Peterborough

They drove for longer than could have been right. He didn’t want to say anything. About the way she shifted, either, or waited until the last second to signal a turn. Longer than could be right because they seemed to be out in the sticks now and must have missed it, missed a turn maybe, but then there it was. She turned quickly, grinding the gear and not signaling at all.

People from her work were there. Everybody talked about the picture window that looked out on the river. He didn’t ask whether they said the food was any good. Sure enough, the whole back wall was window, though, and in the dying light the river glowed a little and the weeds along its banks had all the undertones of color you’d see in an Impressionist painting. The hostess who didn’t say anything sat them so they both looked out the window and not at each other.

Look, he said and pointed at the heron that stood like a statue in the shallows by the spillway.

What?

The heron.

Where?

There. No there. Right there.

Oh. Yeah.

They ordered the sushi appetizer and between the silences one or the other would say something that didn’t say anything and the other would reply in kind. His eyes kept drifting to the heron. It moved, once in a while, closer to the thin wall of water falling over the spillway. The restaurant occupied a space that used to be a mill. Who could say what had been made there. The spillway had been made to power the mill and now it made good hunting for the heron that stared, unblinking, at the sheet of water as it fell.

They ate the sushi and, after it, some noodles and stir-fried string beans. The sun set behind them and the color outside went with it. The gray heron stood in the gray current whose banks were overgrown with gray weeds. The spaces between their sentences were hard and glossy. The heron’s beak came to a sharp point, able to stab a frog or a fish. It was the head of a harpoon, the long lithe neck the harpoon’s line. It would, when something soft and helpless came over the spillway, strike from the shoulders. In the meantime, it briefly stretched its wings and stepped on skeletal legs closer to the spillway, its stare, unblinking, fixed on the sheet of water as he watched it through the sheet of darkening glass.

Front page image by L. Marie.

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