“We Can Practice Starts,” by Courtney Sender

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fiction by Courtney Sender, excerpted from MQR 53:2, Spring 2014

 

1.

Look, the truth of the way of the world is that David loves Moira enough to move to the middle of Nothing, England, for her, and Moira doesn’t love David enough to pick up the goddamned phone.

All David wants to do is warn her: Moira, there’s a dangerous man on the loose, and it’s possible he’s headed your way. Be sure to lock your windows, and your door. Double check. Keep something by your bed—a fork, a hammer—and sleep with your phone in your hand. If there’s a problem, call me. Call me if you’re scared.

This criminal has realized some unthinkable acts, though these David does not intend to tell Moira; he wants, mostly, to protect her from fear, not to instill it. But Gerald Hastings has shoved ballpoint pens in their entirety up victims’ nostrils. He has tied his own sister’s arms, two knots and two ropes, to two separate doors, and slammed them like he was pulling teeth. He has, in group hostage situations, made people choose the order in which they wished to be disposed of. “And worse,” the article in the Guardian had said.

“Goddammit, Moira,” David says aloud. He is standing beside a black marble lion in Trafalgar Square, two steps up its pedestal, leaning against its substantial rump. He is so angry that he throws the cell phone to the ground, where its battery ricochets toward the pond and its body lies inert.

“Is this yours, sir?”

It’s a little kid, an Oliver Twist type, though Moira tells David that he can’t think of everything under four feet with a British accent as Oliver Twist. But this scraggly kid is wearing a pageboy cap and a vest, for Christ’s sake. He’s offering up the silver phone like a plastic porridge dish.

“Yeah,” says David, “yeah, thanks.”

“Who’s Moira?” says the kid.

“Bugger off,” says David, and the kid laughs.

“You’re not from here, are you, sir?”

David is hunching near the pond, searching for a dense rectangle of black metal among the pigeon shit. The boy follows; he looks about ten years old, but by the certainty and steadiness of his mannerisms he is probably twelve.

“Are you looking for this?” says the kid. David’s battery is caught like a cigarette between his two fingers. David reaches for it, aiming to call Moira again, but the kid loops the battery complicatedly into his pocket. “Buy me lunch, and I’ll tell you things you shouldn’t not know.”

 

———

 

They end up at a booth in a dusty little pub on an acute-angled corner, where the kid orders virgin apple cider and a minced-lamb pie with mushy peas. David gets a Guinness. He is always embarrassed to see full-grown British men eating peas and potatoes served like American baby food—yet as the kid shovels spoonfuls of mash into his gullet, he somehow becomes older, guzzling his yellow liquid like an old gambler.

“Why d’you keep calling that lady?” says the kid.

David has been unconsciously dialing and redialing Moira’s number into the keypad of his battery-less phone. He wonders, himself, whether he really believes she’s in such imminent peril. Maybe he just hopes that an emergency will make her love him.

“She’s my wife,” David mumbles behind his beer glass. “Eat your peas.”

The kid shrugs and chews, unnecessarily. Moira is not David’s wife, and he bets even a kid can tell it. Moira is David’s ex-wife—although, because their marriage was annulled, he has lost even the privilege of calling her that. So what are you to me? he had asked her back in Michigan, and she had said, A beautiful nuisance.

“Don’t you want any mash?” says the kid, extending a fork of gravy-laden white potatoes. “Mum always said they’re good for the brain.”

“Why didn’t your”—and here David has to pause, because ‘mum’ still sounds false and precious in his mouth—“mum buy you lunch, then?”

“Because you did!”

David considers the kid: long-nosed, scrappy, sandy blond hair a lot like Moira’s when they were both much younger. He wonders for the thousandth time what a child of his and Moira’s would look like. He has feared that it would inherit his exaggerated features and her translucency, but here this kid has both and doesn’t even look like a mistake. He wonders if the kid also somehow has their mix of her wanderlust and his domesticity, and how that might manifest in a ten year old, or in anyone.

“Hey, kid,” says David, pausing to figure out what question he wants to ask; something about parentage, how pieces combine.

“It’s Oliver,” says the kid.

“You’re shitting me.”

The kid—Oliver—looks his eyes up at David like he wouldn’t even know how to shit somebody. A lump of peas is stuck to his oversized nose.

“I’m gonna go with Kid,” says David. Kid doesn’t protest. David’s thumb nicks the peas off Kid’s nose, then falls into the exposed battery opening behind his phone, and he remembers: “What do you mean, things I shouldn’t not know?”

“If you’re new here? Loads of things.” Kid has discovered a green crayon lodged between his back and the seat cushion, and is now drawing assiduous spirals on his ripping napkin.

“Pick one.”

Kid thinks, humming My Country ’Tis of Thee. David, who is not patriotic, longs painfully to return to the July before his senior year of high school, when he held a red, white, and blue sparkler in one fist and a Kodak-yellow disposable camera in the other, anticipating fireworks from the top of the only hill back home in Flint, Michigan, Moira sitting sturdily between his legs. This was the night of the meet that took the flight out of her, a summer invitational that had brought her to Ann Arbor only to come in second in the 200-meter sprint. In Flint, the event had been hers; she’d won it carelessly, rising half a second late from the starting block and overtaking her competition with feet to spare. The first-place runner in Ann Arbor had beaten her by a half a second.

That evening, David told her, We can practice starts. He’d wished he could come up with stronger words, words that would put the jump back into the leaden girl resting against his chest. She just nudged his camera arm with her shoulder, nodding at the sky. He snapped a picture as the first flare exploded above their high school flagpole. Always perfect timing, Moira whispered, and he was surprised, when he kissed her cheek: it was the first time he could remember her crying.

“First, don’t hold your phone out so far in the middle of Trafalgar Square.” Kid takes a break from his unintelligible doodles to fake-dial the crayon at the end of his outstretched arm. David snatches it away from him. “That’s just what’ll happen.”

“Great,” David says. “Anything else?”

Kid assumes the position of the Thinker, one hand ponderously at his chin. His elbow lands directly in the remnants of his peas.

“Get that arm out of your food,” David says, swiping haphazardly in Kid’s direction. “You twat.”

“Don’t use British expressions. Sounds like you’re mocking us.” Kid removes his arm from his plate. “Can I have my crayon back, please?”

“Useless,” David says. He returns the crayon. Kid adds sunglasses to one of his doodles, pointless here—Why choose the land the sun forgot? David had asked Moira the last time she’d picked up her landline. Stop calling me, she’d replied.

Outside the smeared, porthole-like windows of the pub, a truck backfires. David jumps, his head twisting to the left; Kid looks right. British roads, David thinks. Every instinct opposite.

“Another thing,” Kid says. “Don’t go out in the country alone after dark.”

David’s beer misses his mouth, dribbles down his cheek. “What country?”
“The countryside. Southwest of London.”

Where Moira lives. She’d moved out to Hampshire after the annulment, said she needed time alone, and somewhere new. David had asked, the first time he’d jacked up his phone bill calling her new British landline, why not somewhere new in Michigan? David had asked, if she wasn’t seeing someone else, why bother annulling?

But Moira didn’t always answer the questions David asked.

Next David had argued that it might be dangerous for a woman to rent a house in the middle of nowhere, but Moira had said, And you’re a real man, huh, Davy?, and this cruelty had stuck like glass in the back of his throat. He had offered to move with her, but when he quit his actuarial job in Flint and arrived across the ocean at her doorstep, backpack slung over shoulder, she’d sent him back up to London. He is lucky to have found a flat at all, even if he is sharing a studio with a man whose piss smells like beets and who growls sometimes in his sleep.

Kid has crushed his pie to lamb-flecked flakes under his fork; David doesn’t know whether a single bite has reached his mouth intact.

“Why not go out in the country after dark?” David tries and fails to say this laughingly. Kid seems happy to continue mashing the pie. “Hey. Kid. Why not?”

“Because Gerald Hastings,” Kid says. “He’ll kill you. He plays with his food before he eats it.” Kid does laugh when he looks up at David, who must appear horrified, his beer halfway to his mouth, sloshing over his fingers.

“Oh, come off it. He’s not a cannibal.” Yet, thinks David. “He goes after girls, anyways. He likes to break spirits, you’re safe if you haven’t got one.”

Moira. Beautiful and alone and so full of spirit she could crack a person in half. A real ballbreaker, David had called her when they were both in high school and stacked on top of each other, trying to feel skin and muscle through the jeans and sweaters she insisted they keep on. The epithet is no longer funny.

David has to save Moira. As Kid finishes his apple juice, it is clear to David that this, in the end, is what has impelled him across the ocean to this gray-scale island. Moira is in danger, though she doesn’t know it. Moira needs a man; at last, at last, David fits the bill.

 

2.

David does not know how to drive in this country. His flatmate has unthinkingly loaned him a car, along with a heavy keychain attached to a Swiss army knife. David reminds himself to mind his right turns. He hopes he won’t have to turn at all; luckily, these long country roads are empty, winding and dusty and—it’s hopeless, Moira, David has to call them quaint. Those are tired thatched cottages beside the road, not houses.

“What the bloody—” Kid calls from David’s left. He leans across the gearshift and tugs on the left side of the wheel, blaring the horn, narrowly avoiding crashing into a passing green pickup. Kid has asked to come along, to guide David through the foreign landscape in exchange for possible adventure and hot cocoa, and David has been too sure of his own navigational incompetence to protest.

“Watch your mouth,” David says.

“Watch the pavement,” Kid replies. “And just try keeping your foot level on the gas, could you please? I’m not feeling so well.”

David wants to make a crack about the mushy peas, but this gripe about his driving is a shadow of the fights he and Moira used to have in the months before the annulment, and it bears a shadow’s weight: David feels dark, clouded. He says, full of sarcasm, “And who taught you to drive?”

Kid says, “My uncle. Can we not talk, please? I might get sick.”

They continue in silence, daylight descending around them as slowly as the trees are rising. David is remembering something Moira told him once long ago, their luau-themed senior prom in the high school cafeteria, when they sneaked out the fire-exit door as the sorry ukulele band gave way to a DJ. They walked the narrow path behind the football scoreboards that separated high school from elementary, then sat on the swings of their old playground. My ass is too big for this, Moira had said, a typical complaint since she’d quit the track team earlier that year. David had whispered, I like your ass, then fluctuated for a sweating moment between embarrassment and pride, until he heard Moira’s contented hum. Her layers of shining turquoise dress billowed into her face with each swing forward, torpedoed sleekly when she swung back. David’s tie, printed with hula girls and pinned with his mother’s bobbypin to the buttonhole of his shirt, lay unmoving in the wind. David stopped pumping his legs and stepped off his swing, standing behind Moira and pretending to push her, though he worried that any extra height might send her circling the support bar.

Moira had grown quiet, which David often hoped for—sharing silence with her, breathing, thinking their own thoughts—but rarely encountered, and he found with surprise that her silence scared him. Already he was noticing that it was hard to keep track of Moira; her first thoughts and her second were connected by threads that David couldn’t see or understand.

At the height of her back swing, he caught the chains on either side of her waist and slowed her to a halt, stumbling forward a few steps with her weight, managing to arrest her at the slightest backward angle, just behind gravity. His biceps strained with the effort, and this made him feel masculine and protective, strong.

Behind the scoreboard, they saw weak spots of light fluttering over the path from the football field: the prom chaperone committee, of which Moira’s father, Reverend Spencer, was the head. The female chaperones’ grass skirts slowed their pace along the dirt path. “Always perfect timing,” Moira said, rolling her eyes.

David held her there on the swing, feeling the way the invisible forces of physics wanted to pull her forward and away from him, feeling the way he could, by leaning back and spreading his legs and bracing his knees, resist them all.

Moira laughed suddenly, but quietly, a serious laugh holding serious secrets. He felt her move one hand on top of his. She faced the night in front of them when she said, “I hope we have a daughter.”

To such a pronouncement, David knew, most guys his age would throw this girl as far as they could in the opposite direction, take off their ties and go streaking for the hill. Maybe David was even supposed to do such a thing. Instead, he asked why.

“You’d be a good father to a daughter,” she said—and he gave in finally to the pull of potential energy and released her, jogging beside the swing as she glided forward and released into the woodchips. They laughed together, loudly and playfully, until the chaperones came with their flashlights to chastise them back to the pounding cafeteria.

 

———

 

“So why isn’t Moira your wife anymore?”

Would David be a good father, he wonders, to a son? Does Moira think he could be? Could he prove it to her?

“I told you, Kid. She’s my wife.”

“Uh huh.”

“So why are you sticking around with me instead of going home to your mummy?”

“My mummy doesn’t have a home.”

“Oh.”

“So Moira. What’s she like?”

“She’s like …” David brakes as a squirrel flits across the road; they are deep in a wooded area now, sure to come upon Moira’s cottage soon. “A cup of coffee you brewed this morning. It’s gone cold on you, but you’d probably still want it, if you could heat it up.” It strikes him that Moira might describe David in exactly this way.

“What went wrong?”

David shrugs. Kid begins bouncing in his seat, a high-pitched whine in his voice. “David. What went wro-ong?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

It was true. Because what had gone wrong was this: David could not have sex with Moira.

This had come as a shock to him as much as it had to her. She kept asking: Haven’t you . . . experimented, on your own? Didn’t you notice a problem? No, he answered the second question; yes the first, though he had tried to limit this particular activity out of respect for Moira, the reverend’s daughter. Still he’d functioned just fine on his own, before he married her. But the more clearly he could picture Moira naked, the more his fear debilitated him. He got close to her—eventually, at his worst, he simply thought about her—and his sex drive sputtered and died. The problem was not lack of attraction to her. He was so attracted to her: the triangular emptiness between her breasts and hips; the accumulation of years they’d spent on the phone across the neighborhood, quizzing each other on Pythagoras or the meaning of ex post facto; lying on top of each other in the woodchips fully clothed, kissing with their eyes open. This was all so abundantly beautiful that he felt gilded, he felt blessed, elevated, all spirit, bodiless … and his body, in turn, went so numb it shut down.

He had explained this to her exactly once. She’d replied, “Are you gay?”

David was not gay. He thought of other women, and his body rose for him and responded for him and finished for him. But Moira—he was only exquisitely, achingly, and, in the end, cripplingly in love.

“You are a twenty-five-year-old man!” Moira had said on their wedding night.

They tried medication. They tried meditation. They tried before sundown, after sundown. He once woke to find Moira straddling him, shimmying his boxers to his knees. Moira came home with an ankle brace and a prescription for medical marijuana; they smoked. She blindfolded him. She wore a mask. She played loud music: rap, R&B, Titanic, Tchaikovsky. She role-played, spoke in falsetto, bought costumes.

“How will we ever have children, David?” Moira said. “Won’t I ever be a mother?”

They jogged. They ran. Three years to the day they’d gotten married, Moira opened a newspaper on the kitchen table. Twenty-eight, she said, brandishing an article. Prime child-bearing age.

“You’re an actuary, David,” she said. “Predict our chances.”

“You’ve still got lots of time,” he replied.

They wrestled, that night. She punched him once, a balled fist across his jaw, hoping to inspire a testosterone-fueled rage—then she punched him again, and again, and again. She battered at his chin until he bled, then she moved on to his ears. She bit his upper arm. She broke his skin. She kicked him in the shins, the waist.

David had not raged. He had cried.

The next day, he’d been too beat up to go to work. She’d moved out.

“She went away forever, huh?” says Kid, and David feels a little hand over his on the wheel, not guiding the car, just resting. David drives a few yards in the comfort of this gesture.

As Kid removes his hand, David clears his throat. “She didn’t like what marriage meant. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me.”

“Oh, gag me with a spoon,” Kid says, and when David glances to his left Kid has his hand across his stomach in a parody of being sick. “Love.”

David laughs. “Even a hardened delinquent like yourself must love something.”

Kid goes quiet. David wants Kid to say something deep and difficult. Philosophy, maybe,or Moonlight. After a moment, Kid says, “Mushy peas.”

 

———

 

Moira’s one-room cabin looks just as David remembers: a wooden door painted dark red, chipped and peeling; three cement steps to a front porch so narrow that he has trouble standing on it with Kid at his side. Here in the middle of a thick wood, no other cabins or towns in sight for at least a mile—1.6 kilometers, David reminds himself—the silence that might be ominous is only peaceful. The sun is about to sink beneath the treetops, hovering still in a puddle of muddy orange on the gray sky. Even sunset in England is full of rain.

“Moira,” David calls, tapping the door with his middle knuckle. “Don’t be scared. It’s me.”

He can hear Moira’s sigh even through the door. “Why would I be scared, David?”

“I’ve come to save you.”

A curtain across the window pulls aside. Moira’s face appears there, pale-hewn, full-cheeked, framed by flaxen wisps of unbrushed hair. David aches with the gut-punch of her beauty. “What on earth are you planning to save me from?”

“From Gerald Hastings, ma’am,” pipes Kid, and David sees Moira’s yellow eyebrows peel back on her forehead as she glances to David’s waist and finds a little boy.

She disappears from the window. The door cracks open, and Kid leans into the warm space; it’s cold out here, David notices. Kid should be wearing a jacket. David removes his in a single motion and drapes it like a cape over Kid before he wriggles in the door.

“Why, hello there!” Moira says to Kid, her voice falsely high and bright. She turns to David. “Where the hell did you get him from?” she hisses. “You’re some pedo-babysitter now, or are you just stealing children?”

David shrugs. “He wanted to come.”

“I’m almost out of wood for the fire,” she tells David as he steps inside. She sighs. Moira had only become a woman who sighs after they married. “Always perfect timing.”

Kid has found the lamp on which Moira hangs her yarn balls, drying socks, and bras. The very thought of this clothing tree has debilitated David’s dreams these past weeks, waking him fearfully to the smell of beets, and the sight of it now elicits a low moan that he hopes Moira does not hear. Kid plucks up a sheer pink bra and grips its straps like a slingshot, pointed at David’s heart.

“Put that back,” says David, but Moira says, “Let him play.”

Kid diverts the bra at the last minute, letting it fly at the hamper in Moira’s open wardrobe. Moira crouches beside Kid, and David notes again the similarities in their fair coloring, the insolent cock to both their heads, as if they had been insulted and were considering whether it were worth the effort, today, right now, despite the inconvenience, to defend their honor to the death. He thinks that Moira would be a good mother to a child of his, daughter or son. A child of his would run home to her after a rough day at school, and she’d be waiting with a ready fist cocked at the bullying world.

“What’s your name?” she says, petting him on the head.

“Oliver,” says Kid.

“You’re shitting me.”

“Moira,” David says, warningly, glad for the chance at superiority.

“Sorry. Where’s your mother?”

“Haven’t got one,” Kid says, and Moira takes him in a sudden hug that seems to surprise them both, kissing him on his sandy bangs. She rises to rejoin David at the doorway. He sees the accusation in her bottom teeth, the front two crossed over each other and curled over her upper lip: the pose of annoyance she assumed after peeling off a lacy teddy in another failed attempt.

“News to me, Moira,” he says. “He said his mum was homeless.”

Her bottom teeth go to work chewing her lip. “So you just took him? Is this a set-up, David? Am I on TV?”

David shrugs. He has missed these crooked teeth. Her mouth contorts, and he truly thinks that she is fighting the edges of a smile; he believes some secret part of her is glad he is here, annoying her as only he can.

“Is there someone at the doorstep, David? With a camera?”

“Don’t be daft,” Kid replies. “Do you have cocoa?”

Moira and David turn as one to Kid, who is shivering lightly even under David’s coat. “It wouldn’t kill you to heat the place, Moira,” David says. They both walk to Kid and crouch beside him, wrap their arms around his shoulders from either side. David shivers, as much from Moira’s thick, sweatered arm crossed over his as from the cold.

“No cocoa, sweetie,” Moira says. “I’ve got some cider, though, I’ll heat that for you.”

Kid springs up and dashes to the stove, set against the wall opposite Moira’s bed. He pulls a small wooden stool from beneath her dining table and hoists himself to a set of cabinet doors, which he opens with abandon.

“You’d think he hasn’t eaten all day,” David mutters.

“Not since lunch!”

Moira turns on the gas and lights the stove with a match. Smoke floats toward the chimney.

“I’ll grab an extra log for the fire,” David says. At the door, he turns around: Moira is standing beside Kid, his little feet on the stool, her hand raising a cinnamon stick to his nose. David’s heart flickers like a candle in a breeze, his spirit growing even as it flares.

“Bring two,” says Moira, “to heat us for the night.” David does not overlook the us she hasn’t spoken since the annulment. He turns with the fullness of their history to the door, which seems to him a portal to the fullness of their future. He twists the knob, feeling the warmth of a promise he had thought long lost.

Someone is at the doorstep. He is not holding a camera; he is holding a gun.

 

3.

Immediately, David learns that his understanding of heroics has sprung too much from the movies. He has come to Moira’s home to face this man, but he does not develop sudden superpowers in a showy gust of adrenaline.

David’s humble protective instinct rocks him forward. He aims to thump his shoulder against the man’s chest, to knock him over, but the man is thin and scraggly and has quick reflexes: he simply steps aside, and David falls ignobly in a tangle on the dirt. David covers his head and yells, expecting to be shot—hoping Moira will hear him and grab Kid and run away—but he is only lifted by the unnatural strength of the man’s wiry arms. As he’s tossed back into the house, he catches a glimpse of a parked green pickup. He hears the stranger follow him inside, bolting the door.

David appreciates anew that Gerald Hastings likes to break spirits, playing with his food before he eats it. Gerald orders them into a triangle, the gun perfectly persuasive. David and Kid stand against the same wall in the pocket of its two corners, the door between them, Moira beside the lit stove in the center of the wall opposite. Gerald strides to the foot of Moira’s bed in the middle of the room. He holds the gun at the end of his outstretched arms. Overdone, thinks David, overdone theatrics for a woman who’s more fat than muscle, a kid the height of a doorknob, and a guy who can’t get it up.

Gerald extends the gun toward Moira, directly at her heart. His back is to David and Kid and it is so sweet, so tempting to lunge forward and Swiss army-knife Gerald in the back; but when David moves, the straight arm circles down away from Moira and up at David’s chest. David faces the barrel of the gun, thinking: Thank God it’s me, and not Moira.

Gerald has taught them, then, that none shall move. He swings a silver hand and outstretched arm to David; he pivots, and Kid is skewered in the barrel’s gaze. Dip, crouch, pivot, rise, and it’s Moira on the line. Hold. Back to Kid. To David.

The gestures are beautiful, in their way. Lulling. David loses track of time. He watches the silver streak go round and round, pointing at these people trapped, these people he loves, and he thinks, Life could be worse. Dip, crouch, pivot, rise, point, hold, repeat. He forgets himself completely. He feels that the imaginary saber of the gun has drawn them all together. It is a dance of family. They might send a Christmas card. He waits for the silver streak to center on him; he watches it lovingly, its black pupil and silver iris, and leans longingly forward as it swings away.

Gerald shoots Kid.

“No!” Moira’s scream blasts, it seems to David, at exactly the same moment as the gun. David is confused: How did Moira know this would happen? How did she scream in time? He notices that her scream has amplified and reverberated. Her scream sounds like his. He listens: he is screaming, too, waiting for Kid to slump to the floor in a blooming rot of blood. And Kid is definitely on the floor, but he’s positioned more deliberately than a shooting victim. Kid is kneeling, his arms wrapped over his head, his stomach bent to his thighs. Three inches above Kid’s head, a bullet hole seeps into the wall. Gerald’s shot has missed. David feels his heart in his ribcage, thumping madly. He has the impulse to lay his hand over it, to speak to it: Kid is intact, David tells himself. Kid is alive.

Gerald smiles. Dip, crouch, pivot, rise, point, Moira, shoot. David hears himself again, ragged-throated: Moira hasn’t ducked; she must surely be dead; David is screaming and screaming—but no, the bullet lodges to the right of her ear. Gerald is barely aiming.

Before David can register relief, he sees the gun’s black pupil, and Gerald shoots once more.

David feels the bullet zip past the cotton of his shirt. It cracks the wooden plank just beside his abdomen. He hears the blast of the gun. Beyond that, he hears silence.

“Huh,” Gerald says. “Interesting.”

David finds his voice. “What’s interesting?”

Gerald says nothing. The gun points at David, but Gerald’s finger is loose on the trigger.

“Listen,” he says, and David does. He hears his own breathing, his own heartbeat, trees rustling outside the cabin’s walls. He hears Moira shuffling her knees, Kid jostling to his feet. “Crickets,” says Gerald. “I point at him”—Kid, he points at Kid, and David steps a foot out of line—“and the both of you go crazy lunging. I shoot him, you scream. I shoot her, you scream. I point at you—” he swings to David. “I shoot at you—” He crooks his trigger finger. “Crickets.”

Outside the cabin, David thinks, there are a hundred thousand things a person might notice, things a person might devote his life to: birds nesting in trees; worms churning through earth; airplanes mocking stars across the English ssky. Outside the cabin, a gunshot that landed in the wood above a small boy’s head or beside a woman’s ear or astride a man’s stomach might sound like as little as a squirrel leaping off one branch and landing on another. But inside, here, there is only one thing worth noticing, and it’s not the man with the gun: it’s the silence.

“Seems my work here is done,” Gerald says. His sandy hair falls onto his oversized nose like any normal person’s would, any person who has not just removed the scaffolding from David’s life. Gerald heads for the door, but pauses at the bolt. “Forgot something,” he says, doubling back and grabbing Kid familiarly by the arm. He drags the child out the door and leaves them in the cabin, David and Moira, alone, silent, staring nakedly at one another’s hearts.

 

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This excerpt is featured content from the

Spring 2014 issue

For ordering information or to find out more about the contents of this issue, click here.

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