Swim at Your Own Risk
[an unfinished fragment found among the missing man's papers]
She's on an air mattress floating. I'm on a deck chair reading. We check in occasionally and wave each time we know the other is looking.
I leave off reading when I feel myself beginning to doze, briefly fighting that circumstance before giving in. Sometime later I awaken with a start and recognize that she is now considerably farther out and well to the west of where she was. She's waving. I wave back. The sun makes bright, hot contact with the top of my head. The weight of it is staggering.
In my obsessive piecing together of this sequence of events during the time that has passed since, I always fix on a clear but fleeting image that appears in the moment between my gesture and my realization that the beating sun has made me sick and inert: she's scissoring her arms like a referee calling time-out. There is something frantic in her motion.
Again and again you have told me that acceptance is crucial. So. Today I will accept. She vanished. She entered a nightmare of open water. There. I have said. I know. And I know (am aware of) my knowing. As in the tales, I have tasted the apple, have seen the little buck being eaten alive by ants. Knowledge is un[illegible]
was raised in Haynesville, Louisiana. His work includes the novels Roughnecks
) and Running the Dogs
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux
). A schoolteacher by trade, he currently lives with his wife on a mountain in rural northwest Arkansas.