For weeks, they have arrived on late afternoons when the sun begins to beat the distant rim of the hills to bronze. The little women boil out of gaps in the hardwood at the Wagon Wheel Lanes, and the known world takes a shuddering, leftward lurch.
As they stream beneath the Comfort Curve™ sofas and across the scarred linoleum, the anopheline hum of their gossip sets the beer glasses in the lounge ringing in sympathetic resonance. Whiskey dances in bottles laid against the mirrored tiles. As with the wings of certain butterflies, opalescent ripples flash across the floor as their minuscule sunbonnets turn this way and that. Witnesses swear that fleeting messages show in those patterns; images and drifts of script. A Fredericksburg kindergarten teacher is gladdened by a glimpse of the word ‘fandango’ and can’t say why. A produce manager from Salt Gap hears, in the calico murmur, the night wind in the bodark tree beside his bedroom window in a house that burned down thirty, no, forty years back. ‘God is great,’ he announces, as the little women swirl around the ball return on lanes seven and eight.
It was learned early that they came for the wieners; brittle, skinless franks that have done penance since morning atop the rolling grill. All those gathered hand them around, solemnly breaking them into pieces and casting them into the shimmering throng, where they vanish.
Until Friday, when a toddler drawn by the rosy flush on an infinitesimal cheek pitched forward from his chair. In the instant it took to fetch the boy back, already lapsing into shock, his thigh melted away. The bone shone pink in the light of a caged bulb. And so decisions were made. For the wildest beauty, time must always be running out.
When the maple approaches are stripped, resurfaced and conditioned, wonder will have passed out of the world. Unless I can get there first, and gather them up, and run. A pilgrim carrying her destination with her, we’ll turn tramp, feeding on pinkelwurst and boudin rouge, on sharp mīrkās and slices of pickled bison’s tongue, white pudding in egg yolk and fragrant xue chang. There is sausage everywhere you go.
We’ll be out there. Follow when you can.