I let the dirt stain my heels one day after another, keeping my eyes on the drive and an ear out for calls to come home. I stand shoulders braced and back arched to the wind. Was that a bear? No, just the shape of the wood 'cause there is no longer any sky and the lack of light makes my morning path sinister. I feel the animals all around me but I see no one. They don't avoid the snapping twigs that sneak under my feet and slide against the shifting gravel but push through blurring my eyes with their low paths and hidden movement. The house is far out of sight and the voices will not reach me.
Drip drip down to the water. The sun won't shine in the sky but still brushes along the top of the pond. I drop my stick deep down through the ringed shadow 'til it hits the floor. Pants roll up accordingly and I hesitate, one foot at a time, water rising to the hair along my ankles and my toes push me out again. I try to reach the light against the far part of the lake but it's too deep even with my jeans touching the surface and though I'm used to the cold, I can't make my limbs move forward. I turn my back to the orange of the light, to the branch hanging over where I pocket-knived my own strand of red hair as you slept in its shade. I remember the pale and freckles attracting spiders, the sudden jump and screams falling into brushed off giggles in the picnic afternoon. I remember the warmth of the breath as you dug your face into the wool of my shirt, resting your head on my shoulder.
The light fades fast from the water, not from the trees. I lose my shirt to dry my feet then wrap it around my waist. The rope won't hold from the summer's heat, but I found the roots and a knot, then a hand on a branch and another. Trees grow deeper and taller next to water and this one shoots deep into the sky, clouds cover without light except the red lining, shining long past my sight. The further I climb the closer it comes. I can see your old rooftop and mine, where they sit together. Now the old ranch-hand moved in with his wife who makes pitchers of tea for my mother but nothing for me. No longer your two dogs and swinging high on the porch but cats sneaking under my fence, the path you used to palm. I think I hear the sound of your folk's old truck 'til I hear my dad's voice, "Climb down and come home."