This is how we tell our story:
It begins in the long hours before dawn, before light. Before the birds gather in the old maples and the ash trees out back, gather and twitter and whistle and call. The lulled rustle of crickets. The slow rise and swish of the breeze, shooing the branches, rattling the wind chime hanging from the sun porch. The unlatched screen creaks back and forth on dry hinges. We begin the story before light, when it can be told from memory, the pictures seen in dreams, even in waking. Before the daylight shines hard on the long flat prairie, reaching unbroken to the shelterbelts and the sky. The daylight reminds us of things, a sound, a thing out of place, that disrupts the neatness of our memory. Daylight can get in the way of a story.
So it starts before the timer clicks on the automatic coffeemaker by the sink in the kitchen. Before the clock radios clink on the country stations out of Minot, Devil’s Lake, and up in Saskatchewan. Before the chorus of birds outside the window will awaken the sleeper.
In the darkness when the trees rustle and he rushes away, shivering, running with sweat, wound up tight like a cornered animal. Sweating and shaking, as he has done since he came back.