The Slip

The air feels scheming. Spiders and mice somehow find their way inside everything, trying in one last twitch to outrun the middle of the night. The night slips colder first. The midday breeze tickles its way under my shirt in a way July never dared. The badgers come, lurking near my porch like gruff uncles. I watch a marmot scream to warn the others, fat now and slow. She sacrifices herself to the sharpness of an opportunistic hawk and talons scratch the earth loose.

I wake up wondering what all the stillness is about. The whistle pigs, fat bodied rodents with stubbed tails and toothsome gnaws, have gone missing. All summer long they ran back and forth across and underneath my porch, disguising secret doors to their subterranean hallways that I would stumble on and curse on my walk to the outhouse in the middle of the night. The holes are sealed over and the stillness makes me uneasy. In an instant flies with pale blue bodies and white wings appear everywhere. I mistake them for snow at first, and then for pollen. They land on everyone’s eyebrows and lashes for a day and then just as alarmingly they are gone. Harems of elk gather and their bulls call out like the wrong notes played on a harmonica. Coyotes howl in argument, angry voices like hearing foreigners talk in their native tongue. The elks’ screams hang eerily in the air reminding me of the metal garden gate creaking closed in a horror film, a little girl’s scream muffled by a meaty hand.

The spiders inside my cabin all shrivel and die. Clouds cover the Tetons in a soup so thick, a day tourist would never know these mountains existed save for the glossy photographs in his guide book. It rains for four days, thick and deadening, and when the clouds finally clear the mountains are covered with the first snow, impossibly light and as perfect as the palm of a newborn. The virgin snow before it has been baked by the sun hangs delicately on the cliff faces like a lady’s lace slip.

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