Light Work

Before Winston noticed the small, yacht-like boat on the Wachusett Reservoir-and the two people having what appeared to be very complicated, if not acrobatic, sex behind the glass of the Captain's Quarters-he was running very fast along the shore, trying to convince himself, by imagining that his body was a fantastic robotic extension of his brain, that he could feel no pain. If, he hypothesized, his body was an obsequious machine whose every movement was controlled by messages sent and retrieved, pain was merely a glitch in the flawed system constituting his terrestrial-bound self, a mutinous transmission hat must be overridden by rerouting consciousness. Thankfully, years of painting, sketching, and journaling had transformed Winston's otherwise lackadaisical awareness into a shrewd beauty retrieval system which could, on command, seek and find tufts of incandescent cloud, sun-glazed tree branches, and radiant lamps glowing in warm, far-away houses-a treasury of images hoisting Winston out of himself, so that his body, with the precision and confidence of a German Auto, could propel itself forward.

Winston fixed consciousness towards sunlight flashing on the surface of the water, and rebuked himself for almost deciding earlier to remain in the den, where Val, his wife, had been eating her second wedge of Cool-Whipped pumpkin pie and watching the Lions and re-reading, in between whistles, a book by Sherwood Anderson, the front cover of which was missing. During a commercial where a flying baby soared over a land of clean, puffy diapers, Winston had almost proposed that he and Val might, as a kind of celebration of yesteryear, you know, for old time's sake, or whatever-make love. How long had it been, anyway? At least not since Caroline had… Oh! He felt a stab in his heart whenever he remembered her-and the miraculous 24 hours the little family had spent together before she had been taken from them, and they returned to their home and shut the door to her room, full of baby things-mobiles, blankets, bottles, teddy bears-that would go forever unused. But enough of that. Little Caroline, supposing she could have grown up to be an adult person who could look back on the possibility that she might not have been a person, would have wanted, surely, for Winston not to be sad. Surely, he told himself-as he slowed his pace and began briskly walking towards the shore-she would have encouraged this: the wild beating of one's heart, the transformative adrenaline blipping through one's body, refurbishing the world for a little while, in order that one might transcend, however briefly, this dark we must call home.

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Matthew Vollmer