“I walked away.”
Daniel’s left hand was rubbing his forehead, his other hand at the mercy of his swinging arm struggling to stand still. The freshly plowed red dirt collapsing under his dislocated state and his feet subconsciously shifting his boots to avoid sinking and rooting themselves into the earth. It was a dance he routinely performed for the last twenty years or so, to the rhythm of blind obligations and circumstances.
She looked at him with wondering disbelief, imagining him to be Judas who kept holding on that burlap sack, never daring himself to open that heavy bag…until now. The black handprints all over his denim shirt and jeans look as if they tried to grasp him before he decided to jolt.
“I knew you’d be here.”
The sound of Hannah’s voice shifted his demeanor, into a slow sway back and forth, then he tucked his hands into his pockets. “You are right.”
Hannah’s arms were crossed, standing on her porch peering calmly at his face and studying the 20 feet of uncertainty and amazement between her and him. Her feet flat on the cold concrete, still slightly damp from last night’s thunderstorm that uprooted that one dead tree in her yard. It had one branch left that was covered with buds; the last arm that wanted to see one more spring. She had been staring at that branch afor a week, anticipating those green leaves so she could harvest them and fashion herself a pair of wings. She turned away from Daniel’s face and stared at the fallen solider.
“That tree almost had another windy April.”
Daniel turned to look at the tree and slowly paced towards it. He stood over the branch and scanned it with his weary face. He located the only bud that had a protruding leaf, pulled it from the dead tree, and handed it to Hannah. She took it with her fingers and stared at the little silver of leaf for a minute or longer before staring back at him. The bright, blue sky almost cloudless, with only a burst of what was left of the rain a hundred miles behind him. And the empty gravel road, too narrow for the oil tankers speeding by to empty tanks of crude. And his truck parked halfway on the road and dirt, the front tires turned towards her door and a third buried in the dirt – perfectly placed entrance into an unknown world he battled to avoid.