Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith


Leesa Cross-Smith is a writer and homemaker with a BA in English from the University of Louisville. She lives in Kentucky with her bearded husband and their two children. Her work has appeared in Storychord, The Rumpus, and Bluestem Magazine. She can be found online at

Editor's Choice (Kristin) - 2011 Raymond Carver Contest


I cut my hair when my husband, Eamon, died. Dalton did, too. Everyone says you’re not supposed to cut your hair when you’re pregnant, but I don’t think that applies if you’re a pregnant widow. I don’t think that applies if the father of the child was a cop and was gunned down by some motherfucking sixteen-year-old kid who skipped school. I don’t think it applies. I think an exception can be made. I cut my dreads and I shaved my head and I felt like a little chicken somehow. And Dalton hadn’t shaved his face in years, but he did. The bottom of his face looked tender and raw and red sometimes. I was afraid to touch it.

That was six months ago. Our son, Noah, is five months old. I asked Dalton to move in with us because he was Eamon’s best friend and they were practically brothers. Eamon’s parents took him in after his mom died because Dalton didn’t have any other family and never knew his dad. He lived with them until he and Eamon went away to college.

I like Dalton being here because I don’t want to be alone. And being with him feels like being with Eamon. And when it was just me, I hated taking out the garbage by myself and I hated being scared at night. And I needed someone. I needed lots of things then and I need a lot of things now, but having Dalton here fixes a lot of things that are broken in my heart. His lease was up last month so he officially lives here now. He sleeps down the hallway in the blue bedroom.

I don’t have to worry about money. Eamon took care of all of that stuff, and I have enough.  I stopped teaching ballet when I got too pregnant. Dalton owns a little bike shop, and if I even look like I’m thinking about bills or money, he tells me not to worry about it. I know he has plenty of money. His mom left him a chunk that he got when he turned twenty-five. I’ve been letting him take care of the money because I don’t have extra brain power for anything like that right now and I trust him. I don’t take that for granted in him or anyone. I fucking hate being around people I know I can’t trust.

I read once that Bill Monroe said that bluegrass music “has a high lonesome sound.” Dalton and Noah and I left in this world without Eamon, that’s what we have. We sound like one banjo playing slowly. We sound like one fiddle playing into the wind of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We sound like a sad country song that hasn’t been written yet. We go to bed at night in deep darkness and wake to these thin-as-a-communion-wafer mornings with their dirty white winter sunlight and hush.

.  .  .

I swim up out of the thick sleep that hitches itself to the trains of whiskey and winter. After the bathroom, I walk into the kitchen wearing a tank top and pajama pants and I pull my grey wool sweater down over my head. Dalton touches me underneath one of my arms.

“I like your armpit hair,” he says softly.

It tickles so I smile a little. His fingers aren’t as warm as I want them to be if he’s going to touch me there.

“I hate to shave,” I say back.

“Me, too,” he says reaching up to touch his beard.

He tells me that Noah is still sleeping, but that he was up for almost an hour during the night.

“I didn’t hear him,” I say, holding both of my hands up to my mouth. The sleeves are too long. It was Eamon’s. I’m convinced it still smells like him, but I know that it can’t be true.

“No worries. I heard him. We hung out for a little bit and then he fell back to sleep,” he says, smiling, as he goes over to the coffeemaker and fills it with tap water.

“I feel awful for not hearing him.”

“Don’t,” he says, putting his hand on my shoulder for a moment.

.  .  .

I take Noah to my parents’ later. They really want to see him, and I could use some time to myself. I let myself in like I always do, and my mom walks into the foyer with a plaid dishrag draped over her shoulder and holds her arms out for my baby. He grins and grins.

“Come here to Nana, you big, big boy,” she says, grinning back.

“I’ll come back and pick him up later. I think I may run some errands. Maybe go see a movie,” I say, lying. I want to go back home to sleep but I don’t want her to worry about me.

“Why don’t you leave him here tonight? Get some rest,” she says, grinning at Noah and then looking up at me with that sweet look that moms get—worry mixed with love mixed with suspicion.

“Well, I didn’t bring his pajamas,” I say, looking into the diaper bag to see if I put more than one clean outfit in there. Noah leans forward and reaches out for me, and I take his hand and let him grab my fingers, while I root through with my other hand.

“Evi, I went out last night and bought him two new sets of pajamas. Aren’t they so cute?” She squeals and points towards the ottoman, where she has them laid out. One is brown and blue stripes and has a little hood with bear ears and one is a pair of red footie pajamas. I turn back to her, but she and Noah are already headed to the kitchen. He’s looking at me over her shoulder with the same dark eyes that Eamon had. He’s got the fabric of my mom’s shirt balled up in one of his little brown fists. I reach my hand straight out to wave to him and say “Hey, Baby,” and he makes the happiest squealing baby sound that echoes off of everything in the kitchen. That echoes off of everything inside of me and then shoots straight up to Heaven to Eamon’s waiting ears. I have to believe it does.

.  .  .

Eamon was over the moon when I found out I was pregnant. We’d only been married for a year, and I thought maybe we should wait until we’d been married for longer, but life happens and it only took me half a second to feel over the moon, too. If I think about the fact that Eamon never got to see Noah’s face in this life. If I think about the fact that Eamon never even got to touch his baby or hold his baby or smell his baby’s head. If I sink down and let my bones steep in those feelings for too long, I have to put my hand to my heart. I have to make sure that I’m still breathing because it’s hard to understand how I could be. It doesn’t make sense.

I put my hand to my heart as I am driving back home. I’m still eating the oatmeal cookie my mom shoved in my hand when I left. And I’m looking forward to not having to worry about Noah waking up in the middle of the night tonight. I won’t have to feel guilty that Dalton hears him better than I do sometimes. I hear athumpadumpdump and know something is wrong with my tire.

I pull over and get out and see that it’s flat. I could call AAA. I could call my dad. I could change it myself. I could call Dalton. I’m only about a mile from home. I decide to walk home and wait for Dalton, and we’ll come back down here. We’ll change the tire and get it fixed, and it’s fine and I know it’s fine, but I start crying as I get my purse out of the car. I keep crying as I walk onto the sidewalk and head towards home. The sky is starting to do some sort of sleet-snow mix, and I keep crying and walking, and I cross my arms. I hear a honk behind me and think Oh God, Please Don’t Let It Be a Weirdo. I don’t want to turn around, but I do and I see Dalton’s big black truck, thank God. And he’s not alone. There’s a girl in the truck with him. He pulls over and gets out.

“Evangeline? What’s up? Noah’s with your mom?” He says quickly, looking around. I know he worries about me. Everyone does. I’m sure he’s worried I’ve left Noah somewhere or that I’ve lost my mind. And sometimes I think that would be easier.

“He’s with my mom,” I say back to him, wiping my eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m just tired,” I say.

“The tire’s flat?” Dalton asks, sizing up the situation. He looks down the road where I left my car. I haven’t walked very far. The sleet makes a hard and constant sound as it falls on my puffy vest. I should’ve worn my bigger coat.

“I was walking home to get you. Who’s that?” I nod towards the truck. The girl in there wipes the fog off of the window and holds her hand up and smiles. I mirror her and smile back quickly.

“Her name is Cassidy. She comes into the bike shop sometimes. She needed a ride,” Dalton says looking back at her and then again to me.

“Oh,” I say. I’m jealous. He tells me to get in the truck and we’ll take Cassidy home and then come back and fix the car.

I step way up and into the truck, and Cassidy scoots really close to Dalton, and I hate it. I can’t stand it. I say, “Hi” and then look out of the window, and then I look down and watch Dalton’s keychain swing back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in the ignition. There’s a little flashlight on it and a green bottle opener. I bought it for him. I bought Eamon one, too.

Cassidy’s place isn’t too far up the road, and when we get there I get out so she can slide across the bench seat. She does a hair flip-fluttery-eyelashes-smiley goodbye to Dalton, and I say goodbye to her, too, before I get back inside and close the door.

“She likes you,” I say as soon as he drives away.

“Well... it’s not like that, really,” he says.

“I don’t feel like I’m in a place to say anything,” I say start to cry again. I’m tender. He knows that. Everyone knows that. I can’t hide it and I don’t try.

“Don’t cry. Hey. You’re not crying about this, are you? About me giving a girl a ride home?”

He keeps turning to look at me even though he’s driving and it’s sleeting harder now.

“I’m crying because of everything, Dalton. Because of my life,” I say, crying harder. I put my face in my hands.

“I love being a part of your life,” he says, “everything about it... you and Noah.”

I shrug and don’t say anything.

“And Cassidy’s not my type anyway,” Dalton says, putting his hand on my leg for a second to get my attention.

I look over at him as he stops at a red light.

“It’s not my right to say anything even if she is. I don’t know how to handle stuff like this.... I mean, eventually a girl will be your type. Then what?”

He starts shaking his head.

“What?” I ask.

“It’s not going to happen like that,” he says as he pulls his truck behind my stalled car on the side of the road.

.  .  .

I stand with him while he puts on the spare tire. He keeps telling me to get back in the truck. He keeps telling me it’s too cold. He keeps telling me that he’ll be done in a second. He flips up the collar of his coat. His hair is wet and dripping, and I take off my red toboggan and put it on his head and pull it down over his ears. And when he’s finished I get back into my car and follow behind him slowly as he drives up the road and turns right, headed back to the house. Then I drive around and pull in first so I can go into the garage. He says he’ll pick up a new tire for me tomorrow. We go inside, and then I go upstairs to my bedroom so I can put on warm, dry clothes. Pajamas and my warmest slippers. When I come back down, Dalton has on his pajama pants, too. He’s at the stove making hot chocolate.

“That’s perfect. Thank you. For the hot chocolate and for fixing my car and for everything,” I say. My head aches and I’m too tired to cry.

“Stop thanking me. I’ll have to make that a new rule around here,” he says, stirring and then he looks over at me.

Dalton is a beautiful country boy. He has kind eyes and he’s tall and athletic and rarely an asshole. He and Eamon played football together in high school and Dalton played a little in college, but he hurt his knee so that was that. I always felt safe when I was with both of them. Eamon, being a cop and a tall drink of water and Dalton, being this kind, Southern gentleman. Dalton dated a lot but never had a long-term serious girlfriend, so most of the time it was just the three of us. And we took it easy whenever it was for the taking.

I like to watch Dalton move. I was the same way with Eamon, only it was different because I never noticed how Dalton moved until Eamon was gone. But now I notice. Now I see. I’m a woman and I love men, and Dalton is such a man. And so was Eamon. That’s what I loved so much about Eamon. He was a man’s man. He and Dalton read their Bibles and would fish and hunt and break things and fix things. I thought about Eamon a lot before he asked me out. I thought about what it would be like to kiss him. I thought about what it would be like to sleep with him and to have his arms around me and to hear him breathing heavy and low when he was kissing my neck. I still think about those things and sometimes it makes me feel worse and sometimes it makes me feel better. I’ve thought about Dalton that way once or twice since Eamon was killed. And I’ve felt awful about that. And I’ve felt confused. I’ve felt everything. There isn’t one emotion that’s been left off of the list and that’s why I’m so tired all of the time. It’s because I feel everything, all the time and too much.

But it’s easy for Dalton and me to have our separate space here in the house together. He puts his shirt on when I come home, and I never catch him looking at me in a way he shouldn’t be. And what does that even mean? And I’m sure a lot of people assume that’s what’s going on. That we’re sleeping together and playing house with Noah, but we aren’t. I don’t know what we’re doing, but it’s not that. But we’re trying to make something. We’re trying to figure out what to do next. We’re taped together with the love that we have for each other and for Eamon and for Noah and yes, it’s a crooked life. It’s at once rickety and ramshackle and brand-new, but it’s something, even when I don’t know what. I know I’m loved. And I know that the good that’s coming to me is going to come from that. And I have to believe that there’s good coming. I am too scared and stubborn to ever let that go.

.  .  .

Dalton’s cell phone is on the table and it starts vibrating, but I don’t look to see who’s calling. He asks me to hand it to him, and I still don’t look. I give it to him and go to the cabinet to get two mugs, a red one and a blue one. Neither of us drinks out of Eamon’s U of L mug. I haven’t touched it since.

“Hey,” Dalton says into the phone.

I put the mugs on the counter and turn on my iPod and the speakers. The first song is Otis Redding, and I know how much Dalton loves him and I do, too, so I leave it. Dalton’s cradling the phone with his shoulder and pouring the hot chocolate from the pot into our mugs. And before I can say thank you and grab mine, Dalton takes my hands and slowly starts swaying back and forth. So I put my arms around him and he sometimes saysmmhmm into the phone and I press my ear to his chest and listen to his heartbeat and we’re swaying and listening to the song. And he’s talking to whoever he’s talking to about whatever they’re talking about and then he tells the person, “Okay I’ll give you a call back then”and says bye and beeps his little phone off. He steps so he can put it back on the table. I grab my mug.

“You all danced out?” He asks, tilting his head.

“Never,” I say and smile, taking a sip.

I want to ask him who he was talking to. I want to ask him more things, but I’m scared that he’ll want to know why I want to know. And I wouldn’t know what to tell him if he asked me that. I’m jealous and I worry that he’ll find someone soon and he won’t be around anymore and I’ll be alone. But that’s not all the truth of it. I think about how maybe one day we could be a real, normal family. Maybe he feels the same way I do. And maybe when we’re ready, we can do this. We’re best friends, and he loves Noah. I know he’ll always be in his life. But maybe that’ll change when he has his own son. I hate thinking about it I hate thinking about it I hate thinking about it so I try to make myself stop. I go to the freezer for the bottle of whiskey.

“I didn’t know it was that kind of party. Yes, ma’am,” he says, holding out his mug so I can add some whiskey to it.

I glug some in mine. I glug some in his.

“To whiskey and ribbons,” Dalton says, tapping his mug gently against mine. That’s what Eamon used to say whenever we drank together.

Dalton smiles at me and the thought of kissing him is there snapping back and forth like a clean white dishtowel hanging on a clothesline in the wind of my cluttered mind.

.  .  .

We’re close to raging drunk now, playing basketball with wadded up balls of paper and the office garbage can and every now and then we use a pencil for batting at the balls even though those aren’t the official rules.

“Was that your girlfriend, Cassidy, on the phone earlier?” I’m brave enough to ask now. I only had one glass of whiskey, but finished off the rest of the red wine so I’m still a happy drunk.

“My girlfriend? Quit it, Evi. Quit that,” he says.

“Was it?”

“Yes. It was her but she’s not my girlfriend. Not even close,” he says, getting up and tossing the last wad of paper in the basket. He sits down behind the piano and starts playing the jangly middle part of “Piano Man.”

“What did she want?” I ask and scootch next to him on the bench.

“She asked me if I wanted to go to dinner,” he says.

“I told you. I told youuuu,” I say loudly and punch him in the arm.

“You didn’t tell me that,” he says, swatting me back and we’re both punching each other but I hit him hard and he only bats at my shoulder.

“I told you she liked you. And I was right.”

He shakes his head and starts playing piano again. I ask him if he likes her, and he keeps playing and doesn’t answer. And then I ask him again and my eyes must look so sad because he stops and looks at me and doesn’t say anything. Then he looks down at his hands and so do I. I climb into his lap and face him and put my legs around him and sit there and hug him and smell his neck.

And when I pull back and look at him, I kiss him on the mouth. We’ve never kissed on the mouth before. He kisses me back quickly and pulls away and I kiss him again this time, harder. And he kisses me back and pulls away and says my name. I kiss him again and this time he loosens up a little and kisses me for longer. All I hear is the house settling and the two of us breathing and I can feel his heart beating quick and steady with mine. And then my phone rings.

.  .  .

I climb out of Dalton’s lap and go to the kitchen and answer it. It’s my mom checking in on me. I use my soberest voice and ask about Noah. I’ve talked to her once since I left him there. She says he’s sleeping. She also wants to know if I need anything. She wants to know if I’m okay and I tell her that I am. I tell her that Dalton and I are hanging out and talking. I worry I’ll slip and say the word ‘kiss’ or the word ‘tongue’ or the word ‘mouth.’ I thank her and tell her I’ll call her in the morning. She says that the roads are getting icy and not to go out and maybe I should take the rest of the weekend off and leave him with them until Sunday night.

“Okay. That probably works. But I’ll call you in the morning. Thanks, mama,” I say.

And she tells me to get some rest.

.  .  .

Dalton’s in the kitchen now, and I hang up the phone. He turns the iPod back on and plays the Otis Redding song again. He grabs me so we can dance again in this kitchen lit by one lamp tonight. His t-shirt is a blue-grey color that seems to get darker the longer I look at it. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing. I get on my tiptoes to kiss him again, and he leans down and puts his hand behind my head. When the song ends, we’re kissing against the countertop and Dalton puts one hand flat against it and the other arm is wrapped around my waist. And when a new song starts, we’re still like that and here comes all the feelings I’ve ever had, flapping like erratic moths fighting for room around the pulsing yellow light of my heart.

“I don’t know what to do,” I say aloud and turn away from him. I put my fingers to my warm lips. He puts both hands flat on the counter now and hangs his head.

“Me, either,” he says.

“I miss Eamon sooo fucking much,” I say, making fists with both of my hands and then I bring those fists up to my temples and push until it hurts.

Dalton puts his hand to his heart and there are tears in his eyes and he says, “I do, too.”

“I miss how he smelled and I miss his voice and I’m afraid I’ll forget everything about him and everything about us,” I say, sobbing now. I’m trying to catch my breath. I take a seat on the cool kitchen floor and Dalton sits down across from me, with his back against the dishwasher door.

“And you’re going to feel trapped by this. Eventually you’re going to want your own family and you’ll fall in love and leave and I’ll be alone,” I say. I keep pointing to myself while I’m talking and sometimes my eyes are closed tight.

“That hurts my feelings.”


“That you’d think I’d leave. That you don’t trust me,” he says. His voice is low and he reaches up to squeeze his nose.

.  .  .

Eamon was killed early in the morning when I was still sleeping. I remember crying what happened where is he where is he where is he what happened. My mom rubbed my back and made the quietest shushing sound. Since then I’ve been stained with grief. Like I have a permanent watermark. Like if you say the right or wrong thing or hold me up in the perfect light, you’ll be able to see it.

The days following the funeral, after I’d spent lots and lots of time with Eamon’s family and after I’d spent lots and lots of time with my own family, I came back to our house alone, and Dalton was on the front porch swing and I let him in and we didn’t speak to each other for two days, but we didn’t leave the house. There was no sound at all. We didn’t listen to music or watch television. I read the dictionary a lot. I hated the word ‘widow.’ It sounded so ghostly and empty. I looked up the definition that I already knew. It also listed ‘grass widow:’ a woman whose husband is temporarily away from her.  Adding the word ‘grass’ in front of it made it sound better. More natural. Made more sense. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And then on the morning of the third day, Dalton started playing the piano, and I made a pot of decaf coffee and asked him if he wanted some. My voice, delicate and sleepy because Noah had kept me up all night squirming and stretching inside of me like he knew how sad I was.

After that, there were afternoons when Dalton would drop by and find me wandering outside in the backyard, in the same bright turquoise maternity dress and brown cowboy boots. I would walk around thinking the same obsessive thoughts. Was Noah’s soul up there somewhere with Eamon? A glowing, airy ball of light that Eamon was holding in his hand until the day Noah was born? And then would he lean over and let it roll down and away... until Noah was out of me, screaming because maybe it hurts when your soul went in. Maybe it burned and ached all over. Maybe it was too hot or too cold or too much or too beautiful or just awful.

Come on in. Dalton would say and take my hand. A glass of water sounds good, don’t you think? He’d open the back door leading into the kitchen. I think we have lemons. I’ll put some lemons in your water. He’d pull out a chair for me and set me in it. You’re holding up really well, Evangeline, he’d say but it sounded like he was far away or like I was sleeping and dreaming and he was awake.

.  .  .

Two years ago when we were first married, I pictured Eamon dying a lot. Maybe all wives of policemen and firefighters and soldiers do. Coal miners’ wives. Mountain climbers’ wives. The wives of the men who build bridges. The wife of the man who puts his head in the lion’s jaws to a chorus of sharp gasps at the circus every night. And what about the guy who works in the tiny gas station all night by himself? I’m sure his wife spends a lot of those nights, pacing the kitchen floor, drinking cold coffee and whiskey.

Either way, it‘s not one of those things I’ve ever bothered to say out loud to anyone, so I don‘t know. But I let it play out completely in my head. From the police chaplain coming to our door to all of the fully uniformed officers who would be at the funeral. I thought about how they’d help me walk to my seat in the front row. How I’d go home and everything would feel emptier. Like someone had let the air out of something we didn’t even know had air in it to begin with. How all of his clothes would still be hanging in our closet and how I’d smell them and leave them there. For months. For years, maybe. Maybe what was left of them would still be hanging there when I’d been a widow for twenty years. Or maybe I’d get remarried one day down the road, and my new husband would ask me if I wanted him to box them up for me and I’d nod without looking up at him. I don’t know. But I made myself think about it. But none of it mattered because it didn’t help me when it really happened. Everything felt like it was beginning and ending at the same time and there was nothing I could do about it.

Sometimes people stop me on the street or in the grocery store. Kind old women reach up to pat my face and say they’re sorry. Practically every uniformed worker in this city knows my face and story because everyone knew Eamon. Sometimes I am startled and I don’t want to talk and I want to be alone. On days when I’m feeling particularly lonely, I welcome the attention. Noah provides a good distraction. People love to tell me how much he looks like Eamon and he does and I’m glad. It’s comforting. It reminds me that he was real. That we were real and together once here on this Earth. That people both do and don’t disappear.

.  .  .

“Dalton, you’re a totally normal guy. I’m sure you’ve slept with someone since you’ve been living here. I don’t like thinking that there are all of these secrets, even if it’s none of my business,” I admit, wiping my eyes. I want a glass of water. I need a glass of water. I stand up and go to the sink. My head spins so I hang onto the counter for balance.

Dalton doesn’t say anything. He’s tracing the grooves of the linoleum with his finger. Then he scratches at his beard and gets up off of the floor and goes into the drawer where we keep the cigarettes we try not to smoke too much.

“You had sex with her. I know you did. And I have to admit I’m jealous. I know it may sound crazy but I don’t care. I am,” I say, filling up a glass with tap water.

“I don’t know if we should talk about this stuff when we’ve been drinking and it’s so late and you’re exhausted and I don’t know what to say yet,” he says, coming over and leaning to take a drink of water right out of the faucet. And then he slips a cigarette from the pack and offers me one. I take it.

“Does it freak you out for me to say that I’m jealous?”

“Why would it?”

“Don’t ask me a question when I’ve asked you a question.”

“Okay,” he says, holding his hands up and walking to the door. We always crack it a little bit and smoke inside when it’s this cold.

I keep thinking about the kissing. I keep thinking about his body pressed against me like that.

“I hate feeling like this,” I say as he lights my cigarette.

He puts his arm around me after he lights his own cigarette and we stand there and smoke as the tree branches turn to ice.

.  .  .

When we decide to go to bed it’s well past two. I tell him no funny business and he makes a crooked face at me and says, “What do you mean, no funny business?”

“I wanna snuggle with somebody. I wanna snuggle with you. I want you to sleep in my bed tonight. But no funny business,” I say, shaking my finger at him. I’m only barely drunk now. I need to pee and brush my teeth. I look in the bathroom mirror and stick my tongue out at myself. I leave my eye makeup like I always do since I love how it looks in the morning, all smudgy and black.

“You look beautiful,” Dalton says.

“No funny business,” I say again.

He raises his hand as if he’s making a precious, solemn vow and laughs.

And then he says, “I promise.”

And I’m the good kind of nervous as I crawl in between my sheets.

He gets behind me and puts his arms around me. I can feel that he’s still wearing his t-shirt, his pajama pants, his socks. I can’t hear the ice falling anymore. Now it must be snow. We are quiet in my dark, ticking bedroom and I tell Dalton that I’m sad but even when I’m not sad, I get sad because I feel guilty. And I tell him that Eamon never made me cry because he didn’t. Not once.

I turn to face him. He puts his hand on my cheek and tells me he’ll never leave. And then he tells me that he didn’t have sex with Cassidy but they made out in his truck the other day. But he couldn’t do anything else because he thought about me.

“Why?” I ask and let my eyes close.

“I think about you and Noah all the time. Sometimes it’s all I think about,” he says.

I fall asleep while he’s saying it and I can hear his voice while I’m half-dreaming. I remember waking up in the middle of the night when Noah was only a couple of weeks old. I stumbled into the hallway and didn’t remember that Eamon was dead until I saw Dalton in the soft blue lamplight, holding Noah’s little body in the crook of his arm. I saw the top of Noah’s head and the dark tuft of wild black hair he was born with. Dalton was holding him and looking out of the window, and Noah was making gentle sleepy noises. I leaned against the doorframe and watched them. I listened for it then and I’m still listening for it now. I am always putting my ear down to the railroad tracks, waiting for the distant, low rattle and rumble of something coming to heal me.