Always in Pairs

They have been traveling for weeks since she picked him up in a coastal city whose name he doesn’t remember and she’s said maybe sixty words to him altogether: move. stay still. watch. now. wait. no. fine. here.

Her face in profile is long and beaky, swept back from a regal nose. Hair grey, solid grey, and thinning: nights he can see the firelight reflecting off her scalp. Jowly. She’s beautiful who knows everything, who laughs only with her eyes and the curl of a lip.

She teaches him walking. His feet harden and splay, and they spend a few nights weaving sandals for him. He can’t stick forever beside her, and so he runs through the long grass ahead or behind the sway of her mule, drunk with green. Bolts up trees to spy out the land while she leans against the trunk rolling a joint. Happy to be fed, proud to be useful.

Eventually the ground turns to muck. They come to a river, then a town. She unwraps the long barrel of the rifle and whistles him close. The woods fall back and the town pushes in: he clutches her leg, fearfully wondering.