Heat Dome

Stagnant air, still as an oven. Sick and dizzy, Russ pauses in the fields, glares up into a sky cloudless and white with heat, pauses to take a long drink at her canteen, water as warm as blood. It has been months, will be months, summer like a lid on a pot, and they bake. Tip’s been after her to pack it in and take the wobbly out to Holofernes or someplace cooler but hell she broke this ground, built the house, she ain’t gonna leave it because it got hot.


The ground cracks and blows away, and no amount of skill will keep it when the wind blows through. They have done everything, loved the land like a sister, taken nothing from it that it didn’t gladly give, put nothing into it that wasn’t already there, took no more than they needed, honored it like any great-grandmother, but: sometimes things just die. She knows this, knows to accept it when it happens.

Still it stings.

She barely makes it home again, stumbles up the steps into the shade, into a house like an open throat, every door and window wide and panting after any trickle of a breeze. Tip is huddled against the icebox, washed out and miserable.

Russ sighs, deep down sighs. “Grab your things,” she tells Tip, wet-eyed, already mourning, already planning their return.

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.