Once, years ago, I spent the day with a woman in a small town outside
Kansas City. We'd only been dating a few weeks and didn't know each
other that well, but we'd just had a scare and somehow we thought this
outing would be a kind of litmus test for our relationship, or whatever
it was we were doing.
At a kitschy winery we sampled every kind of wine they had and, feeling
guilty, bought a bottle called "Twister" and took it with us to a
(regionally) famous writer's house we learned about from a brochure.
Neither of us had read any of the author's work, so much of the
self-guided tour of the shabby Victorian was lost on us. We spent an
hour beneath a large sycamore behind the house, drinking the sweet wine
and joking about a photo of the author reading a book in the bathtub,
his knees, head, and smooth belly poking from the water like that
famous photo of the Loch Ness.
As we were leaving, we came to a four-way stop in a neighborhood not
far from the author's house. Just as I was about to accelerate, a young
boy, no more than 2 years-old, naked from the waist down and barefoot,
wandered out into the street in front of us. I looked at the woman I
was with, and her face, rosy from the wine, went slack and her mouth
hung open. There was no one else in sight. Not in any of the yards on
the corners, not walking on the sidewalk, and not in any cars on the
street. We were together, alone. The boy toddled past the front of the
car, smiling the whole time. When he made it to the sidewalk on the
other side, the woman and I looked at each other again. She slowly
reached for my hand resting on the console and squeezed it. I gunned it
through the intersection, tires chirping on the pavement.
In the rearview mirror, the boy stopped and turned in our direction. I
watched as he got smaller and smaller until I could no longer see him.
Later, the woman cried and gripped my hand harder as I drove.
I wonder sometimes, when it's late at night and she's in a lover's bed,
does she tell this story the same as I do?
Casey Pycior has work in or coming from Midwestern Gothic, Harpur Palate, Beloit Fiction
Journal and others.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Sean Molin.
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