In white pearls, the heavy blankets of snow sifting through his branches. This is not summer. This is not spring, fall. This man is their father, the man gone, and it is winter in his hands, the ice a shatter of their unsaved reflections. This boy girl girl. This mother, their mother, the one who remains, alone and unconcerned, her palms sometimes still held to the rain, when the rain comes, when the skies break like that, as they seldom do in the dust of her.
It will winter on them too, boy girl girl and mother. Cover empty beds, the draw. Snow. Cave and hill in their steps, their existence and the curves, carving out hollows in their faces. Winter. The boy scuttling wood from inside dry places where whiskey drops strap the floor and mice empathize. And the girls, girl girl, one older and one younger, those girls and their mother, hooking and unhooking skeins of yarn, covering their legs, the six of their legs, in ragged warmth. But he will no longer struggle cattle through the drifts, him, their father, who rode from them. He will stay in the snow of his own hands, the frost of his untamed brow.
Stillness lays, soft and unreal on the ground in front of his feet, and he exhales frost. Listens. And a ridge tumbles down, the pines shaking and flickering, releasing as he releases his finger on the trigger. This man, who was once a father, who is a rock now on a mountain, snowed into and behind his own eyes, watching himself in cold dented fashion. Missing muscles. Bone. Lacking a shard of his being, given it up to the notion of freezing rain and the freedom of empty kills. Him, this father, who had a boy girl girl once, hugging him up from a stand of bottles. The mother, her, his woman like another leg, she knew. Watched him already saddling a horse, already half disappeared over lank gray horizons, even when he was still dipping in the well and straddling the wheat.
Boy girl girl they wash their feet. Scrub and break dirt. Make mud. Make wetness. Make shallow hearts, pools. Rain on their skin, something they don’t feel. Tubs of seldom. Brushes more callous than hands. Winds scorching even then, even after rain, with leaves still brightly green and cooing. Like the moon, full and following them. Their father, drinking back. The forever eyes of their mother. Wheat churning in the wind, butter. Their place here, a place like loneliness.
And the wind drags on, a steady corrosive strain, dust by dust scraped from its bank. It is not winter here, not where boy girl girl and mother exist. It is summer. Always summer or hot or dust ridden. The green leaves of the cottonwood never betraying the future, never hinting at the white of snow. That perch where there once was father now stands, rifle hailed up in the gesture of cradling, the soothing immovable being. Their father, this father, that man who drank up, up, up. The one they watched plug boot toes into open stirrups, the one they heard mellow heah to the twitching horses ears, the one they watched exit and fade, dusty and surrounded in the sheen of going down sun.
The bullet leaves the chamber, punches through the open circle of wintering light, feeling still the string of connect from boy to man. His boy, that boy, the one he faltered around and left in the dirt and pale weed. A thread then, now, pulling behind the clasp of the bullet, the shattering explosion, the weapon piercing the victim, the caribou with its rack, its own felted points of bright frost. The boy no doubt eyeing the stands of wheat, thinking of or missing his father. Or hating his father. Or splintering wood for a dry place, to put away, to heat the winter that wasn’t to his own girl girl or mother now, or yet.
Mother, her, his own wife and woman, she was the one least affecting, affected. Her hands still searching under porch eaves for rain, her thimbles still rolling and battered, her eyes still moving on, on. She was a woman undeterred. Graceful and fitted in her commitment, her hands pressed to their needs: the food, the clothing, the animals in their up, down existence. She was immune to him in this way, herself the wheat separating, the grain drying, the pigs muddling through slop. She was in the hooves of the animals, every one of them, and in the shoeless prints of her children, her boy girl girl, the ones he could no longer stand in this place with three hills, crouching around them in dusty exhausted kneeling. So his bullets could fly, unheeded by her.
But the girls, the girl girl, those girls, the one older and the one younger, they were a devastation, a cliff and a ringing in his ears. The boy was connected, threaded to his ammo and the actions, but the girls, those girl girl eyes and smiles, they rang in his head like nimble pricking, like the jagged sewn wounds on his body, the ones he whiskyed down and patched himself, half drunk and drooling, bringing the needle in out, in out. Those girls were that, the cross-hatching and the inability to learn, to maneuver or grow, his own lack of fatherhood or the unchanging demeanor of him as a man, this man, lost to the woods of snow and caribou.
He spilled blood in the snow, red on white, a knife straight and through the belly. And its guts came pooling, thundering down and out, reminding him of wagon ruts and the way dust settles. He heard those girls in his head, their singing in the rain while he trudged through the innards and the loping swirls of intestines, the lining of a stomach, the insides festering and rotten. His woman, a single hand held to the rain, the dripping pouring rain, the clarity of her clouded in the musk of animal scent and the powder of guns. And him, the boy, the one and single boy, his eyes over his father’s shoulder, towering or dwarfing him, a sound resting there, unheard but aware, seeing him and his hands covered in the sticky insides of another.
And then the snow picked up or came, whistling and on wind, hurtling through, blasting his back and his head, his eyes watching the static of a dead caribou on the white and red flex of his new places, this ground away and far from a boy girl girl and their mother, his wife, his woman. Him, here, raining through the snow white, the running red, the pool of fur and horns at his chest. Huddling. The snow coming or picking up. The sky no longer breaking, him straining stringing through the arms of boy girl girl, the trickling still, echoing sounds of wheat cutting in the sun.
J. A. Tyler has recent work in Storyglossia, elimae, No Colony, Night Train, & Prick of the Spindle. His chapbook The Girl in the Black Sweater is available now from Trainwreck Press, his fiction will be a part of Samsara the first multi-author release from Paperhero Press, & his debut novella Someone, Somewhere is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious, a reviewer for Rural Messengers Press, a member of the Pindeldyboz editorial team, & an editorial intern for Dzanc Books. Read more at www.aboutjatyler.com or www.aboutjatyler.blogspot.com.
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