Are You Almost

There are only two kinds of people in the world and the last anybody heard from her, Kala was going to be right back: this was seventeen days ago, she said she was on her way to pick up some fruit at the farmer’s market, it’s what she told Double when he approached her on the path and asked where Eduardo was and if he could come play later and she said sure, he could have some blueberries and tomatoes, and when Double saw her he still thought “She’s ocean,” had even told that to Kala, that she was ocean, though she never knew just how much of her ocean he’d seen to make a judgment according to. Double was walking a stick down the street, from one patch of trees to the other, and when he got there he laid the stick very gently among some other sticks he’d transported earlier in the week, it was summer, of course, the time when sticks are always needing to go somewhere new, then he sat at the edge of the copse of trees, thinking to wait for Kala till she got back—she’d have to pass him to get to her house—until, after some time, he forgot why he was sitting there and turned around and said “Alright, sticks, who wants to go to the other trees?” and waited, listening for which stick would volunteer, listening like how Kala told him to.

It was supposed to be a lake but leeched by milfoil it was a swamp, a fester, raisining in the sun. People still called it Witch Lake, the same way the youngest is ever called Baby Damian or Little Janie, and just more than three years had passed since the donut summer, some local theory postulated that rampant weeds could be consumed by glucose, destruction derailed by sweetness. Sunday mornings brought families touting white wax paper bags brimming with glazeds and chocolate with sprinkles and long johns and custards. The mayor every weekend with a box of two dozen pastries, the local rabbi bringing kosher bagels. On the count of three someone was always calling from the perimeter of the lake, noon or midnight, three am or just after the morning shower. On the count of three and arms were everywhere cocked, arcs of donuts heading for the lake. The usual grumblings, of course: someone says Squandered sweetness enough and it becomes a chorus.

Kala’s gone, Kala’s gone, she was fond of saying there were only two kinds of people in the world, and she never got over, really got over, that she didn’t have a basement. Midwest houses=basements, she’d think, frustrated if she couldn’t find where she’d placed the scissors or the arts section of the paper she’d been wandering around holding and had set down at some point to pick up the scissors, maybe, or her tea or a cookie or to scratch Eduardo. She’d laugh, spastic, bats from nighttrees, staring from bare countertop to bare countertop, thinking The scissors must be in my basement. Double, the eight year old from next door, was scared of basements because no matter what his mom said those creaks and knocks were not from the ‘heater’, they were from the devil, and the devil made bad noise, some days such noise that Double couldn’t even sit in the house, couchbound and casual, watching Thundercats and eating Cheez-Its, such noise that one day Double sprinted from the couch, out the front door, right down to the lake and near the tucked-away copse of trees he’d, by the time he turned 18, have spent a total of 477 hours hiding within, Double saw Kala, naked, sunset above, prostrate on the sand that stuck to skin anyway but with donut detritus really found ways to cling. Double saw Kala and wish now he’d been sixteen at the sight, that he could use words to describe the woman’s beauty, the figure she could manipulate like radio-controlled mercury: carmel limbs muscled inarticulately, waist+hips=highway curves, black hair like a forest’s memory of quiet, small feet, breasts and palms of hands and ankles: resisting words.

Troy into the empty house, seventeen days she’s been gone, and here’s how he found everything: first the dark entry way, second the living room with the table at the center of it, third the kitchen with the clothesline stretched, fourth the bedroom and the doorknobs. It’s the summer of the radio song with the line “Never trust a weapon from a woman, never trust the hand of a man,” and everybody knows the words by heart. Everyone who can, whistles. Kala moved into her house that summer, three years ago, donuts like sunsets, and Troy’s pretty sure the first thing she did was put two doorknobs up in the bedroom and install the second entry way. Troy ran the paper store next to the hardware store and she always smelled like cloves, he says, but not clove cigarettes. What happens when you move into a small town with a lake that people throw donuts into is people say “So, where ya from?” and you’re supposed to say more than “Port Townsend,” and when they ask why you moved you’re not to say “Well, it was here or Unalaska,” certainly not to laugh that there’s a place called Unalaska. Troy thinks only two doorknobs at first because of the twenty-one only two have different writing underneath, different scribbles from different pens. “More you,” underneath one, “sleep,” the other. She didn’t move in with a man and so of course neighbors whispered sentences ending in ellipses: “Do you think she’s…?” Was she that kind of liberal? Twenty-one doorknobs by the time she left and Eduardo the dog appeared last fall, just showed up tagless and pink tongued one afternoon. When she saw him the first time, two kids petting him and his eyes little slits against the sun he lazed in the warmth of on the sidewalk, Kala laughed at Eduardo, pointed one of her beautifully knuckled fingers at him, and kids will be kids, telling their stories, “It was broken when I found it,” and the like, but both kids there that day next to Eduardo claim the dog laughed back at her. Twenty-one doorknobs all in a line, maybe seven feet off the ground, each with a little yellowed strip of paper underneath, addresses, phrases, mystery: 915 Stryker, 2232 Culligan, the story about the newspaper delivery guy, 1162 Veronica, News From Foxtrot, 4am and I’m awake again, and, the last doorknob before the door, One Name. The rest of the bedroom: a bed, bedside table, a book titled The History of Every Damned Thing, which turns out not to be ironic at all: a history of all the nouns every Pope ever damned.

Like fingers had decided to do a drawing of knuckles using only T-squares and oak tree roots, that’s what her hands were like, and sometimes when Double would pee at her house he’d finish peeing and look at himself in her bathroom mirror and somehow he could see her, some phantasmic ethereality crossing the mirror while he tried to focus on himself, but it didn’t scare Double—Bow, his dog who’d been hit by a car when he was seven and a half, saw ghosts all the time and Double learned to bark to scare the ghosts off if they were mean—the quick shadow-passing Kala didn’t scare him at all, but sometimes he’d wash his hands and try to move like Kala always seemed to be moving, she was never at rest, she was always, even if only a little, getting away, moving beyond. He loved how she got away, never really gone.

The kitchen’s actual floor space was relatively diminutive, maybe 7×9, and when the Pendroys lived there Troy says they used to cram every last one of them in that kitchen, the two parents and the four children, just to say grace before retiring to various rooms to actually consume. No one’s sure how the Pendroys fought and loved and ate and slept there, four kids, a two bedroom house, but live they did, thrive even: Frankie, their eldest, graduated with honors from Notre Dame. No one was really sure Kala was gone until Troy came in, led by Eduardo, and even then he wasn’t positive until he saw the bag on the countertop, the setting sun’s blaze deepening the thread’s redness into lust, revenge. Nowhere was where Kala went without that bag, and Troy wouldn’t even touch the thing, though he was scratching Eduardo with one hand and his own rear pocket with the other at the moment, his eyes drifting up from the bag to the clothesline, this was June. “What the Jimmy is that?” was what Troy asked Eduardo, who was corner sniffing, offering his rump for Troy to scratch, and Troy wasn’t sure if it was the spoons that spooked him (there were thirty-nine of them) or the two forks mixed between all the spoons, or if it was the way the sun caught all the dull metal, or whether it was the little note above the installation that read “there’s plenty of night left, Deerie,” but spooked he was, Troy, and he turned right around to walk outside, past the table he’d seen on the way in but hadn’t really looked at.

Only two kinds of people in the world, and the couch is still in the front yard where Kala left it, if you linger long enough you can trick yourself into smelling her, fresh laundry and turpentine, cigarettes and summer rain. The story everyone tells about Kala—and tell they do, and everyone is really everybody, for now, seventeen days since she’s been missing: when she was a child, this is how she told it anyway, when she was just a wee lass, running because her brain could conjugate some verbs but her legs had veered off-track with to run, she spent her nights clutching a hammer, a nail, and a mason jar, running, catching fireflies, g-d as blinking insects, g-d as lumens of sex, g-d as summer nights in yards of winks. She’d catch a firefly, screw the lid, tap the hammer-hole needed to keep life working, and watch the insect glow, and when one night she had a bad tummy, too much ice cream and not enough water, she watched how the fireflies showed the trees where the ground was, and showed each grass blade to the other grass blades, and the world to the sky and vice versa, and when her mom asked if her stomach felt better that night Kala said “Yes,” but didn’t say it was because now there was a firefly in there to show her stomach what was making things hurt.

He didn’t see it all at once, of course, Troy: first the kitchen, “there’s plenty of night left, Deerie,” the thirty-nine forks and two spoons, and the next time he looked into the bedroom, the twenty-one doorknobs, the only spooking he got that time from the garish One Name note right near the real doorknob in the real door, and on his way out again he paused at the table but he had to get to work, and the small length of pure redness on the table, like a thin rope made of blood, gave him a little case of the heebes, he’ll admit now, and he was almost ready to ask Double for help, ask a little boy for help, because fine, sure: Double, only eight years old and someone who talked to sticks, but he was the one Kala spoke with most, couch-flopped in the yard describing birds to each other that weren’t there, describing the bacteria that was there, underground, but in ways and with handbags the bacteria didn’t carry, probably. When he came back a third time he invited Double, only two kinds of people in the world, and when Double saw the table he went and sat down and asked Troy if he wanted to play. The table had two chairs, one on either side, and with Double sitting on one side like that, looking just shy of mesmeric or unhinged or malicious, Troy, for the first time, wondered if Kala was dead: no one had thought to ask it because by the wind with the wind was how someone phrased it and that seemed pure: she had showed up and now she’d gone. Do you want to play Double asked with that glint of something you didn’t want to dig to find the source of and the game wasn’t clear, the table had what seemed to be a straw dead in the center of it, full of red liquid, and a stack of note cards to one side and a dice to the other. Do you want to play Double asked and Troy noticed that the table, the edge of it, had Kala I Can’t scrawled in marker, under which he could watch Double’s feet swinging as he shook the dice, rolled it, said Four!, shook it again, rolled it again, said Snake Eye!, shook it more, rolled it more, again and again, all Troy could hear was Do you want to play? and suddenly it was the kitchen and the bedroom and now the table: There’s plenty of night left deerie One Name 4am and I’m awake again I can’t Kala. No playing! Troy thundered, turning to walk out right as Double shook and rolled and said Six! My turn!

There’s only two kinds of people in the world and Kala’s favorite question was Are you almost? which Double didn’t really understand, for sure, but Kala said she was almost and so he decided he’d be almost too. After playing the stick game, or maybe just lazing on the couch outside, deciding to go inside and get an Orange Crush, Double would walk through the first door and Kala would hear the usual clicks and she’d told him that he should shut the first door before he opened the second but that didn’t make sense to him: it wasn’t fear of the dark, it was that he was going to be going out the doors again in just a second, so why close them? Most houses in the area had leaded glass, a demure chandelier, some rugs and an umbrella stand where Kala’s had nothing but darkness. He’d be standing in the black entrance and Kala would call out, her voice how symphonies dream, Are you almost? He never figured out a good answer, and when Double asked Kala why she always asked that question, she said there were only two kinds of people in the world.

Troy called one of the professors at the college who came and said it was all art, one big installation, the professor had even asked Double questions, who was too young to know to lie to adults who wore glasses and smelled too inside. The kitchen, the bedroom, the table in the front room: art. When Troy asked what was in the straw on the table the professor explained how if you vacuum-pack any life it keeps from rot, meaning: the rose petals were crammed so tightly they were beyond oxygen, would stay forever red unless cut, exposed, unless, cellularly, they were invited to death. The professor said It’s an homage to the impossibility of authority, he laced his fingers together often, unlaced them as often, he gasped twice in the kitchen, hand in front of his mouth, nodding when he said Love despite ourselves, and in the living room, with the table, Troy and Double and the professor standing in an isosceles triangle, Double asked if any of the art was almost, he wondered if this was what Kala meant, and the professor actually ruffled the boy’s hair, and so Double went outside to ride his bike and look for Eduardo, who’d been hiding since he’d shown Troy into the house. Double biked around thinking of how he’d got in trouble for touching art before and so was sad figuring he couldn’t touch the table to play the game unless Kala returned and told him otherwise, unarted things, but that night during the stick game, walking past her house, Double remembered the professor hadn’t said anything about the doorway so Double went into the darkened space between the two doors, the first thing Kala had done to her house when she’d moved in. He brought a stick with him and sat down, leaving the door open so he could see outside and so the outside could see in, and between the two doors there was flat black paint over everything, the space a dark comma between clauses, but he didn’t open the inside door, just sat there, holding the stick across his lap, until after awhile he got tired and yawned, wondering if any fireflies were out above Sticky Witch Lake, flashing hopeful, and he stood, leaned the stick against the black wall, and on his way out closed the first door all the way, felt the click and even mimicked it, said “click,” but a few steps away and he stopped, turned to stare at the door, wondering how long it’d stay closed.

 


Weston_Cutter-Weston_CutterWeston Cutter’s from Minnesota and is the author of You’d Be a Stranger, Too and All Black Everything.


 

Maps

Today’s possibility: 56.7%.

Every month or so there comes a new Moses, babies left bullrushed on the river, sometimes there are notes though more often there aren’t, fourteen so far, What to do with the Moseses? the newspaper asks regularly, and for now the answer is the same as for any other question. With the right scar on your eyebrow you can join the coalition of young men who take to the riverbanks, painted aboriginal, daily knifing through underbrush; with the right recommendation you may secure a job underground, two hours of each of your days spent waiting, you will call yourself a Caser, as in a Just In _____, as in: fans meet feces and you’ll have to become part of The Answer.

1:52pm makes him terribly anxious, for reasons unknown: not 1:50, not even 1:55, just 1:52, and when the boy packs his bag he’s everyday packing for oblivion or two quiet hours, eternity or an afternoon. A book, sheets of paper, pens, a picture of his family, strawberries wrapped in a damp tea towel, a spent plastic film shell of chlorine tablets. He loads his satchel, glancing around his room, and somehow the familiar cry of wolf is still lost on him: look anywhere and say goodbye and pretend that’s not your reedy voice, windy and breezing. Pretend you’re sure this isn’t the wolf.

Goodbye mom. Goodbye Bill the bird. Goodbye green sofa and you too Daphne Waphne. Goodbye picture of dad waving, just next to the door in the kitchen: he leaves from his job downtown. Children under twelve are allowed to travel with their parents, over twelve have to go alone, and the boy is fifteen. Daphne Waphne, eight, waves, stops waving, waves smaller. Ha ha ha, wait…maybe only two ha’s, maybe just one. He kisses his mom’s cheek and walks out the door, following the same route to the edge of the city each day. Once there his chemistry forces him to consider cardinal points, but it’s always simple: south. Down the only direction left. The city is built around where a big river crescents east for a mile and a smaller river branches off. For $3, anyone can call a number that reports the most unsafe places.

The boy walks south, through four minutes of bells tolling and cars honking, and when he looks at the sun he’s not scared anymore: when he was younger his mom told him that he’d burn out his eyes, go blind, go mad, staring at the sun, and now as he walks south he thinks: maybe it’ll be today, thinks: I don’t know what to see anyway. At 2:05pm silence settles like a dare, no one speaks at 2:05, and along the river the giant clock blinks digitally, different colors depending on factors no one’s sure of despite the clock being tax funded. 2 blink 05, 2 blink 05, sixty blinks and another minute passes during which It hasn’t Happened.

Today’s possibility: 33.3%

She vowed to never go there again, and so every day went to the exact same place. She would turn sixteen there, she knew, and perhaps seventeen, maybe twenty: the government was unhesitant in reminding everyone of the threat’s imminence and, even if whatever unnamable event transpired, that meant little regarding future threats. The two most popular t-shirts being hawked from kiosks were the black one with white words: YOU NEVER KNOW, and the white one with black letters, YOU ARE HERE. The future was a constant threat, if not tomorrow then the day you finally train your dog to quit peeing on the entryway rug, or the day you finally steal a pair of shoes to keep your feet warm while you sleep under bridges.

Sales of all things emergency went through the stiflingly low roof of the public imagination; the latest pair of must-have pumps were camouflage. She lived with her dad, and despite his cheekiness, his blown kisses goodbye as he sauntered off in a bright red wig, or running screaming for the last minutes before Nothing Time screaming It’s coming it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming!!! (freaking tremendous shit out of the neighbors, of course, he’d been held for three days the first time he did it, locked down and warned against levity), every day’s 2pm made her bitter.

She was turning 16 in eight days and knew she was finished with being shy, even before she’d turned 15 she knew her reserved looks and silence were affected, were going extinct as her voice was becoming a red ache. She’d always thought turning sixteen would be a time of bedlam and go, secret machines and something always about to burst, yet the eight calendrical squares to being sixteen was nothing like it: it was a time of charcoals and pension, two disappeared hours each day and her ache of a voice was only aching worse, every day was a tiny murder to say: “Yes, goodbye for now.” Happy sixteenth she’d whisper to herself, grinding her molars as she smashed careless footsteps across the dirt skin toward the southern end of town, her pockets stuffed with charcoal and rock salt wrapped in newspaper, and she couldn’t help but notice the strange offerings, notes left daily, scrawls and screeds, vows and whispers: the sky’s imminent fall reminded everyone that the only thing that remains is what is said before collision.

Julia: I love you. Yes. Yes. Yes. read a chalked rock.

“So little between you and the sky; so little between you and the ground.” a sign strangled onto a fencepost warned.

If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangiers. The end of the world and Dylan still had some of the last words.

She took a dirt path that followed a creek that paralleled the river for nearly two miles before giving up the ghost of direction and untributaried, dumped itself. As the city faded in a quiet shrug, she read signs that marked the boundary of the old and new worlds: if signs at the city’s edge had apocryphal resonance, those just beyond had the curious verve of what’s left after hope’s body rots but the wind still finds leaves.

What if we just keep going hung a sign from one of the biggest trees on the path.

Today’s possibility: 33.3%

Consecutive days with the same possibility percentages fucked people the hell up. Four months into the age of Nowhere Time, there’d been a six day stretch of 63%, and that sixth day was the day that there were three Moseses found on the river, and that was when the urban legend began about a woman who’d let her baby drift, only for It not to Happen that day, only to come back to retrieve her child, only to find out she was under arrest, not for leaving her child behind forever, but for leaving a child under 12 within city limits during Nowhere Time.

The boy walked south. The girl walked south.

“The last time this happened, voice told us to leave didn’t tell us when to come back,” says the man, taking his stand at noon every day. “Last time this happened, wasn’t fear that led to safety, hm-mm.”

Paranoia as razor: children practice screaming as desperately as their tiny pink machines are capable, and unless you’re gunning someone’s temple, you’re left alone. Paranoia as razor held close: your child staring out the window right after dinner, when she’d usually be watching TV or doing homework, is a sign, means danger has tired of the verb “to lurk”; the wrong color polo shirt implicates every bad thing you’ve ever thought your neighbor has done, and the phone’s in your hand before you realize you have the same shirt. Paranoia as switchblade, paranoia as strop for the straightedge, paranoia as balloon: pop it or offer it to the sky.

 The newspapers carry no account of what happens within city limits during Nothing Time. Advertising rates on television and radio plummet for the hour preceding the daily exodus, spike for the hour and a half immediately thereafter. Planes can only fly away from cities during Nowhere Time, and the midwest initiates a new lobbying group, the catch-phrase: Welcome to Nowhere. South Dakota becomes the first state to sell stock, which triples the day the IPO hits. People with horrible memory suddenly find themselves very popular: with no recall, everything becomes new. For $1, buttons sporting nothing but a red slashing X can be procured, fastened to lapels.

“Are you sure?” the man asks, the ocean of the city dripping, citizen by citizen, past him. He watches until someone looks back, raises a paw to cup his mouth, calls out to them: “You sure?”

Today’s possibility: 40%

When he was younger he’d misheard and never disabused himself of calling them morning cells. The name didn’t become the cylinders, brown wood slat sidings, ten feet in diameter, topped with two kevels, one set of green lights, one set of red, scabby with countless layers of bird shit. Morning cells he’d tell himself, swimming out to them each day right around 2 blink 20, his little orange bag of future atop of his head, his swimming uncoordinated but so long as it kept his crown dry.

Sometimes you’d hear of things: a gathering at 4pm, outside the city, hushed plannings re: a future you’d have to go to the meeting to find out about. Every once in awhile there’d suddenly appear a thin tabloid-sized newspaper, there’d be stacks of them throughout the city, and they caused a double-take: The Idiot was the name of it, and the almost unreadably small fine print would explain the etymology of the word, and how the idiots would soon be called on to rule. Supposedly there was a map, some internet sites mentioned it, that listed the locations the president rotated through—like everyone, he had a pattern.

She laughed when the possibility percentage was a simple number: 40%? Who were They kidding? Does fear round up or down? Five days from sixteen and she found it harder and harder to even talk, actually would save vocal energy for the daily “Goodbye, love you too,” she offered dad on his way out of town on, perhaps, stilts or a unicycle or both. She talked herself out of it, literally, every day: talked herself out of following the river, walking its periphery, settling in a copse of trees with a single message carved into the bark of one of the birches: Epur Si Muove.

From the trees she could see the falls, technically eighteen feet and seven inches but everyone just said: twenty-foot falls. The falls were the end of the county, but she couldn’t help herself, stepping into her trees: county became country with just a letter, and everyone had R’s to spare.

The boy, south. The girl, south.

Today’s Possibility: 73.4%

Maps were forbidden right from the start, of course: there were Bonfires of Navigation those first few weeks of Nowhere Time, and sometimes after the new version of the Beatles song, outfitted to be called “Nowhere Time”, played on the radio, an official voice would come on and tell a story—of Oklahoma Sooners, of Vespucci and Columbus, Marco Polo and abolitionists—of some great striving that, years past, had found glory map-free, turbulently chasing a compass with no marked needle.

No one forbade it but still there was a general reluctance to touch, an anesthetized response: go numb and things bode, if not well, than at least better: what armageddon, what imagined horror, can hurt an epidermis trained to forget all touch, pain and its sinister bride pleasure? Toddlers wailed through supermarkets and mothers, presuming to teach some vital lesson, refused the comfort of limbs. Married couples showed tenderness by keeping chaste distance, and business meetings, unless otherwise demanded, began and ended with risings and seatings but no hands shaken.

The Moseses number nineteen now, and a third nurse has been added to the outfit. The possibility percentage only rarely fluctuates during the day, and the two times it’s dropped in daylight have been met with spontaneous street-blocking barbecues, all-night dances, courtships and blood duels birthed in that small breath of ease. Every issue of The Idiot lists every possibility percentage that’s been posted, and more often than not there follows an essay, a tea leaves reading, though what statistician does the divining is left by-line free.

South, south: it’s not fleeing if you don’t hurry, if your shirt’s tucked in.

Today’s Possibility: 26.2%

She was turning sixteen as she kissed her father goodbye, was turning sixteen with charcoal and rock salt in her pockets, was turning sixteen as she left the city and nodded at the familiar sign, What if we just keep going? was turning sixteen as she took her spot in the shade amongst the trees and  began to draw. She was turning sixteen south.

Goodbye mom, goodbye Bill the bird, goodbye green sofa and you too, Daphne Waphne, and some days when the boy hears the man shouting from the box at the edge of the city he wishes he were twelve again, even if it meant he wasn’t allowed to stay up later than 9pm, or that he wasn’t able to ride his bike across the four lanes that separated his neighborhood from the city. Some days he wanted to turn to the man on the box as he was saying “The young aren’t going to save us this time, no sir: the young ones are safe, and right now safe means tied up,” and cry “I WANT TO BE TIED UP, I DON’T WANT TO SAVE ANYONE!” He hates that he carries strawberries and chlorine tables, sometimes wants to carry nothing, sometimes only Cherry Pez, that’s easy, sometimes just a coffee can with holes punched in the sides and a string attached to the top, he’d start a fire in the can and send the can up screaming through the trees, a shooting start for that first night of darkness, the first wish.

When he got to his mooring cell she saw him, as she always saw him, though he seemed different, suddenly, not because she was sixteen: he was tall, his lanky 15-year-old frame was never attractive, but he fascinated her as she watched, the way he swam the small current of the river, the way he put his little satchel atop his head, the way he camped on the mooring cell, drawing, reclining in the sun. He was, as she was, as everyone was, listening more than anything else.

Once she was halfway to the mooring cell he saw her, and though he didn’t stand he swung his legs over the side of the cell facing her approach as she swam cautiously toward him—she hated swimming, which was one of the reasons she always came to the river: if the world was ending, she wanted to learn to swim, and she knew from experience that emergency and desperation are the best teachers. He smiled as he realized that she’d put her shorts on top of her head to keep her pockets dry.

“Hello.” the boy said when the girl scrawled her slender fingers around the planks on the mooring cell. He offered a hand down and she’d already taken and was half out of the water when she realized she was wearing only her underwear.

“Wait.” She said, her brown hair smothered with sun, her green eyes and honey. His arm ached from holding her still at the side but he held her. She searched his eyes for a moment.

“Take off your shorts.” She said, and when he dropped her with a splash she wasn’t laughing when she surfaced but he was, boxered and t-shirted in the sun, and he bent low, both hands out for her, and pulled her up.

Today’s Possibility: 61.7%

The first little girl Moses washed up on shore, the twenty-second child, newspaper columns brim with feminist gladness, imaginings of a different Genesis story, Eve wears the pants from now on. 2 blink 09, 2 blink 09, and no one was ever sure what happened to the man on his box at the edge of the city, each day’s lamentations and lambastings ignored, as ever, no matter at whom he pointed, no matter how clear the points, no matter how he called out for a new boldness, “Let’s dream our way through, not out and around!”

It wasn’t that people necessarily disappeared: families lost touch like they were running out of bread, and often as not parents were strangely comforted that their children didn’t return: when the storm’s shadow is as large as the world, the battening of the hatches, the jettisoning of all, including loved ones, was par: when the storm passed, the rain quit, the latest dove with the latest olive branch appearing, families and love would return, prodigal, disappearing ink in a new light.

At some point there began communal bonfires daily at 3:45, snakes of black smoke rising in suddenness from beyond the city’s reach: somewhere the idea had been hatched that to destroy the Nowhere Time, all the evidence had to be destroyed, too. Sketches, poems, novels, love letters, doodlings, popsicle-stick houses: these and more burned, plus video tapes, plus CDs, plus plans for houses that fear drove the designers to forsake practicality and physics for the sake of whimsy and a future free of dread.

Sometimes the authorities would scour beyond the city, dissuading stragglers, literally putting out small untended fires, ushering all the citizenry back to cityfold after Nowhere Time. These officers found the same refuse anyone might find after a concert or inauguration: scattered notes, condoms and foil wrappers, packs of chewed gum, the occasional empty box of bullets.  One day an officer dipped a small boat into the river and took to the current, curious.

And at the first mooring cell he found nothing but bird shit, and likewise the second. But at the third, just before the twenty foot falls, he found remnants he even now can’t describe. But what were the drawings of? his compatriots ask, and after a pause and sip of coffee, his eyes seem disconcertingly distant.

“I guess they were maps,” he says, “but not in pencil, it was all dusty, charcoal, a stack of them, a rock on top like a paper weight. There was some salt wrapped in newspaper, tops of eaten strawberries, and chlorine tablets. Jagged lines like roads leading to big squares with ‘Memory’ written inside them or circles saying ‘Home’, and a star, nothing but a star on the last map, no lines on that one, just a star and, underneath, in the simplest handwriting you’ve ever seen, ‘What if we just keep going?’”

 

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Weston Cutter lives in IA and has works published or soon coming in Ploughshares and Cave Wall. He has a book of stories, You’d Be a Stranger, Too, coming this winter from BlazeVOX