. since I believe you are holding this note in your hands. I wrote the first part of this letter a few times on different sheets.
were not from here. You came here to find something. and I am certain it still is. They do not see that. and I admire that. an ability to listen carefully and compassionately even to things you disagree with strongly. The similarity between you and my memory of Rodin's sculpture. and sometimes it seems that who you are was fashioned by God merely to support your mind. You have a rare strength. your spirit. not to change anything. not the whiteness that makes that body shockingly . the enormous potential that you were born into. is that in you I was also lured by something that other people would not understand. and how people perceive you based on your physical ethnicity. They hate or fear you because they believe your difference emanates from your physical distinctions. But you did not care about doing that. what makes you different is a quality that they cannot perceive. It was easier. the hand of God. my friend. but I am getting off track. I am not sure that you found it before you were forced to leave. 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. fate or chance (as I think you would see it) cut away till it arrived at your essential form. Like the whiteness of the sculpture. You left our town because people associated your difference with your dark hair and dark skin. for people to see the body that Rodin shaped. Relius. Out of the enormity of life. like Rodin's sculpture in my memory. I think. your mind envelops you. who you've become in mind and spirit.
Many experiences contributed to who you are. Relius. without too much of an emphasis on gestures. . so will you find support in her. and I realize that Rebecca is not doing well. whether you know and understand yourself or not. she will be there for you again. and as Rebecca finds support in you. I wonder if this note makes any sense to you. Be strong. Her parents tell me of her letters. Perhaps I am writing this letter to assure you that you can be there for Rebecca. but because they are visible they are clumped together with the tactile curves of the marble. Relius. and I worry that you blame yourself for what Rebecca might be going through. and Kristina occasionally mentions things John tells her. Trust in yourself. You are a rare friend. whether you consider them positives or negatives. but certainly as a part of her needs you . Just be there for her now. Soon. that your absence is horribly noticeable. If you understand it as a protracted way to tell you that I miss your friendship.without words. This does not mean that you are responsible for their emotions and insecurities. I think of you and Rebecca in the city. Relius. it merely means that you can be there for people as few people can be. your strength will help both you and Rebecca. 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.beautiful. Maybe not as you assume. One can’t touch the shadows on Rodin's reclining nude. Relius.
With much confidence and respect. The fruit smoothed out like a thin paste over the toast. 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. staring at the window. hesitating knock at the door. plastic cup look inviting. She tucks the letter into the envelope. like an atavistic happiness. Anger and sadness collide within the mix of her thoughts and emotions. . Rebecca folds the letter into its carefully creased thirds. waits for Relius.Do not hesitate to call on me if you need someone to talk to. the soft. William. light-looking mound of scrambled eggs. the coffee in the cobalt mug and the orange juice in the tall pink. She does not answer the soft. sets it on her lap and. confusion pools in her swollen eyes.
and she knows he sits at the table between his bed and the window. She knows how her father's fingers massage the deck until all fifty-two cards fit tightly into the pile in his hand. Their familiar outlines don’t frighten her anymore. reddish yellow light bleeds into the living room from beneath his door. . She hears her father awake in his bedroom. And he taps the deck of cards on the table once more. preparing them for the alternating dance of red and black in declining rank. and she listens more carefully now to hear him spread the cards out in their neat rows. From their idle mimicry the watchful monsters stare out of their silhouettes. She hears the stiff sound of the cards being shuffled and tapped three times on the table in her father’s room. saving its unfiltered light for the cards her father spreads on the table to begin and begin his escape through solitaire.A young girl sits at a window and watches a man lower his head before continuing his walk. eternally pained to watch over the building beneath their curled claws. A dull. casting its colorful glow on the walls. since her father told her that a gargoyle is just a spout that lets the buildings gargle. The gargoyles on the building across the street are just shadows against the night sky. the broken Tiffany lamp looking sad. glowing from the city lights. the sound of cards being shuffled and knocked against a table. not pretty. their arched backs making them look forever awake.
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. She can only make out one silhouette behind the curtains. “Her dad’s up too. and she watches the stranger lean out the open window to look down into the street.A light turns on in the apartment across the street.” he tells her. Do you think they ever sleep?” “Just turn off the light and come back to bed. She wonders what they’re saying. She notices another figure that rises in the bed and seems to turn to speak to the first shadow. but can’t imagine a conversation between a man and a woman. “That girl’s at her window again. Are they lovers? Husband and wife? Poor relatives sharing a small room? She’s sleepy now. and it shrinks and darkens into the shape of a man who stands there with his hands pushing the curtains apart.” He walks to his side of the bed and turns off the lamp. but can’t pull herself away from watching strangers at night. and he pauses for a moment until the darkness does not seem so thick and his eyes adjust to the . It casts faint shadows on the white lace curtains. 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. Relius backs away from the window and Rebecca sits up in bed.
A quick sparkle of light reflects off her glasses. He watches her empty window and hollow thoughts blank his mind. He lifts his inhaler from the table and squeezes the medicine twice into his lungs. taking another . and turns toward the incomplete darkness of the room and walks quietly to his side of the bed. higher than before.” “I’m not really glad about anything right now.faded light glowing faintly behind the curtains. and he assumes that she has gotten up from the window now and gone to her bed. “My hair look any better this morning?” “You going somewhere? Frank coughs and passes the joint to John. He looks at the one solitary figure that moves sullen and melancholic along the sidewalk. Parting the curtains only slightly he sees the light turn off in the room next to the one where the girl stares. 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. Better than having them sleep in your living room. Rebecca sits up and listens to Relius breathe. “Aren’t you glad you had that extra room?” “Yeah. Relius sighs.
and that’s a thought he’d rather not have. not Rachel. And there was Nathan.’ it says. it wasn’t what he wanted to feel. he can enjoy himself with them. There’s no one it could refer to. John first met Nathan in the cafeteria. man. after a few tokes in the morning. ‘spending the day with some friends today. He wrote them a note. He reads men’s magazines and works as chef at night. especially with jobs and bigger apartments. It was just the truth. crumpled in his pocket. John hasn’t looked at his watch since this morning. He left before Relius and Rebecca woke. Take care of each other. So he chose these friends for today. He has friends. No one. but he has it with him now. Everyone had just gotten back from winter break and Frank nudged John and said. They’d started the ritual in college. Nathan plays guitar and goes to law school. Not a girl. We don’t . and that was unbearable to share with them. But not John. at least. No one would ever write ‘take care of each other’ to him.long drag before passing it to Nathan. because he knew these friends always like to have a few drinks in the afternoon. he has more than one person to worry about in his life. and since they all stayed in the city after graduation. Not Caitlin.’ It wasn’t what he felt. “Look at him. Jealous men think his handsome face and perfect voice make his impossible life easier than it would be for them. it was easy to keep it alive. ‘Hey guys. He didn’t want to say anything.
He wanted to know about Nathan. like John. at home in the snow. “You should be careful.” he chuckled. everyone’s friend. But Nathan would only talk about himself in isolation. He was just Nathan.” . with shorter hair and greener eyes.” Nathan said. and uncomfortable with his self-confidence. “when you’re alone.” John said. tan instead of pale.” Nathan had vacationed that winter in Bermuda. he wanted to know if Nathan had the same feelings he did.” John was being careful. And John couldn’t help but feel like Aschenbach. it’s very seductive to be asked so many questions about yourself. for men. For the rest of use it’s an all the time kind of thing.have a chance. “ “That’s the difference. Nathan glowed like a modern Tadzio. though. John was certain that Nathan knew how he felt. Surrounded by pale boys who’d spent the holidays in the city or. “when I’m alone I’m just as down on myself as they are. and disliked only by people who were uncertain of themselves. “But that’s the thing. “You know. when they went to a diner after a late party. unwillingly and self-consciously seduced. He came back golden. not about himself and women or about himself and men. for him. Last year.
Samantha. But Caitlin’s not there today. nor overly flirtatious like Nathan. Nathan has never felt as close to him. Caitlin doesn’t protest anymore when John insists she come along. and when he describes Sam stripping off her t-shirt in a pool hall. She laughs at all the stories Nathan tells about her. Since that day. when he gets together with these friends. the second to test his attractions. Frank hollers like a college kid on Spring Break. is loud and uninhibited. Until they started running into each other here. He’s not boisterous and energized by it like Frank. and the third to quiet himself. bearing her breasts to all of them. and she knows that having her with him help John hide part of himself from Nathan and Frank.“Be careful. He uses the first drink to soften his emotions. That’s why. she happily shows them just how she did it. . This girl. As though the longer they knew one another. He has a method with them now. at least John thinks so. Nathan and Sam laugh. and her absence makes the woman that Nathan brought seem larger to everyone.” Perhaps John has been too careful. the greater strangers they would become. Nathan had said hello to him less and less. The lawless physics of friendship often confused and sometimes angered John. it’s always easier to smoke and drink with them. at Frank’s house. She understands that John needs her there.
and wondered if the papers had slipped into the drawer with a pile of clothes. they ask about the shanty towns outside of Lima. John shakes his head. He didn’t remember putting it there. dark eyes. or if Rebecca had put it there to keep it from her. safer. It was a hasty thought when he saw the letter in his dresser drawer. To them. it’s somewhere they’ve been. Through Peru.” and leaves. These men ask different questions about Peru. “sorry. “you go girl. He can be anyone he wants to be here. and Relius questions why he brought Father William’s letter with him to work. .and Veronica yells. Dark hair. “You gonna show us yours?” Nathan cackles. or her from it. and he enjoys the rumors about Billy and Javier. or been through. or know someone else from. Relius feels closer to them. not today. 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. Peru isn’t an exotic mystery. The restaurant has become an unexpected refuge for Relius. The folded papers in his back pocket feel intrusive here. He likes learning the habits of the other waiters. They ask about Lucha Reyes’ music.” John stands up.
“I know they’re good work horses. “I can tell you a couple things about criollo horses. Peru. He’s . and knows what she thinks of it and his friendship with Father William.” “But not the music?” “I’ve heard of it.” “Where did you learn Spanish.” “Don’t know any criollo music?” Julio’s feigned surprise is obvious to Relius. My grandfather used to bring them over from Argentina.” “What do you know about the horses?” Kazim asks. “Too bad. Kazim?” “In Persia.He knows she read it. his arm wrapped around Kazim.” “To the states?” “No.” “See.” Relius says.” Julio grins. What’d I tell you. “Relius. “practically a gringo. but don’t know enough to say anything.” Julio says in Spanish.” Kazim is older than Relius and most of the waiters in the restaurant. tell this man about criollo music. “Nope. man.
The words of the priest sound so familiar.” Relius laughs. he has the letter to read.” Kazim says. so confusing in their confession . The day they met.” Relius seldom joins the other waiters. reading through poetry and re-reading some of the books that he’d bought since he started working. 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. and still having to wear blue shirts instead of white ones. Kazim has the curiosity of someone much younger. where they’re from. Despite his age. their parents. and sometimes whispering to himself. the odd stains that cover it. and is one of only two non-Latinos. busboys or kitchen staff out back to take his break. make him feel like he’s part of an inquisition. He constantly asks questions about people – what they do. their girlfriend’s names.worked there since he was sixteen. He takes notes in these books. “I like it. “You’ll make a great dentist. He unfolds it and spreads all the pages out on the table. “I have criollo music. always jotting down his thoughts lightly in pencil. Tonight. Kazim. or an interrogation. The sole light bulb above him. he complained to Relius about still working as a busboy after so many years. If he works a double shift he’ll stay in this cellar for his entire break.
her eyes stayed open. understand the passionate beauty not in the body but in its envelope. she wished she could tell him. so much that he cannot expect from himself. Relius thinks of Rebecca. on the last day of her life. watching TV. only see him through blurry glaze of tears and too much sleep. but he feels a swell of bitter appreciation force tiny drops of perspiration to his face and neck. I love you. I loved you. but she was already too far from her own voice. He imagines the Rodin sculpture he describes and tries to hold the whiteness in his mind. When she was dying. Looking at her convinced him that the doctors were wrong. She could not hear him.of compassion. “I'm so sorry. fading away with her like he faded with Renee.” he whispered to her dying mind. And he remembers the horrible sensation of feeling her hands get colder. They just didn’t understand her the way he did. 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. and the words merely echoed among the other words she could not speak. It’s never hot in the cellar. But he can’t do that again. and he wonders why the priest should expect so much from him. always a bit cooler than the main dining room. He knows that she wonders why he is not there beside her on the couch. and she knew from the shaking of his body. and through this soft murmur of sentiments .
But her calm didn’t soothe him. He rolls the top corners of the letter with his finger. her pain had passed. He walks down the stairs holding two empty white buckets. It’s so quiet in here. He takes one of the buckets from Kazim. How long you been down here?” “Ten.” It’s Kazim.” “More like thirty. and she could rest almost happily. knowing that she died without doubts of love. And he wept uncontrollably with her hand pressed against his lips. even with the . “Relius.” John’s hands tremble as he unzips his pants.” Relius folds the letter quickly and puts it into his apron pocket. to share the day with him. “You okay.and final wishes she tried to hear the words of Relius's touch. to taste the breakfast he had made for her. man? “We’re out of ice?” “It’s busy up there. To watch her sleep was to wait anxiously for her to wake. fifteen minutes. “Here. and he wished that he could say goodnight and not goodbye. and tried to tell him that it was over now. I’ll help you.
but probably takes it off when he comes here. John breathes deeply. “It’s easier if you stand up. When the video starts John watches it with uncertainty. He can only hear his breathing and the sound of the man in the next booth switching through the channels on his monitor. Maybe someone stole his watch once. 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. He sees a tan line where the young man wears a watch. but doesn’t even notice what . He backs away slightly when the fingers touch him.” the voice says gently. so the man knows where number five is just from the feel of the dial and the clicks. “Give it a second. He can’t see the tuning knob.” the man says. and in the dim light John can see that it’s a smooth hand. John sits down on the stool and watches the stranger’s hand come toward his body. a young hand.” “What?” The man reaches into John’s booth and turns the dial to video number five. calmly. “Turn to number five. glances at the monitor. His hand moves slowly.sounds from the video. The screen is black at first.
It would have been sarcastic. and John looks back down the hall to see if she’ll get up before he goes to bed. He’s relieved that she doesn’t see him walk in. There’s a note on his bedroom door. He trembles. Rebecca is curled up on the couch. take off his clothes and relax in the living room. and wondering if anyone who did see him could sense the sex and confusion raging in his mind. alone. a mild way of saying that it wasn’t just his home anymore. He wanted more of the sensation he left behind in the booth. 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.” he told Caitlin when she saw the pictures of his parents.he sees. He’d been walking for hours. John. thanks. or smell the liquor and smoke in his sweat. but it feels good. He wanted to test his passions in private. written with a shaky hand that barely pressed the pen against the page. He angles the note toward the hall light. He’d almost knocked when he got home. He wanted to get home. “My whole fucking life is a secret. avoiding people. with a beer or a glass of whiskey. . R. or be careless in the safety of his home. if you have a chance. naked. when John gets home. R can only be Rebecca. please leave me Caitlin’s phone number. He stands up again and lets the man’s fingers close around him.
John looks at the clock. Her mother taught her how to iron. Maybe when you’re born with secrets.” she said. As usual. but their answers always sounded insincere. and even heard them talk about it with his uncle. he thinks. He doesn’t get up. like they guarded a secret he wasn’t supposed to know about or understand. they just become part of you. “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. He presses his ear against it and hears the quiet sound of Relius crying in the shower. John gets up and walks naked towards his wall. that he’ll just keep going into his own room or the bathroom. and instead dims his lamp and tries to read another article in his magazine. finding a suitable answer to his drunken questions about why he sat in a booth and let another man touch him. and tightens his body. Relius takes a shower after work.“I thought your parents were a lot younger. John is still awake when he hears Relius come in. He’d asked them. hoping that Relius won’t knock. He hears Relius’s footsteps come close to his door. and he hadn’t heard Rebecca at all since he came in. but she doesn’t think of her now while she . When the shower door slides shut. It’s past two in the morning.
After the cows eat their hay and cornmeal. of what she would say to her therapist. She thinks instead of Caitlin. breathing heavily and stretching their thick pink tongues into . THIRTEEN Matty's favorite days begin. when the sky seems like it could never thin itself of the thin dark white that defines it. Each one he treats gently. after the walk through the darkness to the barn. The cows wait patiently for their meal.does it. calming it with his voice as Kristina passes the rough brush over its stiff fur. 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. Matty takes his time with the cows in the morning. Matty says little to the cows as he encourages them to move aside for him to clear the soiled straw. white foam wetting their mouths. their large bulbous eyes staring up occasionally to watch another cow eat or a sparrow flutter to another beam. and Kristina brings large forkfuls of fresh straw to offer the cows as new beds and new material to soil. Matty unloads the sugar beet from the trailer bed and smiles to see them lick the beets enthusiastically. look mellow as they chew the hay.
” he says. While they milk the cows. Sometimes Kristina will sing to the cows.” They move together to the next cow. and tiny cracks. and the best to carry large loads of clean straw to spread beneath them once again. nor of his own childhood. If they do talk. It was the fork that John convinced Relius was best for pulling the manured straw from beneath the cows. “Was that the one? I thought it was this one. sometimes Matty will listen. Kristina wipes the teats clean for the suction while Matty walks away for a moment to prepare the milk for their newest calf. Matty and Kristina share few words during the work of the morning. Matty stands quiet above the trough to collect the soiled straw and push it out of the barn. its shaft covered with brown stains. it is of the veterinarian or of the young bull they want to buy. “Relius always used this fork. the husband and wife walk calmly down a row. On this morning. better by not being theirs. dusty smell of the barn reminds him not of John. The fork he holds. he knows that Relius always used. He adds the warm water to the milk in the green bottle and fastens . not even of his many years spent in the barn. Today the heavy.their neighbor’s trough to eat their food. 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.
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. his want by the woman’s small.the rubbery nibble before testing the formula on his arm. In their kitchen. and respected. Relius had taken care of its mother and was looking forward to calving her. just that once her baby was born. This small bull came just after Relius and Rebecca left. “This little guy is going to be big bull. This blind woman worked for their family. It was about Relius’s mother and a blind woman. but the baby was thin and sickly .” “You don’t want to sell him. both of them watching the calf drink from the bottle. She wasn’t a tall woman. She found the mother strong and healthy. Matty tells her a story that Relius had shared with him.” Kristina comes over and stands behind Matty. Relius didn’t know how she lost her vision. do you?” “Not this one. they decided not to name it. as Matty prepares the coffee and Kristina slices their fresh bread. When the calf came. adobe home with some gifts. He laughs quietly at the small calf still making small leaps into its pile of fresh straw and waits for it to see him. but she was strong. A few months after the baby was born. her eyes didn’t work anymore.
His mother and her sisters went into this blind woman's house and turned over every chair.” “Doesn't sound so strange. It was hidden in a hollowed-out beam of the woman’s bed frame. already finished with the first part of the day. “All his stories were strange like that.” Matty laughs softly. He doesn’t think of his parents. His muscles feel tense. After they got rid of the snake.” John opens his eyes and stares impatiently at his clock.looking. so they had to bring a witchdoctor by too. The blind woman insisted that a priest wasn’t enough.” Kristina says. probably preparing to go out to the fields. “Jesus took devils out of pigs. that someone had cursed her. Staring at the clock just makes him away of how little he slept last night. Whenever the blind woman would nurse her baby. 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. tight . dresser and bed until they found the snake. “Yes. though knows that they would already be working at this hour. How little he’s been sleeping for weeks now. a rattle snake would stick its rattler in the baby's mouth and suckle at the woman's breast. they had to bring by a priest to bless the house.
around his bones.” He smiles at his friend. anyway. lust. tasting the paste of slumber on his tongue. He closes the door behind him quietly as he takes a few short steps to the bathroom. rubbing its granular remains from his eyes. 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. adding.” he whispers. “You lust too much.” John looks at the blank sheet of paper in front of Relius. covet?” “Lust.” Relius says sarcastically. so I just gave up trying.” John laughs.” “Yeah.” “You mean covet. I'm fine. That I covet my neighbor’s wife. What the hell does that really mean. “God damn it. and you must stop or be punished. Yeah. “I was thinking of writing about you. “You all right?” “What are you doing up?” “Couldn't sleep. and making him feel like he has to get up to ease the tension. 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. . my son.
But he stands at the door and listens. Her legs look beautiful and soft against the dark blue linens. wake her with a kiss and embrace her with the security of love. he cannot reach the invisible body of her soul. “do you think it’s Latin. Relius. He looks down now. Rebecca does not make a sound when she finds him asleep on the couch. closes the door and lifts the remote control from the table as he lowers himself onto the couch. toward the floor. covet?” “Go to bed.“Go to sleep. He wonders whether or not to wake Rebecca. his eyes filling with a watery reminder that he cannot touch her. He uncrosses his arms. He opens the door to the room. and listens to her breathe. her emotions. the television casting the ill humor of the arrogant preacher. at least you can sleep until the early afternoon. her shoes. television icon who takes pleasure in the applause he gets for ridiculing common people . and ease her deepest pain. Will talking to her. toward himself. the rug. He stops and whispers to Relius.” John walks down the dark hallway toward his bedroom. and he walks over to the phone and picks up the piece of paper with Caitlin's phone number.” John closes his door and Relius stays at the window. and he yearns to touch her. or talking to anyone really help. charlatan.
She wrote a letter to her mother. She lost a child. and she’s responsible for how her vulnerability affects someone else. It makes her hate the feeling of loving him. behind him he feels the presence of Rebecca.” she wrote.” And now loving Relius makes it worse. “My faith in so much. She’s angry with him. “That guy’s is an asshole.who suffer uncommon dilemmas. my confidence. and it bothers her to know what he knows. For a while she lost her entire family. “They stole my dignity. Relius opens his eyes and stares at the brown fabric of the couch. Rebecca. and now she’s losing Relius. That evangelist. It makes her hate him.” Rebecca walks angrily into the kitchen. but doesn’t follow her. things matter. and her friends. Relius watches her.” “What about priests?” “Cute. Told her the Luke and his friends stole from her.” “That figures. and blinking hard he sits up and waits for her to say something. Because she loves him. No.” “Who?” “On TV. He knows she read the letter. not hate him.” “They all are. that Father William loves him. It makes her .
and finally hang up. When Caitlin answers Rebecca does not hesitate to speak. The phone rings once more and she rehearses in her mind the smoothest hello. apologizing for hanging up a minutes earlier. She dials slowly. marking a slow march toward the possibility of solemnity. Caitlin answers and Rebecca does not say a word. and she gets angry with him over anything.” Relius smiles. She listens to Caitlin say hello a third time. Leaning back against the table. she drums her fingers on its underside and prepares herself to call again. almost angrily. 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. “Did you put sugar in it?” “I spit it in it. He looks up at her. Behind the door to the bathroom she hears Relius still singing to himself and wonders if he thinks of her while he sings. She walks back into the living room and sets a coffee cup in front of Relius. Caitlin had . hearing each tone resonate in her mind. glad that she’s at least trying to make fun of their moods.
more common. and she walks over to the window to survey the world she cannot escape. “What am I going to do. . Optimism touches at Rebecca. could walk behind her unnoticed. to create scenarios and conversations to explain the gestures she sees from her room across the street. She smiles at the young girl who sits at the window at night. and the girl nervously smiles back. and happiness governs the morning. and a feeling of despair fills her. waving as though seeing Rebecca by chance. making the imminent movement through the day less ominous. be places where people.been expecting her call and she was not surprised at all that Rebecca had hung up the first time. not driven by the urge to watch. colorful and metallic. entrust herself to a stranger. cold and lifeless. She would have to go somewhere by herself. it was fine. Outside small crowds gather by bus stops and newspaper shops.” she asks herself. They don’t talk much. men. scan it for weaknesses. warming her. suddenly aware that calling someone would demand so much that she had been trying to avoid. these things can be difficult. and Caitlin giving it to her again from memory. young boys and girls walk together toward school. Rebecca explains that she lost the card Caitlin had given her. The reflections. Rebecca hangs up. colorful and clear.
Caitlin had promised her that this doctor's office was nearest to the apartment. saying yes to the appointment that could be squeezed in that morning. The images warp and twist and curve to the shapes of their near and distant mirrors. hearing their conversation in her mind. She looks at the direction again. doesn’t see others as she walks reluctantly out the front door and hesitates on the threshold of the building. and follows the lines she drew as . Rebecca sees some of these patterns. becoming collages seen by a girl who stares into the face of her lover.on cars and windows. they absorb themselves into one another. in the glasses of elderly men and women. Her hand wrapped tightly around the hand rail. wondering if he knows her. she breathes deeply and tries to concentrate on the piece of paper she unfolds. others short and wide. She nods again to the secretary. a threat already to her resolve to follow the streets to the office building described to her by the voice on the phone. off the sunglasses of young vain young people. The gray steps seem much larger and farther apart to Rebecca than when she first walked into the apartment building. or else not until next week. His curiosity is too aggressive for Rebecca. A man turns his head to look at her over his shoulder. and some look tall and some thin. or the young boy who looks up at his grandmother.
She shudders when a small boy points to her . She stops at the end of the street to get a sense of how fare she’s gone. and stop looking over her shoulder so often. She walks through this observing body. The small changes she made on her map when she spoke with the secretary suddenly make less sense. an uncontainable argus that watches her at once from all directions. She uses storefronts to look behind her without turning. She tries to walk more slowly. fear must show on her face. and then once at the right street she would see which numbers they could be. in her movements. She decides instead of concentrating on the numbers. and none of the names nearby match the ones she’d written down on her directions. Along the street the eyes of the people seem to come from one enormous body. she would follow the lines as she drew them. and will know when the time is right to attack her and maker her helpless again. no matter the direction. and the 8 a 6 or the 6 an 8. turning to see any man or woman who looked at her as she passed. and now and then she is certain of a constant image there. She sees a . a being. and Rebecca wonders if her 5 is a 5 or a 2. She’s lost and she’ll have to ask someone for directions. more calmly. to her fears. untamed by perspective and sinister for its power to witness her movements however fast however slow.Caitlin directed her to the office. someone who walks at her pace. The street sign is unfamiliar.
She can’t find the quarter in her purse. looking for anyone that might be watching her. but I'm lost. she finds a quarter.” “Where are you?” “I don't know. She finds nothing. She imagines someone beating the handset against the phone booth. deep in her purse. anxious to find a way out of this labyrinth. 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. “Hello. Finally.” she whispers. She stares around nervously.” “What's nearby?” . with small chips in the black plastic. and the anxious fear of being lost grips her. She’ll need it to be calm now. smells it. Lynn's patients?” “Yes. and the quarter becomes more than just a coin. “I don't know where I am. and listens to the recording ask her for twenty-five cents.” “Are you one of Dr. Not lost. or against the shelf. She’ll need it to feel safe.telephone back along the street she’d come up. She cradles the phone on her shoulder. I have an appointment this morning. The phone is dirty and stained. tucked into a pack of gum. and she runs to it now. A mild panic starts to hold her. make her feel frenzied.
Do you know the cross street?” “I think it's Meagan Avenue.” “I don't have another quarter. You're probably just a couple of blocks away.“ “Okay.” “You're not sure?” “No. I'll call you in a little while then. This is what I want you to do. Walk either direction on 9th until you get to the next intersection. It says 2545 9th St. Call again and we'll see where you are. “ “Okay.” “Call collect.” “All right.” “Do you know the name of the street you're on?” “No. No.” “Honey.” “Could you ask someone nearby?” “Ask someone? No. Look on the phone. Can't you just tell me how to get to your office. I want to help you get here. Once you get there I want you to call again. and a record store next door. so you're on 9th St.“Well. is there an address above the numbers?” “Yes. listen. there's a coffee shop behind me.” . but I can't do that with what you're telling me. I can't do that.
I can't just keep walking like this.” “My name.” “Okay. Pressing the metal tongue once. They must have a phone inside. Forcing herself to walk on she finally comes to a phone. while another simply stares.” Rebecca reluctantly hangs up the phone. Behind her she finds a small laundry mat. She opens the door and the loudness startles her. hoping that maybe she just missed one. again. twice. 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. But she knows that she has to walk. scanning the four corners for a phone. But she didn’t. this is stupid. Then I will talk to you again in a few minutes. away from where she had come. and one of these women smiles at Rebecca. She looks back and forth. She walks to the door and looks through the glass. My name is Rebecca. At the next intersection there is no phone and she freezes at the curb. she hopes to wake the phone from its inoperative slumber. Rebecca.“And what's your name. She listens for a dial tone and hears nothing. but the familiar humm does not come. A few women with small children sit at benches near the front of the building. There is a television on . She looks to her left and to her right and decides to go to her right. she tells herself. Rebecca Ann Daugherty.
and asks if there’s a phone nearby. where the phone might be. The shiny look of the phone calms her. and she no longer hears it pulsating in her ears. back behind the soap machines.” “Good. in an inaudible whisper. smiles at her again. “ The building is not as she imagined. We're at the corner of Burton and tenth. The woman laughs. If you want to be heard in this world you got to speak up. assuring her it will work. She follows the stairs to the . The woman who smiled at her.somewhere in the room. Go back and take a left onto Burton. The same woman answers. “I'm in a laundry mat at 9th and Burton. The concrete walls painted beige give the impression of an asylum for the unhealthy. That means your just right around the corner. and the voices from the screen mingle uncomfortably with the many rhythms of the turning drums in the washers and dryers. “I didn't hear a word you said. Good. The woman points to the back of the laundry mat. blue and red mounds of felt she sees in the garbage cans at the end of a row of dryers. and Rebecca approaches to ask her. green. and a welcome relief soothes the flow of blood in Rebecca's body.” Rebecca takes a long. deep breath. Lifting the receiver she dials the sweat-stained number on the piece of paper she pulls from her pocket. She smells the warm air in the room and knows that it comes from the gray. doll.
Rebecca hears the end of Pachelbel's Canon above her. it's the need that I have to get over. I love him and so I need him. The frosted glass moves slowly along its runners.gestures and words that conflict in their moment of movement and articulation. “I'll be fine. “hello.” With the calm of being in the doctor's office. a mumbled I love you too. insist that he not come? The need.second floor and finds the doctor's door beside the elevator. and closes the door gently behind her. Rebecca thinks of Relius and remembers his concern for her before she left that morning. she reminds herself. or tell him about the dreadful mix of love and non-love within her that sometimes. but she didn’t know how to respond to him. and his legs shaking nervously. his chin resting on his clasped hands. With his arms around her. leaving her with truncated expressions of adoration . the man with his elbows against his thighs. to wait with her and walk her home. he felt close after so long. Why didn't she tell him she was afraid. but if my need makes me resent him than I can't love him. often. “Rebecca. and the woman at the desk behind it says simply. a withdrawn embrace. you must be Rebecca. certain of its inadequacy. Why did she say no. her hands in his before she left the apartment. Inside a man and woman sit patiently opposite one another. “ . He offered to come with her. silences her.” she told him. the woman reading a book.
The doctor looks younger than she had expected. She speaks of the baby she lost. she asks Rebecca to tell her first about her family. occasionally asking a question. 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. Above her smile Rebecca spots a few small freckles. father. Her eyes almost orange and her skin the soft color of cream. an unwilling participant in his own scenario of loving reason but dreading the loss of faith. listening mostly. Both of them sitting on heavy tan chairs. The doctor takes cursory notes. though not of its father. smiles to herself at the irony of its implications and the image of herself rising from a chair to talk to a psychiatrist. and of her father as a bright man forced into a life of simplicity. talking of her mother as a strong woman who never had the chance to find her strengths. and says yes quietly when the doctor asks her if she prefers to be called Rebecca. Rebecca finds herself describing her parents in very warm tones. unwilling to involve herself in the doctor's . The doctor sits down with Rebecca at a small table in the corner of the room. any children. any siblings.Rebecca starts at the sound of her own name. and she speaks of Relius and her confused affections for him. her mother.
I am the real Rebecca. The doctor reminds her of the needs of Relius.exercise of discovering what is wrong with her besides the shock of having been attacked. it is hard to get over an attack. Rebecca asks herself.” “Rebecca. she wants to say. so silenced. I feel so scared all the time. she tells her. cold. “it is hard to get over the loss of a baby. Loving and resenting Relius is just a sign of other issues. I listen to you and you sound smothered. and not what Rebecca thinks she wants. I know who I am. and about her own needs.” The phrase echoes in her mind and makes her sound mechanistic.” she agrees. She feels impatient. “We need to know what Rebecca wants. but by what people expect from you. that's not the problem. the problem is with what I've been through.” . what more. but you must realize that there are a lot of experiences piled up on top of you. and we need to get to the real Rebecca. and it bothers me that who I am can't function. There isn't a secret me where everything makes sense. I understand that you don't want to accept some of the things I am saying to you. “Yes. a self that is in perfect harmony with its thoughts and actions. not just by what's happened to you. “ “Yes. “The real Rebecca. and listens to the doctor indifferently. “ But what more.” “What I want is so simple. There isn't.
” “Rebecca. When I was young I always thought about becoming a mom.” . make me happy.” “Things aren't on top of me. Your family. but the main thing we learn about is becoming a mom. And I had a chance. And then what happened to Relius and me. the people in your town. in many ways it is. and everything that was supposed to be so beautiful about it is gone. and it's only made things worse. That's what girls dream of where I'm from. Now my family blames me for leaving and Relius hardly feels like he ever wants to be near me. they want to protect their children from the harsh side of life until they are old enough to handle it. but the truth is they want to do what parents everywhere want to do. So what have I got? Nothing. but it has a lot of risks. what you're going through are real situations of life. Things are never as simple and as happy as they seem to us when we're children. Sure we work. they're all good people. I don't feel like things are suffocating me. and it is. So much that I used to stand on is gone. and I lost the baby. I don't feel like I have to keep getting rid of things to be myself. and it was wrong. and parents don't teach their children about those risks.“I'm not smothered. I feel like they've been taken out from under me. Of course you grew up thinking of motherhood as a wonderful thing. I thought that loving him would protect me.
within the guidelines of their beliefs. register in your mind and affect the way you see yourself. Because your parents probably ask themselves questions about you. 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. 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. however big or small. Rebecca. From what you told me about them. All these things. Your mother and father are both religious people. and because they raised you well. They may believe that because of their faith. How do you think that affects them?” “Probably makes them wonder about their faith. about what they could have done differently with you. you probably sense it in some ways. but I doubt it. that you should have a happy life. or maybe your father talks to you differently. Maybe your mother is not as close to you as she used to be.” “Maybe.“Are you saying that my problem is that I was too sheltered. That my parents should have told me to expect a miscarriage and almost being raped?” “No. And you don't. I imagine it probably makes them wonder more about you. Now even though they might say otherwise I am sure that they don't understand why their daughter has to hurt so much. This is why I said we have to find out what your needs are for you.” .
That means that however much you want to be one way. on who you are. As much as your parents want you to be the daughter they always wished for. The responses. but they really do. and you have a chemistry inside of you that is truly all your own. and as much as you want to be that daughter. and even the most stubbornly independent people become that way because of many factors in their lives. or anything like that. We . not the answers. Rebecca. you are looking for will begin with yourself.” “My problem is not that I am house divided against itself. Different experiences made up who you are. You can't sort things out for yourself by yourself. there will always be things inside of you that are not consistent with those expectations.” “No. but realizing that there is a difference between who you are and what people need or want is very important. No one grows up in isolation. sometimes you just can't be. I just need to get over being afraid of strangers and feeling like I can't trust anyone. It would be impossible for you to figure out everything that people want from you.“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. 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. and then say if I feel guilty about it or not? That doesn't make much sense to me.
vendors were sorting their vegetables and flowers. since early that morning. fallen cucumbers. and they didn’t grow from the bronze stems that hold them. Outside the office Rebecca walks in the direction recommended to her by the secretary. 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. and Rebecca sees anger in the quick gestures of the person in the serape. preferring to protect herself from the doctor’s thoughts. and why it's so hard for you to start to rebuild after everything you've been through. turning his head . tomatoes. And the man with the broom lowers his head and stops sweeping. What’s left of the hour passes quickly for Rebecca. 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. A stout figure in a serape approaches the man with the broom. Little balls of glass. shaped to mock the nature they imitate. She doesn’t say very much. the color of no grapes that have ever been. Glass grapes won’t rot. Still frightened of strangers she walks reluctantly past the market where. cut stems and other litter into a large pile.” Rebecca hears only that no one grows up in isolation.need to help you figure out what makes you happy.
and her ears hear the words that could have been to her. but she wants his presence. The small boy runs behind his mother and wraps his arms tightly around her legs. Behind her she hears a small boy calling out to his mother. 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. hoping that. She looks up at the windows of the apartment and wonders if Relius is still home. She does not want to talk to him about her appointment. Guilt grips her. by some generous miracle. and her eyes see the child she might have had. Sad sight. and she reads each street sign eagerly. catching in the smooth mortar. though the calm she sees does not affect a calm within her.slightly to follow the direction pointed to by the hand emerging from its woolen cover. He peers out . and looking like a blind woman who searches the building for a revelation hidden in its texture. knowing that there is nothing else to look at along this path so the man knows that she intends to look away from him. each next street she reaches might be her own. he cries. Mama. mama. At this hour the people on the street walk with less haste than in the morning. and then looking down at his pile of litter again. When she stands in front of her building she cannot recall the particulars of her walk. Beyond the alley market Rebecca breathes more easily. and Rebecca quickens her pace and walks past the man with the broom without looking at him.
that this child were not another's and she not the distant observer confined to mere questions of what would my child look like. a passage he was sure she would appreciate. Relius.from behind her and smiles at Rebecca before disappearing again behind his mother's long skirt. but her eyes betray the sorrowful wish that this were not so. Hugging her pillow tightly against her face. though sadness shakes the words. But when she enters the apartment she turns away from him. what would my child say. asking her what's wrong in a tone of accusation. whom he expected to return in good humor from her appointment. not of compassion. Already impatient with her. or tickle her. Smith. she says sternly. he talks to her coldly. 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. How would I dress him. And through a blur of tears she finds her key and escapes again from this dreadful cage of eyes. and with the self-pity he anticipates. and Relius knows from her avoiding eyes that she found no answers with the doctor. 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. softening his tone. What happened? he asks her. 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. Rebecca smiles gently at the corners of her mouth. she .
does not answer. He talks about what he thought might have happened at the doctor's office. and you there. I left the phone number of the restaurant by the phone. 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. and does not wake until the apartment is . She sleeps. Hoping to reassure her of his presence. Do you like it? Rebecca does not say a word. It's about missing you. with these coils. and through her slumber she whispers I love you to his I love you. as they spread into magical fingers that close tightly around you. she does not hear him say. and does not wake when Relius leans close to her face and kisses her before going to work. Relius begins to talk directly to Rebecca without asking more questions. I wrote this for you while you were there. revised and sudden. embracing you in the body that I must be in finding myself in being here. pulling you close. somewhere you are beautiful to eyes that my imagination envies. but lets her eyes focus on the colors outside the window. Want to hear it? He begins to read. these threads of words I compose a place where you sit beside me and hear my thoughts. and he unfolds a piece of paper and tells her. She knows that he will look back at her once more before he opens the door. closer to me. and she fights the urge to press her hands into the bed and twist her body so that her eyes might see him.
but her reflection responds with indifference. breathe less. she says again. the familiar froth of sorrow beneath her breast. and crying in loss she empties its contents into her . and does not succumb to the hope she held in uttering his name. Please. and set her as an observer of a spectacle of which her body is a part. and her mind a silent witness. confused at her own movement. She drops the cotton to the floor. and she presses her fingers against the glass. The reflection does not seem familiar. disbelieving that this person is herself. she tells her reflection. But the image stares at her with the remove of an apparition. How does this voice fit that face she asks herself. and knows that sadness begins to hold. Relius. again. she whispers. she cannot believe the voice she hears is her own. and when she speaks to it.empty and Relius has been working at his new job for a few hours. and her mind as its own arena of violence. she feels it bubbling within her. pull her from her self. and knows that she vanishes behind her image of herself. Relius. dear God. and cannot look away from her reflection. and tries to breathe more slowly. his love. Despair. reminding it of his presence. God damn it. she cries out. Closing her eyes tightly she hopes to find more familiarity in the reflection when she looks again. In the bathroom Rebecca looks at her hair. give less life to the force of desperation now claiming her eyes as its own tools of inspection. 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 she looks briefly at her reflection and recognizes in it the woman she had hoped to be. one in front of the other. . She sets the cup down. watching her feet move. waiting for the sleep to come. She takes up the cup from the sink and fills it again and again with cold water.mouth. walks slowly from the bathroom to the bedroom. staring over its rim at her reflection. she does not understand what her hands have done. and sees the life she had desired. Swallowing hard. then lays down on the bed and rests.
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. and that number 25 is now number 24. and that it is a fourtop now. He waits for Relius to tap on the door. The two men shake hands briefly. not a twotop. asks him in English if he is ready for his day. careful not to place it on the white sheet of paper with a map of the restaurant. Julio explaining why the tables are numbered as . Some still match. and Julio.FOURTEEN Julio watches Relius from a table near the front of the restaurant. He leans forward and sets down his glass of water. 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. 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. to Relius' surprise. They talk for an hour. He smiles at Julio and follows him to the table to look at the map of the store.
his clothes suggesting to Relius a man too determined to reveal his private self to others. He looks uncomfortable in his recent success. Soon Billy arrives and seems pleased to see Julio taking the time to show Relius around the restaurant. His name is Bulent. and the busboys. a syncopated form of the first name of her favorite saint. but his father would not let her so she had to settle for Relius. his English is okay. So Relius . hearing his mother explaining to her friends that she wanted to name him Adeodatus. The blue and green liquids swishing back and forth in the bottles make Relius nervous. Billy wears a shiny suit that fits his body loosely. he tells him. 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 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. Relius introduces himself to everyone. and admonishing Relius of the temper of the prep cook from Turkey. Julio takes his time with Relius. Soon the other waiters arrive. 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. They talk about the food and Relius tastes small bites from the desserts that Julio sets on a table. but his Spanish is perfect.they are. echoing the voice of his father in his head.
assure her that he thinks of her. flirt with him. but his thoughts are of Rebecca. 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. They follow the rest of the waiters into the . the forks. He also learns how to set the tables for the evenings. polish the silverware. and goes about spreading the white table cloths.explains his name to the few people who ask him its origin. and setting fresh flowers into the small vases on each table. so you were almost named golden boy. Julio interrupts his thoughts. I'll tell you what else is good later. He enjoys the conversation he shares with Julio while they work. 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. knives. spoons. and help prepare the first batch of bread. regretting the short burst of pleasure he feels in having this young woman address him. During the next few hours. he says. I guess so. 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. he learns that the waiters at this restaurant fold the napkins. and remind her that he will be home soon. telling him that everything is just about done and that it's time for dinner. and he smiles at the busboy who tells him. and Relius becomes pensive. a pretty waitress tells him.
His fingers recall the number and map out the pattern on the telephone. wanting to express concern though not obsession. In the main dining room he sees Billy greeting the first customers of the evening. offering them his attention to assure them that they are . telling himself that he ought to be careful not to dial the wrong number again. The spaghetti tastes fine.kitchen. metallic sounding on the recording. Wiping the sweat from his face and trying to dry his hands on his apron. He watches his fingers make the familiar pattern. The answering machine does not pick up. knowing that enough rings will force the machine to answer and give him the opportunity to share with Rebecca his thoughts of her. He lets the phone ring ten times before he presses his finger against the metal tongue that holds the receiver. he walks up the stairs with questions filling his mind. 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. asking him if anything might have happened to her. asking him where she might be. Finally. Billy speaks quietly with them. he hears John's voice. and Relius eats it quickly. and listens nervously to the first few rings of the phone. and serve themselves generous portions of the meal the chef chose to make for them today. take up a plate. and he leaves his message for Rebecca. I'll try you again a bit later he tells her. and dials again. hoping to conceal his haste. and so he lets it ring some more. retrieves his quarter.
and wishing it might endure. 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. the particulars that matter as generalized preconceptions never can. glad to be able to help another latino find his way toward comfort in the city. They talk briefly about the amount in tips Relius could expect at the end of the evening. nor his skin. Throughout the evening Relius finds himself smiling often. and for that moment. from Billy's welcome till the end of the short walk along the pine floor and marbled walls to their table they are. and knowing that to these people his black hair does not make him different. With some of the customers Relius speaks comfortably and happily in Spanish. the manner in which they speak. taking orders for him. nor even his accent. Relius forces a smile to his face when Billy walks up to him to ask if he is ready for the night. and Billy tells him that he is glad to have him there.the most valued persons in the restaurant. Once seated. but rather the differences between them are marked by their moment of interaction. Relius follows Julio throughout the evening. carrying plates to his tables. cherishing a feeling of independence. Relius holds up the blue inhaler in his hand. enjoying the familiarity of a shared language. But these moments do not . and holds his breath a few seconds longer before exhaling slowly and assuring Billy that he's ready.
and. though familiar gloom . breaded steak he first dipped into mustard. What does it mean. I'm from northern Peru. he hears himself say. and wonders why this phrase should form in his mind. lifting the tray away from the table. he asks himself. Images of Rebecca behind his eyes. the jungle beyond the mountains. hardly a smile from one to the other. without having to worry about her as he does now. begin to eat.no rings on significant fingers. Relius hears the man breathing heavily through his nostrils as he chews a thin. preferring to walk toward his own thoughts and no longer dwell on the fate of this relationship he glimpsed briefly this evening. listens. Friendship follows its own course of madness. and Relius ignores him. for he regrets and does not understand why his mind imagines the freedom he would have without Rebecca. the utterance itself brings a warm apprehension to the cavity of his chest. he tells her. the river. Rebecca. and a dreaded. and speaks through a veil of sadness that muffles his senses. his fears for her so vivid that he sees. begins to talk. he hears himself think. Behind him. still chewing. without saying a word to one another. and the concomitant guilt restrains him from enjoying the evening completely. the man. looking carefully at the man and woman sitting there . or to him. He smiles. so that he might whole heartedly answer this woman's question about where in Peru he is from. but he does not think of his family's home.endure. they lift their forks before he steps away from the table.
you doing all right. I think Relius should go home. where she is. Billy's sense of the source of Relius' sadness soothes him. Es algo serio? Relius hears the phrase resonate in Spanish. he's pretty worried about his girlfriend. Rebecca me preocupa. he whispers again. eases his festering anguish. . Estoy bien. he hesitates to recall the pain that brought them to the city. nada. Te sientes mal? No. ella se iva al medico hoydia por la mañana. the sadness that lives in Rebecca. asking her. Relius. y cada ves que la llamo. why she fails herself. and looking up at Julio. saying her name like a question. constricting his freedom to love. he repeats to himself. no contesta. Billy. no. is it serious. My god. que tienes? Te pasa algo? Que? No. en serio. through her name asking himself. or the work bringing you down? The customers in here can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Julio injects in Spanish. Tu amiga? Si. estoy bien. and he thinks of the customers instead of himself. Rebecca.twists serpent-like around his heart. Relius. Billy calls out. how he failed her.
I think I should stay.Relius feels at once relieved and annoyed to hear Julio's suggestion. 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. Anger that Rebecca should be so extreme and not contain the past in the past. developing an intricate melodrama to justify her absence from the apartment. fearful disbelief at the small hallway leading to . Relius stares in hesitant. I think I'll try calling Becca again in a little while. Relius. but he does not. pitying herself. I think it's John. between every contact of his skin and clothes. passing moment. he tells Billy. and wishes he could say. you have a phone call. Resentment builds again. on his back. The words press into and under Relius' skin. yes. Billy's hand on his shoulder pulls Relius abruptly from his hypnotic gaze at his watch. No. I need to go. The black arms on the white space record the perverse eternity of each sluggish. or her refusal to answer the phone. and let the present expand into the future. forcing a warm. and he feels the wet veil of nervous sweat above and below his eyes. he adds. The evening continues slowly. He imagines her sitting alone in the apartment. the hands on Relius' watch appearing frozen when he glances at it quickly. trying to show the proper measure of concern. thin layer of moisture to his face.
John cycles again and again through the moment he walks into the apartment to his frantic call for an ambulance. some round and intact. The phone. he finds the neglected abandoned cap. Relius imagines himself already lifting the black receiver to his ear. John? In the lapse of time between being put on hold. how long was she laying in bed like that. and hearing Relius' fractured voice. the desk. how much of an hour. God. lifts the receiver. Behind the beige door with the curious shadows cast by the dusty lamp in the hall. dark red. stumbling on the j. but red. trying to recall how many minutes.Billy's office. seeming to belong not in a restaurant. that Rebecca would . Violating his own expectation to collapse on the floor. He turns the brass knob carefully. and shaking. plastic bottle looking coldly prophetic at the bottom of the sink. lays it on the table and walks into the bathroom where he finds the empty. not gray and industrial. surrounded by yet a few small tablets. but in a home. any jacket or purse. On the floor. not black. and finds the room not at all as he imagined. he asks himself. He swings open the door and scans the apartment for the absences to suggest that Relius and Rebecca are both out. but he cannot think of anything. but lightly stained oak. hearing a quiver in John's voice. two hours passed before he sets his pencil deep into the margins of his book. Relius sits apprehensively in the large leather chair. and mutters. already almost weeping. some crushed. and dropping to his knees beside the desk.
John opens the door onto the silence.always take with her that might be significantly present in the common spaces of the apartment. He leans quickly over the bed and frames her face for a moment between his trembling hands. looking asleep. and carefully draws down on her chin. he finds Rebecca. He lowers his ear to her mouth and listens for her breathing. and John immediately balls a clean pillow under her neck. and the smell of vomit suddenly claims every atom of air in the room. The odor of suicide still in her mouth. before he wipes the thin. John backs away in an instant of disgust before he pinches her nostrils. her chest does not rise nor fall. and knocks softly at the door. 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. brown line of mucous from her cheek. and upset and fearful. closes his mouth over her own and prays that his breaths might revive his dead or dying friend. and still wonders where it came from as it lingers . he turns. Stepping from the tile back onto the wooden floor. No response. On the bed. He shakes his head violently to rid his mind of this unwelcome erotic impulse. takes a few short steps. horribly peaceful. Removing himself from her side. The terrible sight grasps him when he sees the wet stain on the pillow beside her.
and hears only his own phrases within his conscience. In the car with Billy. or when the flow of traffic slows their progress. she took a lot of pills. and he turns toward him quickly when they approach a stop. yellow corridors of the hospital and wishes that he had thought more about what to say. but disturbed and maintained by a frightening array of tubes. phrases that condemn. words of hope. no Rebecca's. pumps. need for help. ordering and re-ordering the events that brought him to this phone. and it looks like she overdosed. and does not note Relius' indifference to the idle phrase he utters. and he detests his own sickness at any shadow of pleasure in closing his lips over Rebecca's. Relius. When he hears Relius' voice. where her sleep looks. instead of remembering. And he continues into the silence that Relius refuses to fill. She'll be fine. Relius ignores Billy's reluctant confidence. but he watches his friend from the corner of his eye. not peaceful. and electronic organs that hold and measure life but do not animate. He shudders. phrases that judge him in his complicity to . Relius breathes slowly and reluctantly accepts the encroachment of sorrow. and Rebecca to that room. He searches his mind for words of comfort. the guilt returns. stares at nothing down the wide. Billy stares at the cars in front of him as he drives.behind his words while he tries to explain to the dispatcher his. it's Becca.
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. and he sees his imagination alive in a shadow that to Billy is not the presence of any woman. And he sees Rebecca again. still unaware of the obvious insecurity in his voice. the emergence of a living.her suicide. and Relius does not break from his refusal to listen. But he does not see her. horrible mistake. any person. He thinks so vividly of Rebecca. His thoughts blend into a powerful collection of fibers that weave a veil before his eyes. fixed on the image of Rebecca in the shadow he is certain was hers. and hopes so earnestly for her to be fine. Relius. and yearns to see. he hopes. the strange machines. 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. the phone call from John some horrible. Already his eyes concoct pictures of Rebecca on the hospital bed. swings again toward the penumbra. and his hopes cannot transform . it's her hand. the hair of a woman so similar to hers. gives it life in his mind. smiling Rebecca. Billy repeats his assurance. to see at all. forcing him to look through the tight. used and idle. to see the sidewalk. smothering the tranquility of her sleep. in that evanescent shadow. and he sees her in the hand that leans so casually out the window of the car they pass. The veil forces quick perceptions of the qualities of Rebecca. twisted crossings of his fears to see the street. convinced that she must be fine.
he watches her. echo gently off his mind and do not penetrate to his conscious thoughts. three days. for that moment of revelation when this image. we don't really know. He weaves Rebecca's fingers between his own. awakening a guilty awareness of betrayal to his lost wife. and knows again the absence of Rebecca. he wonders. this lovely woman asleep. and now a betrayal to Rebecca. cool hands reminding him of Renee. and call upon him to strike the . the sensation of her stiff. she's in here. still. not a riddle to be solved for truth. Relius does not say a word to Billy as they walk through the doors of the hospital.this reality. will withdraw from sadness and yield to soothing significance. caught in a moment of the unreal. In passing the alcove of the shadow he sees only the grayness of the building. still hoping that he might find her standing beside John. and holds him tightly in an apologetic embrace before leading him to a door. certain that he will wait. But John waits for Relius by himself. dizzy. but simply feels her hands in his and stares. he does not cry. Confused. The words coma. for death is death. My God. can I love. wait for his prayers to penetrate the darkness and awaken the somnolent God. Relius knows. maybe months. Relius does not look at the doctor when she begins to speak. he knows this sense of waiting. despite the futility of it. He waits. touching death. But this moment does not come. The doctor is with her right now. He searches the halls for Rebecca. and saying.
now. he finds the doctor and asks how long Rebecca will be in a coma. You stop.flint in Relius' heart. her attempts at consoling him. its obvious indifference. stare. and in the artificial rhythmic breathing of the machine beside her. alight his mind and body with a passionate fire that burns reason as the combustible fuel of faith. then leave the stony or sandy precipice to remove yourself to a less cautious space. 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. but a numbing presence. stare and do nothing. he hears his loneliness. But this flame does not build within Relius. . 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 pulls his fingers from the tapestry of their hands. to her reason. Puzzled. and. He listens. recalling in Relius the disappointing sensation of staring at vast peaceful waters for the first time. afraid to sleep. Blue. Relius stays with Rebecca for three days. the taste of nausea in the back of his throat. The silent. denying its lack of meaning. her education. not a color. insignificance of this blue. and suddenly cold. Stepping into the hall. or gazing at the endless skies before they yield to the transparency of night. or the soft veil of clouds in shades of white and gray. wakes constantly from his place on the cot beside her. the desire to sigh and call it beautiful.
She sits in the chair beside the window that Rebecca stared out of so often. and held tightly to the pillow she lifted off the floor. and it was this man she thought of. The children's voices echo among the walls that mark the neighborhood. . they are sure. and looks to see what Rebecca might have seen. In the room she looked at the dark. and on which she was certain her daughter had lain her head to die. and listens to hear what her daughter might have heard. and Mrs. taste. beside this vivid. but now merely as a background to the photographs you share later of yourselves having lunch. When Rebecca's mother visited John after spending some quiet moments in the hospital with Relius and her daughter. careful not to awaken the emptiness that silenced her daughter. touch. and wish. empty blue. She ignores Relius' pausing presence at the door. but they cannot conceal their bitter awareness that this man brought their daughter to this city. dry stain on the mattress.where the blues are still visible. and does not follow his motion from the door to the window and back to the door. before she lay her head to rest so finally on her pillow. hear. Rebecca's parents do not blame him for the sadness of their daughter. she walked cautiously into Rebecca and Relius' room. Daugherty slowly succumbs to the sorrow of bearing witness to the vivid sensations of life that smothered her own daughter's willingness to see.
she just didn't know what to replace it with. She used to ask me questions about things when I would sit in the living room and read all night. She used to talk with her mother. Mr. I'm sure. and when she came out here. But she couldn't. I just didn't know that Rebecca was this bad. I expect. I know we need it. searching the young man beside him for meaning. beside Mr. Sighing deeply. Truth is I love change. In town. Relius. but you don't know this feeling. including John. maybe it was Nick and losing the baby. . and you're probably very wise for someone your age. Relius. pressing his elbows into his knees. You've seen people suffer. and I can't say that it's really Rebecca's fault either.On the couch. thinks that I'm some old-fashioned guy who never wants anything to change. She lost that. that it's hard to believe in anything these days. you're a young man. Now I'm not blaming you. Before this all happened. lost sight of everything we tried to teach her while she was growing up. Relius. for an explanation of his daughter's condition. She lost sight of herself. but the truth is. Relius yearns to escape his judging silence. She could ask questions and wonder about things because she had some sense of herself. he leans forward. Rebecca did. Daugherty listens carefully to Relius' words. You didn't need to call us sooner. Relius. Daugherty. I'm sorry I didn't try to call you sooner. I don't know. everyone. Relius.
lost control in her life. and she just kept trying to find a way through that made sense to her and made her happy.I know life demands it. Takes a long breath to nourish his thoughts. got stuck in chance. I don't know how religious I am myself. and couldn't really change anymore. but at least there are things that make sense to us for a while. You're not religious. Everything that's happened to her over the last couple years seemed to be out of her control. The only thing I don't like is going into anything. and . It's hard to think that a God could exist when your daughter loses a child. Relius. and maybe you. too. not wanting to deprive this man of the solace he finds in his own words of wisdom. Relius. into change without knowing our history. And I know that even what we think we do control is really beyond us. I don't think that we can control everything in our lives. She couldn't make chance into change. Relius understands that he must listen. He pauses. But you know as well as I do. so she lost herself. But you see. she couldn't do it. you look up. . I think Rebecca. as he is. and how that change works. and neither is Rebecca anymore. aware. no. . and his questions he keeps to himself. but must utter the words he had restricted for years to the privacy of his conscience. . that he cannot sit silently with Relius. and when your daughter herself might be dying. Frankly. that when you feel desperate. Change without knowledge is just chance. I know that. and chance is what scares me. you look past the ceiling.
Mr. think of that. That means you don't have to be real smart. That's why she's in the hospital now. and what you wish to be true. or an artist. or a religious person. When you pray you want to combine what you know to be true. but at least it would have kept some hope alive. not God. and torn apart. Relius. I guess. and examined. and it's not like imagination. I expect. I think that prayer is like another part of us. too. But Rebecca gave up on the idea of prayer. something that has to take over where reason and imagination just can't say anymore. With prayer you're already giving yourself hope. in the most personal and direct way that she can. It's not like reason.you pray. I don't believe we're supposed to pray for things. you just take what there is and pray that it changes. 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. Everyone can pray. that has to be tested. 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. that things will be different. Daugherty lifts his elbows from his knees and sits back again in the . but the problem seems to be with the prayer. she's just assuring herself. that they'll change. cause you don't make things up. She's not expecting God to come down and make everything better. Her mother is praying for her now. Not that prayer would have made everything better.
but his sadness pulls his glance to the floor in front of him. not at all knowing what words he might speak. . and walks to the back of the couch and rests her hand on Relius' shoulder. His wife steps out of the doorway where she had stood listening to him. and forces an uncomfortable smile through his frown. and he yields willingly to the silence. The warmth of her palm surprises Relius. covers her hand with his own. He wishes he could look into her eyes with hope. and he looks back at her over his shoulder.chair.
. This is an amazing green. He takes up the cup and rotates it slowly in his hands. you let it beat you. touching the rough edges where she carved her initials and the year into the sandcolored bottom of the mug. and does not understand the weakness he accuses her of in his thoughts. He does not trust her. it looks just like the scales of a rainbow trout. He listens. he tells her. he says privately. Relius turns impatiently toward every sudden yell for help or random scream.FIFTEEN In that room surrounded by patients who sit quietly along the wall. but withdraws into hesitation when she speaks of the day when she leaves this hospital. or placidly in front of the suspended television. staring at the uneven glaze. in the voiceless words of his mind. Rebecca shares with him the pleasure she discovered of spinning clay on a wheel. and tries to convince him that the medication really helps her. and they have their chance to live together again. You gave in.
I've only been here a couple weeks and you think I'm ready to leave already? No. that's not what I meant. I tried to match that color. he rubs his fingers hard against his eyelids. that's why this one turned out sort of black. and waits to calm himself before asking her. watching her look past him. but I couldn't get the enamel to do that again. He responds with angry silence. Becca? God. I love you. She leans forward again and tells him. I'm just wondering what they told you. Relius stares around the room. I'll just make you a new one. how long do you think you'll stay here. He wants her eyes to meet his. does not want to hear the fractured space between them in her voice. it is pretty. He does not want to listen. He wants her to see that he cannot offer his love. looking coldly into her eyes. Impatient with the vacuous words they share. She leans back in the aluminum chair and looks at the cups and . See. cannot claim emotions that are not his. 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. Have you tried putting any water in it yet? No. but I'm sure it won't leak.Yeah. it's beautiful. in an unsure voice. Relius. away from him. Do you like it though? The cup? Yeah. If it does.
I just. and she attacks him. Suppressing the tears but not the red that stains her eyes. and let her. her. He listens in disbelief. leaning forward and continuing in a hissing whisper. He tries to look away. or of just being here to be away from everything. Relius.looks at him. his words already reflected in her vacant. Rebecca lifts herself out of the gray chair. you're really over reacting. and abandons . and struggles to contain his impulse toward antagonism. Relius? I'm not here to be myself again. desperate to step away from the painful silence Relius forced upon them. He stops. ignorance. he says. accusing him of selfishness. know that he doubts her. Becca. but cannot. he hears her say. you're unbelievable. bewildered stare. I'm not accusing you of wasting your time here. . and he hears himself too late. I can't believe how hateful you can be. the woman he does not know. then leans forward again and bends the row of cups with her forearms. and did not understand. Unsure of whether or not to finish his thought. he hears her say. own terms of defense in the silent dialogue of his mind before he closes his lips tightly over his teeth. she pushes the chair back under the table. . that he doubts them. her stare demands him. Where have you been. He hears his own words. reminds himself that he must not react to everything she says. I don't know if I can love you. coldness. I'm here so they can help me figure out how to be myself at all. still lingering in the infinitely reducible space between them.
but he sees judgment in her staring eyes. Few eyes watch him as he leaves the room. A friend. Why are you already leaving. to her.Relius to the cold quiet of sudden shame and loneliness. and even the woman who does stare fixedly at his motion toward the door does not register a thought of his motion. Overcome with bewilderment. continues walking toward the glass doors and steps into the warmth of the day. Relius sighs. he stands for a few minutes on the steps leading away from the building and waits for his thoughts to return. and finds in her gaze a reflection of his own indictment of himself. and the . Confused and regretful. silent look from behind the desk. moving across the room. not even a man. 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. He imagines John pulling into the parking lot and walking absently toward the hospital. 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 would covet her simplicity of thought if he knew it. But John is not there. he hears the man asking with his inquisitive. he is no more than a stranger. or a consideration of his abrupt departure. Relius quietly pushes himself away from the table and lifts the chair from the ground as he slides it back into place.
Nothing. He had forgotten how barren this apartment seemed every time he . 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. 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. He settles briefly into the heat of the imprisoned air.desire to see him does not revert his inclination to avoid him as he has avoided anyone else who might ask him questions. Relius walks toward the car. Listening only to the sounds of his car and the sounds of streets. 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. meaningless questions about how he and Rebecca are doing. always followed with the hollow. uninformed assurance that everything will be fine. None of the songs. and tries. tired. but cannot avoid the urge to adjust the rearview mirror so that his eyes might look into his eyes. He leaves the car with the rear wheel comically lifted onto the curb. to a talk radio show. 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. and he tries for a few minutes to listen to the news. or pieces of songs satisfy.
you know it's not a church anymore. half shouts. careful not to sit on the gray white stains left there from moments of hunger. Father William nods quickly at the silver and white haired women as they say Hello Father to him on the streets of the city. When the driver hears him and sees the white collar. He does not give the cab driver the address of John's apartment. and Father William does not answer. lust or carelessness. orange chair Julio had given him. but instead asks to be dropped off at an old church he knew had been turned into a bar. half whispers. Father William laughs quietly to himself when the car stops in front of the transfigured church. records. but mark the building with a dull frosted white sign reading Golgotha Bar. and finally. The milk crates and cinder blocks along the wall could look fashionable if they were not a necessity. but sits unsteadily on the black vinyl. and small whims of decoration. He sits down in the musty. He says the name aloud to himself before knocking at the large wooden door. shit. supporting the long shelves that bow under the weight of his books. after taking a slow deep breath.returned to it. The letters twisted into the glass tubes do not glow blue in the daylight. don't you. he mumbles back. The young man who opens the door does not recognize Father . knows without a doubt that he wants to do nothing. but here they are.
With unexpected resentment. William? Is that really you. At the bar Father William asks a young woman for a merlot. Pam. priest. but I guess you're alright. but she's still here. It's me. and he has no reason to. The young man leads Father William to a long dark bar. I'm an old friend of hers. or the surprised expressions of Pamela. elegant woman walking toward him in the mirror behind the bar. Is she here now? Who's asking? My name is William. She isn't the owner. She never was. Come inside. What are you doing here? How did you know that I'd be here? . a showcase of fine wood and polished brass fittings. I don't know if she'll know who you are.William. this isn't a church anymore. and sees a mature. Yes. He stirs the last few sips in the bottom of his glass. I am not here looking for a church. Could you tell me if this bar is still owned by Pamela Wininger? No. I know that. he scornfully tells the man. I am here looking for a person. and sits patiently waiting for the return of the rude boy who let him in. young man.
When I was in the seminary it was different. I need to talk to someone about what I can do to help a young friend of mine. Thank you. Actually. of holding someone and being held? William smiles and remembers her stubborn directness. but a young man I'm trying to help lives in the city now. Do you mind if I call you William? Of course I don't mind. I needed to talk with you then because you were the first person I ever felt that I loved. So you really did it. that's not it. William. Even through the seminary. I wouldn't expect you to call me anything else. 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. I never thought you would really go through with it. her beautiful harshness.I never really lost track of you. Are you in love with him? No. and when I started feeling those sensations in the seminary it confused me. I need your help. You look wonderful. you know. Don't you miss the feeling of loving someone. It's not like that at all. . I didn't expect to come here. I always managed to run into someone who knew what you were up to. that's why I'm here. and I don't think he lives too far from here. Pam. You became a priest. and I really couldn't think of anyone else to turn to.
Sometimes I feel like I'm the reason you became a priest. . Relius. Do you ever think of me that way anymore? Pam. this environment always makes me feel like someone is trying to seduce me. William. It's a sad situation. His name is Relius. Not here. not to say no. Why don't you tell me your friend's name so we can talk about his situation more easily. it's not a selfish love. to tell you the truth. I'm sorry. William takes another sip of wine. I just couldn't help but ask. shaking his head slightly. please. that she not belittle his need for her at this moment. William. Where is he from? I've never heard that name before. that's not why I'm here. tell me. or like I should be trying to seduce someone. I love him as I wish I could love all men. but to ask her that she not turn him from his thoughts of Relius. what's the problem. Pam. He's originally from Peru.You helped me a lot then. He sets the empty glass of wine on a table beside him. but I don't think it's a Spanish name. Let's go somewhere else. Still attracted to the dark ones aren't you. women. If I do love 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. he says. No wait. So.
that's how I loved you. How long has it been? she asks. 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 invites him to ride with her in a red German car. You were there for me at a time when very few people could bear to listen to me. William? . Do you mind walking in the rain. or stall in traffic the rain falls more slowly. I had to support you. you supported me. Father William listens to her voice and listens to the rain that slowly begins to wet the windows of the car. Pam leads Father William out a door in the back of the bar. William. and despite your own beliefs.Instead of taking him into her office. despite how much you disagreed with my decision to become a priest. 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. and a stream of water flows from that former drop until the movement of the car shakes it from its snaking form. 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. You were there. as he expected. At every stop.
and returns to his walk with Pam away from the car and toward the path leading to the creek sheltered by the trees. A still outline in a window resembles the silhouette of the head and rounded wings of an angel. an optical twist. 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. He stares at this soft shadow for a moment. The path toward the creek widens and narrows. I don't know why. idle fan. becoming a thin dark . It feels right. Yes it really is. but whenever it rains out here it doesn't bother me at all. they stop in a small park still preserved from the leveling force of suburbia. They park beside a small picnic shelter. Outside the city. hoping to see more than an illusion. The smell of the earth is familiar here. He looks back over his shoulder once more before leaving the image of his imagination behind him. you know. the steel wings belonging not to a holy messenger but to the indifferent outline of a large. sidewalks and underpasses. The clouds shift above him and the angel vanishes. It just feels right. and Father William feels at ease. not at all. The rain's wonderful.No.
What do you mean? I mean where did you learn. Taking his hand in hers. Where did you learn to smile? the priest asks. Father William pauses in his thoughts. I don't know.brown line where they step off to follow a trail along the water. tell me about him. They walk for a few minutes enjoying the sounds of the creak and the leaves. 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. it does not rain harder. maybe I was thinking of something. thinks about the many conversations he had shared with Relius. or maybe remembering something. if above this ceiling of trees they walk under. or were you just smiling? I suppose I was just smiling. so. or when did you realize that sometimes just walking along a creek can make you smile? Were you thinking about anything just now. The rain falling on the leaves above them seems louder than when they were in the parking lot. Pam says. from the moment he first opened the door at the Flaig's home. the many faces he saw on the young man. but I really think I was just . to the morning he and Rebecca sought his counsel before turning their car into the street leading away from the rectory. away from her home. and they silently wonder.
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.
Father. I don't know if he's here but your welcome to come inside and knock on his door if you like. of course. surprised to see a look of question on the priest’s face. he says mildly. My name is Elías. and I'm afraid his buzzer may not be working. Father. he adds. . Father? Yes. Number five? I think I've seen him.Can I help you. Elías? Yes. Just before they reach Relius' door the young man stops and turns to him. excuse me. He just moved in a few weeks ago. What's his name? Relius. He lives in apartment number five. so he has no way of knowing that we've stopped by. what is it? Can you pray for me? He pauses. 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. a face no doubt asked many times for prayer. can I ask you for a favor? Yes. You’re welcome. a young friend of mine lives in this building. Thank you.
green metal stairs up to his apartment. Father William does not wait for the young man to offer a response. then follows the carpetless. and traces his life in the small images he captured with his old camera. Until it rings he goes through the many boxes in his closets. or perhaps the priest had not before noticed his pallor. and the rare images taken of him standing. The young man parts with Father William and Pam and quietly opens the door at the end of the hall. He sets the photographs in order on the floor of his bedroom. He sits in his room by himself and waits for the phone to ring. and he looks down at the cracks in the plastic cover over the carpet. in California. my friend. 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.What do you want me to pray for? I'm going to be getting some lab test results back soon. and the drawers of his desk and dresser. the ones he took from his mother's house. he finds the hundreds of photographs he has collected. but pray for me as well. and feels a warm wetness flush from his back to his face. I will pray for you. When the phone rings he picks it up and . he tells him. and I'm just scared what they might be. the ones he developed in Europe. in Manhattan. staring or sitting in various longedfor cities that rise and fall on this earth. My name is William.
looks at the white card in his hand and presses the necessary sequence of numbers and listens. Relius. He sits on the floor in front of the photographs. Father William finally calling out. Father. miniature rival to the Duomo. Do you mean Relius? Yes. and I haven't been able to get him to answer his phone or the door. if you are in there open the door. He no longer hears the echoes of his fiercely beating heart. May I help you. ma'am. and smiles through a rush of tears. please. and calmly presses his fingers into the off button of his cordless. picks up the most recent one of himself and his lover in front of the zebra striped. and offers a whispered prayer for William. you've met him? Of course I've met him. beige phone. I'm worried that a young friend of mine who lives in this apartment might have hurt himself. If you wait a minute I can open the door for you. he wrinkles the center of the paper. but you have to promise me that you won't tell him I did .walks to the window overlooking the street his parents first lived on when he was a child. Yes. Father William and Pam knock a few times at the door. Holding the photograph hard against his chest. I'm the manager here. He listens to the voice. A door near the middle of the corridor opens and an elderly woman looks out at them.
she says. trying to shorten . Wotschke. Are you sure you don't mind? You're a priest. You know. Used to live here with my husband. I know most of them. But he's gone now.it. pointing with her eyes at Pam. but couldn't stand the thought of getting to know things all over again. it’s Mrs. you live somewhere a long time. You must live nearby. The kids in this neighborhood. What about you. I've lived in this building thirty-three years. Where do you live? Nearby I suppose. Father? You nearby? I wanted to move away once. People know you. Away from everyone they know. My name. a bank. Wotschke. It's always strange to me when someone new moves in. My name is Mrs. aren't you? What harm could it do? Anyone asks I'll just say that you were here to bless his place. you have a grocery store. talking through every breath. She walks in small steps. People here already think I go snooping around their apartments when they're not home. patient voice as she starts down the hall. you don't look like you'd go very far without being able to wear the right clothes. In a few minutes they see the zoftig woman leaning on her walker coming slowly out of her apartment. and talks to them in her rough. She locks her door. Pardon me. and opening his door won't help me any. Especially you.
Hi. There you go. Father William and Pam force their way politely through the door. Hello. Looks like your friend is here. She tries a few keys in the lock. he says. She stops talking for a moment when she reaches Relius' door. with each one pausing to tell Father William and Pam about the keychains she gives to all the people who move into the building. Jimmy. Do you speak Spanish? I understand a little. Father. and the man. say thank you quickly. some. This is my friend Pam.the distance between herself and her goal by filling it with words. You understand some Spanish too. She looks into the apartment. She does not look at the man or woman behind her until she feels a key catch and turn stiffly in the lock. 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. and says to the priest. don't you. Relius. and walk to the silhouette in the chair. . Relius looks up at them and with his finger carefully marks his place in the green book on his lap. Hi. who helps her vacuum the building and change the light bulbs. inspecting it quickly for mess or order. Pam. Father? Yes.
It's a prayer addressed to God. rolls into a hole. It's all right there. Do you understand it now? It's about believing in things. and it rolls and rolls until it stops in the hole of an immense sepulchre. It's about everything. But it's not a God that can hear it. ya no podrás jugar. It's about what you believe. and it's probably about what you believe. The dice. oscura. que no puede parar sino en un hueco. loneliness. Would you mind translating it for us? I won't speak for Pam. too. because this God cares more about playing with the dice. He watches them. Dios mío. why did you read that to us? Because it tells you what I want to say. all of it. What's it called? Los dados eternos. despair. Relius. and whatever number comes up no one can see. Cesar Vallejo. porque la Tierra es un dado roído y ya redondo a fuerza de rodar a la aventura. God. The earth is a corroded die. Who wrote it? It's Vallejo.Listen to this. Looks at Pam. Pam. Looks at Father . and the way we make god out of that hole. us. not even god. Father. Father. en el hueco de inmensa sepultura. but my Spanish isn't good enough to get poetry the first time through. Relius. The eternal dice. because it lands in an enormous grave. the chance of losing someone or something. I didn't understand that. It's about loss. y esta noche sorda.
He grows out of human misery. there he is. I don't want to give you the chance to . The more I need. I'm right at the point where I'm supposed to need God and religion. somber words. don't you. I know why you came. the more I try to come up with a god. You want to help me. But we put him there. I forget that he comes out of my needs. and out my mind. that might give me what I need. or anything. Pam hears confidence in Relius' voice. but pretending that it’s good just proves how much we need god and that faith isn't the answer. and finds it odd that he should speak so politely as he says such cold. that she and I just don't know how to talk. It's horrible to be helpless. right Father? But I won't do it. Rebecca's parents probably told you that I don't go see her anymore. I won't. But it's not all right. Father. it means that god is real. and I let him make up rules and govern me. or make it easier to get through things.William. How it becomes a belief. tell me. until I finally don't notice that I put god there for me to believe in him. and we need to have faith. because I know how it works. Whenever people feel helpless. So. letting them think that it's all right to be helpless. How what works? The need for faith. I don't want to give it to you. Then I'm supposed to believe that because so many people go through the same thing. how am I supposed to deal with being helpless and still be in my own life.
know nothing of your creation. I let her down so badly. Father? Is that why you became a priest? Did you want to be a god? Relius. What do you think. He told me that she tried to kill herself because she didn't know how to have faith anymore. you're not making any sense. and even where it wasn't my fault. And. he says. He meant that I couldn't give his daughter enough hope for her to regain her faith in anything. I knew what he meant. Father. Dios mío. I didn't understand why she couldn't just get up and get out of that damn apartment. When her world fell apart. I just don't understand what I'm supposed to do now. I feel like I've messed up everything. You know what else Vallejo says in this poem. Her father blamed me for it. Every time I thought about her sitting in John's apartment. if you had been human. man endures you. The God is him. God. but you. everything just fell apart. calm down. I'm not mad at you. Rebecca doesn't even make any sense to me anymore. Y el hombre sí te sufre: el Dios es él. si tú hubieras sido hombre. I let her down. now you would know how to be God. yes. no sientes nada de tú creación. pero tú. and I was so selfish. hoy supieras ser Dios. please. Relius looks down at the book. Why are you so angry with me? Damn it. necessary.show me hope by trying to convince me that somehow my weakness is normal. I just got angry with her. thought that she was overreacting. . que estuviste siempre bien. who were always fine.
I must sound absolutely insane to you. Goodness. But you did stop them. to be honest. I'm not really sure what I disagree with. Relius. they took away her support system. What don't you agree with? Well. I wanted to help her ignore all those women whispering behind her in church and on Main Street. If you weren't there it would have been worse. Does she know what's going on? No. I had no place getting into her life. Relius. but I don't know if I agree with you. actually. Then when we got here I tried to help myself by being there for her. She needed things to get simpler so she could understand herself. Father William leans back from Relius and sees Pam's eyes widen in confused disbelief. Some of the . you make a lot of sense. 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. she doesn't. No. I'm sorry. because I was there and I couldn't do anything to stop them.when those animals tried to rape her. but instead I made things worse. and I made them more complicated. I thought if I helped her then I could make up for killing that boy.
and even though you may interpret. I think what Pam is saying is true. and has had other friends. 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. There are so many factors that contributed to what Becca went through. She believed that I could be there for her in ways that other people hadn't been. Why not? Because. the way she was raised. doesn't she? I imagine she has a family.things you were saying just didn't sound right. you underestimate William a lot. so why should so much of it fall on your shoulders? Because she trusted me. your life fits into a beginning and an end that you are just a . But. How could you expect to be so much to one person? Becca knows other people. What about her parents. but that's not the issue here. Relius. or respond to it differently. Relius. William? Why do you call him William? We met before I became a priest. even with what you were just saying you must realize that you fit into a part of someone's life. you don't talk like someone who believes in right and wrong the way he does. and can't be all of it. Relius.
One plus one will always equal two. Religion gives that moment meaning. Just because I became aware of it. I didn't put it there. It's the way you see that moment that's different. one plus one will always be two. Relius. In theory. But if it's in your mind.moment of. You're trivializing things. Doesn't that bother you? I don't believe I put it there. for a young man who lives in this building. faith and God help us find our way along that line of beginnings and endings. they don't become two. even when reality seems to say something different. when we learn that this world is not enough. Think about numbers. 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. When those clouds collide. For me. in the realm of our minds. does not mean that I make it up. Say that you were trying to teach a child that one and one is two and the example you used was two clouds. Relius. And it's through our minds that we find God. But that's not totally true either. But you put that meaning there. Relius. and while that fact may help me make sense of it. they become a more complicated one. but that's just what we see. Of course there are unusual examples. for Becca's parents. Haven't you ever had faith in something? .
but the questions will persist. It just supports me as I look at my self. Shouldn't faith be able to get you over things like that. that you endure and overcome. you find confusion. Father. That's insulting. that just sets you up for disappointment. I didn't get it on my own. and it doesn't protect you from anything. Renee and I loved each other. but it does help you keep enough hope alive in yourself so that you might find meaning in the things. Love never makes sense.The faith I had my parents and my teachers told me to have. Love couldn't do anything. and where is she now? She's gone. Father. Faith doesn't mean I stop thinking about my life. You know how hard it is to look at yourself. and my own role in it. Faith doesn't give you any more control over your life. and millions of questions. How can you manage those questions without faith? . Relius. What about love? Love? You can't have faith in love. like the death of someone you love? You're expecting too much from faith. You do it long enough and you don't find something pretty. Sorry. especially the hard things. Questions you'll never be able to find answers to. but you must have had other types of faith. I can't help but think you're just glorifying self-deception. Giving it a different name so you don't feel guilty about doing it. inconsistency. Relius. Maybe not. Relius.
That's why I've been sitting here for so long. Pam. and yet anyone who has faith. claims that it provides answers. and I've gotten as far as Vallejo. Father. I see faith in the same way. you just said that the questions persist. You can't harm the archetype of the chair.I don't know. so what I do with it affects me not faith. unless you completely pulverize it. you can just shape and alter your own interpretation of that archetype. but. I don't associate my own questions of faith with the idea that faith is questionable. What I question is the degree of my faith and my own ability to rely on it. I don't see how it could. Faith to me is just as real as that chair you're sitting on. Father. Relius. it remains a chair. But questioning my faith does not undo it. 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. most attempts to replace faith just give it some other name like aesthetics or communism or naturalism. Relius. Faith is separate from whatever I make of it. I've been reading through everything I have in my apartment trying to find something other than faith. What do you think you'll find. From what I've seen so far. by whatever name they call it. . I'm not sure. don't they make you question your faith too? I won't deny that I question my faith. the same way that what you do to that chair might ruin it or make it prettier.
Why is that need all right. even if you don't agree with what comes of it. every sensation. is that you want to take everything apart in order to find out where everything about you came from. Relius. every thought. and your unstoppable movement toward the future. everything. 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. you can only do so in the present. isn't it. you're doing exactly what I was talking about before.But. Your past will always be seen from your standpoint in the present. I think the real difference between us. Father. Relius. You're forgetting that you put faith there to begin with. and all the contexts the present entails. Are you saying that I'm wasting my time? No. for a priest to be telling a . no billions of knots that hold existence together. if you're going to take it apart. It's ironic. A little more expansively. I just think that you need to look at things a little more expansively. The past doesn't exist anywhere. Whereas I guess I want to put things together to find out where I am going. Relius. for some reason human beings need it. or someone did a long time ago. It's like one of the senses. while other needs supposedly lead to sin? I won't pretend to untie the millions. every fear. Relius.
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.
That's not it. Just another anybody. You're on one of those soapoperas. asks Relius if he wants any coffee this morning.’ ‘Rodrigo?’ ‘Yeah. reminded of walking with Matty and running into Father William. Something like Roodreego. that's it. I remember your name being something else. Red white and blue.’ ‘Nother anybody. ma'am. You an actor? ‘No. flipping one of the four cups on the table. ‘I seen you here before?’ she asks.’ ‘I swear I seen you somewhere. He laughs at the stickers on a few of the cars. I'll remember 'for you leave. ma'am. she pours the coffee carefully into the cup. laughs at the self-assuredness of pasting an identity to the black plastic of a bumper. He nods and smiles.Relius walks slowly toward the door of the restaurant. A middle-aged woman walks slowly to his table and.’ ‘No. . I know I know you from somewhere. her eyes all the while fixed on Relius. looking at the cars. ‘No. I seen you on TV. he mumbles to himself as he opens the door and looks for a table.’ ‘My name is Relius.
and do not listen to the voice meant to keep them company in their solitary mornings.’ He says to end his diatribe. and Relius scans the room for responses. ‘Don't trust any of them.’ ‘Well you sure look line one of those clumbian fellas on my soap. an audience determined to agree with anything this man says. They talk about Sunday. . Why don't you give me your autograph. I don't know. smiling. preaching to particular sensibilities. guttural voice fills the diner. You can't. and here's some crazy old lady asking you if you somebody you're not. A heavy. he hopes to hear familiar words or familiar tales. something. just myself. He hopes to hear nothing he has heard before. maybe you're somebody. and mention the names and feats of men they would never meet in their churches or clubs. but no one looks up.aren't you?’ ‘No. speaking quickly. and he does not know what he hopes.’ Relius listens to the radio as he waits for his food. He listens for sounds of his own thoughts. Relius listens. Monday night. and just won't tell me. Sorry. and it bothers you that you come out here where nobody ought to know you. ma'am. Even the men who sit alone seem to be waiting for someone. The woman returns with his breakfast. just in case. He stares into the lighter swirl of milk mixing into the dark coffee in the brown cup. Never been on television.
draws a line through those letters and begins again. Rebecca. warn and written on. murder. my god. His fingers flip through a few pages. and she offers him a blank piece of paper and her pencil. he thinks. but cannot. He erases their names. Renee. The first girlfriend. John. not Paul. father. how could I forget Nicole. Paul. before he finds a clean page where he can begin his list. pauses. ‘Just write you name for me.’ she whispers through an atavistic. Father William. he begins to write dates and names of his life.looking at him as though assured of the secret they keep. Relius returns the smile. taking inventory. and he wonders what the history of this slip of paper will be. the first few letters. He writes another name. or seen in years. discolored. Nicole. His mother. He writes her . Damnit what was his name. making judgments. Without considering it. the colors. Renee. assault. He tries to imagine each scenario. How come I don't remember more names. ask someone who he is and leave it crumbled on a coffee table. wrinkled. God I've known so many people in my life. lose it in a box. His name. Will she wash it with her apron. brother. and so few of them matter. He looks away as she turns to another table. Do they really not matter. His birth. Rebecca. From his back pocket he pulls the small notebook and the black pen he had decided not to stuff into the backpack. But they are people he has not spoken of. coquettish smile. takes the small blunt pencil and writes his name. and trace himself into his own emerging history.
The last name he writes is Father William. holding up a glass pot with an orange handle. Beside the list. Murder. Above the word he draws a question mark. I don't even know the name of the kid I killed. anything that might make these two words significant to one another. Me.’ 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 . and he sees nothing. drawing a line between Renee and the murder. dates. Kristina. not directing it up or down. he draws arrows pointing from the top and the bottom to a spot he labels Relius. wishing that some meaning might evolve from this diagram. tears it from the notebook and writes the names. He looks at the list. He does not write a name. in a new order. the regular isn't ready yet. wanting to insert there a thought. me. and cannot find himself within it.” Between each item he draws a line and adds me. he tells himself.name above Renee and Rebecca. honey?’ ‘It's all right. He sighs. He follows the list from his birth to the diner. me. to the right. and events over again. breathes deeply. Matty. drawing an arrow between their names. some logic be visible in his life. but all he thinks to add is “me. saying ‘decaf all right for now. but all he sees are words and lines. I haven't done anything. The woman returns to the tableside. And he looks at the map of his life. and under it he adds the name of the diner. an event. not marking its point. Shit. And he looks at the list again. on a new sheet of paper. I can wait. James Robert? No.
‘ The gentle man gives him quick directions. and Relius sees bleached blue letters behind the long. and follows the grayblack arrow toward the small road to the left. and the woman returns to offer him more coffee. Relius drives slowly. to other places. he remembers. A few minutes pass.time. ‘You mean Mt. asks for the check and leaves a large tip. leafless branches. To the right of this circle he draws another question mark. Above his name he writes PURPOSE in deliberate block letters. shakes his head. faded white sign hides behind a patch of red dogwood. better suited for someone already familiar with the roads beyond the diner. A small. stares at the page briefly. Mt. Renee always drove slowly. He circles the word a few times till the ink frames the word in a thick black band. and closes the notebook. thinking of times when he had driven slowly with other people. he declines. Nac?’ ‘Yes. hoping that he might spot them as he drives and use them as guides to mark his progress. and Relius tries to remember a few of the names the man mentions. and asks him if he knows the best way to Nac. Nac. 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. He drives for a few miles .
the stuff churning in this aerial mill to fall again and fit the mosaic of earth without image. A small band of blackened stones and bricks marks where many parents. Turning. Before twisting the key out of the ignition. Nac. the degeneracy of her voice to a rough. lovers and friends sat listening to the river in the night. and he listens to himself walk in the silence of the natural solitude. green veins browned. adjusts the straps. In front of the car. listens to the words he knows reflect the harsh love of men she loved. beautiful sultriness. a circle of leaves lifts itself. warming their hands . He lifts his pack from the trunk. orange upon red. leading around the circle that feeds each empty site. Leaves fall. There are no other cars in the area. incomplete leaves.before he passes an old quarry and a few minutes later reads his welcome to Mt. glistening wet. looks once more into the car and locks the doors. twisting up from the ground. wet and dry. brown circling to reveal another brown. Relius steps softly out of the car. webbed skin between outstretched fibers that mimic fingers in a moment of stillness against the landscape they fall into. just their tracks. The eroding leaves breathe out under his steps. he sits and listens to the end of another song. He turns onto a dirt parking lot and the dry red needles of the pine trees crush beneath the weight of the car. He hears the sad history of the woman in her voice.
The white arrows growing apart and washed by a season of heavy rain. but never to look at a map. He walks on. set to dry beside their campfire. He chooses a few curling. stopping to untie and tighten a boot. and the streaming of water through rounded rocks and bleached logs. He hikes for almost three hours. Quick rabbits stare and duck away and stare at the movement they hear coming toward them. He sees Renee running to stamp out the tongue of fire climbing the shoelace of his outturned boot. He closes the blue cap tightly on his water bottle. loose pages of birch from a patch he finds along the path and tucks them into a long narrow pocket of his jacket. 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. Few birds remain to sing in the trees on this day. 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.around mugs of cocoa or coffee. find comfort in an apple. 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. 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. The trail blazes become less vivid the farther he walks. feeling .
draws out the long narrow bag and patiently drives the thin aluminum stakes into the soft ground. and he stops to listen again to the wind. Memories pull at his eyes. A spiraling walk through recollection upon recollection. and he stumbles forward along the path. a hand. 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 finger. the blue dome looking unusual and out of place in this home to imperfect beauty where shapes mark artifice or imagination. Unwelcome memories trip him as he walks. His walk through these familiar shadows. and he walks through a moment of living mimicry. and he smells the aroma of another. Relius hikes for a few more miles until he finds a flat open plain where he sets down his pack. . shared landscape in the blend of this damp earth. and it whispers a entire story and reaches its airy fingers into the folds of his faculties and draws a smile to remember. catches his balance and stares back in indifferent curiosity at the root that grows like a knotted rope across the trail.the tension of plastic threading through plastic before returning the bottle to the top of his pack. stretch his vision into trees as relics of something past. His blue tent shakes slightly in the wind. scents and sounds opens doors in the fleshy hold of his past. an embrace to desire and to regret.
snapped branches for more kindling.The evening comes and a new silence holds the forest. 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 sets a large pile of sticks and logs beside him and sits down to write by the pulsating light of the campfire. He shines his flashlight into the boiling water. 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. He sprinkles garlic. The fuel he had collected burns more quickly than Relius had expected. His face glows curiously red and brown to the naive eyes that watch him inquisitively in the night. and the soft light reflects a bright glow in the surface and shines through to reveal the bottom of the pot. Relius sits beside the fire he carefully crafted that afternoon. taking his time. He rocks back and forth on a large log he laid near the fire and he sings quietly to himself. and they fix on the movement of his eyes and the popping and clicking . and he wanders through the night with his flashlight searching the earth and low. he lifts the pot from beside the fire and carefully drains the chewy. With an old bandanna he'd never worn. pepper and cheese over the meal on his plate and begins to eat silently. yellow food. and warms his hands and feet. staring above and into the flames that grow and vanish so quickly out of the formless weave of combustibles.
He folds the cardboard cover back over the pages and closes the notebook. Relius does not see the animals. and listen as the silence of a moment soundlessly collides with the advent of my own eternal vigil. expecting that it might spark a word to follow. but he stops and reads crystalline crystalline. Why did I write that. I've not song in thoughts of singing. I've not sinned in the way of sinning. and I cry and fail to close my hand and rest my arm against my chest. 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 . 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. he moves it slowly to write a word he does not anticipate and he reads crystalline shining black on the white page. He turns the page and continues to write. The pen feels heavy in his hand. and presses the tip of the pen into the space beside this first word. My arms embrace insomnia. He shapes the same word once more. but hears them. He shines his flashlight on his notebook to read what he has written. Desire in the desire not to wish. he wonders. To have as to have held. Among the memoried vespers I see myself though cannot hear my heart as the chime to mark the moment endlessly growing.of the limbless orangeyellow monster in front of him. To hold as not to have.
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. heavy eyed. Oh god. and he thinks of who he might return to and tell that he had gone camping. Relius sits beside the ashes and feels them for heat. A thin layer of dew shines . he sighs. What the hell happened to us? He lowers his shaking head and stares at the empty spaces around his campsite.floor. and puts a new pot of water to boil. and scans the glowing sky for shades of rain and blues of sun. He says. into peaceful sleep and does not dream of the heavens he would rend. He drinks a bitter coffee and enjoys the warmth of holding and eating a large bowl of oatmeal. He touches his pen and the notebook. Becca. but does not want to write. He does not expect to sleep and wakes to a cold breeze caressing his hair and face. Becca. He wakes to the morning and a familiar void of desperation within himself. His eyes fill with tears. 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. He collects the few things he had expected to store away before sleeping but did not. Relius sits and thinks of the day. Staring still into the lights sparkling through the pinholes in the canopy of darkness. The fire still burning. He lays the sleeping bag out on the pad and lies down to rest and observe the slow celestial motion above him. God.
and through his nervous. 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.off the leaves and the curved tops of the stakes tied to the tent. excited run he arrives breathless at the base of the mountain. toward the base. and he chooses quickly. he slows to look to the path. He tightens the laces on his boots. He runs. and he runs. His heart beats fiercely. but ignoring the small stinging sensation where his hands bleed in dozens of tiny red dots. slipping on the morningwet stones. and each step. and he hears himself whispering with the wind. The peak of a mountain begins to glow in the morning light. 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. he hears himself breathing more loudly. He struggles to move quickly along a thin stream of water running down the mountain. he does not hesitate to find the switchback trail he lost when he turned . tucks his pen and notebook into his backpack and sets it inside the tent. that might lead him up the ridge. scratching his hands in the gravel and pine needles. but he does not stop. Without hesitating Relius begins to run. He runs toward the mountain. looking panicked. to the left. to the right. each jump anticipates a pause he refuses to give. and he listens to his feet move quickly beneath him. He climbs quickly.
and feels the warmth of the rock against his back and legs.to follow the stream up the mountain. descending and rising again to the rhythm of his chest. His final breaths expunge all memory from his mind. He opens his mouth as though to utter a prayer. The cold water soaks his shirt and he climbs. each breath a burden to swallow and heavier burden to press out. still open. He slips. but merely watches the winged black specks he sees circling high above him. and he closes his hands tightly to prepare himself to stare for the final time at the peak above him. His hands do not dig into pockets for the medicine he knows is not there. hand over hand. skinless slab of the mountain. nor any name. loose rocks. knowing he cannot stop the struggle. foot over foot. 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 lies back on the large. and he opens his mouth wide to force the rough air into his body. rootless twigs and moss. He breathes slowly. and relaxes his neck to look into blueness and wisps of white. He leans back and arches his neck to search for the peak of the mountain. and his eyes. and he thinks not of Renee nor Becca. and grabs at water. and he closes his eyes tightly to squeeze the tears from his vision. ignoring the small stock of breaths left him in his lungs. and he touches the rocks beneath his finger tips. and counts the pebbles that he feels. until he does not struggle. do not see the birds fly close enough to cast large . He breathes patiently now.
then twice over his still body. .heavenly shadows once.
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