Making it over the bridge will be new to him and you won’t be there when it happens. You draw the map, discuss the weather—which birds will be in the trees. You hope for a black crow, for him. He thinks: wild turkey.
Walking the gravel bars, you no longer remember all the times you’ve waited for the river to fill, the bridges you didn’t cross. The random things you’ve learned to miss: the sound of a dial tone, the memory of your home phone number on your fingertips. The ratty orange coat your mother wore after you left for college. You think about retracing your steps—wasn’t that an agate you saw near the rusted bumper caught in the dried-up beaver dam? There, in the Russian olive grove, wasn’t that the sound of crying—please, do you have to go? Funny how everything gets mixed up, but no—that’s the sound a pheasant makes when running for deeper cover.
Some people ask other people: Where do you come from and where do you hope to go? But you? Lately, you’ve been asking others what they think about pain. Maybe if you practice for it, you’ll never be surprised. You think pain is the dry river bottom waiting for snow-melt, but Astroguy—you remember what he said: Lean into pain just as you would the wind. Except, today the wind is gone.
Pain : At least it is familiar. (R. A.)
Pain: Unexplainable pain is worse. (V. B.)
Pain: Somewhere Over the Rainbow makes you wish—that’s what pain is. (D. R.)
Pain: First time I ever said I love you, I chased it with fuck-you. (J. G.)
Pain: Ever notice how funerals ruin a good day? (Frankie in the lobby)
Billie, the black and white border collie is retrieving sticks you didn’t toss, and when the first stick he offers doesn’t get your attention, he’s quick to find another. And another. Until—hello!—you realize he’s been waiting for you to pay attention. Where he is finding fresh green sticks on a dry river bed is beyond you and his owner. How in the? Where in the?
And then you hear a clunk. Or maybe more of a thunk. Either way, dog, owner and you look up: two boys on the far shore wave. Billie gives chase—what a good dog he is, knowing he’s not to swim across the river. He runs back with the stick, and this time you throw it across the water. Game on! the boys laugh and toss the stick back to your gravel bar.