We were used to the chaos or so we told ourselves. The last prayer had
been said long ago. Weapons were a necessity, we’d all crossed lines,
merely wishing to survive. Our animal selves roamed, hid, gathered food.
But no one told stories. They’d been used up. We took nothing for
granted, learned to shape our days accordingly, found ways to sleep.
Sometimes there was blood. The squeamish had disappeared. The sun still
rose even when the air was dark with grit and hollow birds. Each breath
could contain microbes, viruses, germs. There were no more babies. It
was no use trusting anyone. Memories came only in fragments—No
Smoking, 9/11, iPods, laundromats, jokes. The world was spent and
unraveling. It was far from astonishing but required enormous stamina.
She ran through the field, past the crooked fence and a cluster of
broken wheels. Rain was spitting—a few, flat drops pocking the dust.
In the distance, trees spilled down a hillside like sentinels—several
dried and dirty brown, fire fuel now. She ran away from the specific
toward questions, fog, stilted efforts to make sense of what she’d done.
Was this freedom? Only if she might run forever, her breath never
clutched, her legs never throbbing.
There was her brother across the country and what he would think. There
were the Watsons on the next farm, forever in argument with her family.
There was the sheriff and the dogs who would become hungry and confused.
She ran with each thought a blade in her mind. Specks of blood dotted
her hands and arms and shirt, making a pattern if someone took the time
to examine. She had no delusion of innocence yet a curious peace
threaded through her turmoil. The splatter of rain stopped.
Soon she’d reach the river, flowing slow now at summer’s finish. She
could wash her face and hands and rest awhile. She could gather some
dried moss and put her head down and look up for hawks, sure to fly
over. She might stay here until darkness crept in and a few blinking
stars appeared. Suddenly she felt there was time for all of it.
Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, and Blotterature and was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize six times. She’s published three poetry chapbooks as well as stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.