In basic training
We were taught how to shoot,
How to march,
And how to fall asleep anywhere.
For the shooting, you need a gun.
For the marching, boots.
For the falling asleep, you need a letting go,
Which lives only behind your eyes,
In a canoe on a lake, flightless and floating.
Both the unknotting of joints and the uncoiling of ligaments
Ride in the hull, along with
The unhooking of the tongue that allows
Heat to slip down your throat.
Unlace, unclasp, unbind, unravel.
Dip the shoulder of the paddle
Into the lake of sleep
Ten weeks across.
My dad’s construction crew finished work on the new house behind the mall. I know where he keeps the keys.
I didn’t tell the guys, because they’d be all over me, wanting to party there, bring girls, hang out after practice, whatever. But Jordan, my girlfriend, I trust. Tonight, she’s “babysitting,” and I’m “playing Madden at Brody’s.”
We lay in front of the empty fireplace, on the blanket from the pickup. It’s scratchy and smells like turf and dog, but Jordan said she doesn’t mind. It’s warm, anyway. Still, my hand shakes, tracing the sweat and moonlight on her shoulder.
Every girl wants to be a flyer. She’s the tiny one who gets thrown, sits at the top of the pyramid, performs the flashy stunt that gets the oohs and aahs. She gets to, you know, fly.
Not me. I’m a base. I’ve got broad shoulders and thighs too thick for flying, see?
But I’m the lucky one. Because that flyer? That doe-eyed, pretty, petal of a girl? She’ll step on my back and climb me. She’ll stand on my shoulders. I’ll toss her, my arms always warm, legs always ready.
She’ll fly with me underneath, waiting to catch her.
Mom said “ten more minutes” when I went in to get blankets, and that was at least a half hour ago. Probably. Or, I don’t know, because time isn’t real out here, laying under the stars with my two best friends.
Winter was invented for secrets. I was even keeping the secret from myself. But on the trampoline, each revelation comes with a tiny bounce; we ride and roll and bump together wrapped in quilts, agreeing, giggling, drawing the truth out as if we’re painting it with a brush.
I say I like girls. And the soundtrack of night agrees.
He and his dark coat and blank face are as far away from me as the back seat will allow.
It’s late; that dour string quartet could put anyone in a mood.
We pass Superior, then Huron. If he doesn’t speak by Grand, I’ll chuckle and say, “Remember that restaurant in Seattle, the one with the waffles?” I’ll reach out my hand.
We were young then, beards brown instead of white.
“Remember how it rained?” I could say.
That taxi was smaller than this one, and full of zydeco. He was wet and shining, breathless.
We ride, in silence, home.
Jody’s friends feel sorry for her. (They never say so, but she knows.)
Sure, plowing’s hard work; it’s loud and cold, and she can’t feel her feet. But the twenty dollars per job will pay off her truck insurance, easy. She might even have enough extra by spring to afford the new lens for her telescope. (And —bonus— sometimes the old ladies give her cookies or candy with her pay).
This house, last on her list, is new. The girl in the window is no old lady. Delicate and curious, like a bird with glasses.
A smile. And a wave.
The light in Cori’s bedroom is snow-day light, clean-yellow and buoyant, the kind of light that matches exactly with the taste of chicken noodle soup and the rumble of a plow.
It’s a girl, driving the tractor with the blade. Actually it’s the girl, the broad-shouldered stunner Cori’s only seen at assemblies, since they occupy opposite wings at school (Sam in Arts, Tractor Girl in STEM/Ag). Wool hat, red curls, soft brown leather gloves, breath puffing into clouds that rise and disappear.
Cori leaves the window to reach for her sketchbook, the one her art teacher will never see.