It wasn’t night but almost so and they’d spent the long hours of the afternoon in the garden bordered by its low stone wall digging up weeds and planting bulbs in the weak spring sunlight and she turned to him and he to her and they knew they were dead. It was closer to night now. Birds no longer threw shadows across the grass but could be heard singing in the tops of the branches as if about to depart one by one into another world of tree tops. Inside the house the air had dampened, a breeze blew moist and cool through the window breathing in and out the curtains. At the dining room table with its black glossy surface surrounded by high-backed chairs they sat at opposite ends facing one another. The air behind their faces felt not right, not their own, not anymore. Facing each other and eyes on each other they brought their fingers to their faces, tugging at the cheeks and the flesh beneath the eyes. The air behind their faces kicked up and blew against the bones of their faces. Tugging a little more this and that loosened and came off and the birds were still chirping but barely and he realized and she realized one eye was dead and the other let in only a glitter of light. She told him, So this is it, and he said, So it is, and they pulled a little more because the air behind their faces had an excitement to it though they could no longer call it their own. When their emptied faces and the hair on their scalps eventually stilled the birds swept in in the last light, building their nests there.
James Pate lives in West Virginia, where he teaches creative writing at Shepherd University. He is the author of The Fassbinder Diaries (Civil Coping Mechanisms), Flowers Among the Carrion (Action Books), and Speed of Life (Fahrenheit Press).