You imagine a life in a small Midwestern town where you teach Calculus at the community college and buy sweet corn at the Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in the town square. Your big yellow dog named Jethro chases squirrels up trees in your fenced backyard and it’s all fine because you don’t travel anymore and the days are long but not so grueling that you wake in the middle of the night with a cinder block in the center of your chest. You don’t cry out in pain or feel sweat on the back of your neck. Instead you grade papers on the deck, sipping lemonade and watching the sun set between the water tower and the high-tension wire that brings power across town.
You’re a little surprised there’s no one in the kitchen stirring a pot of homemade soup or baking bread but if someone forced you to be honest – for once in your life, Honest with a capital “H”, you’d have to admit you’re not disappointed.
Jethro is good company. He isn’t conflicted by the past or anxious for the future. He’s not afraid to be hopeful and he never vowed not to see you or made any promises to anyone or anything. He’s a big yellow dog and he lives simply, here and now.
In your imaginary life, in that far-away dream, you try your best not to remember the streetlights and the taxi cabs and the nights you didn’t sleep more than five or ten minutes because you were trying so hard not to remember all the things you can’t ever seem to forget.
The sight of the moon. The sound of a bird. The brush of her skin.
Evenings are quiet in that Midwestern life. Jethro’s tail wags heavy against your leg as you pull the blanket up to your neck, saying something like a prayer. Talking to yourself again, or to someone, or something, not so close, not so far, not real and possibly, not even imagined.
Mary Lynn Reed’s fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FRiGG, and Whistling Shade, among other places. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Maryland.