Aug 3, 2009

Until then

Donnie cut through the hedgerow. He hiked up to the hedge and got down on his knees and crawled in. The branches ripped at his hair, his clothes, his guitar. In there, in the middle of the hedge, there seemed to be no air and he gasped and was blind. It was black and he couldn't see and the hollow inside smelled of dryness and withered Christmas. It sounded like shattering and snapping and scratching, and he felt fingernails on his eye lids and across his cheeks and clawing up his nose.

Then Donnie tumbled out the other side, and he breathed again and blew his nose and brushed his face, batting open his eyes. The sky was black and vast and empty, except for half a moon that looked it was being erased into the sky. He pulled his guitar through the hedge and into the graveyard, and he stood up and found his way in by counting stones.

He counted six flat stones, each of them marble bricks sunk into sod, and he turned right. He walked 'til he saw the old obelisque, the stone angel, and three rows of crooked stones and then the newer, straighter ones. He counted the stones, by the light he had, and went to the fourth one and sat down. He crossed his legs. Tuned the guitar. Leaned over and hummed the first two bars, three bars, closed his eyes and sang in a clear tone, Happy trails.

To you. Until we meet again. Happy trails to you. Keep smiling. Until then. Some trails are happy ones and others are blue, but it's the way you ride the trail that counts, so here's a happy one. To you.

He left his guitar pick in Roy Roger's grave, in the grass there on top. When his oldest daughter, 40 now, asked him what happened to his face, he laughed sheepishly. "Oh," he said, "it was nothing."