Barrett Warner
| Fiction


Ray says, Aha! Self-adhesive. He tears back the waxed strip, and closes my letter, saying nothing about emptiness.

It will take two to three days for Yo’s letter to reach her husband. The letter is her way of being nice to him. I wonder what he’s done with my sport coat.

Come on, I say, to the lunging brown Lab. Heel.

Afternoon. Seems like the right time to have a beer. I leave the dog in the car, find a stool at the bar, and pretty soon I’m looking at dozens of pictures of cats. My neighbor is a cat breeder, as if cats needed any assistance with that. She drinks wine instead of beer because she doesn’t want the carbonation to bloat her.

“Carbonation in beer is different than pop,” I say. “It comes from yeast. If you can eat a yogurt you can drink a beer.” This logic plays in her mind. Maybe I appear to be someone who can help her rationalize what she knows is wrong. I watch the small spark of it buzz around, the beer leading to schnapps and then to bartenders cleaning up as we head outside to a parking lot with only two vehicles in it, a Ford pick-up with a dog inside and a highly modified black Camaro. The face of a Rag Doll cat is sketched into its license placard.

I feel intimidated, even though she is not trying to intimidate me. Instead of reaching to kiss her and wonder, wonder, wonder where it may lead, I become philosophical. “Shouldn’t it be illegal for bars to have parking lots?”

Quadratic and I let ourselves into the chicken coop after dark, paws skidding. There, waiting, the magnetic-eyed Yo, and there, on the kitchen floor, a bowl of cold water. Even though she detects on one of us the smell of Subway sandwiches, and on the other, the odor of Japanese cherry blossoms and a few stray blonde hairs—she lets us stay.

In the morning I find her note by the coffee pot. It says the reasons may seem unclear now. They’ll make sense in thirty years—in about four dogs’ worth of passing time. It says to never call her again, and never write, and not to ask in any incredulous tones, You left without taking your horse?

The banker was right. When the farm sells I stay on as a hand and slowly become one of those people who don’t drink enough water. Something merely wet or what doesn’t have to be chewed, that’s enough. I throw around handfuls of salt to confuse my feelings. It’s possible to taste the rain in anything, but people’s faces turn yellow when they don’t drink enough. I tell everyone it’s from eating marigolds.

Barrett Warner is the author of two chapbooks, My Friend Ken Harvey (Publishing Genius, 2014) and Til I’m Blue in the Face (Tropos, 1994). He won the 2014 Cloudbank poetry prize and his work has recently appeared in Consequence Magazine, Revolution John, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.

Notice the Hills
Many Letters Later