moon-glow sprinkles o’er
caught in a willow’s tendrils
an earth-bound twilight
You are close enough, you decide. You wait.
The men share a glance between themselves. The larger man returns to the truck and sits inside, behind the wheel. He waits.
The first man walks to the back of the vehicle, which must apparently be empty and open. The man confirms this by dropping the rear gate and waving you to come.
Like a dog, you think. You don’t know what the phrase means, because you’re not sure what a dog is. The words simply come to you, as you continue forward toward the man.
He pats his hand twice on the bed of the truck and stands back and says, “We’ll get you to town, and stop wherever you want. You got an address around here?”
You pause before climbing up onto the truck. You say, “I can’t say.” It is the best that you can think to say. You climb onto the flat-bed and sit, facing back to the open gate and the bearded man, who is studying you with hands on hips and thumbs hooked into pockets.
“You don’t got any more of your clothes with you?” he asks.
“I don’t think so,” you say.
He breathes in deep through his nose. He sighs, and says, “I got a jacket in the truck. You might get chilly back here.” The man walks around to the open door and retrieves a plaid jacket of hard, blue and black wool. He throws it to you and you catch it, and he slams the gate closed and slaps it twice with the palm of his hand.
He says, “We’re gonna take you to the hospital, if that’s all right with you. You don’t seem like you’re hurt, but if you can’t remember your address and you got no clothes with you, then you gotta reckon you’ll want somebody to take a look at you. Take care of you.” He waits a moment, then nods his head once and says, “Okay?”
“Okay,” you say. You have a feeling you should say more.
You make a decision. You move one foot, then another.
The grass is pressed down in twin footprints where you were standing. The new grass is cool on your feet as you walk toward the road.
“That’s right,” says the first man.
The second man has yet to make a sound save his chewing of gum, rhythmic and deliberate.
You are less than fifty paces from the truck, and you can now make out more of the men’s details. The first man, the one who speaks to you, has a thick, red beard covering his face.
You don’t think you have a beard. You realize then that you haven’t yet touched your face. As you walk, you allow your fingers to come up and touch your cheek, your jaw, your chin. You do this quickly, then put your hand back down at your side. You don’t have a beard.
The first man is wearing a plaid shirt with buttons, a belt and blue jeans. The second, larger man is dressed very much the same, but does not have a beard. His face is smooth, like yours. He might even look something like you, but you can’t be sure. You don’t even know what colour your eyes are.
The first man fidgets, kicks at the gravel on the road. The second man watches you the entire time you make your way across the field.
You don’t move. You wait.
The other door of the truck opens, and the second man steps onto the road. He is larger. You cannot see his face. Leaving the door open and the truck’s engine running, the second man walks around the front of the vehicle. He stops to stand between the beams of the headlights. You can see particles of amber dust floating in the light. He posts his hands on his hips. You can see the man’s belt buckle, large and round.
The first man calls, “It’s all good, Mister. You just come on with us, and we can drive you anywhere you like. You need to go to the hospital? We can take you there, it’s not far.”
You don’t move.
You know you can’t just keep waiting. They will come to you. If you do nothing, they will come.
“Hello,” you say.
A moment, then the man calls back. “Are you all right?”
You think about the question. Are you all right? Are you? The query confounds you. You look down at your hands, as thought they might be holding some answer.
Before you can say anything in response, “Do you wanna lift?” asks the man by the truck.
He is asking if I need help, you finally decide.
“No, thank you,” you say. You aren’t exactly sure what the expression means, but you say it. It feels like the correct way to answer.
You don’t move. The truck comes to a stop. The door opens, and a man gets out. You know it is a man. You know the difference between woman and man. The man is hidden in shadow and a hundred paces away from you, and you cannot see him very well. But, it seems, he can see you.
“Howdy!” the man calls.
You don’t answer. You wait. Maybe he will get back in the truck and they will leave.
The man calls again. “Hello!” Louder, and more articulated than the first time.
You are not sure what your voice sounds like, but you do know that you can speak. You begin to question whether or not you should answer the man, who waits behind the open door of the rumbling truck. Your thoughts of indecision are interrupted by your own voice, answering.
“Hello,” you say.
You hear a sound. It is small, far off. You listen. You know the difference between hearing and listening. The sound you hear is that of an automobile’s engine. Most likely a truck, for the distant drone is deep, low. A guttural growl, instead of a car’s comparatively angelic hum. You know cars, and you know trucks.
The sound of this truck makes your gut tighten, but you’re not sure why. As the sound grows louder and closer, you see headlights emerge from behind a rise in the landscape. Tracing a line with your eyes forward from the distant beams, you become aware of the road which cuts across the field of grass and passes you by. You are less than a hundred paces from the asphalt country path.
The headlights grow larger, brighter, as the engine grumbles louder. Your gut tightens further as the approaching beams of light fall across you. You are illuminated in the dark openness, and you feel the inexplicable urge to run, to hide, to cower – but you stand still and wait.
The truck approaches closer. It slows.
Never, oh! never, nothing will die... (Alfred Tennyson)
by Lize Bard
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