Fiction

Landscapes

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 FICTION
Landscapes

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On an August night you go with your girlfriend to a pasture you know about. A stream runs through it at the foot of a long slope of timothy grass. You have been here hunting woodchucks, wading for frogs. You turn your lights out and park in the dead center of the meadow, no one around, no dogs barking, nothing but crickets and cicadas and the stutter of stars. You kiss a while. You kiss a lot, falling into her, because you love her, love her like nothing you’ve ever felt before. And you reach behind and pull out a blanket. You have done this before, some of it, so the blanket is no shock. You roll it on the sweet grass, lie down with her. She wears a pair of shorts and a man’s shirt. She has paint on her hands, because she does landscapes, paints in a small room above her dad’s automobile. Her studio, she likes to say. She has big books she gazes at for hours at a time, but not tonight. Tonight she slowly unbuttons her white shirt, a man’s shirt, and shows you her white bra. You unhook it and lay down with her and you kiss, kiss a thousand times, kiss until it’s time to take off her pants. Immediately you enter her, her panties pushed to one side, the crickets louder this low to the ground. A few mosquitoes, but not many, because you are moving, moving constantly, the kissing like a great anchor that holds you both. Then you have to have everything off, every speck of clothing, and she surprises you by standing and stripping in front of you. And when you thought she would come back to you, she surprises you again by running away.

She is so quick and beautiful that she is gone, presto, hidden in the darkness. You hunt for her and eventually spot her shadow form, the black image of her, and you catch her in three or four great leaps and tumble her to the ground. Fuck her. She fucks you. It’s nutty and wild and sweaty. Grass everywhere and you roll over, roll again, fuck and dig and throw yourself into her. Then you let her up and you repeat it. She hides and you chase her, again, again, fucking just for five minutes whenever you catch her. Once you fuck her in the small tadpole pool you remember. You lie down, belly up, and let her straddle you. Mud and water. You put your head back and let the stream cover your ears until you listen to nothing, to water and nothing but water, even she is gone. But she fucks you hard, up and down, and you chase her again. This time you spread her legs as wide as you can and fuck her until you come. Hard, you can’t help it. A little later you lay in the blanket, close, both of you huddled in the scratchy wool. You kiss and look at the stars. You kiss more and you can’t have enough from this woman, this girl, you love her. You kiss and

The kiss is it, that’s all.

eventually fuck again, this time not fucking, this time smooth and gentle as dice in a dry hand. You tell her you love her. You tell her over and over, the truth of it so undeniable, so powerful, and she answers that she loves you too. An owl calls somewhere and that’s a sign of death, can be, but that isn’t what you’re thinking about. You hold her afterward and the wind keeps the mosquitoes off. When you drive her home, she puts her head on your shoulder. You love her even more now than before. You walk her to her door and kiss her good night, chastely, and you wait until you see her light come on in her room. You go down the stairs and then out on the walk. You smell an autumn smell, something like candle fire in pumpkins. In the car, you keep the windows cracked and drive slowly. You think about her. You cannot remember anything but her.

And you kiss her one night outside the library. You are both supposed to be studying but you have come out for a break to sit in your car, at least that’s what you say, and she leans against your car door and talks. Then she stops talking and you kiss, you pull her neck toward you, too hard, you apologize, but then it is all covered with her kissing, her lips, both of you pushing books to the floor, swimming toward each other over World Geo 1, U.S. Hist 2, Intro To Literary Themes, brown paving stones of dullness. The books land and slide and she goes up onto her knees and pours into you, your arms wrapped and tied and solid. And you cannot take your mouth from hers, not for a moment, you kiss, and you dust your hands over her breasts, her ass, her thighs, cup her pussy once for an instant, but the kiss is it, that’s all, and you have strange images of her as your sweetheart, your one and true sweetheart, and you want to go steady, want to rake leaves with her, want to give her a letter sweater, these 1950s dreams, want to see her legs go up the stairs while her white panties ring like a clapper in the bell of her skirt, want it to be Christmas and lights and a fireplace and cocoa and her wearing angora. That’s what you want and you keep kissing her, the heat finally slowing, until she pushes back, says, whew, and fluffs her hair in the mirror on the backside of the passenger visor. She says she has to study, and she does, but you reach your hand over and put it on her thigh, flat, calm, and then you move it a little toward her pussy, just a bit, and the tension in your hand is enough to explode her, she jumps back and you kiss harder, fiercely, her bracelet clanging off the steering wheel, her hands running over you as though she could mend bones with them, until she pulls back and says, stop, stop, we should stop, but turns and lays across your lap and stays there, and you take long kisses, calm kisses that rush up just to the edge, just like water going over a curb, and then you rest your hand on her breast.

I love you, you say and mean it and she says it back and you kiss, and it’s a middle ground, this kiss, somewhere that is deeper and calmer and more important, something that has to do with libraries on a Tuesday night.

    —My parents are going away for the weekend, she says on the phone one night.
    —When?
    —This weekend, she says.

In your locker you find: I Love You. It is written on a note of pink paper, scented by something, and you hold it to your nose, carry it with you until you find her by her locker and wait patiently while she opens her locker door, the note in your hand, and you lean forward and kiss her behind the door, shielded, and the kiss blooms like a Ouija board skidding out of control, until she has to close the door and iron her hands down her sweater and skirt, while a faculty member you’ve never seen coughs and walks past.

You stand knee deep in the Cold River and cast toward a wolf maple. The maple has been hanging over this pool for thirty years, a hundred years, since it was water itself. The trick is to let the fly bump off the bark of the tree, stall, then drop into the pool as though chance had thrown it there. You have on a Muddler Minnow, a wet fly that can be mistaken by a trout for a grasshopper, a sculpin minnow, a dace. But it’s autumn so terrestrials are a good choice and you decide the grasshopper is a grasshopper, spent for the summer, its last ride a swirling down the currents while trout

For a while she floats in the river, or rides about it. You can’t tell.

shark underneath. As the Muddler falls into the water you hear Gary, your buddy, shout that he has one. He is fishing the pool upstream, to the north, and you glance up and see him in the early fall sunlight, and he stands with insects whirring around him, spinners, and a row of birches behind him. The birches are white and you stare at Gary and in pulses he disappears and you keep looking until you have nothing in your head except the pull of the stream on your shins and the thought that in two days, on Saturday, you will sleep beside her.

Her father is checking the oil on the Jeep when you pull in and park to the side of the driveway. The floodlight is on and he moves back and forth to remove his shadow from the engine so he can see what he is doing. He holds a paper towel to the dipstick as though it had a nosebleed.
    —Hey, he says, there’s the guy.
    You lift the two trout out of the front seat. You have them wrapped in mint in your creel.
    —Whoa, he says, holding the dipstick to one side as you present the trout. I may eat those for breakfast. Where’d you get them?
    —Cold River.
    —That pool by the tree?
    —And Gary caught three up above.
He puts the tip of the dipstick back in the engine and stabs it down.
    —Ms. Rembrandt is painting, he says. You take those into Mrs. C. and then you can run up and see her.
    Mrs. C. is working a crossword, a cola-colored drink in front of her. She looks up when you walk in and pushes her chin at the sink. You slide the trout out of the creel. For a second a reflection flashes off Mrs. C.’s glasses. Mrs. C asks if they are cleaned and gutted and you say yes. You put them on a white plate and then slide them into the refrigerator. When you close the door, you imagine the trout believing themselves to be back in the dark cold of the stream.

—Not too long, she says, meaning you can go up and see your girlfriend, but not for long.
    —I have to get home anyway, you say.
You could follow the smell of paint to her studio. The studio is uninsulated and chilly, a garage storage area. She is working on a landscape. The easel is propped up beside the one window, but the light outside is gone. She does not turn when you come in and you like that about her. You sit down, knowing better than to disturb her when she is painting. She has music playing, Japanese music, strings plucked at odd intervals. For a time you sit and watch her paint. Her shoulder blades move under the skin of her back, under the fabric of her blue oxford. The slant of the roof does something with perspective, so you can imagine her farther away, then closer, then away again. She does something with her brush in the painting sky. Trees. Birds. A green smear. She turns and smiles. Moths hit against the window.
    Driving home a deer stands next to the road but doesn’t cross. You slow and lift your hand. It still doesn’t move and for a moment you wonder if the deer is there at all. Then you tap your hand on the roof of your car, just to see the deer go, and it does. It bounds in half moons toward the Kramer’s orchard, its hooves mashing dropped apples, you guess, as it goes.

On Friday you pack your dad’s old pickup. It is September and beginning to be cold. You pack a Eureka tent, a fly rod, a sleeping bag, oatmeal, water, cookies. You pack a sleeping pad, a box of strike-anywhere matches, a copy of A Separate Peace. You kiss your mom, tell her you will be home Sunday, drive to Gary’s. He throws his stuff on top of yours, shows you a joint in the palm of his hand, wiggles his eyebrows. You drive to the Cold River and camp where you always do, on a bright spit of stone and sand that sits in the elbow of the river. You spend the first half hour collecting firewood and setting up camp, then you fish until you can no longer see.
    —A big mother up in that hole, Gary says when he returns.
    —You catch him?
    —Not hardly.
    You cook oatmeal and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while the oatmeal warms. Gary feeds wood into the fire, poking it slowly. He lights the joint and you both smoke for a while. A little later a raccoon shows up at the smell of cooking. It waddles in the dim light of the fire, keeping its distance. Gary pegs a stone in its direction and it looks up, cat burglar, masked.
    You sleep with your head pointing east. The river runs beside you and you can hear it in the stones, in the sand, and it could be running beneath you for all you know. The sound fills the tent and fills everything in your earshot. You think of her and for a while she floats in the river, or rides above it, you can’t tell. You get hard thinking of her, and you picture her turning to you in her studio and lifting her skirt, her jean skirt, and reaching down with her green brush to paint a heart on her white panties. On her pussy. Your eyes stay on hers as she paints.

 Then it is morning and you wake to the sound of crows picking over your fire. You slip out and build the fire up, yellow flames in the gray fog of the river bend. Tonight, you tell yourself, you will sleep next to her. You read for a while with your back propped up against a log. Finally Gary pushes out of the tent and keeps coming on his hands and knees to the fire.
    —You put on tea water? He asks.
    —Not yet.
    —Asshole, he says.
    He fusses with the teakettle while you lean back against the log. Out in the river, close to the far bank, a trout rises. It tilts its fins and accepts the push of the water until it is a jet, a confirmation of the law of physics, the insect down its gullet before it is fully in the water again.
    You come up through the meadow in back. You arrive on foot because it would be crazy to park your car in the driveway all night. She has promised to leave the back porch light off

You rock slowly, in and out, and believe there may be no end to either of you.

if it’s clear, on if something has come up. But the light is off. Her house sits in the pale evening, the black metal roof pulling into the darkness above. The living room light is on. The den light is on. You walk through the meadow and feel the dew coat your jeans. Coppy, their black cat, sits on the split rail fence close to the house. Coppy’s eyes move past you for birds and bats and mice.
    She answers at the first tap in jeans, bare feet, a button-up sweater. Her hair is clean. She smells of soap. She pulls back and lets you into the kitchen, shy. You feel shy, too, suddenly, and she fixes you iced tea and tells you about how hard it was for her parents to leave, how you have to be careful because Mrs. Phillipone may call or swing by to check on things, how you have to be up early, no kidding, really early, before light, and get out of there. Then she kisses you against the kitchen island and tells you you smell grungy but not bad, and she kisses you some more and leans against you and the whole thing has started. You reach and cup her ass in your hands, pull her into you.

The rocker is big enough for her knees to fit on either side of your legs so that she can sit on your cock, her pussy juiced with your first come, her body quiet and beautiful in the light from the porch. You kiss her neck. She lifts and moves so you can kiss all of her neck, her breasts close to your face, her clothes gone, her hair wet at the ends from sweat. It is silent in the house. No music playing in case she had to hear Mrs. Phillipone pull into the driveway, she said, so you put your head back after you have finished with her neck for a time and you hear crickets and toad trills and wind. You rock slowly, in and out, her pussy covering you, and you believe there might be no end to either one of you, that you might go somewhere, into each other’s bloodstream. Then such thoughts are emptied because her body is there, and here, and there, and you kiss her, building a little. She fucks you hard for three thrusts, getting at something she feels, then she soothes you again. She kisses you, lips, teeth, tongue. Then she puts her head against your neck, tucks her arms close to her body, fucks you slowly until the phone rings.

 She kisses you as the phone rings again, pulls away, covers your mouth with her hand.
    —Hello? she says.
    Then: —No, just getting ready to go to bed. Yes, I locked everything. Sure. Okay. No, he’s fishing this weekend with his friend Gary. The Cold River. Yes. Yes, he likes to fish. Yes, he is a good guy. They should be home tomorrow. Yes. Okay. That would be great.
    You arch and push your cock hard into her pussy.
    —Okay, well thanks. Yes, I have your number. No, really, everything is fine. Yes, I’m a big girl. Well, thanks. Okay. Thanks, thank you for checking in. Goodnight.
    She hangs up and kisses you hard. Over and over, she kisses you until her tongue is in your mouth and you cannot breathe without breathing her.

Shoulder to shoulder, you cook eggs, onions, toast, cheese. A black skillet on the stove. She wears a terry cloth robe, white, her hair wet from the shower. You have showered together, water and soap, your hands gentle on each other, a tide of sex washing away with water. You are starved. You sprinkle salt, pepper, watch the eggs grow yellow. The onions are already brown.

You empty into her, everything, deeper and stronger until something in your spine begins to shiver.

When it is ready, she serves it on one plate, two forks, both of you in the dark. She does not want the lights to be conspicuous in case anyone drives by, so you eat at the breakfast bar, a low CD of Joni Mitchell on the player, light from the stereo the only illumination. You sit with your legs around hers, knotted, both of you eating without talking much. You wear your shorts, a T-shirt, your green flannel shirt. It is two-thirty in the morning. She holds up ketchup, raises her eyebrows, you nod. A squirt. Then back to eating. Without thinking, you hold hands. Left hands, so your right hands can move.

In her studio, next to the slant of the roof, you hear the rain begin. Maybe it is light. At first you can’t tell. Then your eyes move gradually open and it is early, four-thirty, five o’clock, an autumn morning. For an instant you are not sure where you are. Then you feel her next to you, naked, her left leg over yours. You roll closer and she turns and pushes her ass toward you, spoons, you hold her for a long time and fall back asleep. Ten minutes, a half hour, you linger. You move forward until the length of your stomach rests against the length of her back. Rain slides and pulls against the roof. The sun is slow. You feel yourself getting hard, then you are inside her, that easy. You mount her, shoving your cock in her hard, pushing her into the bed.

    She arches. You lean over her, kiss her neck, push her again and again into the bed. She gets your motion and starts jamming into your force, rises onto her knees, fucks. She puts her hands on the headboard and lets you look at her, morning light, her hips perfect. Then you roll her over, or she rolls, and you enter her that way. The heat climbs you. It is no longer in your groins but in your hearts. You kiss. Wind comes in through the window and the smell of rain on the grass and you kiss and hold her. She holds you, too, and her legs come around you and you put your arms around her as far as they will go and you fuck slowly, gently, in and out, cock and cunt and lips. You kiss her and kiss her and feel near to crying somehow, you don’t know why. You kiss until you empty into her, everything, deeper and stronger until something in your spine begins to shiver. You keep kissing her and for a while you don’t move. The rain hits the roof hard and you doze, or she dozes, and finally she laughs because you have to go out in the rain. Go, she says. You have to go. I love you, you say, and she says she knows, she loves you too, and neither of you has moved. Then you push away and stand next to the bed and dress. And she falls back asleep. You like that. You like that she will sleep and you will go and the rain is harder on the roof. Downstairs, quietly. The china cabinet shakes a little when you reach the ground floor. You go onto the balls of your feet. You think about leaving a note, saying something, but someone might arrive and see it. Parents, Mrs. Phillipone. You cross the kitchen, see the black skillet in the sink. Coppy, the black cat, comes in through the door as soon as you open it. His tail is up. He whets himself against your leg, purrs. You step out on the back porch. The meadow grass is white with rain.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joseph Monninger is the author of nine novels — including the memoirs Home Waters and A Barn in New England — and numerous stories and articles. He lives and teaches in New Hampshire.

©2002 Joseph Monninger and Nerve.com