Where the shadow cuts across the Rose bed, Rachel lies in the hammock, humming in broken parts. I know what the song sounds like and as I work I try to find the words, but then Rachel stops and all I can hear are the cicadas. There are certain summertime things like the glint of orange sun on her forehead, the cupping of her hands around her swollen belly, the odor of Verbena. Things I barely notice anymore, but they are there.
I push the knife around the knob of the wood and watch the blond shavings dust the floorboards and my toenails. Rachel shifts. The hammock groans against her weight as she rocks back and forth. I keep a picture of her in my mind: shes standing in front of a window with her curly red hair, the kind that ignites when the sun hits. Thats the picture I use when I say, “Rachel.”
And when I watch her struggle against the swinging of the hammock, tottering on its edge, I think of those cowboy movies I used to watch with my father and that horse that got shot when it broke its leg. Rachel sighs. She braces herself against the porch railing and pulls her heavy body up from the netting.
“Rachel,” I say. My tongue feels thick. “Rachel,” I say to make sure I said it the first time. It should not be this difficult because, really, Rachel is just a name. It is a wife and a woman and other things. But really, it is just a word.
I hear the padding of her feet as she waddles down the hall behind me. It is just a quiet thing, like the slow whine of a porch swing or the halting breaths of a sleeping child. Dark and blurry, like a photograph held under water, but it is there.