The Day Would be Black, The Sun Blotted Out
We would be walking up an empty road. It would be the dead of night. The dead of night would sound silly coming from our mouths but we would say it. It would smell like something being incinerated, eviscerated, burning always burning. You would say, Bacon? To get me to laugh. Our feet might make noises like horses against the blacktop. The sun would be overthrown by a dust cloud. The day would be black, the sun blotted out.
We would look behind us. Always we would catch ourselves looking back. Hearing what wasn’t there, thinking maybe it was. We would need to be careful. We would talk about how funny words are, that careful meant full of care.
We would talk about our families. You would want to look for yours in Glandorf, Ohio. It would take us a day to get there on foot. We would take back roads and follow road maps we pulled from abandoned cars. We would not really know where we are going. We would pass signs saying Welcome to Adrian and Welcome to Morenci and finally a sign that says, Leaving Michigan.
We would arrive in Glandorf and look for your family there and they would be gone. The windows of your childhood home fisted open, the doors of every home in your neighborhood hanging. They would look like torn appendages, the houses, corpses.
There would be no letter detailing their whereabouts. They would just not be there.
We would sit a while in your room listening for the sounds of your childhood. You would fold up a picture of your family and put it in your pocket. You would point to your mother and say her name, Gracie, you would point to your sister, Jessica. We would see your homerun baseball bat leaned up in the corner and take it with us.
You would say, I’m going to throw up, when eight hours later in Lima we saw bodies piled up in the town square.
In Lima we would meet a man who would take us in and feed us what little he had. His house would be filthy, would smell like burning bodies. It would be revealed to us that this man was dying of cancer. Would die soon. He would say things like, This is the lords will! Like, The beast with nine heads shall soon rear its ugly head! We would not agree, but would nod our thinning faces anyway. We would be terrified.
He would die a few days after we arrive. We would be too scared to check for a pulse, but would look instead for the steady rise and fall of his belly. When we do not see it we would take any food he had left and stuff it into our backpacks, into our pockets. You would ask, Should we say a few words? We would say a few words, we would say, This man was kind to us. We would say, We wish there was something else. Anything. There would be nothing. We would leave.
We would have sex where normally we could not. It would be a dull comfort. You would say my name and no one would hear, not even me, and I would listen for it.
We would find guns and not know how to use them. We would carry them empty, tucked into our waistbands. We would use them only once, to scare away a man insisting that if we gave him all our food he would not hurt us. Pulling the guns from our waistbands and waving them at the man, we would threaten to kill him. We would tell him he’d messed with the wrong guys. We would tell him he picked a bad day to be alive.
We would discuss finding bullets and decide that we could not kill someone were it to come to that. You do not like loud noises and I cannot stand the sight of blood.
We would discuss the weather. It would rain some days and others the sun would filter through the haze and warm our necks and we would think about being kids in Michigan, about the cicadas we never saw. We would think about the Great Lakes. You would ask me about turning back. You would say you asked me because you caught me looking behind us and wondered what I was thinking. I would say there’s nothing there.
We would realize we are being followed in North Carolina. We would see the dog coming up the road behind us and darting into the woods when we saw it. The dog was lap sized, a fat, black faced dog that didn’t yelp, but would snort sometimes if it ran. We would leave it food, knowing it was hungry. Food would not be as hard to find as we thought it would. Pastries in cardboard boxes, cans of anything, stale cereal scavenged from grocery store shelves, empty apartments, shelters, libraries, office buildings where there was a community snack shelf. Food would be anywhere you looked hard enough for it.
We would leave a trail of crumbs and the dog would come closer. Close enough one day that we would start to extend our hands, fingertips bedazzled with salt diamonds from a bag of Lay’s, and the dog would come forth to lick them clean before she would back away, snorting, and run into the brush on the side of the road.
You would say she was scared and I would feel I was doing something wrong.
We would name the dog. We would name the dog Última Esperanza, a name you would say meant Last Hope. Especially, you would say, especially if you say it like this. You would say it like you might never taste ice cream again.
Última would seem to like her name. She would trot alongside us, sometimes running through our legs, sometimes bouncing up and down. She would snore at night and we would wake to licked faces. It would be the first time we are happy in months.
We would take Última to the ocean, pretending she’s never been. It would be a beach somewhere in South Carolina. The fires would have settled down, the smoke would still be floating. Última would splash around and we would stare into the still water, which would be black. The sky and the water, endlessly black. We would see what looked liked the tips of hundreds of boats sticking up like noses through the wetness. We would not understand.
The sun would fizz through the gray one more time and hang behind us, a shy guest. You would hold my hand.