Now/then

Now . . . this was a strange feeling: freedom. A touch cold. His hand, loosed from sleep, against the silently scudding early autumn sky, something rough, hempen, against the palm. Meeting something soft, yielding (the left hand), with his hand, oddly unfeeling (the right). Pushing, as if into soil, until it meets resistance . . .

*

He turned in bed. Her back, turned from him as always, warm to the touch under the flannelette top, abandoned to sleep. Scapula and ribs. The motorway quiet time (circa 3am). He hated waking in the night because unseen worries became terrors to him, so assured was he that the world was as it seems.

*

Now he remembered: struggling up the hill from the town, him more purposefully than he needed, her slightly behind, happier in the moment, dragged. Westward home up Queen St and along the ridge on the Great North Rd. She resting beside the road in the heather; he lying with her, then drifting into sleep.

James D. Richardson, Looking East from Arch Hill towards Eden Terrace.

*

They had been at each other’s throats—or rather, she at his—over something. Him dragging his feet, probably, as per. Her struggling not to call him boneless. Money, the house, some half lie. Not talking until saved by his falling into sleep, as per.

*

A dark dream between them. She “dangerously wounded by some person unknown while asleep at Arch Hill.” An “accusation.” “A dying declaration” to no effect.

*

For once, he thought, I’ll show her. He was gentle at first, allowing her to half-wake, and turn towards him, then he stabbed at her, his midriff on hers like twisting vertebrae, elbows like a yoke across her shoulders pulling him into her. Free (him). Wheeling away into unconsciousness until the sun comes bleeding into the room to right the world.

*

Now then, son, come quietly, the constable said.


See “As She Lay Dying: An Arch Hill Mystery (1889),” Te Ipu Pakore, 11 Aug. 2009, web, 5 July 2010.

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