The Golden Age
She told the child not to touch the dead dog, legs up, at the base of the Acropolis. Because who knows what happened last night, or even before that. And the child said, all right, of course, but he went back to look while his mother gathered up the things of her world, dried thyme and blue pots, candles and zucchini. Things that he would have never considered. She bought one long black shawl from the stalls and thought that her child had learned his lesson. About which things were to be avoided (and cherished). And so she never discovered that he was lagging behind, bent over like an old man too close to the brown fur as dry as grass in this summer, ready to burn. When he said to himself, or asked, something ancient and unhurried. And in a foreign language.
Postcard from Vermont (Almost)
On the road to Vermont from New York: winter, nothing dazzling, gray interstate, leftover snow, the occasional crow, and bare trees without any spectacular icicles to make them interesting. No sparkle whatsoever. Even the cars are dust and cloud colors. Sometimes, for variety, there is a frozen makeshift waterfall on a rocky outcropping by the highway. Or a Target truck with a bright red bullseye on its side. A stop at McDonald’s for a chicken sandwich and a feeling of greasiness (queasiness) that lingers in the car even after the food is gone. I’m on my way to a wedding.
Who gets married at this time of year, when winter is at its bitterest? This is no time to lapse into languor. Plus, it’s too cold to smell another person’s perfume. The names on the wedding invitation are a frozen blue, incised into white slabs of the thickest paper.
I try to fill in the blanks, erase empty hours in the car, but a trip to Vermont is nothing to write home about. I look out, but there is no sensuousness to be shared. There is nothing to say about the wedding because it hasn’t happened yet. (And will it be any different from the rest?) There is nothing, I think, that will turn this slip of a text into something silky and desirable, waiting to be read. Something you might want one night, to have and to hold, when you’re thinking of promises and diamonds and caviar on the coldest ice.
Winter hawks circle above the barren fields, hoping, sloping down for a closer look. And then, unbelievably, something. There it is: a shadow of something. It could be anything, maybe inedible, flitting through the trees. Maybe indelible.
Wish you were here.
Tara Deal is the author of two books from small presses: Wander Luster is a chapbook of poems from Finishing Line Press, and Palms Are Not Trees After All is the winner of the 2007 Clay Reynolds Novella Prize from Texas Review Press. And almost the shortest story she’s ever written appears in Hint Fiction (Norton).