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.
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