I crumple over a snowy-white boulder carpeted in lichen. My eyes drift over the things around me; I see symbols, pictures written into white birch-bark, secrets left behind by moss lettering and fairy-feet. Patterns are etched into the soil beneath me; worn roots curl into spirals, and mushrooms, bearded with mold, make ancient villages in the shadow of the trees.
VERA HADZIC, THE SPIDER
You first spot the boy on the industrial side of town, off the highway.
The windows of your old Pontiac are rolled down to the sound of cicadas bouncing off the auto repair shops and plumbing supply stores. The sun-broiled air is humid and hard to breathe.
He’s sitting on a cinder block in front of LiMandri’s Vehicle Restoration, which is closed because it’s Sunday. You notice him before he notices you.
A year ago, the snow fell.
It descended in thick flakes, pasting themselves against the window of the Jeep.
Thomas wasn’t supposed to be out in it, but I had asked him to come over, and he didn’t want to leave me alone on my birthday. He figured it was only a mile or two away, and what could the snow hurt?
The bell tolls; their vigil ends, my workday is upon me. I peek through the curtains – drawing them lets in too much dawn – and I squint. It snowed, it snowed a lot. The family are gathered at the doors, mourning and weary faces are pale against the black outfits. The little one is with them, she yawns and holds onto her mother’s sleeve.
Pasha died on a warm spring day.
She spent some time staring at her body, the slope of her neck, hair pink like a strawberry milkshake. Several clumps looked downright garish inside the crater where her head met the staircase.
Of all the ways to die, it just figured that the ordinary would kill her.
Voice crooned in low-throated groans when we buried boy in sterile dirt. And there, between broken stumps where grass won’t grow, us two stood over quenched son with paper-dry skin. Only his face still left all unsoiled, all chipper-tune and wound tight at cheeks, skin taut over young bone frame.
My daughter finds the bones after she falls off the swing set. Jane points at them, and I nod. She points again and I nod.
She begins to play with the bones, picking up a clavicle and smacking it against a dorsal bone next to her skinned knee. The skeleton was a small thing, the bones lean and fragile, the whiteness startling even in the cloudy midday light.
Due to their publication schedule, neither the Sunrise nor the Weekly Explorer had yet printed photos of the giant, pale, unmoving woman who had washed up on Nantasket Beach. Disappointed, Red considered checking the Post.
The enormous body had come ashore that morning, but police cordons had so far prevented photographers from capturing anything more than a white lump on sand.
Joanna couldn’t remember the first time seeing a pregnant woman felt painful. For a long while, they just weren’t relevant; she barely noticed them. When did each belly become pointed in its roundness? The thing with London was that they were everywhere; wearing their self-satisfied badges while waiting for the northern line to Balham, laid out on picnic blankets in Greenwich Park, cradling decaf cappuccinos in corner cafés. They felt deliberately, cruelly placed. She wouldn’t see any in Surrey, because she wouldn’t see anyone at all.
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We watch her from the corners of our eyes but say we’re looking elsewhere, somewhere. The neighborhood calls her the lady of the earth and pretend they don’t see her when they can hear her dancing.
GRACE SAFFORD, SHE IS BEAUTIFUL