Half light conversation short story by Wayne Jackson


By Wayne Jackson 1951-1989
Wind quivered the dark curtain; stirred the faint smell of honeysuckle; made taut the skin not under covers. I fumbled in the half light where green, brown, and blue merged to half formed grey. The house itself slept, unaware of movement except for the half blown curtain.
Close…an ankle ran to calf, then calf to thigh, ending at covers where shape guessed the rest. I was awake. I was sullen. The smell of blue was everywhere.
I reached for a cigarette…..sulfur from a match…a brightness of flame…then cool darkness and spiralled curl.
Ashtray cooled belly expanded then contracted. I lay wondering, why the waking at this time…why the why of wondering. Hot legs kicked covers. The smell of salt from sweat.
Close also, the sense of cat-half felt like eyed strangers an the predatory softness of hidden claw.
She lay slumbered – dreaming of meat.
Hand closed on breast – a not feeling, but a bringing into memory the shape of once….shadows in a box.
Hey dad, I’d forgotten what your face was like”
It had rained that day. shovelsshoveledmudonly
The breast receded – covered by an arm. The cat investigates. I scratched her sound pierced ears.
“Hey uncle, did God speak English?”
The short stub of a cigarette started another. There was a faint glow on cable scarred fingers.
“but mom I don’t want to be anything. Iwanttodothings.”
“fine so long as it’s conscious.”
Through the half shaped house was the sound of lightening bugs…a phosphorescent buzz. Darkness was physical…a uniform pressure.
Bridgeward we stood. “Is this what you do?”
“No. This is what I work at doing”
“then what?”
“I wait for bad weather.”

Fumbling, I left the bed, creaked to the den, and drew the coffee too hot. I woke the room with a click…saw that it was filled with room filled things. I noticed how quiet the light was…I’d never noticed before. Hot sang the tongue.
A sudden air rushed into the room talking of storm. In the distance, lightning, ten seconds, and thunder. I refilled and searched for sugar.
“You play the cards you’re dealt.”
“What if the game is rigged?”
“You play anyway.”

I returned to the bed, sat on the edge, and cigaretted one more time. There was an outside loudness, and my wife stirred, stretched fitfully, and woke.
“A storm?”, she asked.
“Yes, just a storm. Go back to sleep.”
“You know I can’t sleep when it storms.”
I reached for another cigarette – lit one for her. Two glowed in the room.
He was bayed and damned and stung I tell you.
“I felt you snuggling awhile back.” she said.
“I wasn’t snuggling. I was remembering.”
“I don’t understand that”
“I don’t either.”
Her fingers found mine…a tried touch. “Did you ever hear it rain so?” she asked.
“Yes when I was little we lived in a house with a tin roof. It really wasn’t much as houses go…I remember that the rain came though the walls. I remember how it used to rain.”
“Weren’t you ever scared?”
“No but I remember there was a storm, and the next day we found a cow dead in the back field. It had been struck by lightning. I always wondered why lightning would bother with a cow.”
Wasp will do it to a bee every time
“What did you do with it?”
“Hell we just drug it to the gully and rolled it in. What else could we do?”
“I don’t know but it seems sad in a way.”
“A lot of things seem sad in a way.”
“Everything’s always the same, son, nothing really ever changes. People just think they do. ”
“What do you mean, dad?”
“We are dobbers against the screen.”

I walked to the window. Sudden light saw the rain. I waited.
“Honey, shut the window.” she said. “I don’t want to get everything wet.”
“Just this once. Let’s leave it open.”
“What is it you’re thinking?”
“I’m still remembering.”
“What?”
bone through flesh, Sooted blood. “tell them for me. You hear? cause somebody has got to tell them.”
“Yeah man, I’ll tell them.”

Rain against the skin smelled of distant streets. I turned. “Did you ever catch yourself remembering certain stops? Things that just stayed there for no apparent reason?”
“Yea it’s like a sentence that you can’t place.”
“I remember at a fair once, I was on the wheel…right at the top, and it was night so that I was above the lights, and the people, and even the sound. There must have been a thousand people there. I remember that I thought it remarkable for so many differences to be in one place.”
“What did you think of then?”
“I thought of potentials…then caught myself and laughed.”
To bring us to completion.”
Damp now and chilled, I lean against nothing.
“Can you explain what’s really wrong?” she asked.
Shrugging no. “Not really, it’s just an unfinished something. I can’t name it or point it out.”
“Is there something that I can do?”
“I don’t know. For all I know you could be a part of it.”
In a comfortable place.
“All I know is that here I am, and that I can remember where I wanted to be, and that the two don’t match up.”
She lay back, brown against the sheets…hair against the pillow.
” I remember a dog I had, well he wasn’t really mine and I didn’t have him for long. He just showed up one day. There was nothing really special about him. He wasn’t starving or anything like that. He was just there. When anyone got near him he would growl. It didn’t matter who it was either. We fed him anyway figuring that he’d been mistreated and that he would come around. He never did.”
“Do you think that means something?” she asked.
“No it was just something else that happened to surface. It means nothing.
at where we started out to be.
I climbed into bed at a comfortable distance.
“We are never really real, are we?”
“No I guess not.”
We are held separately here, but we are not alone. Half light can last forever.


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