Two by Two

The conventional sentiment wondering where the time went has rung the knell on another Memorial Day picnic. The bachelor uncle is building tall stacks of chicken bones interleaved with grease-stiffened paper plates. A hissing cloud rises from the doused grill. And standing at the dark edge of the woods a hundred yards away a mother calls & calls, peering through dim bars of tree trunks & two or three shafts of evening sun, while some songster in a nearby thicket keeps jangling a full set of silver keys. And Billy & Lynette who were last seen hand-in-hand, she in the lead as always, chattering about owls & turtles they wanted to keep in boxes in their rooms if their moms would let them—they could’ve gone anywhere & why wasn’t somebody watching? Lynette’s mother joins Billy’s to take turns hollering.

But eventually they run out of breath & realize the trees are on all sides now, & neither of them actually remembers entering the forest. Their eyes & feet have adjusted on their own to a place from which their grown-up lives had estranged them.

Now it’s their turn to half-forget what it was they came in for, looking carefully around, gathering the threads of their childhoods on a shared spindle. Until the one speaking slowly says the path’s over that way, isn’t it? I wonder if they’ve gone as far as the old orchard? And her sister, half-ashamed of her growing excitement, says do you remember the stone pile where we found the arrowheads?

At this point a sigh or a smile could mean almost anything, like a sudden rustle in the treetops or the snap of a twig—which could take us back to owls & turtles, or off onto branching paths of speculation, where daytime & nighttime vision, like close cousins from opposite corners of the state, so seldom meet.