In The Beginning
Posted on July 19th, 2013
Dog goes down to the water in the blank heat of the middle part of the day and sits. The air is open-palmed and slow across the back of her neck, and the grass chews itself down into the sand at the top of the bank. Dog is not her real name, but it is the one that she has been given at camp. Camp waits on the other side of the meadow, and it is all tanned, tall, smooth-limbed counselors. It is clipboards that trail long comets of embroidery floss, woven into bracelets for people that are not her. When the sun reached its whitest eye, Dog had taken her plastic bag of warming carrots and the smooth sweat of her one hardboiled egg and walked here. No one stopped her. The thin, sulfuric breath of her lunch joins the deep green wash of river and clay. A bird watches, round and still, from a midstream rock. Hello, Dog whispers. Hello hello. Expecting it to leave. It stays.
The egg, when she bites it, squeaks against her teeth and it seems loud. A small crumble of dry yolk falls onto her pale crossed legs. You were the beginning of something, she thinks, and now you are lunch, and now there is nothing that I can do about it.
Tell me a secret, he says, pushing back from the table slightly, the chair scraping a line into the wood. Tell me something that no one else knows.
I used to be a Dog, she says, cutting careful slivers of garlic in the heat. Their growing pile as pale as nail parings.
Oh yeah?, he replies, going to the record player in the next room. She can hear the shiver of vinyl leaving a sleeve. A slight static hitch, and then, the low, tuneless hum.
Yeah, at camp. A long time ago. It was the name they gave me.
The sound from the other room grows, and there’s no reply. She looks up in time to see the long line of him, cutting its way through the tall grass swiftly. A small shadow in front. Dog? Cat? The air swallows up details. She never heard the swing of the screen door. Or his leaving. He’s caught up to the shadow, and has started back. Sweat visible on his shirt. Cat. The long tail curling down to his waist from the crook of an arm.
Hello, she whispers. Hello hello.
The porch boards creak.
Sorry, he says, coming in to the kitchen. You were saying–
It doesn’t matter, she says, interrupting. Here. I made you an egg.
He sits and begins to peel it, and the smell joins the growing tang of raw garlic there in the stillness.
So, tell me another story then. If that one doesn’t matter.
He bites the egg in half, and a small scatter of yellow lands on the wooden table.
I will, she says. This is the beginning.