Is That You, John Wayne?

By Scott Garson

The day kept changing. The sky would close in virtual dusk and thunder from the other side of the river would rumble the sodden hill. Then something would open. For a while the birds would sing their song to the shining grasses.

“Who are you going to believe?” she said. “Me or your own eyes?”

He turned from the window. He said, “Duck Soup?

“Only bad witches are ugly.”

“Too easy,” he said to her. “Wizard of Oz.”

She lay on the wrinkled futon-couch and worked a gathered lock of her hair into a very tight braid. She wore underwear and her breasts spread out within her tank top, which was charcoal gray.

“We didn’t need dialogue,” she said.

“We had faces,” he responded, “Sunset Boulevard.”

“You’re somewhat good at this, aren’t you?”

“Somewhat?”

He was joking but his heart wasn’t in it. Through the screens, the light was in sudden decline, as if the fires of the sun had been doused. The Live Oak tree was a hex in the gloom and the bushes on the hillside were graves. He wondered why he felt like he’d known her for so long. He wondered what they were doing for dinner. He wondered when he’d felt like he thought he would feel at his age, which tomorrow was thirty.

She lifted and kicked her shining legs in order to roll upright.

“You know, maybe I was wrong and luck is like love,” she said.

He smiled. “Yeah.”

“You know it.”

“Do the next part.”

“You already know it.”

“Please?”

“Maybe I was wrong and luck is like love. You have to go all the way to find it.”

Out of the Past.”

She looked through the screen toward the picnic table, which bore an assortment of last night’s bottles glinting in a flourish of light. He watched her in profile. She seemed to have left herself there.

“Another?” he said too softly, almost as a whisper—he wasn’t sure why.

She looked his way. It took her a few seconds to see.

“You give me your guess,” she said. “I’ll tell you if you’ve got the right one.”

In response he laughed in an easy way, as if he understood. Then he did—understand. He knuckled the rough of his jaw. Her eyes were the light on his skin.


Scott Garson is the author of Is That You, John Wayne?—a collection of stories. He lives in central Missouri. 

Originally appeared in NOR 8

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