Saturday, September 8, 2012

Might. Might Not

The little house with its peeling paint and mossy shingles was set well back from the street and appeared to be floating in a sea of saffron grass bleached by the sun and burnished by the fleeting sweep of twilight.

It was hot. There wasn't a shadow left in which to take refuge, and there wasn't a single thing moving in any direction.

If you stood in the middle of the street you would hear the unreal, thrumming silence of dusk in a dead-end place and you'd smell the rain that would creep in after darkness fell. If you stood still and listened hard you could probably hear the surf of truck traffic on the highway at the edge of town. And if you stood there long enough you might eventually see a child aboard a bicycle glide silently like a dream fragment through the intersection at the end of the block.

You might.

But you might not. There weren't a lot of children around anymore.

If you took a few steps up the front sidewalk you'd smell the cigarette smoke that was drifting in almost rhythmic waves through the window screen. And if you were bored or curious or crazy enough to press your face to the screen you'd see an unfinished jigsaw puzzle spread out on a card table, a windmill and a field of red tulips shot full of jagged holes. You'd see an orange plastic ashtray with a burning cigarette wedged in one of the badly-stained slots, and an abandoned game of Solitaire lined up on a coffee table. An old woman would be sitting there in a faded sun dress imprinted with a pattern of what might even have been sunflowers. Across the room from her, sitting utterly still in a recliner, his bare feet just jutting into the left side of the frame (you'd have to move or crane your neck to take him all in), would be a shirtless man wearing nothing but boxer shorts and holding a pistol in his lap.

From some corner you couldn't see you'd hear the disconsolate burst of a television laugh track.

You wouldn't necessarily know this, though, so I'll tell you: That man has on occasion fired his gun, but he’s been waiting his whole life to really shoot something.

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