Beautiful, Violent Things
by Madeline Anthes
I will always remember that it was dusk because of what you always tell me (always told me)—that I am attracted to beautiful, violent things. You were right of course; I love dusk and dusk is the most violent of times. Lines are blurred and shapes deceive you and you think something is there and it really isn’t (the huddled figure in the cornfield is just a fence’s shadow, not a man squatting in the fields) and the deer are reckless at dusk, sprinting into the road searching for food, not knowing or caring that the time changed and that you need to get home so I don’t notice that you’re late (I stopped looking at the clock a long time ago). You were probably thinking about how dusk always seems heavy as it’s falling, like a thick blanket of fog over the farms, coating the hills in gray before pitching into endless black (violent, violent). You were probably wondering if I was home yet, if I was making you dinner (I wasn’t). You were maybe wondering if I was planning something for your birthday, if I noticed you were going gray, if I’d smell the guilt on you like hot liquor breath (I wasn’t, I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have). Did you think of me when the doe stepped a spindly leg into the road, slowly, head turning to look into your headlights? Did you remember how I warned you to look along the edges of the woods at dusk to scan for the glint of eyes? Did you think of me as your car collided with the doe, throwing you forward and the doe backward, both bodies hitting the road with a thud? Did you know the doe survived? As your blood left your body and soaked into the summer-scorched pavement, as your vision started to blur as you watched the doe stand up and hobble away, did you wonder if I was missing you? (I wasn’t).
I remember the tips my mother gave me while driving in rural Indiana: keep your wheels away from the edge (hitting a trench at an odd angle can flip your car), turn your brights off going over a hill (you might blind an oncoming car), and watch for deer at dusk (they're more active at dusk; it's when the bucks chase does).
I wrote this story after driving through my rural suburb, patting myself on the back for being such an excellent country driver. I was reflecting on the skills we learn that are particular to our upbringing and how I take them for granted; it would be so easy to drive off the road, take a turn too sharp, not see a deer around a corner. Some lessons we inherit; some lessons we learn through disaster.
Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. Her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Little Fiction, and Jellyfish Review. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.