Only once did we find a deer that didn’t make it, washed up
against the rocks of the island. She hadn’t been there long. My
father and I tied her body by its lovely back ankles off the rear of
the skiff and dragged it out toward sea. When we got to a good,
deep spot we unwound the free end of rope from the stern cleat
and tied it around a heavy rock I’d chosen from the beach. We
threw the rock into the water and sank the body. We didn’t want
the dogs getting into it. We watched it go down. Her eyes went
last, staring upward. My dad did most of the work, while I
watched him carefully.
It was late fall, the latest we’d visited the house. Everything
was gone: his mother, the invisible money. I went into the woods
with the dogs while he showed the house to a realtor who
snapped pictures, getting all the angles wrong. Afterwards, my
dad and I ate our dinner in silence. We were tired. There was a lot
of work to do. Contracts to study. Furniture to move across a
bay. I’d watched my dad get sweaty, stuffing twenty-two black
contractor’s bags with the contents of one closet, one desk drawer
We ate our canned soup slowly as the sun set red behind the
“You think I’m brutal,” he said, later, by the fire.
I didn’t answer him, and we watched the fire.
“We might as well burn it all,” he said. I’d thought we were
done speaking for the night. I stared at the hungry flames and
saw the whole thing go down, not just the immediate hot act of
it but the hours and years of collapsing aftermath. He stood and
placed two more logs from the near-gone stack on the fire. the
stack, of course. We burned it all.
“I wish the deer had made it,” I said.
The kids are asleep by our beach fire and Ken’s gone to fetch two
more beers from the cooler. I’m bunching my dress around my
waist and letting the water ease up my thighs, letting it lap at a
new slick of Undercool Blue Ken painted there.
I lower my body further into the cold. My dress clings to my
legs. I swim out, one stroke and then another, trying to discern a
shape on the dark horizon. It’s only a few miles from here. I can
do it if I take it slow. I slip out of my sweater and let it float
Ken won’t follow me, with the kids asleep by the fire. He’s
a good dad. If he hollers, I don’t hear him. He must have known
this was coming. And the danger’s not so great. There’s no traffic
on the water. There’s nobody at home in the house. I have no
plans. I’ll lie down on a bed of ferns. I’ll roll pine needles
between my palms. Voices will drift over from everywhere. They
will be around me and inside of me but they won’t touch me.
There will be moonlight on the clearing, and on the planks of the
old barn. There will be gasoline in the boathouse. There will be
a single oak by the pottery beach whose smooth-barked limbs
will know my feet.
I keep swimming. It’s all fine. The kids will have their
mamma soon. The old money in my blood sets its own imperative.
The old money in my blood sets the water to sparkling.