In the oil fields of North Dakota you watched your father become a cloud. When his lightning struck, it left shades beneath your surface. Each strike dug deeper, drilling a crude tunnel to the darkest parts inside of you. As you lay broken in bed you searched for something brighter in glossy pages – yearbooks, maps, hidden photo albums – and listened to a Postal Service song on repeat about becoming silhouettes.
The hill-people know how to cast shadows. Cast them out. Use them. They make love on beds of pine-needles, bury their secrets beneath colossal boulders, like treasure or the dead.
Midnight—you steal the truck, ignoring the rattle of glass bottles. Outside city limits, you tear down a gravel driveway and a pretty face, ghostlike, occupies the seat beside you. Before the sky even gets light, you feel lighter, the weight of blows winding away in the Montana wind and new perfume covering old smells of tobacco and booze. Money and gas run dry in Cascade, and you’re still there later—days, months, three jobs. Two kids and a divorce later. When you hit them and see the oil rise from their skin you call in every favor, trading bygone good deeds for a Harley and a lawyer.
Wrinkled, sunlit roads hold secret shade in pitched pockets, like so much oil; boiling underground, pressed, still pressing toward the surface.
You will reach Washington in cherry season, and the fog will roll back and forth between Vancouver and the mainland. You’ll hike with the migrants and stain your fingers brilliant shades of vermillion in the early twilight, rosy as blush on tanned, tight skin. All to cover the black, to fill in the holes as you’ll slowly evaporate. Black like rotten cherries. And oil. You’ll watch the clouds gather, deep inside, and you’ll feel the thunder. You’ll pick more cherries with each passing day.
Everyone you meet will become a cliff to stand on, a rung on a ladder of wrung-out flesh. From the top you will cast deeper shadows and find the next plateau.
Nolan Liebert hails from the Black Hills of South Dakota where he lives with his wife and children in a house that is not a covered wagon. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Gone Lawn, ExFic, Map Literary, An Alphabet of Embers, and other publications. He can be found on Twitter @nliebert.