“Novels remind us that the hard questions matter, they always have, and that we can’t ignore them just because we’re comfortable, well-fed, sheltered, and secure. Maybe those same comforts, which give us time and leisure enough to read novels in the first place, are the very reason why we need them so badly. A great novel is always felt as a kind of gift, and here’s the strange thing: these gifts are heartbreaks we wouldn’t suffer, tears we wouldn’t shed, agonies we wouldn’t undergo, if we simply left the books alone and did something else with our time.”
One time from a blind watching sandhill cranes we spotted something not a bird saunter out from dark covert of blackberry canes, coyote all lean-legged and cocksure, then two more, stretching, yawning, shaking rain from their yellow eyes, their yellow-brown fur before setting off at an easy jog across the wheat stubble, wading plumes of fog.
We watched them skirt the marsh, so negligent, ignoring the cranes and the goldeneye— stopping to smell old scat, examine bent stems of yarrow, crouch to satisfy an itch. Watching hard, we missed the moment their hunt began, the artful dodge, the sigh of yellow-brown grass. Death comes just that way: the casual approach, then the endgame.
See also this gorgeous, unexpected short story by Gloss, who is new to me. Stumbled on both of these when I was researching lambing for my own novel, and am psyched and grateful to have found her, despite that she writes in such a way as to make other writers throw up their hands in defeat. At least for a little while.
Through watching people force it — the point, the speed, the friendship, the work, the metaphor, the pain, the poem, the timing, the demonstrative id, the empathy, the affectation, the pathos, the connection, the plan, the anything — I’ve learned that much, at least. Not to force it.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think, the way they see themselves, the way they see the world—you can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.”
She was safe inside her home while he was safer far away. When the urge to be closer proved stronger than safety, he turned and soon was down the street, then just a few blocks away, then right on her porch under the protection of the decorative awning that extended from her front door. He remembers the journey to her porch, though he is not willing to share it.
She sat by the window watching him. To be honest, she expected him to leave after she didn’t respond to his first knock, but he didn’t, so she opened the door on his second. Everyone was surprised when she opened her door and stood to stare; neither of them moved and neither of them wanted the other to care if they did or not.
After awhile, she took a step to one side, making a small amount of room just enough for him to fit in. As soon as she did it, he spoke frantically and urgently, “don’t let me in… don’t let me in!” He repeated over and over until she replaced her foot where it was before, leaving no space for him at all, and even then he only quieted down to a whisper.
“Don’t let me in, don’t let me in,” he chanted softly as they stared at each other.
Once his whispers faded and silence once again ruled their connection, she took a step forward. Slowly, she placed her foot on the other side of the threshold, trusting the porch cement to be there when she stepped down. With her foot still in the air, hovering just over the ground in front of him, his voice pierced loudly again, “don’t come out… don’t come out!” this lasted longer than his first objections; he even took a step back himself to ensure that if she did put her foot down, their distance wouldn’t change.
Finally, she reclaimed her foot inside the house. He breathed a heavy sigh and took his place closely across from her; neither of them moved and neither of them wanted the other to want to. Occasionally, he would remind her in a gentle whisper, “don’t let me in, don’t come out.” And she would give the slightest nod or perhaps a small grin and they both would feel better.
She was surprised when his arm was suddenly stretched out and resting against her back, but she didn’t have time to contemplate it because he snatched it right back to his chest, holding it tenderly and wincing – it had a sharp arrow sticking out of it. She couldn’t even whirl around before the arrows started whizzing past her and sometimes striking her in the arm, throat, chest, thigh, everywhere that mattered. He didn’t block any of the others. He watched as she ducked and dove and sometimes failed at protecting herself from the rapidly flying, sharp, and sometimes poisoned arrows that were hurled at her inside her home.
Soon, she became a flailing target with arrows protruding from every part of her body, except her face. Her face was left untouched, clean, and beautiful as ever. She swayed in the doorway as the weight of the arrows pulled her this way and that. He opened his mouth and uttered the only words either of them could remember: “don’t let me in, don’t come out.”