She told me that her father had rented dryland on the reservation and in the first year he made more money off of the crop than he ever had before but the next four years the drought came and was bad, each year worse than the one that preceded it, and this was the early eighties and interest rates were in the twenties and that one night he got up and walked out of the house without a word at nine o’clock and drove across the river to the reservation and her mother stayed up rocking and crying, rocking and crying, because she thought he was going to commit suicide but he came home at two in the morning and went to bed without speaking to either of them and her mother told her only to not ever tell her sisters about this and she never did.
There are January mornings when the ice on the trough freezes over in spite of the electric heater and the horses, shaggy with their winter coats, wait side-by-side to drink once I break the ice with the same old hatchet I use to cut the twine on the hay bales. I feed them, and in the fog of their breath I am too cold to stay out here but it feels wrong to leave.
I can draw a picture of high summer and a fifteen-year-old girl on her father’s big horse, 18 hands high, taking the bulls out to pasture. The bulls snort and lower their heads but the horse is unafraid, even if the girl is a little afraid, and then the bulls are pastured. For two hours the girl sleeps in the saddle with the reins loose in her hands while the animals graze their fill and the heat keeps the big, biting flies down and sends the little brown hummingbirds into the caragana and the shade.
The Prophet of Regret (#11)
All of the Women I’ve Ever loved Are Dying and it’s Too Late to Make Amends
I used to love I used to love I used to love, she said, red meat and red wine and a man too, a man I loved; a man unable to separate his want and need, for me. Now I cannot eat meat at all. I cannot drink wine at all. I roll my eyes at my own body.
I appreciated her telling me this. It is a confidence that she shared, speaking of her frailty honestly and unafraid, even with the shadow of death in the room. A confidence is different than a secret. A confidence is a sacred thing, made in trust. A secret is mundane and suspicious by nature.
All of the women I’ve ever loved are dying, it’s true. Somewhere, somehow, we all got old. There are no prophecies any more, and no prophets, just the prophet of regret, and remedies without cure.
This is the order of things: We rise. We diminish. We seek the sunrise on the high places one last time, then we are gone.
Steve Passey is originally from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the short-story collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock (Tortoise Books, 2017), Cemetery Blackbirds (Secret History Books, 2021), the novella Starseed (Seventh Terrace), and many other individual things. He is a Pushcart and Best of the Net Nominee and is part of the Editorial Collective at The Black Dog Review.