It was that day. The day the sun sat low and refused to rise but flexed bows and slung arrows that pierced your eyes. The trail buried in shadows. New black top was soft beneath my feet and the trail snaked and followed the same course as the river. The river was high and slow. And there it was. Scratched in the path, dusty blue chalk, Eddie Atwood killed me.
But it was only further down the road that I found the body. Asleep, slumped across the picnic table. Except for the ants and the snail that clung to his ear and the fact that his eyes were pecked clean and the crows bouncing on the red cedar branches that hung low above the table. Not even afraid of me.
Then the crunch of leaves beneath a boot in the direction of the river bank, not unlike the sound of potato chips…crushed in your palm.
And the snow that fell turned to mice as it collected on the shingled pitch and forced the pine to know its limits. It was cold and he peered through frosted glass for a weakness, but he was too old now. Too old to get them back. Snow scurried wild across the roof. The evergreen cried out, a violin strained in despair, played under the shrill of the icy wind: the weight of the mice accumulating against the grain. He ached for the savanna and the warmth of the day and the smell of lovegrass sweet beneath the rains.
The old man lay in bed not knowing the time or day. Under layered sheet and warmth of worn woolen covers, he drifted in and out. Blanketed, the wind blocked from his sail. He built the house himself, one forgotten Spring. Foundation, field-stone, furnishings too and the frame that cradled him now, with oak from the year before the great fire.
A grey duffle hung from a nail driven into the frame of the door, the duffle missing toggles, hooks and eyes askew. Coffee cold in the can on the stove that burned the wood that served the house. He lay in bed staring through the whiskers of lace that filtered light and dark. Confused. The old man could not remember, except for his dreams where he was the elephant. Now the dreams were leaving too and the mice closing in.
And in the house that sat in the tree, the old man’s memories. It was cold and the collection of mice peered through the frosted panes, nails tapping. Memories full of holes. Mice nibbled away at memories. Memories like cheese.