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SmokeLong Quarterly

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If the light, then the light

Story by Beckie Dashiell (Read author interview) August 20, 2018

Art by Jukka Heinovirta

The filmmaker worries he is losing the light. So many hours of work and planning, about to be wasted. He will go home that night and lie down next to his wife. She will already be asleep, though he knows she is just pretending—she is so light at it—until he hears her breathing slow. But he will stay awake, go over each choice he made today. Everything that went wrong. His work will fail. He will fail.

The next morning, over breakfast, his wife tells him what she’d spent the early hours mulling over: there have been climbers found naked in the snow, their clothes folded neatly in a pile some feet away. The heart rate slowing and slowing. Blood vessels widen. It is enough to want to shed all clothing.

Those that fall on the mountain are often left there. Climbers the next season, or five seasons from now, may see a boot peeking out of the ice. In some cases, they have been known to step over the body itself. You don’t undertake such a journey to be turned around so easily, she says.

“I’d like to think that you would not leave my body up there. You’d find me, in my yellow jacket, sun-faded. You’d cover my face with a pillow case, so you could remember me as I was. Freckles, hair blowing around my face. And while I would be the most terrible burden, encased in ice, heavier twice over, you’d fasten ropes around my body. You’d push and pull and slide me down. So that you could always be near.”

He thinks that the light is just right in that moment, behind her, shining through the leaves of the schefflera. If he had his camera here now, he could capture this forever. He was never ready when it mattered.

“Well?” she asks.

“Well what?”

“Would you?”

He thinks about driving back to the location today, trying to get some more shots on his own. Better to have more options than less. What he wanted was the sun setting over the abandoned barn, with light streaming through the broken boards, filling up the frame, fade to white. It would take a particular sunset to get that. He’d go every day, if he had do.

“I would do whatever made the most sense,” he says.

She lowers her eyes. He has always thought to tell her she has the most beautiful lashes.

“You’d be dead anyway,” he says.

His wife clears the dishes, lets them clatter in the sink, and leaves the kitchen without another word. He makes a note to himself about the final shot. The boots, left to rot. The white, blinding like snow.

ornament

Notes from Guest Reader Monet Patrice Thomas

I didn’t know what I was looking for when I started reading the SmokeLong queue, I just had the feeling that whatever it was would find me. Becky’s story caught my attention immediately — somehow it was both urgent and still. And I found myself relating to both the distracted husband and his aggrieved wife, because at some point I’d been both people. But what sold me, what made me say THIS IS IT, was the last image, that last moment, that last bit of light.

About the Author

Beckie Dashiell graduated from the MFA program at UNC-Greensboro and currently lives and works in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in The Forge Literary Magazine.

About the Artist

Find Jukka Heinovirta‘s photography at Unsplash.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-One
ornament

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