star, heart, horseshoe
“You can run on for a long time
run on for a long time
run on for a long time
sooner or later God’ll cut you down
sooner or later God’ll cut you down.”
Jade’s voice chimed out soft above the sound of gravel, engine, and wind, her quick fingers picking her little guitar from memory, eyes closed. Her feet twitched a rhythm from where they were propped up on the open passenger side window, bare, toenails painted an acidic green. She lay back in the reclined seat with her glasses pushed up on her head, hair tangling in the cool breeze that passed through the open back window of her truck and goosebumps prickled on her bare legs. A creature of myth, a rugged deity, a fallen goddess, or… or something other than human; that’s what she looked like, that’s what she sounded like as she sang easy and amorously to the air. That’s what her presence felt like to Equius as he drove with one hand on the wheel and the other on the shifter, feet against the pedals, hair tied back, throat thirsty.
“He spoke to me in the voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
when he said, “John, go do my will!”
Nepeta whistled along softly from the space behind the seats, tapping her foot against the side of the interior. She sat sideways in the small gap, sketching roughly in a worn journal that was propped up on a bent leg, giggling when the rough terrain of the road toyed with her lines. An old, outgrown flannel shirt that once belonged to Equius drowned her small torso and the sleeves, even when rolled up several times, hung loose on her wiry arms. She had pinned back her messy hair with some of Jade’s pins, adorned with little plastic fruits (an apple, an orange, a lemon, a lime), but every once in a while, a lock loosened from the hold and tickled her ear or brushed against her mouth. She swept them away and continued coloring in her drawings.
“Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
workin’ in the dark against your fellow man
but as sure as God made black and white
what’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”
Equius drove along the dirt path with a languid mind. Jade’s old emerald truck ran true and faithful up the mountain, flanked by needled trees and thick green underbrush, kicking up clouds in its wake. It obeyed his touch and his turns, his shifts and his pushes. It was a nice change from his own beast of a vehicle and it rattled like a toughened skeleton over the bumps and dips. It was powerful, an old soul. White dog hair rested in the grooves of the floor mats. The giver, Becquerel, padded around in the bed back and forth, tongue lolling at the cool wind, eyes flickering over trees and trees and trees.
“Go tell that long tongue liar
go and tell that midnight rider
tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down
tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut you down
tell ‘em a dog’s gonna cut you down.”
A bubbly laugh sounded from behind Equius and he glanced over briefly at Jade. She had a toothy grin on her face but her eyes remained shut and she continued to pluck the melody; Equius breathed a short laugh through his sharp nose and then looked back at the road.
Minutes pass with wire strings picked at by paint-chipped nails, also green. The soft scrape of paper rustles as pages are turned and colored. Torque pushes the rattling machine up and forward.
They come upon a sparkling blue lake, the surface caressed by breaths of cool mountain air. The water is clear and deep. The shore is deserted.
Equius parks the truck off in a shaded spot and the two girls get out and stretch their limbs, laughing musically as Bec leaps out of the truck bed to dance and nip at their heels, sniffing pine cones and tree bark, ears perked at the sounds of birds chirping in the lofty branches. He dashes off to explore the forest and his deep barks fade.
Wasting no time at all, Jade jogs to the edge of the water, kicking off her shoes, pulling off her shirt, hopping gracefully somehow as she tugs down her denim cutoffs. She had left her glasses on the dashboard and so, when she is down to just her underwear, she leaps in the lake and resurfaces quickly afterward with a shriek of surprise and pleasure. Equius snorts and Nepeta doubles over. Their laughter, both of them, is so brilliant and clear. Like windchimes.
Nepeta walks up to Equius and hands him the journal with a grin. She leans up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek before running off, shedding her clothes, screaming beautifully as she joins Jade in the brisk water, splashing the other girl when she draws closer. In just a few seconds, they disappear underneath the surface and are hidden by the blinding, fractured, watery mirror reflecting the noon sun.
Equius spots a cluster of boulders off a little ways and he kicks off his shoes, stepping lightly on the pine-needle covered ground that slowly turns into warm sand. He steps carefully over the rocks, their skins cool under his feet, until he finds a smooth surface just above the rippling lake. The water comes up to his calves, cold and refreshing, and he places the journal on his thighs.
The cover is a brightly colored, chaotic mess of shapes and words that read “Adventure Log” on the top half above three symbols; an electric green star, a olive heart with a stylized cat’s face drawn in the middle, and a blue horseshoe. It is childlike and rough and it makes Equius’s heart skip a beat every time he sees it.
He flips through the pages, past crayon drawings of roads and mountains, pencil sketches of animals with names and facts written next to them, pressed flowers, dried leaves, smears of dirt and berry juice, and lines upon lines of eloquent prose. He flips until he comes upon a blank page and he starts to write.
He writes about the wild buffalo they saw out in the fields, about the honey sticks they bought from the street vendors in that little town along the road, about the way the truck’s engine rumbles so deeply on the long stretches of highway. He writes about the sound of Jade’s songs, about the food that Nepeta places on the center console, about the way the wind whipping into the interior of the truck cools his damp skin. He writes about the sounds of their radiant voices, about the wet darkness of their hair, about water they kick up with their feet.
He writes about the blueness of the sky, about the blueness of the lake, about the blueness of the mountains in the distance.
He writes about all of these things, yes, but what he writes most about is how the world is
so beautiful and