While I still remember, the color of the snow before me while behind me on the high ridge, fire sings through the dry timber at dawn, driving us down to the river. Before there are none, these trout like muscles flexing in the current as they track their shadows across the wrinkled bed. To look at the surface, the flickering river might be fire. To look at you, I might think flames are alive in your eyes. The world is not yet ash and while it burns there is a chance. Let me help you do any small thing of your choosing this last day. I could boost you. I could carry you through the fast water to a bank beyond reach of the fire that runs like lava a minute behind us. While I can feel it, your smooth girl’s arm across my shoulders, your fingernails raking my scalp. Let me tell you what I have so far. I have yesterday’s sundown, the color and the smell of it, the campfire when it broke, the handful of smudgy stars we sighted through the clearing, and my heart’s own thug, in case those were our last, or if we have more of each, I have these to compare with. Yesterday’s was an unremarkable evening like most, until we’re not sure another will come. You, though, are beyond compare. Let’s cross. While it rushes over rocks down the ridgeline, the river carries from the fire above smoldering deadfall that sizzles as it rolls. Let me worry about that. You fix your eyes on the trees along the far bank, or count how many colors the fire behind us casts across the snow to make it look like peach—the yellows, the oranges, count them, name the yellows, name the reds.

Copyright © July 24, 2008 David Hodges

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