We saw them every day that summer as we walked to the gas station with the payphone on Wilderness Drive: two horses, standing in mud. A black horse with long hair bleached by the sun. A red and white paint horse with marks like a skull around her face. Their pasture was a cattle wade. The water banished by heat. On the other side of the barbed wire fence, an empty shirt hung from a tree.
Since June we’d been waiting for our father to come home. We could do anything we wanted. We made fires. I painted my toenails. My brother played the old Martin guitar on the porch at night and sang: Gone like this song. We slept in the heat of day and ran in the cedars ‘til dawn, our cheeks bruised with black persimmon juice. My brother gave me a buck knife. It was from our father’s closet. I put it back. We laughed and laughed. A dry, shrunken voice trapped in the well of the phone said, Please. But we didn’t let it out. We lit hurricane lamps when they cut the power, ate cold beans out of a can. The creek still held water low in the hollows. Slick and dirty. We lay down behind the house and put our mouths against it.
My brother put the guitar in the fire. This was August.
All summer we kissed the dry creek bed for our lives.