Iowa Writes

DANA GAGE
From Bitter Root Vol. III


Fatigue played at the edges of Marian's consciousness; she sat in the chair facing the door. She could feel the swelling in her face. Each time she drifted off, her face met with the edge of the old rocker and pain woke her. She could feel the bruises, pounding, pulsing, old on new, pushing against her jaw. She could barely open her mouth as she dragged her swollen tongue across her teeth, the taste of blood lingering.

Her cheek felt like a croker sack, bulging here and there with mounds the size and shape of potatoes. She could barely see out of her left eye, kept having to wipe the liquid that drained out of it. Later, when she was done waiting, she would make some tannic acid solution and bathe her eye with it.

Her other eye struggled to stay open, nearly closed by fatigue rather than trauma. She had sat since she came home from the Emergency; they had wanted her to stay, had wanted to keep her, told her she shouldn't stay alone, it wasn't safe. She could see their point, she had told them, but she just needed to get home to her kids. Yes, she had a restraining order. Yes, she knew it was risky, but she would be all right, thank you for your concern.

Now she sat where she knew she had to be, waiting. It wouldn't take long; just long enough for him to pick up a good buzz, come home to his woman. Then it would be over for good. But she hadn't counted on the fatigue, the dullness, the need to sleep, the pull to put her aching eyes to rest and lay her head down. She forced herself up in the darkness, took a pull on her cold coffee laced with so much sugar it hurt her teeth to drink it, some spilling over her swollen lips and down her chin. It bought her a few good moments before the urge to rest surged up again.

Fatigue played at the edges of Marian's consciousness; she sat in the chair facing the door. She could feel the swelling in her face. Each time she drifted off, her face met with the edge of the old rocker and pain woke her. She could feel the bruises, pounding, pulsing, old on new, pushing against her jaw. She could barely open her mouth as she dragged her swollen tongue across her teeth, the taste of blood lingering.

Her cheek felt like a croker sack, bulging here and there with mounds the size and shape of potatoes. She could barely see out of her left eye, kept having to wipe the liquid that drained out of it. Later, when she was done waiting, she would make some tannic acid solution and bathe her eye with it.

Her other eye struggled to stay open, nearly closed by fatigue rather than trauma. She had sat since she came home from the Emergency; they had wanted her to stay, had wanted to keep her, told her she shouldn't stay alone, it wasn't safe. She could see their point, she had told them, but she just needed to get home to her kids. Yes, she had a restraining order. Yes, she knew it was risky, but she would be all right, thank you for your concern.

Now she sat where she knew she had to be, waiting. It wouldn't take long; just long enough for him to pick up a good buzz, come home to his woman. Then it would be over for good. But she hadn't counted on the fatigue, the dullness, the need to sleep, the pull to put her aching eyes to rest and lay her head down. She forced herself up in the darkness, took a pull on her cold coffee laced with so much sugar it hurt her teeth to drink it, some spilling over her swollen lips and down her chin. It bought her a few good moments before the urge to rest surged up again.

The shotgun lay across her lap; easy enough to lift it up and aim, she knew her nerves would guide her, all those days practicing with Grandpaw. He'd flush up the quail and call her name; she would raise and shoot, aim and shoot, again and again until she could hear his voice in her sleep. Serve her well now that poor man's version of skeet. She could do it tonight too, in her sleep, if need be. Never thought she'd be flushing out a husband.

She felt the heft of the shotgun, smooth barrel on her thighs, the kiss of the metal barrel on her bare arm. She fingered it slowly, its outline faint in the early morning dusk. About four-thirty, she figured. The little kids would still be sleeping. She took another sip of coffee, then spat it back into the cup. When it was safe, she would make some fresh.

A noise from the back of the house interrupted her thoughts. When there was nothing more, she slid her bare feet over the linoleum to the window. She saw the outline of the shed, moon floating over it, casting a silver light. The old truck stood before it and a flicker of movement off to the back. The old dog slept on the hard ground where it was cold, never stirring. It must be him, she thought, else that old dog would raise up in protest. He'd feel the vibrations, catch the scent, wake. Must be him she thought, the fuzz clearing.

Marian moved to the front door, slid the bolt and felt its tiny release, then began to turn the knob until she heard the slip of the bolt out of the hasp. Once again the door moved slightly and she caught its momentum hard up against her body. She inched the door open, keeping her body against it as she peered around. No chance for error; one miss would mean another beating. But she swore this time she would have the final say.

A sudden movement caught her eye; she flung the door open and aimed, her shot going off just as she pulled the gun into position, not even using her sights, just taking her mark and pulling the trigger, a body memory as strong as any she owned. She saw him go down just as she heard a long scream behind her; she put the gun down and looked forward to assess the damage.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


DANA GAGE

Dana Gage has been a practicing physician for many years; for even longer she has sought to find her writing voice; she recently began the Master's Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University to foster that journey. Her interest lies in the physician-patient interface and its power to heal. She was a presenter at The Examined Life in Iowa City.

The Examined Life is a three-day conference in April focusing on the links between the science of medicine and the art of writing and sponsored by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

This page was first displayed
on May 30, 2011

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