Short Story | ‘After A Little While Amongst The Cows’ by Betsy Streeter, Illustration by Rosa Middleton
She can’t recall the first time she saw him. Somewhere along the way he seeped into her space like air from a vent. There may have been an introduction sometime, or a first lengthy conversation shared over coffee, but she has no distinct memory of these things. It is as if he was not there, and then he was there, and that is all.
Some years ago, she lost him. Or, lost track of him. She went hours and days without any contact, and during that time she came gradually undone. It wasn’t so much because of some romantic or tragic need for him, it was more of a disorientation, like all of the doors in the house getting moved around. She found that she could not get a handle on herself. So, she cried.
But then he was back, without fanfare. In the overstuffed chair by the door, reading the paper.
Does he think about her when she is not around? He says that he does. He brings her gifts, bracelets and scarves and sometimes a bottle of wine.
They go for long walks, hands clasped together behind their backs, which start and end at their front door. The walks start with picking their way over the rough gravel of the long driveway, avoiding the mud puddles sunk into the tire ruts. Then they turn onto the road, staying on the pavement to avoid the sticky overgrown grasses crowding through the fences.
Soon the terrain opens out onto a field on both sides, and cows dot the area. The closer ones sometimes startle and run away, sending up clouds of bugs as they humpf off through the grass to a safer distance. It’s hard to predict which will be the jumpy ones.
After a little while amongst the cows, they return home and have coffee or watch the game on TV.
One afternoon, she walks to the mailbox. As she shoves closed the metal door and turns back toward the house, a new shape catches her eye. He has moved to the roof. His body is a colored speck amongst the brown shingles. She walks back toward the house, the mail in one hand. He waves to her.
“You are up there,” she says when she reaches the front porch.
“Yes,” he says.
She goes inside, and prepares him dinner.
Years pass, and she devises ever more efficient ways to bring him his meals, or a good book, or the morning paper. Sometimes she joins him on the roof, her bare shins heating up in the sunlight and her nose stinging a little with sunburn.
He becomes more and more still, resembling the metal figure atop a weather vane. Eventually he stops moving altogether, turning a shade of grey that mimics the storm clouds overhead.
One day she joins him on the roof and notices a part of his head has melted away, like a concrete monument in a cemetery. She touches his cheek and climbs down for the last time. She smiles, because she knows exactly where he is.
Illustration by: Rosa Middleton