We stood among the pines on the eastern slope, hearing the wind yawn as it plowed across the mountain and we waited for it to touch the needles above us as the rising sun painted the dark pillars with swimming red light.
The spires waxed velvet, the radical color dissolving the shadows, burning the darkness. She told me when she was a child she feared the snow and I saw her fixation on the patches of steaming ice stroked down the talus below us. I asked what she could possibly have to fear from the snow. Everything was more danger’z back then, she explained, specially Mother Nature. She recounted the deaths of her cousin and another boy in a blizzard when she was five years old. They had gone into the weather to bring the cow in from the field and one fell in the creek and the other went in to save him and their blue-black bodies were found a week later on the muddy red shores of a playa. She told me how she wouldn’t leave the house, gladly taking whippings from her father for refusing to go to church or school or even fetch the eggs until every drop of snow had melted. Hell, she laughed, looking back on it, there was probly more chance of that roof fallin on my head than dyin in the snow. I could see the tears glassing her eyes, too cold to escape. I never thought I’d be this old, she said. I don’t rightly know if I endorse livin this long. I feel like the last of somethin. And it’s lonely. It must be, I said. She stretched her arm into the light, her hand shivering not from the cold but the very weight of her fingers as if her arm were a long pole growing heavier the higher she lifted it. Thing about lonely, she smiled and closed her eyes with the sun revving waves of heat across her open unsteady palm, is the same as anything else like it. It never gets worse than the first time. And that makes it easier? I asked, her smile infecting my face. Well, of course.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.