from Julius Winsome
a novel
Gerard Donovan

Gerard Donovan, who joined the EIU English Department in Fall 2007, was born in Ireland and has written three novels. ——JDK

‡ 23.


he first evidence of guilt was the way she turned up at the cabin that day in early summer.† She walked past the flowers that stained the grass blue and yellow under the Maine sky, wide and shallow and ice blue.† I was in the kitchen reading, and the wind blew from the south through the open window and through all the rooms, seeking out the last smells and shadows of spring, and the new summer grazed my skin with a warm whisper, its first word.† I rose from the armchair when I heard her: my face had been buried in a book and now it filled the glass as I watched.†

Some hens ran after each other in the sunlight under the smell of burning pine and past the truck.† I stepped out onto the porch under smoke that swept down from the chimney.†

She said, I was in the area.† I donít know, I got lost I think.

It made perfect sense to me then, as if she had just raised her wrist with a watch on it and told me the time of day in the middle of the street back in the town.

If thatís so, I said, why donít you come in then and have some of the tea.

To her the walls must have looked like they were made out of books, leather that stretched along the eye.† I walked behind her to the sink and watched the house fit around her as she stood under the door frame that separated the large first room from the second.† She glanced at the oak floor and the wood stove, watched the fountain outside the small side window: a bird wriggled through the water.† She whispered how few of the paintings had people in them, the ones on the walls hung by my father and grandfather, one a brown landscape of bare trees, others of seashores, gardens, haystacks, climbing above the bookshelves.†

I went off to play a record, some piano music.† I should have pressed my question at once about this sudden visit.† Outside it fell down some short rain, the flowers dripped, and the notes dripped from the bedroom, a tune by Satie from my fatherís days.† I poured the boiling water onto the tea bags and handed her a mug with a spoon.†††

You havenít changed much, she said.†

I said, I donít think weíve met.

No, itís my sister. She was a few classes behind you in school when you went there.† She described you.†

Though it made little sense, it was what she said.† When the shower ended the sun shone through the wet glass and warmed the red roofs in one of the paintings.† I wondered why she got lost here and not somewhere else but did not want to ask, since people usually choose the place they get lost in and she must have had her reasons.† Anyway I had much of the rest of the day free, and all that was left was to run into the town and pick up carrots and fish and some bread.†

Was I rude to just turn up like this, she said.

I asked her what other way there was to turn up.

Her car was in the woods, she said, a half mile away where the road was still wide enough: she wanted to go for a long walk today and kept going.† She had to go home now.† That must have been her first mission, to see the cabin, to count how many lived here, a short count as it turned out.†

I told her I would bring her back as this was no forest for walking in once evening made its way through the trees, even in summer.† The odd large creature made its way across the river from Canada and might not take well to the surprise.† We made our way under the leaves, mostly in silence along a brown line that wound itself into the undergrowth.† The way was narrow enough to tell me that the last part of the journey had been too close for her to drive: the branches touched each other across it.† In the truck it was just a matter of keeping going for the half mile through everything.† It was clever of her I suppose, to keep her car where it would not be seen.

She did not know where to turn, so I offered to drive it out of the lane for her.† I was bent around the wheel as it was one of those small cars, and my head bounced off the roof.† She laughed.† I must say it was funny all right, you get in and turn the key and then your head hits the roof as if you were the one started and not the car.†

To the Saint Johnís Road, she said, and pointed me back, saying left and right, the particular way she came, though I knew a shorter way myself.† Her map was not local.† I estimated by the route she took that she had come twenty miles from Fort Kent, though we were twelve miles as the crow flies from that town.† They flew above us black and cawing over the trees.†

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