We Were Out There
John Harvey

We were out there in the jungle lot and Cassie mom of three of us crashes through the trees right by the Whitelaws. Shit your mom again Vic says, and leaves with Ringhauser and his sister. Now it's just us: Marty, Pam, Ben. And her.
Marty chases after the guys, see if they really leave. Pam goes to Cassie, check her out close up. Ben kicks the log with the rotten spot partway over, the bark will be smooth if Cassie lays down. I am Ben.
Pam is good, looks at the eyes, mouth, watches the whole face moving, and just knows the weather. Pam walks up to Ben and nods. What the face said: crying for awhile but not so bad, so far, not so bad her face said, Pam shrugging shoulders.
Hey Marty, did the flock of dragons leave? Ben shouts -- give Cassie something else to go on, maybe. "Stop it Benjamin" she says, "that's scary." Not to me I say, they're beautiful dragons. Yes says Pam, sparkling yellow blue patterns on their backs and sides. Marty comes running: Gone now, the dragons, but one left a turd bigger than a black hounddog. Wanna see?
"Martin you stop that." Leans on a stump almost tilting over, rocks fast back and forth. What's that says Pam, points to the stain on the skirt. "My business only!" Almost slips off the stump.
Cassie pokes Pam a little. "What's that besides on your own icy face?" Her eyes close tight.
Pam OK but Marty tugging at Ben behind.
Ben blows out the breath, concentrate, oldest kid here. Eyes to Pam: my job the talking. Pet my wrist, point my forehead to Pam. You rub her somewhere -- maybe you can slow it down, maybe you can.
That Pam, she gets it, smile and fast nod.
Again Marty tugs Ben. Quiet, I say, you are cool. Get stuff for a fire, I say, make it a good one. Off he goes.
So I Ben naturally start in, Pam not stroking yet:
So here we were, ready to float to the golden shore, and Ringhauser's sister had to pee, all the way home and back cause she won't do it outside, so we wait, and then we could see it, the golden shore, way off over there.
"Golden shore," Cassie says, like waking up a little, eyes still closed.
Golden shore I say, quiet, head pointing Pam to the log, get her where it's flat there, to rest on. Cassie stands up. Pam walking over to the log, sits on the edge, chin in hand like the Thinker.
I Ben go on: Oh that Vic, always wants the T. rex to slash some flesh. I say no Vic, no monsters this time. Now it's just those peaceful waves, up and down, dolphins sailing up and down.
"They are smart," Cassie swaying.
The dolphins yes I go on, they are leading the way. We float the world's biggest raft, exact same size as the jungle lot, dirt, trees, everything floating, floating along, floating.
Pam leans over, rubs the ground.
Yes, there's so much land ahead, it's hard to tell -- a continent, a big island, a beautiful mirage. All old, shimmering.
Pam smiles.
Very very green, a mysterious golden haze I Ben add. Marty dragging the big limb that fell off the dead tree by the alley.
Cassie starts that slow walk, right to where Pam pats a spot.
Yes, I go on, this flock of speckled birds flaps over us and rides the wind. Floating up over the dolphins. They float over and the dolphins sail up and down.
So quiet -- Shhh -- the sandy shore is close, past the palm trees gentle water flowing down the deep green hillside. Oh, the birds are lazy, fly in circles right above. Shh, you can hear --
"Yes," Cassie sits, eyes closed, Pam scoots off the log and Cassie lays back.
Marty snaps the branches off the big limb and he chirps the dry bird sounds. There's a real bird, it's a sparrow.
Oh yes now waves are kissing sandy shore, wind kissing trees, birds circling circling circling -- I wink at Pam -- waterfall tinkling, yes it's tinkling, maybe smiling maybe laughing.
Pam she brushes Cassie's forehead, two fingertips only, watch her start to smile but then
Marty can't help it, cracks too loud, there it goes -- Cassie yanks her own hair, kicks like a wild bike ride.
Shh I say, shhhhhhhhhh.
"I'm not! on! the raft!" Hard screams. "No -- no -- no shore, nothing!" Crying hard. "No! where!"
I Ben go on so fast: Oh yes the magic golden haze, everywhere, green as it gets -- look at Pam, hands cover that good face -- green as it gets, green as it gets, waves under us so gentle you're in them and don't even know --
Lullaby lullaby, start it now: In them in them you don't know, birds can sing and make no sound, if they want to, if they have to, in the night Mom, in the night, you don't have to, you don't have to: this they know they know they know they know they know they know. . .
Catches her breath and the cries go quieter. Now Pam brushes soft around the face.
But this is bad, Pam's eyes say to mine. To me Pam keeps looking then face crumbles.
Oh Pam my mouth says, did she just bite your fingers?
We could have the best fire ever, Marty says behind. Look at that pile Ben, it's huge.
Good job pup, but too dry now, Ben the oldest whispers back: way too windy, way too dry.