If you died would you take the violence you’ve committed with you or would it remain as a scar upon the earth?
|Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante Natioal Mounument source|
She would sit in a chair or on the floor and watch night slide by, doing nothing or with her sewing in hand, sightless fingers stabbing at patches and tears with needle bent and when the sprinklings of red had stopped showing up on his socks he had wondered if she had learned to darn blind or if her fingers had merely run out of red to bleed.
The reinstating of those nights of their childhood, when she’d crept into his bed for comfort or for courage or the semblance of it in seeing your own face on the pillow next to yours. [...] Twins like sharing the same body and same metabolism, organs, to heat them both and perhaps even redeem them both merely by existing for the other.
He turned from the room that had encapsulated his boyhood or lack thereof and if he did not return would remain as soulless as it had always been.
There was silence for a moment and the air seemed to flake in gray then there was the smell of gunpowder soaked in blood and the man had stopped and laid his hand across his chest at the wound which was only a small thing when shot at contact point and the eyes that had rolled about wildly now were fixed and there was screaming far in the background [...]. And the man was saying nothing and was not screaming and his mouth opened in a black hole to absorb something, anything, or to expel it, but air would do no good either way now and those eyes gaping as much as the mouth if not more and they had not looked down at the wound or at the blood now running down through the man’s fingers and Smith finally got the shell in and racked the shotgun and laid there with the barrel shaking trying to align it and his arms shaking and still trying to align it and the man’s eyes were suddenly animal. Smith fired again and the man’s torso jerked back as far as his pinned legs would let it go, turned up to the darkening sky with the shotgun blow to his chest.
It was the kind of desert quiet that few men experience in their lifetimes, and the ones who experience it more than a few times start inventing voices to fill the silence.
“So would you say that what a man does counts for nothing unless it’s beyond what he has to do to survive?”
“Not entirely. Everything’s done for survival to some degree. But there’s a difference between killing a bird that you’ll starve without or killing a man who’s got a knife to your throat and killing a calf that will feed you for a week or killing a man who will probably come back for you with a rifle inside of a month. The man who has a knife to your throat has brought his bones to that place knowing he might leave them there for good. But the man who is gradually readying a bullet for you will not see it coming if you get to him before he thinks to go for you. You always have to survive, but sometimes you have the foresight to survive so much that you move bones.”
[...] in the woods, huntin is a matter of hearin a hundred sounds at once and figuring out which it is you’re trying to find. Out here [in the desert] it’s a matter of quieting your mind enough to hear just one.
“Just ’cause you can ride aint mean you got anyplace to go.”
The red that was now black-violet after passing through the filter of the wool sock and mixing with leather-sweat ran and darkened a final thread flower on the lip of the cowboy boot’s embroidery. A drop clung there and the rest ran past it, down and down, into a pool forming in the desert like unscrawled ink tossed into the sand. As it leached in and spread, it softened sand that had not seen water in six months and excited the larvae of microscopic creatures that had remained frozen in wait for it. And so the liquid that was hot but no hotter than the desert seeped in the shapes of petals or scars into the depths of the sand and touched the nurseries of mites or talitridae below and collectively they all hatched and breathed in water and then as quickly as it had come the water had dried again, and the mites died and were all gone as well, an instant after having been created by the blood and sweat in the boot of an old man.
A turkey vulture groaned from above, an utterance of want from a throat without voice. The darkness stained the sand like a burn, and was a burn, in that this layer upon time would be marked by firefight and gunpowder and when these bodies were overlaid with sandstone as the trilobites had been that was all they would smell of when unearthed. The buzzard circled. It would feed soon.
“There’s a thin balance between the things you’re given and the way you can make things be,” said the man that had raised his children alone.
“This place takes somethin from you. As you take from it, each time it takes a bit back. Only a bit at a time. Don’t let it sneak up on you.” “You” meaning both Wyatt and Lucy, as the father had no reason to differentiate between them, so rarely used their individual names.
“You know, the first one [man you killed] is the only one that never leaves. Like the first animal you kill. But the others go. I’d bet the faces of those you killed today are already gone.”
“The nature of men.”
“What nature is that?”
“Survival. Fighting to live. The concept of ‘living’ is a construct. It’s the only state any of us have experienced and so we have nothing to compare it to, nothin else we’ve ever been. In itself, it doesn’t mean anything. But if you bring in the threat of death, suddenly it’s got a definition by opposites. You can see living and not-living right there in front of you. It’s only in those minutes that you’re actively aware that you’re living.”
“Fate is only a number, a count of how much time you have left.”
Rae DelBianco - Rough Animals (Arcade, 2018)