Best of the Net 2012  

Young Love

We lived in the country in a small yellow house, with large yards in the front and back, woods on all sides, our closest neighbors a half mile away and as eager to be left alone as we were. The exterior of the house was in need of painting and there was only one chair in the living room but we seldom had visitors then and one chair was all we needed when we sat holding one another in the evening while listening to music. We had a big, frisky and sometimes obtrusively affectionate Irish Setter named Berrigan, who on hot summer afternoons when we sunbathed behind the house never failed to warn of the approach of a meter reader or salesman, and who with his resonant growl would keep the intruder at bay until we could pull on our clothes and prepare ourselves for the world again.

Wind chimes of kiln-fired clay hung from the rafters of our back porch, and the chimes played continuously because of breezes that swept down from the wooded ridge behind the house. We liked that the wind carried the scent of the lake, which was only thirty miles north and stretched all the way to Canada, and that the lake beaches were always out there waiting for us, white-foamed and ice-choked in the winter, dotted with neon colors and squealing children in the summer. Having the lake within a half-hour drive made us feel not so land-locked and hemmed in by the woods on all sides, made us feel that we could be in another country any time we wished and at very little expense could become other people with any histories or futures we wanted to create for ourselves. I would write in the mornings back then and still had great faith in myself, and in the afternoons when Annie came home from her work at the clinic I would have a salad ready and a bottle of wine, and we would grill chicken or steaks on the hibachi in the back yard, and afterward we would take a walk with Berrigan loping along beside us, nuzzling at my hand or hers to toss him a stick. After dusk and into the night we might lay together on a hammock I had hung between the porch and a clothesline pole. We would watch the stars appearing one by one while we listened for nightbirds calling from the woods. Annie liked the melodious trills of the smaller birds but I was drawn to the solitary whippoorwill. The fact that I had never had any luck spotting one during the day made the bird even more appealing to me. With its plumage the color of bark and late autumn leaves it is especially hard to observe. It nests on the ground and will not flush unless an intruder approaches the nest. Then the whippoorwill will clap its wings as a warning, and if the intruder continues to threaten, the bird will stand nearly vertical atop the nest, its wings and tail spread wide in a fierce display of its readiness to fight.

Annie became very good at distinguishing the rippling churr of the Baltimore oriole from the long bubbling trill of the sparrow and the shivering lilt of the wood warbler. She often teased me for preferring a bird with only a three-note vocabulary, but even this was an aspect of the sweetness of our lives, the quiet mornings and slow afternoons, the silent stars and nocturnal serenades, the teasing and closeness and the warmth of love I never expected to end.

We lived like this through the spring and summer and part of the fall, grateful for yet complacent in our serenity. It was only in October — when the breezes coming down off the ridge changed to unpredictable gusts so violent at times that we awoke one morning to find the wind chimes shattered, and when Berrigan took to running wildly into the woods, chasing after some maddening autumnal scent, so that he had to be chained to a post in the yard — it was only then that my wife and I began to suspect our serenity as not the natural condition of the universe but a dolce far niente which, like all pleasant things, dissolves too soon.


On a gray morning late in October, still a week before the first true frost, Berrigan's barking did not recede from my consciousness the way it usually did when I was writing. He had not yet gotten used to being chained in the yard and consequently barked at everything that moved, at birds and rustling leaves and even at clouds scudding slowly across the sky. I blamed his barking for my inability to concentrate, and brought him inside to quiet him down. But in the house he was as restive as before. He sniffed at the door, he paced the kitchen where I sat at the table and tried to work. Just the sound of his paws clacking against the linoleum annoyed me. Finally, at ten in the morning, and with no usable work accomplished, I decided to take him for a walk in the woods. The night had been damp and chill and the air smelled of winter. We walked down the macadam road to where an old logging trail snaked into the woods. Runoff from the hills had turned both lanes of the trail into rivulets. As I walked the elevated center of the trail, trying to keep my feet dry, Berrigan dashed back and forth through the woods, running in wide half-circles, skidding through the leaves. Every few minutes he would return to my side and trot along beside me with a pleased and silly look on his face. At the slightest sound, whether of a chipmunk skittering from branch to branch or a wood sparrow chirping, he would stiffen and assume his three-footed bird-dog posture. Then he would glance my way to make sure I had caught his act, and he would smile his dopey smile, and a moment later he would be racing through the woods again.

He was a fine companion and I never thought of him simply as an animal. He was an essential part of my life just as Annie and my writing were essential, and it came as quite a shock to later discover that nearly everything a man loves can be taken from him and he will continue to go right on living despite his emptiness.

We walked that morning for more than an hour, eventually leaving the logging trail to circle back and climb the hills behind the house. Berrigan ran on ahead of me, sniffing at the wet ground. Suddenly he lifted his head and looked into the distance and started to bark, and a moment later he raced deep into the woods. For ten minutes I called for him to return, then I followed the sound of his barking and found him at the edge of a small clearing, poised rigidly on all fours, teeth bared and hackles stiff. He had backed a stranger against a tree.

The man appeared to be no more than twenty-one or twenty-two. He stood gripping an overhanging branch as if ready to swing himself up into the tree to escape Berrigan's teeth. In his other hand he clutched a pair of binoculars, held shoulder-high like a weapon. And there was something peculiar about the way he stood, something lopsided.

I took Berrigan by the collar and told him to heel. He relaxed and stopped barking. The man said quickly, "I wasn't doing anything wrong."

"This is private property," I told him. "It's clearly posted."

The woods belonged to my landlord, who, in return for my overseeing his property, keeping watch for people who sometimes shot game out of season or sneaked in to cut firewood, charged me a low rent. Because of this discount he must have reasoned that he could not afford to have the house painted. But each time I looked at the flaking paint I reminded myself of how little we were paying to live there, and in this way the faded and blistering walls had become an aspect of my happiness.

"I was just looking around," the young man told me. "Watching birds and things. Sometimes I see a few deer. I didn't think anybody would mind if I just walked around a little."

"The signs say No Trespassing For Any Reason."

He nodded, embarrassed.

I stroked Berrigan's head to keep him quiet.

"He sure gave me a scare," the young man said.

I had no desire to be drawn into a conversation. Besides, there was something childish about him that annoyed me. He stood there like a scolded child. "You'd better be going now," I told him.

He glanced at Berrigan once more. "Sorry if I caused any trouble." Finally he turned and walked away from us. It was then I saw his limp, how he tilted severely to the left with each step on that foot, and how his right foot dragged behind and kicked up the fallen leaves.

Berrigan and I watched until he was just a rustle in the shadows of the trees. Then we too walked down off the hill.


Late in the afternoon I tended the steaks while Annie stretched out in the hammock. The ropes had stretched through the summer so that the hammock hung close to the ground when anybody lay in it. She smiled up at the gray sky.

"Remember the night of the Fourth," she asked, "when we both fell asleep out here? Watching the fireworks in town?"

"Too much wine," I said.

"That's how I want to spend my birthday night."

"It's too cold in November. And there won't be any fireworks."

"We can bundle up with blankets and build a campfire in the yard. We'll make our own fireworks."

"You're too old to be a campfire girl. And I'm too young to freeze to death."

"If you don't want to do it, just say so."

"I don't want to do it."

She laughed softly, then scratched Berrigan between the ears. "Well, too bad. Because I want to and it's my birthday and Berrigan wants to and you're out-voted two to one."

"Berrigan's not old enough to vote. He's just a child."

"I'll stay out here by myself," she said.

"Not on your birthday you won't."

"So you'll stay with me?"

"No, but I give Berrigan my permission to join you."

She stuck her tongue out at me and made a disapproving sound. Then she rolled onto her feet and came over to me and put her arms around my neck as I knelt beside the hibachi. "Feed me," she said. "I'm hungry."

"There's tabbouleh in the refrigerator."

She went inside and brought out the tabbouleh, plates, glasses, silverware and a bottle of burgundy. We ate just as we had all summer, sitting on the porch steps, plates in our laps. I cut the bone out of my steak and tossed it to Berrigan.

"How was the writing today?" she asked.

"Bad," I said, without bitterness, because I had learned that one or two bad days were usually followed by a day in which everything came naturally and without effort and compensated for the empty time. "But Berrigan had a fine day. He treed a trespasser."

"Good boy!" she said, and tossed him a piece of steak.

"The guy claimed he was just bird-watching, but he seemed a little strange to me."

"Don't say anything more," Annie said. "I'm getting a mental picture." She closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to the side of her head. "I see a young man with dark brown hair. He's handsome in a sad, Byronic kind of way. He's very thin and about your height and his hands shake all the time. And he walks with a limp."

"I didn't notice his hands shaking," I said.

"That's because you stare right through people. You never really see them."

"So who is this guy?"

She grinned, teasing me a moment longer. Then, "He's a grad student doing an internship at the clinic. Gary. Drug and alcohol abuse counseling."

"And how did you know he was here today?"

"He stopped by the office to apologize. I think he was worried that you might report him to the police or something."

"Why would I? What was he really doing in the woods?"

She shrugged. "Says he's a nature lover. Likes to watch the wild animals at play."

"How did he know that this is our house? And that the guy who caught him is your husband?"

"It never occurred to me to ask," she said.

"Did you know that our back yard is clearly visible from up on that ridge?"

"Is it?" she said. Then, "You don't think he was up there this summer, do you? All those times we were out here sunbathing and...everything?"

"Wild animals at play," I said.

She stared across the yard. "But he knew I was at the clinic today. He knows my schedule."

"Maybe it's not you he's interested in."

"Yes it is. He's got a thing for me."

I leaned back against the porch rail, the post hard against my spine.

"He told me about a month and a half ago. He said he knows it can never amount to anything but that since we have to work together he thought I should be aware of his feelings."

I continued to look at her.

"I suppose you expect me to tell you every time a man flirts with me?"

"Professing one's love is more than a flirtation."

"Not in Gary's case. Besides, I'm not sure he ever used the word love. I think he said that he was very attracted to me."

I could think of nothing to say.

"Sometimes I look up from my desk and he's standing there in the hallway staring in at me with that sad, tragic face of his. He looks so, I don't know. Woebegone."

"Don't you start feeling sorry for him," I said. "That will only encourage him. You don't, do you?"

"I've only let him make love to me twice so far. You wouldn't call that encouragement, would you?"

"I don't think that's a very funny joke."

"Sorry. Actually it was three times, but one time was standing up."

I sat there a while with my plate on my lap, staring at nothing. Finally I stood and took her plate too and scraped them clean for Berrigan. He seemed to like the tabbouleh so I spooned more of it onto the grass for him.

Annie refilled my wine glass. "For God's sake," she said. "Stop worrying. I'm old enough to be his mother."

"Maybe his middle name is Oedipus."

"Maybe you'd better just knock it off."

"You tell him for me that he'd better stay out of these woods, or next time I'll let Berrigan have at him."

"Berrigan wouldn't hurt a fly and you know it."

"At least he can make your boyfriend wet his pants."

"Don't call him my boyfriend."

"I don't want him in these woods again."

"All right," she said.

A few moments passed, then she reached out to take my hand. We stood on the edge of the porch, feeling the coolness of the breeze. The cord from the wind chimes still hung from a hook in the rafters, one piece of broken clay still dangling. Finally we drew apart and gathered up the dishes. Annie rubbed her naked arms. "I guess you're right," she said. "It really is getting too cold for this kind of thing."

I called to Berrigan and we went inside.

A few days later the telephone calls began. The sky above the hills was lavender, the sun a last streak of crimson smeared across the horizon. Just as we were coming up the front porch steps, returning from a long walk down the macadam road, the telephone rang. In those days I was always waiting for an editor or publisher to call, always waiting for success to surprise me. But when I hurried inside and grabbed up the receiver and said hello, all I heard was the click of the line going dead.

Out on the porch Annie was pulling cockleburs from the long hair on Berrigan's chest. "Who was it?" she asked.

"I was too late."

That same evening there was a second call. I had fallen asleep on the floor, reading, and awoke to see Annie standing with the receiver to her ear. "Hello?" she said. "Hello — who is this?"

She held the receiver for a quarter of a minute, listening.

"Hang up," I told her.

She put her hand over the mouthpiece. "I can hear him breathing."

"Hang up," I said.

She did. I sat up and rubbed my neck. "What time is it?"

"A few minutes before midnight."

"Jesus." Anger flooded into me like something fluid, as hot as blood.

"It was probably just a wrong number," she said.

"Right. Two the same night. Probably two different people as well. Just a happy coincidence."

"Why are you being so snotty to me?"

"Snotty," I repeated. "Is that one of your professional terms?"

"I guess you enjoy sleeping on the floor," she said, and went into the bedroom.

I looked across the room at Berrigan, who was lying against the wall, watching me, waiting for a signal. "So are you going out or not?" I asked, and he leapt to his feet and raced into the kitchen, then skidded across the floor and stood there at the back door, his tail snapping back and forth.

I stood on the back porch then and watched his dark shape wheeling in wide circles through the yard. He paused here and there to sniff the ground, trying to find just the right spot.

I looked at the few dim stars, the moon opaque and milky with faint gray clouds scraping across its face, the air cool and clean and smelling of wet leaves, the hills behind the house black and deep against the sky.

Afterward Berrigan came and lay at my feet as I sat on the porch steps and listened for the whippoorwill. We stayed there until the anger drained from me, leaving only the chill of night air. Finally then we went back inside and into the bedroom where Annie lay awake, smiling and warm and nicely scented in the darkness.


Throughout that week the telephone calls continued, always in the evening. If I answered, the caller immediately hung up, but if Annie picked up the phone he stayed on the line and said nothing. After two nights of this Annie stopped answering the phone. By Friday night there were no more calls.

Saturday morning as we cleaned up the breakfast dishes I tried to make a joke of it, as if the heavy gray air of the week had subsided. "So how did you get your boyfriend to stop calling?"

"I thought I asked you not to call him that. Besides, I don't think it was him. He's not the type."

"He'll tell a married woman he loves her but he won't call her on the phone?"

"Not just to hear her breathe, no."

"Love makes fools of us all," I teased.

She tried not to smile. Then she flung the dishtowel in my face and jabbed me in the ribs and started running. I caught her by the arm in the living room. Berrigan yelped and leapt and jumped on top of us as I pulled her to the floor and pinned her arms down. Then I blew raspberries in the soft warm hollow of her neck while Berrigan lapped at her face and she screamed threats about castration and other things she would do to me while I slept.

Afterward we lay together on the floor and I stroked her hair and she said, "It wasn't him, you know. I honestly don't believe it was him."

"Let's not think about that anymore. Just think about your son and me."

"Your son has a cold nose," she said, because he was shoving his snout where it didn't belong. "And he's very rude sometimes. Don't you teach him any manners?"

"Where do you think he learned how to do that?" I said.


Later that night when we returned from a movie in town I unchained Berrigan and saw that his post was bent at a sharp angle toward the house. The grass at the end of the chain was torn up from his clawing and digging. He wheezed when he breathed, having nearly choked himself in an effort to get free. And when I released him he did not leap at me as he usually did, he raced to the house, sniffed at the steps and the front door and around the side of the house, yelping and running wildly. He finally stopped beside a small basement window. He assumed a threatening stance and snarled at the window, the hair bristling on the nape of his neck.

With a flashlight from the car I examined the window but could find nothing unusual. There were no smudges on the glass and the window was still locked. The lawn had been mowed just that afternoon, so it was impossible to tell if anyone had knelt by the window or not.

"Look at him," Annie said, meaning Berrigan, his teeth bared and the fur raised stiffly behind his head.

"He almost strangled himself trying to break loose from his chain."

"Should we call the police?"

"There's nothing to report. No evidence. The police can't smell the way Berrigan can, and Berrigan can't talk."

"Oh, why can't you talk?" she said, and she knelt beside Berrigan and pulled him close. He was rigid and shivering. She stroked his belly. "Shhh, good boy. It's all right now, boy, calm down. It's all right now."

We went inside then and turned on all the lights and examined every room but there was nothing out of place, nothing missing. Afterward we did not talk about the implications or possibilities, but we stayed up later than usual watching TV until finally, conceding something unspoken, we went to bed and lay side by side on our backs, holding hands, with Berrigan asleep near the foot of the bed.

"Relax," Annie told me. "You're as stiff as a board."

I said nothing; there was nothing to say.

"It was probably an animal of some kind," she said. "A raccoon probably."

"Nobody said it wasn't."

Another five minutes passed. Then Annie squeezed my hand. "Just so you know," she said. "I'll never love anyone but you. Only you forever."

"And Berrigan too," I said.

"Of course Berrigan. He's our bodyguard."

"Not everybody has a bodyguard for a son."

"We don't know how lucky we are."

Sometime later I thought I heard the telephone ringing and I leapt out of bed and ran into the living room and yanked up the receiver. "You son of a bitch!" I screamed, hearing only the dial tone. "You cowardly little son of a bitch!"

I stood there breathless and shaky, staring at the dead receiver. Then Annie touched me on the arm and I spun toward her, furious.

"The phone didn't ring," she told me softly. She slipped both arms around my waist. "I haven't been to sleep yet. Honestly, it didn't ring. You must have dreamed it."

I looked at her and felt how tightly she was holding me and how hard my hand gripped the receiver, and only after what seemed a long time the room began to look familiar again and I laid the receiver down, off the hook.

On Thursday morning, Annie's birthday, while working at the kitchen table, I heard a single distant gunshot. Almost immediately I wondered whether I had actually heard or only imagined it, but then I remembered that Berrigan was outside and unchained and I ran out onto the porch and after a quick glance at the empty yard I raced up our path and into the woods.

Ever since the previous Saturday night I had been reluctant to chain Berrigan again. He had wheezed for two days afterward, and I was unwilling to let that happen again. I told myself that antlered deer season would not begin for another two weeks and I did not think Berrigan would be mistaken for a rabbit or squirrel. Anyway hunting was prohibited in these woods and there was no reason to believe that Berrigan would not be perfectly safe.

Also there had been a drizzling rain all morning, and the almost imperceptible sound of it on the porch roof had made me fidgety and irritable. It was Annie's birthday and I had been trying for hours to write a poem for her. She had come to expect three poems a year from me, one each on her birthday, our anniversary, and Valentine's Day, and because I was having a hard time that morning I blamed it on Berrigan and the rain. So I had put Berrigan out on the porch and told him sternly, "Stay!" Inside again I promised myself that as soon as the poem was written I would fry him a hamburger and two eggs and then I would brush his coat until it shone.

But I was anxious and trying too hard to be clever and nothing I wrote that morning satisfied me. Of the numerous sonnets and haiku and free verse I penned, only one line survived. Slinking after the mouse of love like a rain-drenched cat. I thought it was a good line, funny in a self-denigrating way. I wrote it in the center of a clean sheet of paper, then sat there staring at it, wondering how to build upon it, how to expand outward from the heart.

The gunshot came out of the silence like a thing remembered, an old fear conjured up by a scent or fleeting image. I seemed to be watching myself then as I ran into the woods, watching some man who was heavy and slow and who had no hope of ever making things right.

I slipped several times as I raced up the hillside, the rain coming down now in a fine gray mist that ran coldly down the back of my neck. I did not call to Berrigan because I did not want to frighten away whoever had fired the shot. There was no noise at all to follow, so I sprinted toward the top of the ridge and hoped that Berrigan would come running up to me somewhere along the way.

I found him in a shallow depression at the base of a large oak that was half dead from blight. I knelt beside him and brushed the leaves away and stroked his long elegant back and his beautiful face, and as I held his thickly padded, still warm paws I felt such a swirl of dark emotions that for a long time I could not isolate any of them into any kind of positive action. In the crown of his head there was a hole made by a small caliber bullet, and I knew that he had been shot while frozen in his stiff, intimidating but all-bluff posture, and perhaps because there was no question in my mind as to who would do such a thing I never bothered to look beyond the depression in which he lay.

He weighed nearly sixty pounds but I was not conscious of the weight as I carried him down the hillside. His fur smelled of wet leaves and the thick musty scent of damp earth. I carried him into the back yard and laid him beneath the hammock where the grass was still dry.

On the very edge of the yard, adjacent to the woods, I dug the hole. The ground was damp and sticky with clay. When the hole was finished I stuck the shovel into the mound of earth and then with a braided rug from the porch I covered Berrigan where he lay beneath the hammock. Then, with my pant legs and shoes still splattered with mud, I got into my car and drove to the clinic.

Without a word I walked in past the receptionist and yanked opened the door to Annie's office. She and one of her clients, a teenage girl, were sitting in straight-back chairs pulled close to the window, facing one another, Annie holding one of the girl's hands in both of hers. The girl turned suddenly, startled by my entrance. Her eyes were red and swollen, her face streaked with tears. None of that mattered to me.

"Where is he?" I said.

The girl looked at Annie, frightened. Annie patted her hand and spoke softly. "Would you mind getting us some coffee?" she asked the girl. "I need to speak with my husband."

The girl stood and came toward me haltingly and I stepped aside to let her pass. Then I stepped back inside my wife's office and closed the door. She sat there looking up at me, professionally calm.

"Where's your goddamn boyfriend?" I said.

"He only comes in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. What's wrong?"

"He shot Berrigan."

"No," she said, and I watched her eyes grow shimmery and damp. Then she stood and came across the room to me. "Baby, no," she said. "No."

She tried to slide her arms around my waist but I took hold of her wrists and held her away. "Tell me where he lives."

"Now wait a minute," she said, her voice too soft. "Sit down a minute and tell me what happened."

I pushed her away and crossed to her desk and started flipping through the Rolodex. "How could this happen?" she asked. "Where? Was Berrigan in the woods? I mean, did you actually see him get shot? How do you know it was Gary?"

I found his address card and ripped it from the Rolodex. When I turned away from her desk she was standing there and put both arms around my waist and held me tightly and pressed her face to my chest. She was crying now and I could feel the warm dampness of her tears through my rain-damp shirt.

"You can't protect him." My voice sounded flat, my body felt numb.

"It's you I want to protect," she said. "Baby, please don't do this. Please. You'll only get yourself in trouble."

"I'm just going to talk to him," I said.

"Let me call and ask him to come here. He lives just a few minutes away. If he won't come then we'll know he's hiding something, and then we can call the police and let them handle it. Sweetheart, please, please do this for me. Please let me call him." I looked down at her and for a moment I hated her. The recognition made me sick to my stomach because I had never felt anything for her except love and admiration and respect. I felt suddenly weak and I wanted to cry too because I knew now that not only Berrigan was gone.

I held out the Rolodex card. "Do you need this? Or do you know his number by heart?"

She snatched the card from my hand, went to her desk and dialed his number. When he answered she assumed her disembodied professional voice and asked if he could come to the clinic for an impromptu meeting. She said something else then and smiled and hung up and frowned and looked at me and said, "He'll be here in five minutes."

I went to the window and looked out.

"Promise me you won't do anything."

I did not answer.

"Don't you think that if he did it he would know why I called and he would be too afraid to come over here?"

I said nothing.

"Was Berrigan in the woods?" she asked.

I looked out the window.

"If he was in the woods it could have been anybody. It could have been a small game hunter or somebody hunting deer out of season. You know what people are like out there."

I stared out the window but all I could see was Berrigan beneath a dirty braided rug and the rain dripping through the canvas hammock.

"The police can easily find out if he has a gun or not," Annie said.

Again I did not answer. She said nothing more. Finally there was a light knock on her door. I heard her standing up behind her desk and heard her crossing to me and felt her hand on my arm. "Please," she said very softly. "You promised."

I could not look at her. I only said, "So did you. A long, long time ago."

A moment later she went to the door and opened it. I turned and started to move at the sound of the door opening and just as he smiled at her I lunged forward and hit him hard on the side of the face. He fell backward, already dazed, but I caught him by the arm. His free arm came up in a weak attempt to defend himself, but I was already swinging, and this time I hit him so hard that he jerked out of my hand and fell across the edge of the receptionist's desk and onto the floor.

I had known immediately, even as I took those first angry strides in his direction, that I was not being rational. But something I could not curtail was at work in me. I saw in him the destruction of everything that had held me together and made me whole. He was already unconscious as he lay there on the floor but I reached down and lifted him by the front of his jacket and drew back to hit him again, and would have done so had Annie not seized my arm and wrapped her arms around it. And soon there were other people from other offices taking hold of me too. Everybody was shouting at once and none of it made any difference to me. I looked down at his bleeding face and when I looked up again all I could see was Annie's teenage client standing pressed against the far wall, thin and small and terrified, holding two cardboard cups of coffee close to her chest.

Somehow Annie and I ended up alone in her office. I stood with my back against the door. She stood very close to me, looking up into my face, her hands against my chest. "How could you do this?" she asked in a whisper. "How could you behave this way?"

I pulled away from her, and I went to the window. "Go take care of your boy."

A few seconds later I heard the door open and close. For most of a half-hour then I sat in the chair facing her desk, my eyes closed as I tried without success to think of nothing at all.

Finally the door opened behind me and somebody stepped inside. It wasn't long before Annie said, "Why don't you just get out of here?"

I turned to her and smiled. "You mean he doesn't want to call the police?"

"He should. But he isn't going to."

"Isn't that considerate."

"Don't worry, he's not doing it for you."

"Ahh," I said, "young love."

"Just get out of here," she said.


By ten that evening the sky had cleared and the moon was full. I lay on the still-wet hammock with Berrigan's covered body beneath me, the canvas of the hammock just touching the braided rug. I could see the shovel sticking up in the pile of loose dirt out on the edge of the yard. Today was Annie's birthday and she had not come home yet. Inside on the kitchen table there was a line from an unwritten poem and I wondered if I should tear it up or leave it there for Annie to find. The only reason I wanted her to read it now was so that she would feel badly about the way she had treated me. It wasn't a very noble ambition and I wasn't proud of it but it existed nonetheless.

In the end it was easier to merely lie on the hammock and to look at our small yellow house. The moon showed clearly the flaking paint, the faded and blistered walls. It was a small and ugly house and there was not enough furniture in it. The night was growing cold and all of the nocturnal songbirds that Annie had loved had migrated to warmer places. I lay there and shivered and kept listening for a whippoorwill.

-Randall Silvis (from Wake: Great Lakes Thought & Culture)