I. Hunting season
on a dusty path in rattlesnake country. I once felt a bullet breeze past my ear. But today a small child approaches, his blue tie longer than his button-up shirt. The path wells up and a wind blows cool raindrops at his face but he doesn’t miss a beat as his hair goes dark and the thin shirt clings to his skin. Pale, soft, baby skin.
The wind seethes and lightning releases a whiff of smoldering sage up ahead. His nostrils flare over blue lips but the child doesn’t pause. He climbs on towards me, towards the thunderhead beyond. The path whispers poetry in his ear, but I shout a warning, “There are snakes in these hills. You aren’t wearing any shoes!” “I know,” he says, “Leave me alone.”
II. He knows.
He knows where our paths will converge and he paces a wide circle around the spot where we now will not meet. His small back rises towards the swelling thunderhead. Behind him now, just over the rise, comes a host of men in white shirts. They see me, but they don’t see him.
“Ma’am? Have you seen a four-year-old boy out here?” The child dives to the side of the trail and the scrub oak crackles. (They don’t look armed, but you never can tell.)
“Lots of kids in these hills on a Sunday,” I reply.
“But it’s my son!” cries the one with the long blue tie. “My child ran away from Bible study.”
“He didn’t have any shoes,” I accuse.
“We took them so he wouldn’t run away. See? I have them here.” Little shoes for little feet.
I turn away as their strong backs rise towards the big, black thunderhead.