Salt Water and Moonlight

An old woman, skin soft as tissue, bones knobby underneath, in the midst of an orgasm.

Straightening up, after, she catches her breath, wipes the thin sheen of sweat of her upper lip, pats the shoulder of the drowsy man beneath her. “Thank you,” she murmurs, “you did just fine.” She stands, stretches, shoulder blades griding together, neck popping, something deep in her jaw clicking in her ear as she rolls her head to work out the kinks. Drinks a long swallow from the copper bottle beside the bed.

While he snores, she works; bone to earth, stone to sea, herbs and money and feathers, burned to ash in a seven-sided bowl lined with rock salt. The ingredients matter, but not the amounts; better to make do with what’s on hand rather than something fresh and unused. Last of all crystals from a blocked kidney; she splashes some of her own urine from a little jug to put out the last of the fire, coughs and waves a hand to dispel the smoke.

She makes tea without turning on the lights, and settles down on the long couch underneath the window to await the morning; the news will find her, as it always does.