William Kelley Woolfitt
She. Fingernails hard as horn, calloused hands, face and hands the browner parts of her, she walked on them when she wanted to see low-down, socks beneath the bed, ants in the grass. Dark. That hour of fuzz between moon and sun, cricket and catbird, she shed wooly pajamas. Hair hanging below her waist, thick, crinkly, a bun and a rubber band to hold it, her neck strong from the burden of hair on her head. Black for mourners, judges, and witches. Brown for morel hunters, muleskinners, and fisherwomen. Khaki coveralls and mud boots for her. Her farm overgrown with multiflora rose, song sparrows nesting in the brambles since her barn collapsed. Her house was also falling down. Unable to keep the wild things out. She walked down the road. She took the key that she wore on twine around her neck and opened the park’s gate.
She cared for the paths that the watchers walked, the fort where the deer slept, the arena and bleachers, the chicken coop that put eggs on Tom’s table, all the buildings but the keeper’s lodge that he lived in.
When she unlocked the fort, old buck greeted her. Old buck sniffed for food, nose against her breast pocket, antlers arcing over her, maze of branches and tines, velvet crown.
She scratched his throat mane, slapped his haunch.
The train of does sauntered after him, tiptoers, twitchy ballerinas, walking sticks testing for quicksand.
She mucked stalls, forked straw for them to bed in, filled water-troughs.
Midday, the deer gathered on a knoll by the crook in the path, and she brought them yams, hay, and vitamin pellets.
She walked the paths with a scythe. Manure dried in the back field, and she dragged a wheelbarrow there, fresh load to spread. She climbed onto the roof of the woodshed with snippers, a square of tin, a can of tar.
She pulled the rope to clang the bell, to call the deer back to the fort, buckets of grain, safety from dangers of the night. She caught a doe, salved a sore on her foreleg, picked her hooves. She washed at the pump before Tom could see her, rinsed her boots, cupped water, smoothed her hair.
She waited on his porch, and he brought her toast on a tray, butter, hot chocolate. She sat on the steps and held the tray on her lap because the wicker table held the never-ending game of Monopoly. He sat on a higher step and watched her, hands behind his head, arms bent in triangles, his shadow spilling down the steps, swallowing hers. She had about a hundred green houses. His eyes were black as the speckles on the egg of a song sparrow. She gave him loans if he went to jail. They joked about making bets.
She said she wanted a doeskin dress with fringe on the sleeves. She knew that he was skilled at tanning hides. She thought he would like to look at her in something fancier than her coveralls.
He craved her acres. He thought she would sell cheap, plagued as she was by briars and tumble-down buildings. If she signed, it would be worth the charm he had to spend on her now.
He was the thimble. She was the shoe.
William Kelley Woolfitt is the author of the chapbook “The Salvager’s Arts,” forthcoming in July 2012 from Seven Kitchens Press. His brief essays have appeared in Sycamore Review, Weber Studies, Shadowbox, and Riddle Fence.