Dawn eyed the darkening sky and smiled; stormy weather was the best. That she was headed to the seventeenth tee box on the golf course didn’t matter. In fact, she felt invigorated by the power of nature and felt that she was playing the best game of her life because of it.
June had stuck it out with her then said, “Hey Babe. Check that out.” She pointed to the sky over the fairway behind them. Flat bottomed clouds like charcoal brickettes were amassing even as they watched, the wind picked up and tossed the scorecard from the clip on Dawn’s hand cart into the air.
Dawn ran after the wayward scorecard and snatched it up from the grass.
June said, “You’re crazy. I’m heading in. Seeya in the clubhouse K?”
“Set me up with a ‘tini in twenty?”
“You got it.” June pushed her three-wheeled cart towards the clubhouse.
By the seventeenth hole, it had started to drizzle. Dawn reveled in the scents of fresh cut grass, cool ozone, and the lime-y pavement of the wet cart path. A million leaves rippled in the wind, and the wind encouraged her on. The distant sound of thunder sent the remaining birds to the safety of their nests.
The next peal of thunder shook the ground and sent a fox racing across the fairway before her.
Thunder shook the ground. Lightening lit the fairway behind her, elongating her shadow and making it flicker like the shadow of a ghost. She raised her pitching iron at half mast, trusting it was the correct club, as thunder cheered her on.
With her club poised and ready to whack the ball, lightening sizzled over her.
Her body vibrated like a taser, the club felt one with her glove…she smelled burning hair…and the sharp smell of steel being forged into a sword. She felt fire in her extremities… but it was not unpleasant. Her head hit the short grass, and she saw with great clarity the olive-green moss that grew between the stocky green strands of buffalo grass.
Voices echoed through her head. Two people. A man and a woman.
She focused on their fuzzy words though the reverberation sent sparks of pain through her head.
The man, “…very likely to have brain damage…”
A sob…then the woman, “…home?”
The man, doctor, “…testing…the specialist…”
The woman, “Her sister is on her way from…”
Dawn recognized June’s voice. At the mention of her sister, her eyes fluttered open. She hoarsely whispered, “not her.”
June gasped and turned around. The doctor, a white-haired, paunchy man with bespeckled steel grey eyes, leaned over and peered down at her. June went to her other side and held her hand.
The doctor said, “Easy now. Here. Have some water, your throat must be parched.”
June said, “Welcome back sweetheart.” Her round, dimpled face was wet with tears. She smiled but her warm brown eyes belied concern and fear.
The doctor said, “I’ll have Cynthia bring some real food, though just broth and saltines for now.” ‘And a bedpan before she makes another disgusting mess.’
‘I’ll help clean her up. I don’t want to, but I will.’
Dawn was shocked by the mean tone in her partner’s voice…her shock escalated to panic when she realized their lips weren’t moving. Her eyes drooped shut as she slipped back into darkness.
‘It must have been a dream,’ she thought.
She opened her eyes, June was there. Next to the bed was a bowl of steaming broth and two packages of saltine crackers in cellophane. The IV tubes were gone. The nurse, Cynthia, was holding a small capsule of smelling salts. She was a slender, petite woman with a short blond pixie cut…she was captivatingly pretty.
Cynthia gently stroked Dawn’s bandaged head. ‘I wonder what color it will be when it grows back?’
June said, ‘I should snap those skinny fingers like brittle twigs.’ Her hands were clenched into meaty round fists.
Dawn whispered, “Auburn. Dark, like Julia Roberts.”
Cynthia’s mouth gawped into an O shape. ‘I must have said that out loud.’ “I, er…let me help you to the toilet.”
June said (out loud), “I’ll help her up to the bathroom when she needs it. You can go now.” ‘get the hell out.’
Cynthia seemed relieved to be dismissed.
“You don’t have to be jealous of her. I love you.”
“I-I-I’m not---” June sighed and unconsciously rubbed her ample belly. “I think now’s a good time to discuss moving in together…you’ll need some help…”
“June…I told you. I’m not ready for that. And I feel fine. Really…great, actually.”
‘You just want someone like that Cynthia…’
Dawn ignored that thought. “Why did you call my sister? You know we… don’t get along.”
“You were struck by lightning! I thought you were dying!”
“That doesn’t change how I feel about her. Ha! The only reason she’s coming is to see if getting struck by lightning cured me of my queerness.”
‘Maybe it did. Maybe you don’t want me anymore.’
“Stop being so silly.”
‘If I had acid, I’d throw it in your face, so you’d know what it felt like to be ugly.’
“Please leave.” Her hands were shaking. She needed to leave herself, before Anne showed up to make her even more miserable. ‘I’ll surely want to kill myself if I have to listen to what goes on in her nasty head.’
“I’ll drive you home---”
“No. Just leave. We’re through.”
June left in a dramatic tearful way.
The driver of the Uber attempted conversation. “So, what happened to you?”
“I was struck by lightning.”
“Wow. Really? You look great.” He was lying. ‘Pretty enough face. Gorgeous green eyes. I’d do her even with those creepy-mummy bandages. Bet she’s a real rutter in the sack.’
Dawn said nothing.
“So…isn’t this weather---”
“Please stop talking.” She almost added, ‘And stop thinking too.’
‘Fucking bitch. Stuck up whore. Probably has moths in her snatch.’
Three miles from her condo, she said, “Let me out here…now… please.”
The man was happy to.
The late afternoon sun felt wonderful on her face. She tried picking up her pace but her weakened leg muscles protested and she stumbled.
‘Drunk. Just awful.’ It was the thought of a fat blond woman walking her corgi.
She concentrated hard on walking normally and even harder on not responding.
‘Egads! What a hideous creature! Like something from that camp…’ The thought of a very old man.
‘Don’t let her touch you! She might be catching…’ A teenaged girl pulled her boyfriend to the other side of the street.
‘Poor thing. Looks like death warmed over…’ A young man holding the hand of a toe-headed toddler girl.
The girl thought, ‘poor lady. Needs help walking. Like me. Sad no hand to hold…’
That was the kindest thought she heard all day.
When she finally made it through the door to her home, she sighed heavily into the blessed silence. She flopped to her couch in the living room. Tears gushed from her eyes like the hoover dam had bust. She wept herself to sleep.
When she was awakened by the ringing of her land line it was dark. She clicked on the lamp and looked at the caller ID. Private Number. She knew it was Anne and let the call go to voicemail.
“Dawn. Are you there? Pick up. Now. Oh, for heaven’s sake. I just drove all the way from Sausalito. The hospital told me the address you gave them. Really? You gave them mom and dad’s? Stop being so obtuse and talk to me.”
Silence. Then, “your dyke called me y’ know. She must be as retarded as you are.” Clunk!
Dawn erased it.
Five days later, all that remained in her fridge were condiments. She was terrified of going outside. At two in the morning, she headed to the 24-hour Safeway and hoped it was devoid of people. It was not.
She passed a woman in the soup aisle. ‘Beans beans the musical fruit…’ she farted loudly and giggled. She stumbled against the Campbell’s selections and Dawn saw that the woman had peed herself.
While grabbing frozen pizzas, as quickly as she could and not bothering to read the boxes, a man as thin as a walking skeleton shuffled past. ‘That melon said to eat raw chicken. I saw its mouth. It had teeth. The chicken said it was raining in the deli.’ He laughed, the sound like rusty hinges on a cemetery gate…then he sang out loud, “Raining in the de-li, raining in the de-li…”
Dawn avoided eye contact. He smelled odorously stale.
In the deli, she looked up at the ceiling.
In the veggie section she reached for a cantaloupe then pulled her hand away quickly.
‘Gosh durn invisible fleas!’ An obese man on a mobility scooter wheeled by, his buttocks flopped over the seat. His arm fat jiggled as he scratched his greasy dark-bearded neck. He had to weigh four hundred pounds and his face was red with scratches. The scooter made little wheezing sounds as he passed. ‘Oooooh, the fleas!’
It seemed, the only other people who shopped at two AM were crazy, drunk, or on methamphetamine. ‘Why on earth are there such things as 24-hour supermarkets?’ She laughed. ‘I’m as nutballs as they are.’
She very much wanted to go through the self-checkout but had six bottles of Grey Goose vodka in her cart and was torn. At last, the vodka won her inner debate…she waited until there were no other customers in the one open checkout lane.
The cashier was a young woman with green braided hair, bright pink glasses, and neck tattoos. She turned out to be the sanest one in the whole place. “Are you okay?”
Dawn flinched. “You must ask that a lot.”
The girl laughed then said, “Not really. I don’t encourage the crazies. Just want them outta here as fast as possible.” She nodded towards the sliding glass door behind Dawn and said, “Sometimes they need a little help leaving.”
A huge black security guard was hauling the meth fiend out by his elbow. His dirty hair was plastered to his head and his face appeared wet, as if it really had been raining in the deli.
‘Poor lost soul,’ thought the cashier.
“Yes, lost in a world of his own.”
The cashier froze as Dawn cursed herself for speaking out loud. ‘Crazy. I’m going crazy. That’s it. I’m quitting.’ Her hands became a blur as she checked the rest of Dawn’s groceries as fast as she could.
Eighteen months later…
Dawn sat on the front porch of her cabin. Beneath the pine forested mountain, the glacial water in the deep lake sparkled like Swiss blue topaz. She said to the fat crow in the tree next to her, “Norman. I should have moved out here years ago. I’ve never been happier.”
The crow bobbed its sleek ebony head as if agreeing, never minding that he’d heard that a thousand times already.
There wasn’t another cabin in sight. As twilight fell like an indigo curtain and stars twinkled to life, a thin stream of smoke rose five miles in the distance- her closest neighbor. Dawn’s cabin had a fireplace, but she did not use it. She used a propane stove instead, with fake logs that glowed but did not smoke.
She lit the stove and made herself a vodka martini. She grabbed her fleece-lined hoodie and returned to the steps of her porch to welcome the night. Sally-Mae, the owl, had replaced the crow. “Whoo-hoooo.”
“Your voice gives me goosebumps.”
“Whoo- hooo.” It blinked, turned its head nearly backwards, then flew off.
Dawn got up and was about to turn away when she saw a shooting star bolt across the mountain on the other side of the lake. ‘Hm. I’ve never seen those this early.’ They were normally visible just before dawn. She often came outside with her first cup of coffee to watch the fantastic light show on a horizon untainted by the lights of a city.
On this evening, she saw a tiny light to the left of the lake. She thought it must be a star’s reflection on its surface. It winked out and she was uncertain if it had been there at all. An hour later, the light reappeared. Larger now, and bobbing. Dawn realized it was someone walking with a flashlight. They were coming closer.
Dawn raised her hood up over her chin-length auburn hair. She hid amongst the pines where she could see her porch and front door. Forty minutes later, a tall, dark figure emerged from trees on the other side of the clearing. He appeared to be a slender man, walking so gracefully, he appeared to be gliding. He approached the steps then froze and cocked his head.
The brilliant stars and half-moon lightened the scene enough for her to see him clearly. He turned and looked directly at her. His handsome, unlined, and hairless face smiled. He came towards her. She turned to flee, and he said mellifluously, “Please don’t run. I won’t hurt you.”
Dawn stopped and turned back to him. He raised his hands in an open gesture like a man soothing a wild horse to trust a rider. His mind was quiet…devoid of thoughts. She was unnerved, not sure to be grateful or fearful. His eyes were luminescent, they shone like a cat's. He had a soothing air about him.
She stepped towards him and said, “Are you lost?”
“Hm. Lost. Yes, it would seem so.”
Dawn was simply amazed to find a mind she couldn’t hear. ‘What if it’s over?’
“It’s not over.”
Apparently, he could read hers…she felt so tranquil, she didn’t care. “Won’t you come in?
In the cabin, Dawn made them coffee. “I know this area well; I can help you find your way.”
“Yes. That is why I came. I seek knowledge.”
“I’m so confused. You’re so… strange.”
“I only wish to…chat. Mmmm, I like this delicious elixir.”
The handsome man and Dawn talked through the entire remaining night. Then day. Night fell again. Neither felt hunger, neither felt tiredness. The man asked endless questions but answered little himself. Dawn had been so immersed in seclusion, now she reveled in contact with another.
At one point, the man, he said his name was Quat, asked, “If you lost that ability of yours, would you return to society?”
“No. I could never trust anyone. Even the green-haired girl will grow up. To hear bad thoughts from her would only make the sadness more profound.”
“I see.” The man looked sad, like the weight of Atlas’s world was upon him. “I should enjoy more talk with you…”
“I trust you, Quat. You are welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
Early the next morning Dawn peeked into the living room and felt a pang of distress when she saw the blankets folded neatly with the pillow on the arm of the couch. She went to the kitchen to make coffee and as she was dumping the old grounds in the can under the sink she saw Jasper, a regal five-point buck at the bottom of her back porch stairs. He had his soft white muzzle in Quat’s palm; Quat was rubbing the stag’s nose.
Dawn slowly went to the door and opened it. Jasper looked up at her and blinked but did not flee. A large raccoon she’d named William sat on his hind legs on the other side of Quat. Next to William was a smaller raccoon Dawn had not seen before. The trees were aflutter with as many wings as there were leaves.
“Oh…my…God. Jasper. He comes every day but never up to the cabin…looks like William’s found himself a mate…oh my…that’s a fox!” She came forward and giggled as Jasper stretched his graceful head towards her. She placed a hand on his forehead.
Quat smiled. “I must be on my way this night…”
“So soon? I’ve talked more over the last couple days than I have for eighteen months…but I know little about you…”
“It must be this way. I’ve learned so much and am forever grateful. And now I’ve made sure you’ll never be lonely. I’m leaving you with this gift.” He gestured at the friendly creatures all around them.
The shy little fox came to Dawn and sat at her feet. ‘I love carrots. Pretty human lady, have you any? I’d merrily do a back flip for a carrot.’
Stunned, Dawn’s eyes grew round as pink pong balls. She looked at Quat in confusion. “No…no…no…” her weak voice trailed off.
Quat understood her distress and quickly said, “Nature’s creatures are pure of heart Dear One. You need not fear evil thoughts from these here,” He spread his arms to encompass all the humble faces in her backyard, “Just look into their eyes.”
Dawn looked back to Jasper who blinked slowly and said, ‘I love that you named me that…’
William the raccoon said excitedly, ‘This is my new gal. Oh, I’m in love!’ He twirled on his back feet, reminding Dawn of a scene from Westside Story. ‘Please name her something…something pretty…’
Dawn laughed and said, “She’s very pretty. I think Marabella?”
Marabella bowed gracefully. William said, ‘Thank you…ur…Dawn. Quat has told us you are called Dawn, like the most beautiful time of day.’
Dawn thought she understood why Quat was not able to talk of himself and watched his light bob and disappear and reappear as he made his way towards the lake.
Sally-Mae, in the tree above her, said, ‘I’m so happy to see you so happy, Dear One Dawn.’
Dawn was about to respond when a bright light streaked up from the horizon like a shooting star but in reverse.
Sally-Mae said, ‘Yes. That was him. And by the way, I’m a boy owl.’