Monica sees her dead son in mirrors. He’s always standing somewhere in the room behind her, staring, silent, sullen. Sometimes in the mirror her son is younger, just five or six, playing with his trucks or trains. But most of the time he is his 10-year-old self. He watches her brush her teeth, put on makeup, straighten her clothes. He glares, resentful.
“… the lucky ones will be those who die more quickly.” — Noam Chomsky
She’s driving away, one of the unlucky ones. The sky, brown-gold. She’s never seen it look that way—colorized, like a movie from the Forties. The Martians Return. That kind of color.
Then the sky’s dark, umbral. They drive with their lights on. An artist and writer, she thinks of ways to describe the color: Postal orange, dark tangerine, Indian yellow, gamboge, cadmium orange.
Durham, 16th August, 2020
We arrive in late summer.
This small city, once ours, appears
like the scene of a battle, long over.
The students have gone home,
the streets are empty, the gardens overgrown.
Down by the river, the trees reach
a little closer. They remember.
Eschewing breakfast, I hadJust a cup of coffee and a newspaper.I got in the car then and droveThe fifteen miles from my houseTo where my ex-wife keeps my children.When I got thereI rang the doorbell.No […]
I considered the possibility
That the trees may be carnivores.
Because I could have sworn
I watched someone climb one
And never again touch the floor.
And when I spied on the trees
Through the thorns,
They did not mourn.
I could have sworn
They jeered and cheered.
We are sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast. My wife Linda is saying something about a dream she had last night. Here is what she says.
“I was sitting in my seat at the cinema when these two guys came in. They were dressed in black and wore masks that covered their entire faces. I couldn’t even see their eyes. They had guns and said they would kill someone if they didn’t get what they wanted. They followed through with that threat and shot me right in the head.”
An old friend of mine could sense storms by smell. When I asked, she said they smell like water. I must have smelled water a million times, but never like this, she claimed. When a storm’s coming, water smells like soil and metal, as though the earth is cut open and the storm is its blood, pouring out into the world.
It had been months since I’d spoken to her.
“Smells like a storm,” I said one day over break. Nobody listened to me – they had more important mysteries to solve. I hadn’t really been talking to them, anyway. The fog made the sun a pink and hazy fingertip, smearing its oils over the sky. Conversation carried on as though I hadn’t said anything:
Friend A is from Poland. You met when he briefly studied in your university. He has blond hair, too long to be due to negligence, too short to be tied back. He is relaxed and has a kind of vulnerability to him that he is happy to expose. This makes him extremely easy to be around. You are always quick to let your guard down around him, and that has been the basis of your friendship.
We noticed the cat—a standard tabby, dusty from dandruff or dirt—upon entry because we expected the residence to be empty. It gawked from a corner, one muddy eye fixed on us, misaligned other paralleling the wall—not unusual for a cat but it made the stare appear vacant or as though it were looking through us. It also appeared to grin, the way its mouth was set. Ava commented on how the listing made no mention of pets and our agent deftly responded that “it also doesn’t say that there are no pets.” We ignored the cat for the next hour or so, our guided tour, opening cabinets and peering in empty closets, inspecting oddball nooks not really knowing what to look for. The remodeled bathrooms and kitchen had farmhouse sinks and stainless appliances; there was a mudroom in which Ava and I glanced at each other and she absently touched her tummy; in sum, the house was just about perfect. We were already talking about making an offer before we got to the backyard, which is when the cat escaped. It slipped between the agent’s legs in a stealthy trot, nearly knocking her on her ass. “Ope,” she said.