Skipping Through Alongside Sunbeams

Andrea Modica

The words didn’t make sense. Meaningless. Gibberish. Cut tongue. Rough-hewn from a fallen log riddled with grub worms inching their way along. Gut rot swishing in an old man’s belly. The chugging rusted car that sometimes started and sometimes didn’t and surprised him either way. There was no sense. None of it came along like it should have. Traveled to his ears deaf and dumb and singing melodies that made him want to weep blood out every pore.

He didn’t trust anyone. Had to watch the shit all the way out the hole just to make sure it’d gone. Had to check his phone even when he didn’t hear the ring. Had to check and re-check his watch and his fly, make sure both were working the way they should. So it made sense that he didn’t believe them at first. Though he came to eventually.

It was a white car and he knew where it was headed and how the thing was to go. He’d practiced it forever in his head. Showering. Walking. Climbing stairs. Painting walls. Hammering nails. Anything and everything had a tint of this. This way. The way it would go. And so he knew it already. Knew how it would leak and spit and stumble and quake. Dribbling down his shirt.

She had been eight headed on nine. She had been skipping rocks on a river bed. She was swept underneath something or against something or down to something. And maybe they’d find her body limp and pale white burrowing in water downstream. Or they’d see her fleeting vacant eyes staring up through the growing crystalline waters of the dammed somewhere there.

He didn’t panic or lose himself like some say you do. He nodded his head and spit and looked on at the horizon. Confirming what he’d dreaded. What’d he already panicked about a thousand times before. So here it was and there was nothing left. No sweating palms. No nervous screams. No crying shudders. Nod. Spit. Gaze. Walk away.

He’d lost his wife and her mother years ago. Washed away with liquor and handstands. Gleeful shouts hardening inside a ripping burned liver. And she always had questions about her mom but asked them sweetly and lovingly because she was too young to know any of it. So she teeter-tottered along and wore patent-leather saddle shoes and pigtails and all the little girl things that a blue collar man could understand. Pinks and greens. Deliciously crooked teeth falling out one at a time. A mind growing like suds in new dishwater. Plowing on.

So for some reason or another so much time later when they called to say the search was off and there was nothing more they could do and the usual riff-raff of excuses and giving up, he found himself standing bloodied hands apart from the rabbit hutch that she’d loved so much. There’d been ten of them. Muffin and Splits and Moonbeam and Bruce and Honey and Socks and Pinky and Mama and Sweetie Pie and Hayseed. And all lay in pieces now. No struggling for breath. No breathing at all.

He was nodding to the caller and giving ums and yeahs back and forth like some strange sort of mating call between shadows and nothingness and the whole time he was wringing his hands and pacing. And when he’d hung up there’d been the knife and pools of blood and the screams of the rabbits had stopped cold. And here he was. Taking revenge or something. Laying hands on what was his. Throttling life out of something that god had no control over. Could no longer exercise against.

And though he slept for the first time in weeks without fits and starts his breakfast was still gray in the morning. And the house was still ceasingly dusty and quiet. And he still broke at the sound of the wind and the babbling of brooks off in the woods where she was skipping through alongside sunbeams and fall crunching leaves.

J.A. Tyler's work has been published in numerous journals including Sein und Werden, Arabesques, Thieves Jargon, The Furnace Review, and AntiMuse and, along with other honors, his short fiction recently received several Editorial Nominations for the 2007 StorySouth Million Writers Award. Chapters from his first novella are available at Ragad, Blue Print Review, Cezanne's Carrot, Artistry of Life, Sage of Consciousness, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k). Check out all the details or subscribe to the reader's list online at www.aboutjatyler.com.

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