John Weldon’s wife Katherine is feeling the effects of 19th century military living in the desert.
Katherine took a long breath and thumbed through a book on European history. She moved to the door and opened it to the night. The few men left behind to guard the camp were supposed to take turns at watch, but it looked as if most were asleep with their beds dragged out under the stars. Leaning on the frame of the doorway, Katherine gazed past the barracks and searched the barely detectable desert horizon, lonesome not just for John, but for the world.
Living here was like being abandoned. Everyone Katherine knew had their own lives. Father and Mother, Simon and now John. Her children would grow up and desert her just as she and Simon had done their parents. Any remnants of the close ties were loosened by the irregular mail in Arizona.
Simon used to tell Katherine in his letters home during the war that they could see the same stars in the sky even with state lines and mountains and streams between them. Before the war and before the Undercliff boy and before Simon had been sent away, the two had imagined on humid nights under tall elms that they would tramp the world together gathering stars. Instead they caught fireflies, killing them in sealed jars by mistake. Katherine’s one foolish winter daydream had sealed Simon’s fate and taken all of their summer nights away forever.
A hollow, useless wind blew over the parade grounds, a tease. A dog yelped in one of the quarters begging for supper scraps. Someone’s door hung loose on its hinges and tapped open and shut in the small melancholy gusts. Why had Katherine come all this way? Her thoughts turned morbid, and Katherine imagined a funeral after a quick illness. No one would know what dress to put her in or who to send word to if John were away.
And now Katherine had children. What would come next for her? And what if something happened to John? Katherine would have no one for the rest of her life; no one else would ever do. A coyote mourned the passing of another day and Katherine wondered if John thought of her or if he enjoyed their time apart. “Please God, let me die first! I couldn’t stand to lose him!”
Katherine splashed her face with water and lay down on the bed, knowing she would not sleep, but closed her eyes and remembered the rain; large drops of summer rain in Englewood sliding over broad leaves outside her bedroom window and the sweet smell that came up from her mother’s gardens of lilacs and roses. The porch swing was so cool during an afternoon thunderstorm, and Katherine used to watch the steam rise from the earth feeling refreshed and alive. Often her mother suggested a stroll then through the bright evening. There was no place to walk out here.
There was no safety past the barracks and nothing to see; besides Katherine could not leave the children alone. When John was here she could bear it, but now only three days since he’d left, Katherine worried. How would she feel after ten days? How would she feel to be stationed out here for good?
PART ONE HERE
PART TWO HERE
PART THREE HERE
PART FOUR HERE
PART FIVE HERE
PART SIX HERE
PART SEVEN HERE
PART EIGHT HERE
PART NINE HERE
PART TEN HERE
PART ELEVEN HERE
PART TWELVE HERE
PART THIRTEEN HERE
PART FOURTEEN HERE
PART FIFTEEN HERE
PART SIXTEEN HERE
PART SEVENTEEN HERE
PART EIGHTEEN HERE
*** Image anonymousworks.blogspot.com