Friday, April 21, 2017

A Fiction for Earth Day 2017

Demonstration Drawing: Seated Figure, Tony Ryder, 2016, graphite on paper

Penumbral Eclipse
by Frances Madeson

That night the lambent moon was shrouded. A pinch of light subtracted, barely noticeable unless you spend time, as we do, contemplating the moon. It was a moon like this one above—partially in shadow, its glow subdued. Our faces pressed together, more gray whiskers in his soft beard than sand and rust, juniper bark brown and cumulous white.

He said—the reason you like me so much is because I lick you a lot.

We had slipped outside from where our babies lay sleeping curled into each other like pole beans on a vine, the strange dark moon had beckoned. Its luster died in my mate’s eyes like lightning bolts absorbed by the red-rocked mesa. I fell mute at the thought that he didn’t know, or was pretending not to know, all the other reasons I liked him so much.

Eyes half closed, he sent up a howl to Orion’s Belt, or just below it, urging the stars to burst the confines of their constellations.

Remember when I first licked you?—he asked. Remember my tongue sliding over your surprised face, your ears, stroking your chin, bathing you in wetness and warmth.

I remember. Your breath came fast and hot, a potpourri of lavender and Russian sage. Your eyes alchemized from bright silver discs to incandescent orbs of gold.

Silver to gold? You never told me that. You never said.
You never asked—I whispered as I grazed his ear, scraping loose with my teeth a goat head burr buried deeply in his winter’s coat.
Give me your tongue now—he said. Lick me while I’m licking you.

Our tongues stroked and slathered, we nibbled each other’s faces, communing in our own lingua franca. Head thrown back, Go-o-o-old—he cried. The wind had died down. Above us an owl flapped, hopping on a branch, a harvest of cones fell at our feet.

He was hunted the next day, shot through the head. Hunted, and disappeared.

My gut had rumbled and cramped all morning—empty, a few sips of water was all I could hold. I let the others have my share of the day’s kill; I puked up the excess adrenaline. While they feasted on fresh elk meat, I hallucinated a predator behind every cottonwood tree.

When we heard the blade slap of the chopper in the distance I cried out—Hide, don’t run. Go underground. We’d discussed this and many other scenarios, as beings who are intermittently under siege do. I shooed the babies back inside the den, telling them others would follow, and to make room. Tight quarters until the threat passed over, but the snow was melty from a full day of sunshine and our tracks would be obscured in the slush. We’d be safest in our subterranean hideaway.

I'll come soon—he said, running toward danger.

Huddled with my wild little ones, we covered our ears, the babies mewled and yelped. Soon my brother came in grave and glowering, with one glance I felt his message, which was no less devastating for being brief.

They got him, took him. His blood pools on frozen ground.

Show me where.

We walked past the helicopter’s ruts, past Orion’s giant bootprints, toward a bloody stain on a field of snow saturated with my worst fears. Something else, a small object on a mound just beyond. My love’s tongue, still pink, shot clean out of his mouth.

We had a plan—I said approaching his sole remaining body part. But this wasn’t it.

Too shocked even to keen, I left it there for the circling raptors.

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