If the world goes to shit, you’ll find me on a mountain, drinking warm
Scotch and slapping mosquitoes. It reminds me of my Uncle T—he took
the train into Denver every day to find work. One day, he got so sick of
it that he absconded into the Rockies with the company dime. I hear he
lives off the land now, fishing, hunting with his bare hands, weaving
like it’s yesteryear. Uncle T always used to pat me on the back when he
heard about my grades in school. “Don’t be as dumb as yer uncle!” he’d
roar through a sea of vodka tonics. I only heard he’d passed because the
birds migrated East and brought me his silver crown, the woven branches
of an ancient pine.
During the divorce, I escaped to the hills, fancying I could live like
an old-timer, wearing jean overalls and a cheeky squint. My Uncle T
enjoyed this existence, witnessing the old and wild West grow tame. “I’d
never hide out in the mountains,” he would sneer, adjusting the buttons
on his three-piece suit. That last bank, though, got him. The cops
appeared before he could take a breath. We buried him looking out at the
foothills, down near the creek so any old soul could come and piss on
him. They never found the money, though. Said he had a nasty habit and
couldn’t shake it. Could’ve told you that from the fetid scent of his
Times got rough out there between the gold and the war. My uncle loved
his blushing bride so much, he couldn’t bear to explain why they didn’t
live like before. He sold the violin and put a gun in its place. A true
old West outlaw, making his dime from the end of the barrel. Liquor was
the only thing that let him sleep at night, knowing honest folks’
fortunes were being spent on fancy silks and caviar. Turned out that was
all it took to drive her off. In the end, he fled to kneel before the
mountains and plead his case. I look up at them Rockies and hope he’s
still out there, like that wild land can sustain him.
The surgeon replaced his mouth with a blue void. A terse other speaks
from his dead lips: scalpel, space, push. The echo in the chamber makes
his heart sound empty.
In his mind, he is polishing a crystal seed, like a jeweler setting a
diamond into the family’s heirloom watch. He watches it sprout, growing
roots that sing with celestial movements. The watch hands circulate and
When he unmasks himself, slipping off the elastic and the blue
vestments, he announces to the family that it is the right time. An
instant of riotous abundance flowers in the hospital ward. Unneeded, he
hurries to the next garden plot. Time, like droplets of water, can
easily condensate and dissolve.
Although he doesn’t know it when he leaves, he won’t be coming back. He
meant to ride the train down into the city, to the office where he
slaved over hedge funds the way a dog guards a Christmas feast. However,
he fell asleep after too many fourteen-hour days and ended up in the
tropics, a beach towel slung like a dead fox over his shoulders. He
debates sending his boss a letter, but the mail’s unreliable as it is.
Two days ago, he received an origami crane addressed to Katya. When he
threw it into the air to send it back, its wings spread wide and it
migrated across the ocean. He supposes that’s what transit is like now.
If anyone needs help getting over a hump, they know he’ll be in the red
chair on the right, sipping a weak cocktail. He loves visitors. “Welcome
to Paradise,” he says. “Don’t mind the bars.
Maria S. Picone has an MFA from Goddard College. She loves cats, noodles, and good books. Her fiction appears in Monday Night Lit, talking about strawberries all of the time, and Progenitor Art and Literary Journal. Her Twitter is @mspicone, and her website is mariaspicone.com.