By October we were living at the Palm. We were run out by weather. We were studying God. One raw wind and a tree fell straight through the roof, sliced the kitchen; Nell sent the clipping, a dot matrix image of bare branches busting in or out of a cupboard. Storms kept coming. Soon her letter was torn, dripping, a spent shore. Dan won an award first for proving God doesn’t exist and then for proving He does. I ripped curls of motel wallpaper off at the corners, peachy-pink, souvenirs I didn’t have to buy. I missed home, the idea of it: rocking chairs, kettles, fingerprints glowing on a stove. Dan left in the night but came back, said any future without me would be ontological impoverishment. When the key got caught we picked the lock and when we picked the lock we found—bathed bluely by the light of a muted television—a mattress full of spooning coyotes, each paw trembling over another as they dreamt in an alien quiet. Dan peeled us grapes by the pool. He got the stipend. We switched rooms. We read books. We lost a box. We lost another. I washed my hair. If and when ungrateful for this living, Nell recommends dreams, or film of a woman just off a horse and glad to have clean sheets, electric lights. We ate the breakfasts of a resourceful child: gritty wrecks of instant macaroni, cracker packs on thrifted fine-bone china, brown cola, nuts. Nell sent velvet-lined tins of sugar-crusted pecans, wide-plank floors in the dark. I met an angel in the parking lot. She said God laps you like a kitten in the sun. I sat on the diving board. I dyed my hair. I was papery, warm, near-translucent, a thin slice of apple. I turned over for coverage. I tanned inside my ear. I cradled succulents in my arches. I saw a snake in the pipe. I watched for the moon when it was visible and I watched for it when it wasn’t. I asked Dan to hold me tightly from behind and as the angel had foretold I knew then with my body all I had sought with my mind: all things were in threads and strings and tangled together like necklaces, the ~~~~~ and the ~~~~~, the stars dragging the sweetpea. Another storm came through, and another. Dan read to me. He kissed along my hairline. Nell wrote: Though no bigger than a sugar sack I can remember them carting me horse and buggy to Aunt Garnet’s, white rose in hand at the start, nothing but a stem in the end. I let the wind take it petal by petal.
Cathryn Rose is an MFA student in fiction at Brown.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower