I lean out the window again,
craning my neck upward to look at the sky, never removing
my hand from the steering wheel. Still no good, I think,
as I duck my head back into the car, returning my eyes
to the road speeding beneath me. The clouds never seem
to give me the thick bank of cover I need, with the moon
peeking out again and again. Complete darkness is required,
least I’ve left the streetlights
far behind, their last bit of fake amber glare fading away
maybe ten minutes ago, on the outskirts of Williamson.
But I must still be close to town, too close, for the power
lines continue along, their peaks and dips following beside
me on my journey, my mission, my grim task. The presence
of power lines means I have yet to reach nowhere—those
lines are taking their power to someplace or someone, and
as long as that place or person is nearby I haven’t
gone nearly far enough.
I need remoteness
and darkness, and those power lines and that peek-a-boo full
moon show me I still have neither, even up here in the hills.
Remoteness is needed to avoid strangers passing in their
cars, darkness to prevent any that do pass from spying what
I’m hauling out of my trunk and dragging into the woods.
I’ve got my shovel and a
strong back. The job shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes,
and after that I’ll have absolutely no regrets.
People in town would be horrified
about what I’m doing. They’d say I’m showing him disrespect,
as if they ever respected him themselves, treated him with
any dignity at all. Those so-called respectable people
always looked down on him, never thought he was good enough
or anything but an embarrassment to the town. But though
they had no use for him in life, now they’d want him
in their cemetery, somehow pretending to respect him
they never did when he was alive. But I refuse to have
any of that hypocrisy. Whatever his faults, he deserves
did have his faults. He never held down a steady job,
kept his house and
yard maintained, never showed the proper deference
to his betters. And of course he drank heavily, mostly
to them; since he’d never have their approval anyway, he’d
just drink himself into oblivion, briefly enjoying
the buzz for a while before descending into incoherence.
I’d show up hours before
closing time—answering the bar’s nightly phone call, always
the good son—to drag him home. Leaning heavily on my shoulder,
he’d spew insults against the town and its lies and its
idiocy all the way back to our house, his feet wobbling
all over the sidewalk. At the house, he’d rant for a while
longer before passing out, sleeping the night through and
getting up the next morning to do it all over again.
It’s done. I wipe my hands,
observe a moment of silence, and turn away.
I emerge from the woods,
shovel trailing behind me. The moon glows unseen behind
an afghan of clouds, a sight he would have liked. I know
he would have been happier here, in his beloved hills,
under an elusive moon. He never felt at home in town, never
felt welcomed though he lived there his entire life. He
would have gladly left for these hills long ago, but he
had to stay where the work was, the booze getting him by.
him was all that kept me in town; now that he’s at rest there’s
no reason to stay. I start the engine and steer onto the
road, heading away from the power lines and streetlights
of the distant town that was home for neither of us, and
from the shadowy hills that now can never be home for me.
# # #
Quit These Hills by
published May 5, 2008