A Dotted Line

Henry Vauban

The forest is tangled with ribbons of all colors, unraveled just off hiking paths. They lead to wilting bodies hanging from sturdy branches like overripe fruit. Imagine a ribbon hiker stopping to carve her lover’s name in tree bark, writing the words which will be her last, drenched in fate to decompose with the leaves, baby blue ribbon following her to the place where she will officially give up. We call them notes for the Gods and wonder what could have been so bad as we collect corpses and detritus. We cut them down with tree pruners and they collapse in piles to be driven out in wheelbarrows at the end of our shift.

The loved ones lean on rear bumpers smoking cigarettes, swilling bottom shelf whiskey out of hipflasks, waiting for confirmation like lovelorn tailgaters for a team that has never won. Except when there aren’t any loved ones. Today she is rotting bones in our wheelbarrow for no one. Today she will go in a trash bag marked with the date and we will go home to the things and people that divide our attentions. She will just be in that bag. We keep cigarettes and whiskey in our cars for such occasions. We stand in for the loved ones missing, the loved ones who never were. We stand in for communal feeling, trying our best to close the circle left open for desperate souls to escape, with a dotted line.

Henry Vauban writes in the Black Forest. His work is featured at places like Gone Lawn, Necessary Fiction, and Short Fast and Deadly. He blogs at Vauban Inc.