by maryanne stahl
press lightly on the brake, slowing down when I get to the river.
The sun is about to set, casting red-gold glints across the flat,
bright water. A line of geese glides by and a lone mallard. His
head is purple, then green. The road winds, following the languorous
curves of the riverbank. My eyes flicker back and forth between
the landscape to my right and the asphalt lane beyond my windshield,
the landscape holding my gaze longer than is prudent. I should know
better than to let my attention wander on this well-traveled road
but I do it anyway, as I have always done. I am on my way to my
father's house. It is early evening and I am looking for rabbits.
Rabbits journey out from the concealing brush to the open, grassy
verge around this time of day, I know, in search of a leafy dinner.
They move like shadows through the long shadows.
envy them their peaceful ritual. Compared to the ineluctable tensions
of my own imminent repast, with its silent accusations, its muted
affronts, its undigestible leftovers of recrimination, a rabbit's
evening banquet is an idyll of tranquility.
is the most beautiful moment of the day, the time between times
that seems to hold in its shimmering pause everything that has come
before and everything that is possible. Whatever wind has blown
earlier is invariably hushed; whatever light has glared or dimmed
is filtered through molecules of sky and plant and reflected by
cool green water. A pause for magic.
If I see a rabbit, I have told myself for more than thirty years,
what I wish to be will be, what I desire sated, but only once. One
rabbit, the first, one wish. Today my spirit needs a rabbit as much
as my body needs the hearty if disheartening meal toward which I
eyes seek soft brown, see brown, in patches throughout the grass,
in gaps between the brush, in the twitch of a duck's wing as it
rests within the reeds.
whoosh of the speeding pick-up truck as it passes startles me: my
hands jerk on the steering wheel, my car turns sharply to the right.
The weight of my car tips toward the shadows. I look up at the road
in time to see that the passing truck will not hit me, would not
have hit me, but it is too late.
My right front wheel dips into the narrow ravine between the road
and the verge and I lose control.
everything that happens happens slowly, as if by a trick of light,
as if by magic. And all the while I'm tumbling, I am looking for