I will be the ghost that she sees.
I kept seeing the same two people around town. First in a café, sitting in a booth next to me. They held newspapers awkwardly. Their glasses didn’t fit their faces. They read to each other but didn’t say the right part of the sentences. For instance, one read “…which started in the fall. The Saint Paul man took…” Another strange thing was how quickly they ate their food. I looked to see what they ordered, glanced out the window, and suddenly their plates were white.
Two days later I spotted them again. I sat on a stone wall shielded by the trunk of a cottonwood tree while I waited for a bus. They moved like effortless spaceships intentionally trying to look wobbly, human. It was unclear to me if their feet fully pushed into ground. As they passed I noticed their unwashed waffle creased clothes.
In the future she wears a spacesuit and jetpack, she soars toward the moon, her visor reflects my hazel eyes. A tinge of sadness mixes with a larger dose of wonder about times her father may have been lost in life when she was young and did not know.
I think about my father in the early 1980s, wearing Levi’s and jogging shoes. The collar of a plaid shirt above a navy v-neck sweater, his glasses fogging up while driving away from the city, alone in our spaceship silver Chevy Impala.
I stared at the towering sunset when all the hope in the world still existed about us. Twelve-hundred miles apart, we texted throughout the afternoon and evening. The inevitable and the want. (Ping) I know you will be here someday with me. (Ping) I will be. It may have been our penultimate holiday. But the robots must have turned against us, or the spaceships descended and only took you. Perhaps you joined a circus or one of us got swept off a talent show stage with a black cane followed by a man with a broom.
Thanksgiving was so warm that year, nieces, nephews, and dogs strewed about the green and brown grass of the front yard. We all were in short sleeves looking at that orange glow behind the neighbor’s house. A large orb of light sitting in their backyard, tangible, as if we could touch it. I still gaze at that sunset from afar while I continually fail to get to other worlds to see what dusk is like there.
Because My Daughter Loves the Fall
Evening walks with my daughter have turned eerie in the autumn. The other night we became bewildered on shadowy Summit Avenue. The songbirds were singing dark, twisted songs. Crows swayed on branches in the trees prodding them on. The chorus of chirps contained no sweetness but foreboding and suggestion. They led us to a windy road on a steep hill lined with misshaped houses that grew in peculiarity the further sideways and down we went. Odd noises emanated from the twilight below, calling to us, confusion was feeling permanent when Lucy spotted a child who motioned us to follow her out of the darkness. The little girl ran through tree trunks and cast iron fences as we paced beside her. Long stem flowers whisked through her body and looked striking on her ghostly face, much like a leaf adrift in midair, not quite to the ground, on its fall.
King Corn (Excerpt)
There is a clever man who is behind an “Action Office’ wall. (CUBICLE!) I can hear him eating donuts. The sound of teeth biting into a donut is indescribable, almost. It is like a head hitting a stiff pillow or body hitting a soft mattress or a hard mattress hitting a carpeted floor or a carpeted floor absorbing a bare foot or a bare foot stepping on moss (there it is).
Why We Go Fast/All the Dead Dogs
It’s the morning of October 15th and things are weird. I’m isolated in a cabin on the Gold River on my birthday. Yesterday, I stopped at a grocery store to buy food. I thought about buying a birthday cake. I settled on a chocolate cupcake with white frosting. The brown and white remains sit off-balance on the table because I ate most of the base.
The chill in the air has my attention. I’m sitting in front of a screen which has captured bits of nature, the Gold River flows behind a cottonwood lens. I’ve been here several times this summer and fall. I’ve felt so alive out here, but now I’m looking at this place from a distance. So many people I know appeared in my dream last night. It’s what I envision when people say they see their life flash before their eyes.
When I arrived last night it was already dark. I could smell death when I stepped outside. Today, I found it. There is a deer carcass in the yard. The head and neck are intact as are the front two legs. The rib cage is visible and licked clean, the rear end and hips consumed, the hind legs coldly tossed aside with no thought of symmetry by whatever devoured it. The world feels strange when you’re looking at its dead parts.
I’m watching my dog through the screen. He’s sniffing around and under the fallen leaves. Whenever I see a dog in an old photograph or a movie I think about all the dead dogs in the world. I think about their bones and how they used to run, jump, and pant. It strikes me how excited dogs always look in photographs, and I inevitably think ‘that dog is dead now.’ So are most of the happy dogs.
I saw my ex Diane the other night. She was smiling at me as she used to. I know we both get the urge to take off running together. Diane and I only knew how to go fast. We had to. It was the only way we could fit it all in before the end.
I can still hear her crying in the bathroom when we both knew it was over. Five months later I picture her face when we both realized what came next. I knew Diane would always make me cry. I cried about her yesterday because of a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers duet I heard on the radio. It was our song. The person in the car next to me saw me wiping a tear away from my eye.
Diane loved to drive my car. She loved to drive it fast. I used to worry about her when she’d be out in the world driving my car fast.
I live twenty miles from the Gold River. If I were in my house I would feel the tension from a failed love. Even after someone leaves, it stays in the air. Our love made dings in the appliances and scratches on the floor. A happy relationship impresses on your place, forever. This is why I spent most of the summer and fall at the Gold River. There was life here and lives I’ve never seen.
I don’t get worked up over things anymore. Why anyone would want to be around someone who doesn’t want to be around them is beyond me. I’m over emotions like that, but it’s not that simple. Those are words, just. I’ve always wanted that written on a T-shirt. Still, a semblance of that idea is one of the most important things in life to figure out. Diane and I didn’t want to be around each other anymore. I’m doing what I can to live with myself.
I’m not trying to sound fatalistic. Finding a dead deer on a morning after a dream in which my whole life flashed before my eyes with all of nature dying around me is proof enough for me.
The leaves are falling at a rapid clip and the chill in the air is all too real. I’m longing for those hot days I spent out here next to the Gold River. I keep putting on and taking off my winter hat, wandering around in the yard, looking down into the cold water. Bugs are noticeably absent, as are the birds. The squirrels are acting desperate.
I’m taking deep breaths because life is strange and I’m a romantic. It’s why the wind-spotted river looks sad in the fall. Why the sky, which wasn’t visible through the trees weeks before is breathtaking to me, why depression and joy intermingle just below my surface, why my eyes bulge, drift, and roll. It’s why I cry when I laugh sometimes.
The Future of Wallpaper
He stood at the kitchen window and listened as the coffee slowly started to percolate. He watched as the sun rode into his backyard on the back of a cloud. The sun in the tree tops reminded him of the green wallpaper in the living room of the house he grew up in, where shapes of leaves were outlined with bright yellow lines as if the sun shone on them. On winter days he would stare into the wallpaper and pretend it was summer. He then thought of being at the river when the sun reflects off of flowing water and makes the leaves on the shore turn into electric, flashing lights. He then thought of standing with her in front of the bar they used to meet at, how the neon sign bathed the side of her face in light. He then wondered if neon lights would be part of the future of wallpaper, if one day his walls would glow and cast light on her.