Deron Bauman

Things come slowly, but we get by, walking.

There is a creek that runs in the woods about fifty yards behind us. It is quiet until you stand in the middle of it, but then you can't hear anything until you stand outside of it again.

I see birds down there and think of Audubon with his gun, firing.

I think how life-like those drawings look, how precise, and I can't help but laugh when I think of the blood dried on the wings, of the price it cost to make them.

Look at these drawings. I drew them of him one night. They're just pen and ink but they're as close to real as I thought I could get without sneaking up on him and firing.

"That doesn't look anything like him," she said, and pulled back the curtain and fell asleep.

I woke her in the afternoon. I made tea for her. I drew a bath. And while she bathed I sat beside the tub and watched. And something was very peaceful about the porcelain and steam and the way her eyes looked from my face to her knees. I turned away when she stood to dry off and went and lay on the bed. It was winter. I could hardly see the ceiling, and I could lift my hands so high that they blurred in the darkness above me.

I touched her stomach and fell asleep.

The next day it was strange to see the pictures I had drawn of what I thought he looked like spread across the table. I went out to the creek and to spite the cold walked up the stream in my bare feet. I had a head ache all that evening, drinking tea and wrapped in a blanket.

We grew up not far from here, about two houses apart, and I would sneak to her window to watch her undress. Once she stood in the grocery store touching can after can before she selected the one she wanted. Once I walked with her in silence through the trees to a clearing where we had sex and talked and stared at the stars above us. When we stood to leave I picked up my sleeping bag and found the chalk-like outline in the dirt of a skeleton. I didn't speak of it. But each time I closed my eyes as we walked back or in the light of the dashboard as we drove home I saw that cut into the under-part of my eyelids.

(I remember a Saturday in the front yard with the two women watering plants and the sky clear and blue and the expanse of only two lawns between them. So I would step across the boundary of the first yard, following some insect or on a vain search for clover until I could see her pressed to her mother's legs staring back at me.)

It was difficult to get my bearings and she went into one classroom and began to write on the chalkboard a story about two people who had snuck into the school and been trapped there. It was then we thought we heard footsteps and crouched beneath the desk, close to each other but not touching, her smell very clear in my nose like nothing else around me except the dust.

We drove to the river in my car but all day the clouds had been pouring in across the sky and when finally we arrived and turned off the engine there was silence for a few moments until the first dots of rain dimpled on the glass and tapped out a weird rhythm on the roof above us. The river twisted out of sight. The rain came down harder. The sun soon was blocked completely except for a strange orange glow across from us which seemed to come from no direction in particular, and it was cold and damp between us on the vinyl, very loud with rain and the shifting of our skin across the plastic and the way the radio would and wouldn't work going from music to static to music.

"Stupid river," she said. "Stupid rain."