Rebecca Fishow

On the last day of school, it occurred to the old teacher as she walked home that she no longer wanted to give or receive any information she could not use. The poor couple at 4 a.m., who, the night before, reduced themselves to singular monsters as they argued on the street. Public radio’s ticker tape of tragedies and gloat. The distance from Earth to the moon, from the moon to the end of the universe. She did not want to know when the sun will extinguish itself in a blast of cold forgetting or why she could not forgive her mother. She did not want to listen to adolescent drama, nor did she want to tell teenagers what’s best for them.

The orange cat that her neighbor fed got hit by a car or else went crazy. He dragged his paralyzed hind legs up the stone stairs like a wilted flower tittering on its stalk. The cat wanted nothing to do with the old teacher, and moved under the porch faster than she thought a paralyzed animal could move. Anyone living is the enemy of the dying.

She left the cat and went inside to call the humane society. The woman on the other end put her on hold, then she heard the recorded message from the animal control department: we are not here. We never were. If you have an emergency or someone is in immediate danger, ask yourself: what is the value of danger?

She decided it was in her best interest to forget about the cat. She took a walk down the street to where children infested the city park. They played happily, until a larger, more violent child showed up. His name was Pete, and he said he was the devil. He chased the other kids and cut swing ropes. He poured sand down the backs of shirts and lifted girls’ skirts. “I’m here,” he said, “and my mother loves me. Don’t believe the lies.” He used a child language she didn’t fully understand. Something about the meaning of life, and why it doesn’t matter.

The old school teacher went home and waited for her husband to arrive. By waiting, I mean, she swept the wood floor, folded laundry and looked up a recipe for the chicken in the fridge: her autonomic functions at work. She fell asleep on the couch and had a sexually charged dream.

The dream was about an old lover. Everything was perfect. She was young, so was he. They stood on the top of a mountain. They kissed and talked, felt infinite with knowledge, like two birds at birth. In view: a ridgeline, and then a sky so magic with color she should have known it was only a dream. When she woke up, she felt angry with loss, and her husband was sitting next to her, sleeping.

“I had a dream,” he said, “We were standing on top of a mountain. We had all the information and knew all the answers. In view: a ridgeline, and then a sky so magic with red and oranges and blues that I knew you were sleeping next to me in the waking life.”

It was a sexually charged dream, so he crawled on top of her and ran his hand down the continent of her body. She was angry with loss, but she did not say. After they made love she felt better. She felt like a giant had stomped out all her want. She was thin, and solid as a hatchet.

Rebecca Fishow’s work has appeared in Joyland, Smokelong Quarterly, Room, Necessary Fiction, The Believer Logger, and other publications. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she received the Joyce Carol Oates Award in Nonfiction and a Cornelia Carhart Ward Fellowship. She teaches creative writing in Maryland.