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Story by Gary Cadwallader (Read author interview) March 16, 2006

If you look up the hill, you’ll see her. She watches every night and our view of her changes as we sail on the wind and land like black feathers upon her neck.

It is too warm for February and the moon is full. Orion’s belt is hard and close over the house and beyond that is the Milky Way. The black sky arcs like you’re at the bottom of the sea and the moon makes the pasture gray and blue and throws fuzzy shadows behind a man as he walks out of a stand of walnut trees. He leads an all-black stallion. He wears no clothes. The horse is unsaddled.

He rides in great circles mirroring the moon, which lights his skin as if he wore armor or silver scales and he sits upright with his arms outstretched, shouting, “Bring her back to me. Bring her back,” and hooves pound in punctuating rhythm like drums. The pair does not gallop; they canter like a man on a rocking horse or some Sagittarian creature thrown into the tide, bobbing in hypnotic rhythm.

She watches with binoculars from the wood-covered hill and she sees him riding counter-clockwise, always left, always left as if he’s turning back time and though she’s too far away to hear the words, she knows why his arms are spread wide towards the heavens.

She watches as he puts the horse away and walks back to the house. His head is down and he climbs the wooden steps slowly. Lights move from room to room. Lights go out. Lights come on. The door opens and something slips out and she says, “The cat,” and you can see the man look towards the hill, but his eyes never focus. Then all is dark.

She waits. When she’s sure he is asleep, she becomes a shadow among the walnut trees and slips through the door he never locks, avoids the creaky floor board and enters his darkened bedroom. One hand is at her belt.

He wakes up to the rustle of clothing and sits straight up as if he’s frightened and cowers from the looming thing so close to the bed.

She laughs.

He knows her now and says, “Marie?” as if it’s a question, though the tone of his voice says something else. In the blue light of the radio dial, she looks like one of the young girls from town, perhaps someone from the video store where he stops every night since she left, and where the young girls whisper when he rents romances.

“I scared you!” Marie is delighted with herself and she looks like a pale statue rising from the clothes around her ankles.

“What’s up?” he asks coolly, though his voice is higher than usual.

“I came to spend the night,” she says. She says it matter-of-fact, all composed, as if seven months mean nothing and then she tries to say, “I’m sorry,” but it is as if the words die in her throat or are not in English and the words drift away into awkward silence.

“I best take a bath,” he says throwing back the covers. “Been working all day.” He walks towards the bathroom, turning on the light and ignoring her nakedness. He turns the tap full on to cover his quick breathing and steps into the huge oval tub.

When he turns off the water, he can hear her slipping into the bed. “So, what’s up?” he asks again.

“I’ve been confused,” she says. “Things aren’t like I thought.”

“If you’re confused, won’t this make it worse?” There’s something you know here, something in his voice that says I want to be nice, but I’m really not. I’m selfish and want you back, but the face he shows her is innocent.

“Make it worse? Probably…” she says and he tells her to bring the shampoo. And you think, do it before he changes his mind.

She comes to him and her bare thighs are level with his mouth. She is soft and white. Lightly freckled and she smells like White Diamonds perfume.

“I knew you’d come back,” he says. “I dreamt it. In the dream, you only stayed one night, though.”

“I am. Just this one.”

He nods. Accepting. “I’ll have more dreams, you’ll see.” He grins slyly and you think of the moonlight ride.

He makes love to her, touching her everywhere and we know he’ll be sad when she leaves, but he won’t say anything. He won’t say, “Come back to me.” Not out loud. Not to her. Instead, he’ll talk to the moon and ride the great black horse he calls Voodoo.

Through the blinds, the full moon throws black stripes across their bodies.

About the Author

Pushcart nominee Gary Cadwallader lives on a small farm in Warrensburg, Missouri where he likes to write about relationships between men and women.

This story appeared in Issue Twelve of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twelve

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