“Oh, Jake,” she whispered, that breath against my ear, the touch of her echoing right down to those days years ago when we sat side by side in the library and looked at the limits of the observable universe. “Don't you see? I'm doing my job. I'm the one who will always haunt you. Every man has a woman like that. I'm yours. That's all. It's got to be that way because everything else I do is going to cause you trouble.”
“You believe that?”
“You do, too, and don't deny it for a second. You want me to give you the formula, you fucking astronomer? Trust me,” she said. “What have I brought you but trouble?”
“There were some things besides trouble.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that's right.”
A recorded voice said that I shouldn't take any packages from anyone I didn't know. Men and women with guns went by, and outside an airplane seemed to lift into the air with all the grace and power of the age: It was the poetry of the time we live in.
“And does it work the other way?” I said.
“You mean about the haunting?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “That I haunt you?”
“Women don't think that way,” she said.
She got into line and went through the X-ray machine.
Then the stream of people swept her along, just as surely as if she had been in the green water of Furnace Creek. Those little mayflies, gray as silk, and the bubbles around the rock, all as keen now as though I were standing there. And the bottom of that well, where the darkness lay on darkness. Then she stopped and turned back against the tide and mouthed something, once, and then again, and finally I thought she said, or hinted at saying,
Yes, I'll be haunted, too. You're doing your job, just like me
Then she stopped again.
And then she was gone, into the slipstream.
HAT LEFT ONE item. My father had never wanted any big deal made over what remained, which after the cremation was the contents of a galvanized canister. I had kept it in the file cabinet of my office, and one afternoon, in the late fall, when Gloria had gone to collect her things from California, to pack up and ship what she wanted and to leave behind the things that were no longer useful, I drove my father's car, which I would soon have to give back to the state, to the parking lot at the trailhead at Furnace Creek. A cool fall afternoon. A sky the color of the center of a flame. Clouds like shreds of cotton here and there. It didn't seem that I had to walk all the way up, or to one of those pools where we had fished, but it didn't seem correct, either, to do it right by the parking lot.
So, the sumac flowers were as red as pomegranates, and since it was such a lovely day with good thermals, the hawks were out, turning in a widening circle as they looked for the unwary. The stream was a constant, the sound almost making sense, that is, as though it were part music, or had the rhythm
of a favorite poem, and as I walked I tried to guess what poet would do the job. Hopkins, I guessed, dapple-dawn-drawn, etc., but really it just came down to that rumble, bumble, bumble, and that splash against the rocks.
I could hold the can by the bottom and just dump the gray stuff in, or I could use my hand.
It was not all dust, as they would make you think, but it had bits here and there, bones, I guessed, pieces of a femur or a vertebra, but so reduced as to be just a gray relic, a chunk of what remained, and as these things went into the water, they made a noise that mixed a sort of rush into the rumbling. Finally, though, I had only the last of the dust in the bottom of the can, and as that drifted over the water, like smoke, I could finally give thanks. Then I turned toward home.
Copyright Â© 2012 by Craig Nova
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used ficticiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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eISBN : 978-1-619-02098-6
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