127 / 365 – Spring afternoon

They step out the back door and into the spring afternoon. Gentle warmth from the angling sun. Fringes of green in the alleyway the scattered litter of winter. The clouds hang like a veil, lightly billowing against a faint wash of blue. A warm sky, at last.

They feel buoyant, lifting with the warm air. They want to be outside. They climb into her car and leave the alley. A little-league game in the park on the yet-unmowed field. Two teams in town, the red and the blue. A batter swings for the fence. Children scatter, chasing the errant grounder through rich green tufts.

They head for the edge of town. To enjoy the afternoon unseen. He says, Let’s go to the lake. She is silent. He watches the streets pass, then turns toward her, to watch her silence.

She does not want to go to the lake. She has heard stories about it, too many stories. Too many moments, so much of who he has become. Life with others.

Isn’t there somewhere else? she asks.

It’s the only place I know of, he says.

He understands. But he wants to go there to make it new. It could become theirs. He will see Her there, they both know it. To him, it is the reason. He will feel her and she will let him go. To her, it is the problem. They won’t be alone.

I really don’t want to, she says.

He relents. Maybe because he is stubborn, maybe because he is frustrated, he can’t think of anywhere else. They keep driving. He watches the fields pass in silence. A red-tailed hawk follows them along the road for a distance, then tapers off across an unplowed field. The miles count down to Hill City, the next big town, nearly an hour away. 40, 30, 20, 10. They can see the elevator in town. The sun is leaning down toward the horizon. The shadows stretch long.

I can’t believe we drove so far, she said. We should have stopped somewhere.

Short of the town, she turns the car across the road where the shoulder is wide. They head back east. The road is a straight line, rippling across the prairie.

Jericho comes in sight again.

I should take you home, she said. He nods.

She lets him off in the alley. It lies in shadows, the sky lit up by the falling sun. She drives off slowly. He watches the car brake at the end of the alley, turn onto the street and disappear. The bike clatters over the potholes in the alley. At its mouth he turns the other way, back towards sunset and the end of town. The sun directs its long beams through the cracks in clouds. The clouds have gathered, darkened. It looks as though rain will fall.


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