July 1, 2013 by The Citron Review
Being drunk behind an Appomattox County Burger King at 2 am might do it. Especially if your car is overturned like some doomed turtle on its back at the base of the embankment. Rear doors flung open, beer cans and quilting scraps strewn below tires that spin silently in the dark sky toward bright stars they’ll never reach.
You might hide behind the propane tank—huge and oblong, the color of an ostrich egg—and scan the deserted roads for blue lights. There’s blood spattered on the hem of your dress and maybe it reminds you of archipelagos, constellations. Maybe it doesn’t. If you are there, you should lie down and stay very still because when you were younger you longed to find places to be left alone, to rest beside the creek bed in the lower field, to glide in the swing beneath the big maple—longed for silences such as this.
But if that is true, it’s likely also true that you became younger, wilder than anyone your age—willing and able to outdrink, outsmoke, outdrive all the boys with their dumb plastic smiles, dry mouths, and bulges in their jeans. Boys like John Riggins, Thomas Hicks, and Bo Sykes, who all went to your church in the long ago but don’t anymore. Your parents sat in the same pew every Sunday with their hands sheaved in prayer, wondering what happened, why their shy daughter with a bright future turned like the wind suddenly to spring up into violent, self-destructive storms. They asked, of course. But mostly each other. In the kitchen. After you were asleep. After long silences.
But how could they be blamed, these parents? Even now you can’t put the pieces of it together, accept the pattern that may emerge. And, if they had asked you, wouldn’t you have told them it was a secret? And since it’s a secret, you wouldn’t mention how, when you were twelve, your father paid that old neighbor to teach you the piano. How your mother would sit in the rocker sashing the patterns in the quilt and gushing over the gentle, masterful way the old saint played in church or how your father, when you’d cry and scream that you wouldn’t go, said—if he said anything at all—that you should listen up and do what the old man said. And wouldn’t you have tried?
You would have tried, but you’d have learned that they were wrong, god bless them, and the old pianist was wrong, too, because you did not have to stay quiet, keep a secret, or lie there while he writhed like a snake, shedding.
Right about now would be the time for lights to come on in Burger King. For there to be a man peering from the window, for blue lights to ride the wings of sirens to the crest of the hill. You don’t have to stay, to fail the line walk and be cuffed, to make that call home. You don’t have to just lie there but there’s something desperate in it all, some need to be caught, to be found out.
Besides, the wind is dying down to hear another Sunday morning draw its early breaths. There is a strange beauty in the scattered muslin, posts, and calico and who knows? In a few hours your parents might return from the dead to sit in that church like they used to, to hear that long gone man play that same piano, to wait for those scaly fingers to drift over the keys and conjure up their frail god. Maybe you should wait until after to call, years and years after, and even then not tell them how you got arrested, how you didn’t run, how you just lay there and let it become something that might have happened.
Seth Clabough is a writer of published fiction, poetry, and scholarship and his work has appeared in places like Fjord’s Review, Aesthetica: the Arts & Culture Magazine (UK), Magma Poetry (UK), The Chaffey Review, Sixers Review, New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, Oak Bend Review and Women’s Studies. Inkwell Management represents his debut novel. He teaches at Sweet Briar College.