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The Slight Distance Beyond

He lost her that night.

Weeks after school and weekends,
weather or not,
they had  built the fort-
strong, Indian proof.
Father had provided a tarp.
and his father’s High Standard Sport 22 pistol
for wild animals.

The woods behind the fort
were near the old highway
used by hunters, vagrants occasionally.
Mostly deer.

Mother could see the fort’s flag
which she had sewn,
from her kitchen window.
Part pirate, part cowboy.

His sister was good at tying boughs together for the walls.
He gathered flat stones from the dried riverbed
for the floor.

Test night he brought a sleeping bag
and signaled to Mother with the lamp 
before he tried to sleep.
Sounds kept him awake.
He clutched the 22
until it got hot.

But next morning he went in to breakfast 
and ate eagerly.
He had made the distance.
His sister stared at him
across the table,
stirring her cereal.

The night she came out
shivering, to join him,
she brought peanut butter and bread-
No knife.
He walked back to get her a blanket
and the knife for the sandwiches,
22 flapping in the revolver holster.

Mother and Father were in the living room
Drinks with friends.
They saw him
Smiled, turned again to their guests.

He walked back.
She was not there.
He called and walked until scratched, bruised.
Tired, he fell back into the fort.
She must be back in her bed.

After, Mother spent nights sleeping in the fort
until he and Father moved away from her.

No bones were found when
the woods were parceled,

He would go back and drive the new streets,
looking for her.

He would look for her
in places where he was.

What are you thinking about?
They would often ask him.
But he could not tell them.

He carried the slight distance beyond which
she had gone,
often reached into it for her.
And found it went and went,
stretching, stretched
like anyone’s life,
except his own.

Copyright © Douglas Brown | Year Posted 2020


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