A Dream of Thunder Heard Remote
There was a house not far across the river where they took the old to die. In the house was a room with windows opening out to a field of strange wildflowers, windows with bright red curtains, a color that reminded me of the dark red bellies of the crayfish I used to catch in the riverbeds. In winter, I climbed to the tops of the pines to get a better look through the window, though most the time, the curtains were pulled shut, and I couldn’t see through them, only the shadows of men and women moving from room to room, like moonlight drifting through an empty barn.
One winter I saw two men in the field building a coffin that looked like it was made for a child. Two women came out of the house and stood on the back porch, examining the river as dusk fell. They were so close I could’ve spit on them. I heard one of them say the child, not much older than I was, probably wouldn’t make it till morning. Poor thing, I heard the other one say. It wasn’t even dark yet, but the rain was already threatening.
I was sitting up in one of my favorite trees, skinning the bark off the branches like they were black cats I knew were bad luck. I don’t know when but at some point I fell asleep and dreamed of all the trees I would never be able to climb. I was awoken by the loud crack of a gunshot ringing the orchards, like a dream of thunder heard remote. The dogs started barking. The men kept sinking nails into the coffin, deep into the oak.
The window turned grim and a cold wind flew down off the mountains and sent the river reeds to gnashing. The rain dripped from the eaves, turning the ground to mud, the branches of the trees black.
Below the two men were in the field shoveling dirt out of a hole. The taller one was wearing a new blue suit and there was dust being washed away from his long-toed boots. Soon the moon rose over the foothills and the moonlight made the dirt look like new snow. The grave they were digging filled up in the rain.