Sun stupid, we stepped out of the car and heard first the odd sound of huffs of breath punctuated by the dull thud of boots, then the muscled torso of an average farmer’s son absolutely focused as he rushed by. He did not see us.
Just as we never noticed the broken front door pane glass, nor drops of blood scattered across the kitchen floor we crossed, unaware the sirens we’d hear in five minutes of our meandering over to the guinea pig’s dish had been called from a house up the road when the boy had been unable to find the phone here. We pet the caramel guinea, stroking the white patches along his knobby head, the tubby bloat of his stomach as he chirped and sidestepped our pats.
We left. But as we drove towards the main road, we could see the dirt plume from an oncoming sheriff’s car and a quarter mile back a thicket of red flashing lights. And shortly, stopping us with the flick of her hand, a woman deputy standing in the middle of the road. She pushed her thick blonde braid back over her shoulder as she approached our car, asking us if we were the property owners; a call of distress had been placed, a possible hunting accident.
As the fire engine bore down, we explained we were merely the house-sitters. She thanked us and waved us on, leaving us to slip back to the before: the smell of the sun warm furniture in the house, the sound of the young boy’s breaths, the what ifs we tried to puzzle together.
We’d learn the next day the boy who passed us was rushing back to the body of the cousin he’d accidentally shot and killed moments before we’d arrived.
Something about the three colors of the ocean waves today brings up this memory from over ten years ago. Strange to think the ocean makes me think of fields of corn, but the reverse was true in Iowa City for me when I lived there, falling asleep once on a retreat in a clearing, waking to watch the wind pass through the corn. Not wavelike, nor tidelike, but the scale of blues in the ocean and the way they refract back light akin to the greens of acres of corn waiting, sated with sun, for harvest.
I still ask how we walked into that farmhouse without picking up on the boy’s charged, residual field of absolute panic. Back then, I had no reference for the burden of sons—what they might or might not do by accident. Today in the camel-bending heat rising off the sand beside the ocean, I thought of those cousins, and the boy who lived, having to face two mothers—his own, and that of his cousin’s; though I can’t imagine how one would go about reckoning with such a leviathan tragedy, I pray he’s forgiven himself.
Photos by Robyn Beattie: www.robynbeattie.com