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There was a small wooden box on her bedside table and inside it was a pack of cigarettes he wasn’t supposed to know about. A handful of cough drops.

After the funeral, he’d gone home, and he smoked one of her cigarettes on the porch, the smoke snatched away on the wind. Crows on the wires, lights across the road winking on. He went inside. He didn’t turn on any lights.

The phone rang, a couple times, and the machine picked it up. He listened to her voice say, hello, please leave a message for Ray and Ellen.

The house got dark. That was that.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But here it was, this way, and there wasn’t anything to do to change it.

She fought for three years, and a few times it had looked like she might win.

There were dinners she’d made, waiting in the freezer.

It’s going to be a whole lot of nothing ahead, Ray said, out loud, to her, to the empty house, to himself, to nobody.

He’d forgotten to turn up the heat. He could see his breath inside.

They’d kept a bottle of bourbon on the piano and he took it and a glass, and sat in the dark, listening to the creaks and pops of the old house, the squirrels in the attic, the cars that passed seldom on the road.

He was sixty-eight, and tomorrow was his last day as chief of police.


In the morning Ray sat at the kitchen table, the birds at the feeder in the first snow, the sky flickering from gray to sun, beams of light falling down from clouds the color of pearl.

There were some facts to contend with.

After today, he was looking at an empty calendar.

He watched the chickadees. The jays and white-throated sparrows. He thought about migration. A thousand miles, two thousand, three, open ocean, storms and predators.

How do they survive?

He’d been chief for twenty-two years. His father before him.

The new chief drove a Subaru. Two kids, a wife. He liked her. Everyone liked her. Admired her. She reminded him of his daughter. She had been hard to read, too, sharp, funny, and kept you guessing. A big picture thinker, someone you wanted to shine for.

There was supposed to be a retirement party, they wanted to do something for him, celebrate him somehow, but given the circumstances, what was there to celebrate.

He’d asked them to stand down, and they did.

At the end of the day, he’d drive to the station and park the car, turn over the keys, and Carnahan or Steiner or maybe Lois was going to drive him home.

His brain wasn’t working the way it ought to. Maybe it was exhaustion. Grief. Maybe it was something else, his cholesterol medicine, winter coming on, not enough kale or whatever the hell else. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him. He wasn’t a part of things. He felt transparent.

The phone startled him so badly he spilled his coffee.

It rang as he went for the paper towels, and he caught it just as it went to the machine.

Hang on Lois, he said. The machine’s got it.

His wife’s voice on the machine. They let her finish.

Hey old man, Lois said. I’ve got an easy one for you if you want to earn your last day’s pay.

Why do I feel there’s a punchline coming, Ray said.

Got a call from the nurse up to Dr. Sweeney’s. Says the neighbor’s cutting down trees on his property.

The neighbor’s cutting trees on his own property?

On Dr. Sweeney’s property. Specifically the apple trees. The orchard.

The neighbor’s cutting the orchard?

Sounds like someone he hired’s doing it.

Ray’s dog had gotten up on the couch. He wasn’t allowed on the couch in the old days, but these were not the old days.

This neighbor, it’s Buchanan we’re talking about?

She didn’t say, she was a bit frantic.

Sounds like Buchanan, though, don’t it.

It does, Lois said. Not sure who else it could be, out that way.

Buchanan moved to Stratton last year from somewhere they grew money. He was an asshole. Liked being generous, so he could tell you how generous he was. Liked shouting at people at town meetings.

Ray looked out the window to the field across the road. It was going to be houses soon enough. Everything was for sale, it seemed like, every field, every stretch of woods. There was a tightness in his chest, a feeling in the jaw, and he thought for a moment he might be having a heart attack, but it passed. Too much coffee, maybe.

I’ll take a ride, Ray told Lois.

It was a relief to have something to do.

He looked over to the dog, sleeping now, in the spot that Ellen used to sit. The dog missed her as bad as he did. Maybe worse. It was Ellen he’d always taken after. Anyway, he wasn’t eating.

Ray went and sat with him and rubbed behind his ears. Chester. Good old Chester. Who’s a good boy? he asked the dog. Who’s my Chester?

Chester lay his head down and sighed. He closed his eyes.

It was the dog that pointed the way to the trouble. He’d nosed and licked her, every time she lay down. He’d get up on her and lick her neck, lick below her ears. Where the lymph nodes are. Ellen laughed about it. Pushed him away. He kept coming.

At first they said, maybe cat scratch fever. Maybe mono, maybe this, maybe that. They were just dicking around. It was Dr. Sweeney who said no. It was Dr. Sweeney who said, we’re going to do some tests, now, today.

He thought of Ellen, singing in the shower.

Three years she fought. Last thing she said was, I see horses.

OK. What are you supposed to do with that?

Ray got up. Put on his gun.

He set his coffee mug in the sink. I’m just going to set this here for now, he said, out loud, to Ellen.

It was a joke they had between them. One of the many. But there wasn’t anyone to say her line:Lucky we got a magic sink.

The furnace ticked on. Ray looked out the window and caught a flash of Cardinal.


He first laid eyes on her at the Fountain House in 1979. He loved her right then. Right away, in that moment, everything decided. He’d always felt it was meant to happen. How else could it have? They married a year later. It was just something that was, like the clouds in the sky, and neither had ever doubted it.

She was a strong woman. And she’d had to be.

Ray had never spent so much as a week apart from Ellen in forty-five years.

He figured he’d be dead in a year. Wasn’t that what the statistics said?

Though winters are long.

Maybe a year was generous.

I’m heading out, old man, Ray said to the dog. Chester lifted his head.

See if you can have dinner ready, Ray told him.


Ray cleaned the snow off the windshield.

The night Ellen died there were wolves, howling up in the timber. Wolves. There weren’t supposed to be wolves, not here, not anywhere near here. Not within five hundred miles. But there they were. Ellen had loved wolves. Had spent summers in Isle Royale, had seen them, grown up hearing them. Said she was a quarter wolf herself.

But that night Ellen wasn’t there to hear them. Nor would she ever be. Chester barked and whined and scratched at the door, knocked a book off the table, refused to settle, and so Ray let him out. He went out with him. The cold, the stars, the black trees, and no moon. Black and black and black, upwards and on into whatever kind of nothing infinity was supposed to be. She was gone. Gone where? Up there? Harps and wings and cities in the clouds? No. The stars were eating themselves and everything else, engines of chaos, hellfire, pure nuclear rage.

No, she wasn’t up there.

The wolves howled, and Chester howled back. They sang together a long time.

The dog looked at Ray that night, looked at him as if to say, you could have saved her. You could have done something.

A judgment levied.

Well, anyway. That’s the way Ray took it.


It was a pretty drive up to Sweeney’s once you got past the new developments. Target and Staples and PetSmart and a Mexican Cantina and who knows what all else kind of shit. Up and over the Millbrook Road, around the Hooey’s and the Hoar’s past all those hay fields, all that pasture.

Beautiful country, still.

The snow blew across the road. When Ray came to the turn and started up toward Sweeney’s, he saw that every apple tree was gone. It took his breath.

A truck in the front field below the house, chipper going and a man shoving in limbs.

Every tree. Every damn one. Lying there, black-trunked and twisted. Yellow sawdust on the snow.

He couldn’t think of one good goddamn reason why.

He slowed the car and eased to the shoulder. He watched the man work. There was no hurry. Damage was done. There were going to be some fines levied, that was certain. Timber trespass. Sure. What else?

There was no mistaking the property lines. The Sweeney family owned five or six hundred acres, all the way back around Long Pond. Had owned it going back to Thoreau and Emerson days, and a good deal before. It was Abenaki land. Had been, anyway. All of it. Everything you see.

There was no way Sweeney wanted those trees cut. But he wasn’t in possession of his faculties either so who knows what the story was. His son was going to light up about it. Just as soon as he made his way home from Thomaston.

He wondered if Buchanan had had the pleasure of meeting Bill Jr. yet and thought likely he had not.

That would soon be remedied.

Ray didn’t recognize the fellow feeding the chipper. Didn’t recognize his truck, either.

He watched him work for a while. The man stopped once or twice and looked his way. Ray let him wait. After a while he let Lois know he was heading up.

The man stopped working and watched him come. He shut down the chipper as Ray pulled up and stopped. Ray rolled down the window.

Not a bad morning, Ray called.

Hasn’t been yet, the man said.

Ray smiled.

You meet people sometimes and right away you know. Some old deep instinct ticking away. It’s a voice you listen to.

How about you step out from behind the chipper, Ray said.

He unlatched his holster and swung himself out of the car, joints cracking.

The man took off his gloves and set them on the machine.

I surely hope you’re working for Dr. Sweeney, Ray said.

No, sir, I am not either, the man said. I’m working for the landowner.

Well that would be Dr. Sweeney, Ray said.

Around here men seemed to go two ways once they cleared twenty: hard wire or fat. This man was hard, but his eyes had a bit of dead trout to them. Dull.

Not a writer of sonnets.

He hadn’t moved from behind the chipper.

Ray smelled woodsmoke. Gasoline. The sweet tang of fresh cut applewood.

They stared at each other.

You like that chipper a little too much to leave it, it appears.

I’m just here to do a job of work, is all, the man said.

I appreciate that. Well, maybe I’ll shoot you, and that’ll be all your problems solved.

Ray smiled. A joke. Not everyone appreciated his sense of humor. All the same it seemed as good a way as any to let someone know they were in danger.

The man stepped out where Ray could see him.

Is Dr. Sweeney up at the house, Ray asked.

I have no idea, I’m not working for any Dr. Sweeney. I’m working for Mr. Buchanan.

Well, now that is a curiosity to me. Because the trees you’re cutting haven’t gotten anything to do with any Buchanan.

They do a bit since he hired me to cut them.

Ray smiled. I stand corrected.

These apple trees were forty years old anyway. And before these trees, apple trees for forty years again, and again, and again, back to the stone age. Now, they were mud and stumps. Seemed to echo something deep and grave gone wrong in the world.

This is my last day, Ray found himself telling the man. I’m going to hold something against you if you end up making it anything but a pleasure. I suppose you have something says who hired you.

It was on the phone. I never met the man.

He pay you?

Not yet, he hasn’t.

Would you mind stopping work till I can get all this cleared up? Dr. Sweeney’s nurse or caretaker or whoever is mighty upset.

Upset about what?

Well, I didn’t speak to her, so I could only ever venture a guess. Cost of peaches, maybe. Decline of western civilization. But my best guess is she’s upset that here you are, on private land, cutting down perfectly good apple trees.

I was told these are Buchanan trees.

By Buchanan.

Yessir, by Buchanan.

Ray noted the name on the door of the truck, and the license plate number.

He nodded to the truck. That you?

The man spit and lit a cigarette.


He took out his notebook and wrote it down. The inspection was out of date. He noted that, too.

Look, I didn’t intend to get mixed up in anything.

Thanks in advance for being accommodating, Ray said. I’d appreciate it if you stick around while I head up to see what I can see from Dr. Sweeney.

I got this job to finish, don’t I.

Ray smiled at him again and didn’t say what he thought, which was, I’ll tell you if you got a job to finish, son. And you’ll be sure to hear me when I tell it.

We find ourselves in the middle of unfolding events, Ray said. And what roles we play are yet to be determined.

The man wasn’t sure what to say.

Ellen used to like it when Ray talked this way, kind of biblical and spooky. The dark music of the words. Like he was a prophet, a keeper of ledgers. It tickled her. Well, they landed just right with this fellow. Took some smart off him and knocked the proceedings into territory he wasn’t sure how to navigate.

Unsettled times, Ray said. And lo, a pestilence on the land.

He chuckled, walking back to the car.


The house had seen two hundred years. It needed paint. The fence too. The gardens a tangle of dead this, dead that, nothing cut back. Leaves down in frozen drifts.

Sweeney had always been quite particular. When Carol passed, he declined quickly. Dementia, Alzheimer’s. The woman had been helping for a year. Yolanda. Venezuelan. Maybe she was legal. Maybe not. No business of Ray’s. Come across desert, come in a boat, what did it matter, the whole place was stolen anyway, and here she was, doing a service.

A tabby cat high stepped and sidled for the barn. The sky low slate, snow tightfisted and horizontal. Ray stepped onto the porch and Yolanda opened the door before he had a chance to knock.

Ray stamped his feet to get the mud and snow off.

Never mind, Yolanda said. Never mind, please.

She led him toward the kitchen. The house as always, cluttered, filled with books, in piles and stacks, the length of the center hall, daylight swirled like water against the old leaded windows. The house smelled of coffee, and something else. Disinfectants.

Ray had always known Sweeney. Sweeneys and Dills, Sweeneys and Dills, back to the Indian days.

It was Ray who sent Bill’s son to Thomaston on aggravated assault. Bar fight. Ray’s arrest, Ray’s testimony. Even that hadn’t come between them.

Bill Jr. was a good enough man, but he had a mean switch. Three years in Iraq, maybe that was part of it. But he’d been a hot wire before he ever went over.

Perhaps incarceration had cured him.

Find out soon enough.

He was coming home in a week.

Sit, sit, Yolanda told Ray. The kitchen was a furnace, the woodstove blazing. She poured him coffee. Ray watched the steam drift as Yolanda went for the doctor, her feet in slippers, scuff, scuff, across the pumpkin pine.

The snow whipped and eddied. They’d be closing school, maybe. There were going to be accidents. First snow; there always were.

There was music going in another room, Spanish, two guitars strumming. Many years ago, Ray and Ellen and their daughter Samantha did a tour through Spain. Before Samantha was sick. Or maybe it was in there already, working, but they hadn’t known it at the time. Long ago and far away, the Basilica, the Prado, but the best part was down in Malaga, fat green olives in small blue bowls, salt cured sardines grilled on skewers, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice. Ray could taste them. Gallons of smoky red wine, lanterns in the trees. They could have stayed there forever. Why had they come back? Same reasons you always come back. You think you need to. But what was waiting for them. You can go someplace and just stay, and your whole life changes into something else.

You can’t know what’s coming. There is no future that speaks that way.

He was so tired.

The sound of the chipper pulled Ray back. The man in the field was back at it. Ray watched him feed limbs, chips spraying. Had he not asked him to wait? He had, hadn’t he? He thought about calling for another car. Luther could swing out, or Carnahan.

Well, let’s wait to see what the doctor has to say.

He sipped his coffee.

He couldn’t imagine staying, or going, or anything else. It was a puzzle in need of working; just how the hell was he supposed to not lose his goddamned mind.

Chickens. Maybe he’d get chickens.

He laughed out loud.

Bad times had come if chickens might be his only tether.

Yolanda led Dr. Sweeney in by the arm and Ray saw a man looking for all the world like someone you might see raving at pigeons. White hair in tufts, face smeared with burst vesicles, beard overlong and unruly, eyes fixed on a place that didn’t exist.

Behold, a prophet from the other side. And what news has he to share?

He looked like Melville.

There’s the man, Ray said, standing up.

Yolanda smiled, nodded, told Ray, sit, sit, please.

She guided Bill to a chair.

It was clear that Bill had no idea who Ray was.

It’s Ray, Bill. Doctor Sweeney. Ray Dill.

His friend had come unsprung. Sweeney worked his lips and fussed with a spoon on the table. I’m out of diesel, he said. He looked at Ray as though he would understand.

That’s too bad, Ray said. I can get some out here if you need it. But I’m here about the apple trees.

Out of diesel, Sweeney said again.

Sure, it happens, Ray said.

You’re good, I know you, but you stay out of the, the…

Sweeney looked at Yolanda.

He means the orchard, I think, she said. He does not want this man to cut. I tried to stop this man, but he said, go away, go inside, so. I don’t want trouble. But Dr. Sweeney is upset, so I call.

Sweeney threw the spoon down. Damn it all, he said. Damn it all. You do it, then.

Ray picked up the spoon. He patted his old friend on the shoulder. He didn’t know quite what else to do. There wasn’t any way Sweeney hired anyone to cut apple trees or any trees, or plant them or chip them or read to them or set them on fire, or anything else. Did Buchanan think that he could just go ahead and cut this orchard? Why would he even take the trouble? Buchanan’s place was up and over the ridge, facing Bald Mountain and the lake. He didn’t even have a view down this way.

Bill, Ray said. Did you ask Paul Buchanan to help you with the orchard?

Yolanda shook her head. No, no.

Sweeney glared at Ray, his blue eyes watery. There was anger in them, true anger. Caused by what, directed at who. A mystery. All the same, Ray understood something from it. He’d be going to see Buchanan.

Ray was beginning to sweat from the heat of the woodstove. It had to be eighty degrees.

Sweeney fussing with his beard, twisting it, pulling it, working his mouth. Last year they’d sat at this very table discussing Ulysses S. Grant and the intelligence of whales. Big things, little things, an entire life: everything undone in an instant.

I have a sick patient, Sweeney told Ray.

Sure you do, Doctor. And whoever they are, they’re in good hands.

Ray stood.

Has anyone visited Dr. Sweeney lately, Ray asked Yolanda at the door.

Yes, yes, she said. Mr. Buchanan.

Do you have any sense what they talked about?

She frowned. My English, she said.

Your English is a damn sight better than my Spanish. Thank you for helping the old man out. I’ll see what answers I can get.

He thanked her for the coffee and said he’d stop back.

Ray called the town office from the porch. 480 acres transferred from Sweeney a month ago. True North Holdings LLC paid $100,000 for it. The orchard, the fields, all around to the pond. Appraised value was a million eight. Ray could guess who True North Holdings LLC might be.

He started out for the orchard.

The limbed apple trees lay whichaway in the gathering snow. Ray thought about photos of the Battle of the Bulge. Soldiers frozen where they fell. German, American. Often they were barefoot. Their boots too valuable for dead men’s feet.

Ray hit the kill switch and shut the chipper down.

Thanks for waiting, he said.

Well, I got another job to get to, like I said.

As I recall I asked you to wait.

The day was going sour. Ray could feel it turning. A thought came to him, a cold shiver: I don’t care if you live or die.

The man didn’t say anything.

How long you known Buchanan? Ray asked. He was angry. There was anger in his voice. What was all this bullshit, anyway. What the hell is wrong with goddamn people. Anything for money, everything for money, again and again, and thus was written the beginning, middle and the goddamn end.

He called me, told me the job, I give him a price, here I am. Never seen the man.

What about the old man, Ray said. Dr. Sweeney, up at the house. You never met him either, I don’t suppose.

I come from Auburn. I don’t know anybody up this way.

Yeah. OK. I’ll be talking to you.

Ray watched his truck bounce away toward the tar road. He’d be back after the weather to section off the trees. The man’s truck hit the pavement, skidded then righted and off he went.

This weather. Forecast was supposed to be rain. If anything it was snowing harder.

Well, you never know what’s coming.

Ray called Carnahan, gave him the description and the plate. He’s coming down from Sweeney’s and he’ll be heading for 17. Sticker’s expired, pull him for that, see what all pops up. Any outstandings, take him in. And I bet he’s got a firearm.

Sure he likely does, Carnahan said. Him and every other dipshit. We’ll see how he wants to go.


The road was slippery. Ray drove over the ridge and down toward the pond, the window down. He was sweating. That kitchen. Like sitting in the tropics.

Wipers going thunk, thunk.

Bill Jr. was going to be a little bit of a fly in the ointment, maybe. When he learned of this particular swindle, he was going to be out for blood. Wouldn’t be surprised if he was back to Thomaston by New Years. Maybe on something worse than assault.

The fields, the bare trees. Beautiful in the snow. A red-tailed hawk.

Five hundred acres. Could be two hundred houses? Or a hotel, maybe. Maybe a resort. Golf course, a restaurant. Whatever you called it, it was the death of the place.

And  the five hundred acres bought for a hundred grand.

It was possible this could go the way of elder abuse. Financial exploitation. Maybe fraud, maybe forgery. Hard to know. He’d file it with adult protective services. And he’d find out who drew up the papers. Any lawyer who touched this was bad at the job, at the very least.

Who even knew what world it was they were living in. It wasn’t anything much to do with him, it felt like. Things falling apart in every direction.

The first snow.

No Ellen at home.

It occurred to him that if Bill Jr. hadn’t been in jail, if he’d been home, Buchanan might not have gotten Sweeney to sign any deal. Much less the shitpig he’d offered.

Ray felt a new weight settle.

Ah, well. The wheels roll on.

And what laws did he serve? What had he protected?

He wasn’t himself.

Ray pulled into Buchanan’s drive, the house one of those modern timber frame numbers you buy from a website, all glass and angles and a deck facing the mountain. There was a day-glo powerboat shrink-wrapped in the driveway with twin 150 Mercuries that would hurl it the length of Long Pond in thirty-eight seconds. Too big, too fast. Ridiculous.

The house was tasteless and oversized as well. It was supposed to look rustic. It looked dumb and expensive to heat and they’d treated the logs with something that turned them Halloween orange and probably caused cancer.

He was supposed to be happy that people like this were here. He was supposed to be happy about the tax base.

Ray still saw dairy cows. Barns and fences, alfalfa and sorghum. Hay. He missed haying. The smell of it. Sweet, warm. Missed the cows, missed the barns, missed the world that held them.

He got out and felt the snow on his face. He was a boy once, a little boy. How was it possible? It was a different world now and he would never be a boy again. Still the snow was sweet and cold, and he loved it as he had always loved it.

No tire tracks in the drive but his. Someone was likely home, then.

He rang the bell and listened to the chimes, bing bong bong. Ray heard voices, muffled, curses. Buchanan answered the door after a minute, dressed in shorts, an aqua T-shirt. Sweaty, red faced. Fresh from a workout. They’d crossed paths once or twice, fund raisers, meetings, but never officially met. He’d donated $20,000 last year toward the new town hall and talked about it often. Fake teeth. The air of a game show host.

He looked past Ray at the weather. Fuck. Goddamn snow, already?


Buchanan asked if he could finish his workout – only a couple more minutes. Ray was taken aback but said sure. What the hell. Let this play out. It gave him time to think.

He hadn’t expected them to work out in front of him.

They both wore those virtual reality things. Something from a space movie. Buchanan and his wife hopped and crouched and swung like people chasing hallucinations. If he saw them on the street he’d call in a Psych Hold.

They had two tiny dogs that no one had bothered to train, and they kept barking and rushing at Ray, nipping and snarling. He pushed them away with his foot, gently at first, then with decidedly more force. They had matching pink sweaters, and rhinestones on their collars.

They bit his ankles, and it hurt.

You need to control these dogs, Ray said.

Bark barkbark, bark barkbark, shrill and biting, like it was never going to stop.

He said it louder. Control these dogs.

They’ll settle down, Buchanan panted.

You must not be a dog person, his wife shouted. They can always tell when someone doesn’t love dogs!

Ray loved dogs. These were not dogs.

The dogs barked and nipped and Ray thought about all the ways he might kill them. Blender, microwave, a snap of the neck. They were too small and fast to shoot with a handgun.

The Buchanans leapt and twirled, and Ray wondered if they could see him. He didn’t think they could. He raised his arm and gave a quick wave, then another. Nothing.

Jesus Christ. These were supposed to be grown up people. Prancing and huffingin the middle of the damn day.

What a stupid, soulless place he found himself in.

The room had thirty-foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows facing the mountains. No books, no art. A giant flat screen over the fake fireplace and a good deal of taxidermy. Prong horn, bear, deer, pheasant. And the head of a gray wolf, made to look like it was snarling.

Probably he shot it from a goddamn helicopter. Bastard.

Ray wasn’t sure how to proceed. What was the plan here? What was he after? Bring up the land swindle, don’t bring it up, mention the orchard, see what they say? He had about five hours left as a peace officer, and then all this was someone else’s problem.

Only it didn’t feel that way.

There was an injustice to be acknowledged. He had to figure out how he felt about it and what he felt called to do. He didn’t know at the moment.

For some reason a memory came to him then, of Ellen, outside in August, by the back garden, echinacea, asters, black-eyed Susans and wild roses. So many colors, so many flashes of light. A monarch butterfly landed on her hand, and she let it crawl there, fluttering up to her hair, to her arm, her shoulder. Ellen’s smile, the sun in her face, the warm day and the butterfly, dipping in and out. The hair was a wig. Chemo. Her real hair had always been fine and short, but the wig she’d chosen was long and wavy, the hair black as night. There was no photograph, no proof this had ever happened. Had it happened?

Yes. Yes, of course. Of course.

Nada y pues nada, time, love, the sun and stars, and all his life a crooked game in service to a lie.

He wanted to go home, but there was no home to go to.

And then Ray saw the remedy. Simple. Clean. A small reordering.

He shot them. They were the first people he’d ever shot. They were dead, certainly dead, but still they were making sounds. There was blood. It wasn’t so bad. He’d seen worse. Much worse. The dogs did not bark. Where were the dogs? Nada y nada y nada. It didn’t matter. Ray felt a great release. A weight removed, as though a dark and long-held secret had been confessed. There would be no more pretending. Here’s to the dark, and he its child, here’s to the night, to nothing and nothing and nothing.

And then he shot himself.

© Stewart Engesser 2024


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