I can’t make it here, she said. We were at a work party. You can’t understand, can you? I was never supposed to be here. Oh great, an eccentric. We were getting a lot of those: Rich melted sunflower seeds into lotion and called it sunblock; Laura swore Dr Pepper was made of miracles and never touched a tin can; Dean didn’t believe in miracles. Now Barb, poor Barb. She was staring at the chocolate cake like it was an escape plan. Why don’t you quit? I said. Find a new job? She shook her blonde bob, dodging the question. Look at my hands, can’t you? she said. Her wedding ring reminded me of Moscow. Gilded Kremlin cathedrals, I said. She looked worried; they were rubbing off on me. Shit, you gotta go, Barb, I said. She nodded. Our boss handed her the knife. Do the honors, he said. It was Barb’s party. She cut a hole in the cake’s center, peeled it out with care. Her hands went first, then her shoulders, then her hair. I should’ve said something—a thank you, a goodbye—before she squeezed her little body into the cake and slipped straight through the third floor. Now we celebrate her every year: She’s the only one of us who’s survived.
after James Wright
Can we take a step back here and imagine all these horses? you said. They were right in front of us. Their infinite breath pooled around us like fog. These horses? I said, gesturing to a grey. There was a sea of them, a congregation of chestnuts and bays. Three roans counted our lifelines, their noses trailing up our wrists to quell in the crooks of our elbows. But your eyes were closed, your palms somehow pressed skyward as if to say, Show me. They must’ve thought us strange in our white attire, our wooden shoes. We were not looking for a ride. Minutes passed into the breath-mist, flicks of tails tracking our countdown. What are you doing? I said. You mouthed an outgrown prayer, the shadows of your eyelids rippling visions of stallions and mares—all of which stood before you. Can you believe this? you said. One by one, the horses bowed their crescent necks, hummed a bygone hymn. My mother said God is in the rain, you said. I wonder which she meant.