The Missing Years
By John Nicholson
I. A Roadway in the Woods
The engine idles as a wounded soldier recovers on the ground, holding his abdomen. Another soldier leans against the car. The smoke from his cigarette vanishes into the snowy canopy. The wounded man chokes as he recounts what happened to him.
“It was just the two of us. I couldn’t.”
The standing soldier toes a large bee carcass on the roadside.
“I looked into his eyes. I saw his life. His future.”
The standing soldier squats and helps the wounded man to his feet. A dark trail of blood leaks from the front of the wounded man’s fatigues, down his waist.
“And I believe he saw mine.”
II. A Meadow in the Valley
The sun shines over the tall wheat grass. A young man and woman roam the slope hand-in-hand. Beyond, and all around them, low mountains rise into snow-capped peaks or roll down into golden, green hills. Behind them, a large house stands exposed, unpainted—blue chips are scattered around it, like a moat. The young man stops and takes the woman’s hand in his. He smiles and starts a slow dance around their hill. He dips her and a divot forms in the grass. He extends his arm, spins her gently toward a distant mountain range, then gathers her back into him. When she returns, she’s aged twenty years. Her slim cheeks have grown swift and wise. Her steps, surer. He can feel the weight of his bloated chin and stomach, the way they strain his spine. He spins her once more, but slower now to savor her grace. When she returns to him, she’s aged again. Her brittle arms, his spider veins. Their bodies slow to a sway. He traces her wrinkles for the first time and looks into her eyes. In them, he finds the missing years.
John Nicholson is an Austin-based writer and founder of ATX Writers Workshop. Born beneath New Jersey’s Walt Whitman Bridge, he has made many moves before landing in Texas.
© John Nicholson
Photo Credit: © sirylok / Adobe Stock