Ed Baran– Dark Eyes
Yes, it was late, and it was cold, and it was snowing. But something was drawing me back. I sat, hunched over the wheel, staring out the back window through the rear-view mirror. I’d pulled off the road in front of the fire station where it was plowed, and sat in the snowy orange glow, looking for something I knew I couldn’t see from here, but I was sure was still there, something somewhere in the blackness behind me.
There was something back there.
The snow, the lateness of the hour, all told me it was time to go home now. The road would take me there, I wouldn’t even need to think about it. I’d driven this path that ran from the house to the hospital a hundred times. And this would be the last. So just get home, where it’s safe and warm. And empty and cold.
But there was something back there.
I pulled the car up to the road, argued awhile, then turned back in the direction I’d just come. I drove past the old grandfather oak. I knew it was before that. I drove by all the driveways, ridged shut by the first pass of the plow, slowing down to study the stone walls, the bushes, the ups and downs along the far side of the road where I saw what I saw.
Then…an upward jerk, and a downward fall of tan…and those beautiful large black eyes.
I pulled the car in close to the snowdrift on the far side of the road, set the flashers, and got out, walking across the road to join her. My boots thudded hollow against the snowpack, but went silent as I reached the swale along the other side. She watched me as I walked towards her. She moved her mouth a little and I stopped and tilted my ear in her direction. Then a stomping and a snapping of branches cracked through the brush above us, and she tried to pull herself up by her front legs. But her frozen, splayed haunches kept her pinned to the snow.
“Oh, sweetheart,” I said. Her black eyes pleaded. And I remembered the growing blackness around those other eyes as I said yes, and yes again, until I said the irrevocable no.
I bent in to see how I might help, but there was a movement again in the brush and I stopped.
Yes, for those eyes, I should fight, too.
A car pulled in slowly behind mine. The white tree bones flashed on-and-off red, on-and-off blue, and into the two white eye beams stepped a silhouette that walked straight at us.
“Was it you that hit it, sir?”
“No. I was coming along the other way and saw her, and turned around and came back.” I demonstrated with my hands. “Now that I’m here, I don’t know what I thought I was going to do.”
“Well, that’s all right, sir. We’ll take care of it.” We were standing together now, looking down at her in the swale, when behind us, another car slowed to a stop. It was painted the same as the first. But this one stayed silent, unlit, and unintroduced. “We’ll have to destroy it,” he said. And I saw that he wore a bullet-proof vest.
“You know, the heart runs out ahead of any sense, I guess.” I tried to help my meaning by pointing with my fingers.
“That’s understandable, sir,” and he took my elbow and walked me back to my car.
But it’s those eyes, you see, you want to take them home with you. They’re like stars in the sky!
There was a muffled pop, and I looked back. A greasy smudge rose up against the snow. In the swale, lay only stillness. And in the brush, a trail of cracking branches that moved away, into the cold.