by Amy Scharmann
Peter suggested that he and Alison take a walk. So they walked up the hill separating their ugly neighborhood from the rest of town, arms limp, and stood to catch their breath on the shoulder of Tuttle Creek Boulevard, one of the busiest roads in town, which eventually led to Tuttle Creek Lake, but not for many miles. The traffic produced a wind that tossed their baggy shirts into each other.
Peter turned his pockets out and let the inner lining hang. Alison kept her pockets tucked.
A mangled cardboard box sat on the middle yellow stripes of the road. Cars dodged it as if it was alive, and Peter pointed.
“It’s nothing,” Alison said.
“No,” Peter said. “It looks like a turtle.”
The box did perhaps resemble a turtle from a distance, head stretched out of the shell.
“I’m worried about this,” Peter said. “I just couldn’t live with myself.”
“It’s not a turtle,” Alison said.
Peter tried to hold Alison. She moved to the side. There would be none of that.
Peter almost ran out to slip his palms under the belly of whatever the object was—inanimate or alive—and carry it to safety, but became distracted by Alison pulling her hair back. He thought of the first time he’d seen Alison, both in their twenties at the time, at the Konza Prairie. Peter had been taking photographs, and Alison jogged into one of the shots—later, after developing the prints, he would find her swinging ponytail and her legs blurred because the shutter speed hadn’t been adjusted for movement. Peter followed her around the trails. She was far more captivating than the landscape he’d been look at his entire life. She caught on and told him to stop, but agreed to a date when he asked, tilting her head and studying him hard before committing. The steep angle of her jaw line was what first got Peter. It still did.
Alison couldn’t look at Peter. His pixelated view of life, his ability to organize the millions of bits into a clear, cohesive image, was something she’d never had. The fact that she would eventually leave wasn’t really his fault. She knew this. It wasn’t his plainness. It was her being too ashamed to look at the moon when it was full. It was the flipped shopping cart on their lawn that she refused to let Peter move. It was the acidity in her bones that had worn her down from the inside out.
Two kites hovered over the nearby tree line. Alison and Peter watched the kites move with the wind and eventually collide. Alison waited for the tangled kites to lose air, but they remained suspended. She took Peter’s hand. Peter stopped admiring the kites and watched the cardboard box get run over again and again.
Amy Scharmann‘s work has appeared in Amazon’s Day One, Subtropics, TriQuarterly, Joyland, and elsewhere. She recently moved from Long Beach, CA to South-Central Kansas with her husband and daughter.