A Grave Denied
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Who buries a body under a glacier? Someone who doesn’t want it to be found any time soon.
About the Dedication
and for all teachers everywhere.
You make the difference.
Glenn Winklebleck skipped me from seventh to eighth grade and turned me on to Tolkien and Shakespeare. Virginia Parks was the first to recognize my ability to write. Ken Cash (and his wonderful wife, Sandy) showed me that there was a whole, big beautiful world out there to explore and enjoy, wondrous, with treasures both subtle and gross. Tom Sexton was my graduate committee chair and the best lit teacher I’ve ever had, he would allow any idea no matter how bizarre so long as you supported it from the text.
There’s a story HL Mencken tells in HAPPY DAYS, where he was planning to be a chemist but his chemistry teacher at Baltimore Polytech sucked. It turned out his English teacher was great. Teachers are the most important people in our lives, sometimes more important even than parents. They aren’t paid enough, we make them study education instead of the subjects they’re teaching, and they get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. Something’s gotta change.
It was a trap. It had to be a trap. She was resting her full weight against him. He could feel her breasts, her thighs, oh my god, she was putting her arms around his waist. He worried about her knees and what she might decide to do with one of them.
She rubbed her check against his chest and gave a long, deep sigh.
Mutt, who had for some strange reason of her own not monopolized Jim’s attention from the first moment of his appearance, gave the two of them a long, impenetrable look and vanished from the clearing.
The hell with it. Jim picked up Kate in one smooth, easy motion and walked over to sit down beneath a spruce tree with spreading branches overhead and fifty years’ worth of needles piled beneath. He settled her in his lap and her head naturally found a place on his shoulder. He thought very carefully about what to do with his hands, until one curved just as naturally around her waist and she relaxed into it with another long, deep sigh. The other he rested on her hip, the curve of which fit into his palm like it had been designed specifically for that purpose.
Time passed. The sun shone. A soft breeze teased the fat buds on the branches of the trees. Birds sang and cawed and called. A porcupine rattled out of the woods, looked them over, and rattled back in again. Jim thought he heard a moose stripping bark from a willow tree. There was a distant crashing of brush like a bear might be passing through, and he gave some thought to pulling his weapon, but it might have woken Kate and the danger wasn’t clear and present enough to justify anything that drastic.
He’d never seen her sleeping before, not close up. Oh, she’d fallen asleep after they had made love last summer in Bering, but she’d been making love to someone else and he couldn’t get out of that bunk fast enough. Then there had been the encounter on the floor of Ruthe Bauman’s cabin last January that had not involved any drowsiness at any moment on anyone’s part. He watched her face and made a discovery. She frowned a little in her sleep, did Kate, as if even then there were jobs to be done, problems to be solved, disputes to be settled.
Her golden skin was smooth and unblemished. Her brows were as black as her hair and as straight. Closed her eyes looked less Asian than they did when she was awake. A strand of hair lay across a high, flat cheek and the wide, full mouth that was unsmiling but relaxed. That hair, that thick cap of pure black that had once hung to her waist in a fat braid. He’d had fantasies about that braid, which had disappeared a year and a half ago during a guided big game hunt when a bunch of homicidal computer executives–geeks with guns, he still had a hard time with the concept–had opened up on each other instead of the moose and Kate had been caught in the crossfire.
Now he had fantasies about the cap.
What was it about this woman, this one woman, when his life had been filled, one might even say littered with so many?
She was smart, and he liked smart in a woman. When she forgot it was him in the room with her she had a robust sense of humor. He didn’t have a lot of empirical evidence, given the brevity and angst of their only two encounters, but he was fairly certain they were sexually compatible.
Fairly certain, hell. He knew beyond all shadow of doubt that he and Kate together would produce a fire that would make the burning down of Kate’s cabin look tame by comparison.
Still. It wasn’t like there hadn’t been other women just as smart and just as fun and just as hot. Plenty of them.
He tried to remember the name or the face of just one.
She shifted in his arms, burrowing closer without opening her eyes. Any minute now she was going to wake up and remember whose lap she was in, and he could kiss his nuts goodbye.
He leaned his head back against the tree, gathered her in as close as he dared, and let himself drift.