From "Four Lean Hounds, ca. 1976"
by Maile Meloy
The first time Hank slept with Kay—the only time—was the night her husband drowned. Her husband was his best friend, had been for years. Duncan was a great diver, a crack shot, a good storyteller. He seemed to like being in the world more than most people did. He’d married Kay on the grassy bank of a lake up in the Swan River Valley, and everyone danced barefoot and camped out for the weekend. The way Kay looked at Duncan it was like he was the whole world. Everyone who saw them knew that.
Hank and Duncan had started an underwater-welding business together, and they worked freelance on hydroelectric dams. In the last week of July, they went down to look for earthquake damage on the Hansen Dam, but it seemed fine. They kept looking, eighty feet down where it was so cold Hank’s bones ached, and found nothing. Duncan waved him back to the surface, and Hank peeled off his wet suit on the gravel bank, getting the sun on his goose-bumped skin. He stashed all his gear in the VW bus and started making notes for the report, but Duncan didn’t come up after him. Finally Hank tugged the cold wet suit on and went back down. He found Duncan at the bottom, weighted down by his belt, staring empty-eyed inside his mask. Hank shouted at him, stupidly, bubbles escaping around his regulator and clouding everything, and he looped an arm around Duncan’s chest to drag him to the surface. On the bank he pumped his friend’s sternum so hard he felt a rib crack, and forced his own air into the sodden lungs. He kept trying long after he knew Duncan was dead.
They were miles from any town, and Hank didn’t know what to do. It was too late for an ambulance. He didn’t know if you were supposed to move a body, or where he would take it. He finally left Duncan there, and called the cops from a bait-and-beer store on the highway. His hands were shaking and blue, and the woman at the counter eyed him. He didn’t know what to say to his wife, and he couldn’t call Kay. The woman at the counter kept watching him, so he left, driving north to Duncan and Kay’s cabin as the idea that Duncan was dead sunk in. He was dead and Hank had left him alone on the lakeshore, after leaving him alone down below, but now getting to Kay seemed as important as getting back to Duncan.
He found her alone at the cabin, hanging laundry on the line. Their four-year-old, Abby, wasn’t there, and Hank was glad. Watching Kay hang the clothes, with the blue mountains in the distance, he felt weirdly calm, as if everything had settled down into a space Duncan didn’t occupy anymore, a space that would never be any different than it was now.
Kay didn’t cry right away; he hadn’t then ever seen her cry. Duncan used to say Kay’s father was the strongest small man he’d ever known, and had never said more than eight words together. Kay was her father’s daughter: she hung the last pair of Duncan’s jeans, then went inside to call her brother, to ask him to keep Abby for the night.
They drove in silence back to the reservoir, and as they approached they could see Duncan’s body next to a police cruiser. One officer snapped pictures while the other sat sideways in the open car door, talking on the radio. Hank wished he had waited to call them, so Kay could have been with Duncan alone. She knelt by the body and pushed her husband’s hair from his forehead. Hank answered the cops’ questions, feeling awkward and angry: Yes, he had surfaced first, alone. When he found Duncan there had been no pulse, and CPR had failed. He felt the cops’ contempt for him, for letting his partner die. Finally they took Duncan away.
The sun was down when they got back to Kay’s empty cabin. Hank laid his coat on the table Duncan had made from a cable spool turned on its side, and she pulled the string that turned on the light. Kay was pale and dark-haired, with a thin face and strong hands like a man’s. Her eyes were red-rimmed, though she hadn’t cried yet. Hank had never heard the cabin so quiet. The threading-hole in the middle of the table was filled up with Abby’s stuffed animals and toys. Hank stood there looking at the toys, and Kay stood looking at him, and then he comforted her in the only way that made sense at the time. She put her arms around his neck, and he lifted her to the tall pine log-frame bed Duncan had built, and he undressed her and held her, still feeling the calm in Duncan’s absence that seemed to ring in his ears, until she cried out and clung to him, her body wrapped around his own, and then she began to cry for real. It wasn’t the thing he would have chosen to happen, but he felt strangely relieved. They’d broken the dead space Duncan left behind and it seemed that now things would start changing.
“Poem After Francis Bacon’s ‘Study After Pope Innocent X by Velasquez’”
by Virgil Suárez
He sits there to ponder what he has just been told will be his fate as soon as he dies and they take his vital organs
and put them in mason jars and bury them next to him in that place where they’ve buried all other popes. One
hand claws tight the armrest, because this chair, this life has been like a cage. What isn’t innocent about his name
any longer is the fact that he’s known all the church’s dirty secrets jarred and pickled through the ages. The catacombs
await him with a smile, he thinks and his eyes turn to stone behind his wire-frame glasses. He will swallow a mango
seed in hope he will serve as its fertilizer. It will sprout right there in the dark of his plot, and grow into a twisted,
bitter-root tree. In the spring of his first year dead, it will birth one fruit. In it the rotten meat of all human vanities.
He sits there turning slightly toward such dank, dark secrets.
"Images from Cuba"
by Michael Eastman
"Images from Vietnam"
by Richard Copeland Miller