blackbirdonline journalSpring 2011  Vol. 10  No. 1
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When Are You Coming Home?

Robert Cannon kept busy in his new part-time job as a locksmith. He’d spent thirty years running his own handyman business, everything from window repair to ceiling fan installation, plumbing and electrical to carpentry. He was quick and reliable, and his boss—a man half his age who wouldn’t know a pin-and-tumbler if it hit him in the face—called on him often. In this new city, Cannon drove the unfamiliar neighborhoods with a map open on the seat next to him while his wife took swim lessons down at the Y. People were always moving, landlords switching the locks for the next tenant, and the jobs blurred into one another: empty rooms, vinyl blinds with slats missing, the odors of cigarettes and cat urine in the carpet submerged by the fumes of the cheap paint. Pop out the knob and the cylinder plug, rearrange the pins, pop it back. In and out, easy peasy, a tidy paycheck to flesh out the savings. That was fine. He didn’t need the money so much as he needed to keep busy.

His boss called early that morning. We got a live one for you. Lady’s all upset. Righto, let’s get on over there, pronto. At home, Cannon sometimes made a joke of his boss’s strange patter: Righto, bucko, let’s get that dinner out pronto, he’d say to Jenny, and sometimes she’d smile before she caught herself. The job was in an older neighborhood in central Phoenix, not far from where he and Jenny had rented a little condo off Central Avenue, their own house up north in Flagstaff locked up tight, the phone disconnected, the utility bills forwarded, Jenny’s piano covered with a sheet. Robert had taped a small Out of Business sign in the window of his shop.

The job was on a street called Heatherbrae. Cannon said the name aloud, liking the airy sound of it. He pulled up to the curb and left the engine idling with the AC on low as he gathered his paperwork. Though it was only March, the days down here were already well into the 80s, thin blue skies and sunshine that burned his pale skin through the truck windows. He rummaged in the glovebox for the tube of sunscreen he’d put in there. His hand fell on a plastic baggie of keys, spares he’d kept from earlier jobs. He held them up to the light for a moment then tucked them away.

In the Heatherbrae yard, a cardboard sign stuck on two sticks and plugged into the grass read YARD SALE. EVERYTHING MUST GO! Several blankets stretched across the browned-out Bermuda grass. On the blankets were heaps of clothing, mismatched dinner plates, a food processor, an old rotary phone. Dangling from a branch of a small olive tree was a wedding dress. As Cannon got out of his truck, a woman stepped from the doorway and flung an armful of what appeared to be men’s flannel shirts onto a blanket. The woman stood next to the blanket with her hands on her hips. She looked at Cannon. She’d been crying, he could tell, her face blotchy red. She was young, maybe late twenties, with brown hair that corked off her head in tight curls. About Felice’s age, perhaps a bit older.

She said, “I’m not ready yet. Come back later.”

“Ma’am,” Cannon held up his hands. He pointed at the magnetic sign on the door of his truck. “I’m here for the locks.”

She stared at him a moment and then nodded. “Oh. Right. There’s only two doors, front and back. I’ll show you.” She waved him to follow her. He stepped over the edge of a blanket, over an old manual typewriter and a box of books. He caught a title, Serpent-Handling Believers.

The house was a small postwar brick ranch, with low ceilings, plaster walls, a great room with painted concrete floors, casement windows with the cranks missing. Inside, a little girl sat on a giant yellow pillow on the floor in front of the television. Cartoon noises echoed in the sparsely furnished room.

“Gigi, turn that down. Good grief.” The girl didn’t move, just kept staring at the cartoon characters on the screen. The woman picked the remote off the coffee table and turned the volume down. “I don’t usually let her watch TV. Look at her. It’s like crack.” She ruffled the girl’s hair, dropped a kiss on her forehead. The girl kept her eyes on the screen. The child was about his granddaughter’s age, six or seven. Cannon had only seen his grandchildren twice in four months, since his daughter-in-law’s funeral. His son’s burial. The other grandparents had custody, of course, no question there. No question.

The woman said, “I lost my purse. Left it right in the shopping cart.” She thumped her forehead with the heel of her hand. “My license has my address on it. It’s probably overkill, but better to be safe, right? There’s the back door there. Can I get you something to drink?”

Her hair was a bit of a wonder, actually. He had the urge to pull on a curl, to watch it spring back. “No, ma’am. I’m fine. I have water in the truck.”

“I’m Kyla,” she said. “Just holler if you need anything. I’ll be in and out.”

“Bob,” he said, though he’d been Robert his entire life, “thank you.”

He set his toolbox near the back door and pulled a new set of keys from his bag of tricks, as Jenny called it. He pictured her down at the Y, in her swim cap and goggles that left deep indents around her nose and eyes and hairline. She had never learned to swim and had always been terrified of the water. When they moved down from the cool pines of Flagstaff to the desert of Phoenix, with all of its flashing backyard pools, she’d decided to give it a try. What else am I going to do? she said. I mean, really, what? She took private lessons with a young man who competed in triathlons, his arms and seemingly hairless chest lean and roped with muscles. Mostly Jenny practiced floating on her back or lying face down in three feet of water. Prostrate, she clawed and clenched at the young man’s hands as if she were sliding off a cliff. She’d flail upward, gasping, until her feet touched bottom. At home, in the condo’s heated community pool, she’d get a death grip on the tile gutter and practice putting her face in the water, blowing bubbles, her silver hair poking out from the edges of her cap. Every time, she jerked up for air as if someone were trying to hold her down. Cannon could swim fine and he offered to help her practice, but she didn’t want his help. At the pool, he sat on the vinyl patio furniture in the shade with the newspaper unread on his lap. The smell of orange blossoms and cut grass hung like fog in the air. He obsessively rubbed sunscreen along his pale neck, into the deep wrinkles on the tops of his hands.

He had the backdoor knob off when he noticed the little girl, Gigi, standing next to him. She hopped on one foot then switched to the other foot. Her hair was cut short as a boy’s, but he could see her mother’s curl in it, little swirls along her scalp. The shortness of the bangs suggested she’d gotten hold of the scissors, and the short cut was a fix-up job.

“Can I help?” she said. “Daddy lets me help. I’m a really good helper.”

Cannon picked up two screws he’d set aside. “You can hold these for me.” She grinned and held out cupped hands. Cannon’s hand trembled as he set the screws in her palms. He put the knob back together, popped it back in its slot, and tested the new key.

“Looks good.” He held his hand out. Gigi, the tip of her tongue taut against her upper lip, poured the screws from her hands as if they were precious gems.

“You’re a good apprentice,” he told her.

“I know.” She nodded, eyes wide.

“Let’s do the other one, then.” He picked up his tools and headed to the front door. Gigi trailed behind him, jumping from foot to foot as if doing hopscotch. His grandchildren did that, too. He balled his hands, willed them to be steady.

“Daddy and Judy have a cat. His name is Mr. Cat. Do you have a cat?”

Cannon shook his head. He knelt in front of the door, and just then Kyla came bursting through it. The knob hit him in the throat, taking his wind, and he fell heavily onto his backside.

“Oh my God. Oh!” Kyla bent over him, her hand at her mouth. “Are you all right?”

Gigi ran toward the kitchen. “I’ll call the police! 9-1-1! 9-1-1!”

“No, please. I’m fine.” He coughed. “I’m fine.”

“Gigi, stop. Put the phone away. It’s all right.”

Kyla held out her hand, but he ignored it. He grunted and struggled upright. As he stood, a wave of dizziness hit him, and he slumped against the wall.

Kyla reached up under him and he gave in, rested some weight on her shoulders. She smelled of sweet shampoo, green apples or some kind of berry. She said, “I’m so sorry. I’m such an idiot.” She led him to the sofa and then got him a glass of ice water. He sipped at it, touching his tender throat.

In the corner of the room, Gigi dug around in a set of toy bins.

He said, “It’s good she knows to call for help. These days.”

Kyla glanced at Gigi. “Her father taught her that.” She gave a short laugh. She nodded at the room. “I’m getting ready to sell this place. I’m done with memories. Time to move on.”

Gigi carried a toy first-aid kit and a doll. She held out the doll to Cannon. “That’s Florence. You can hold her if you want.”

Cannon took the doll. It had matted red curls and was missing a button eye. Gigi opened her kit and held up a roll of white gauze. She hopped up on the sofa next to him.

Kyla said, “Gigi.”

“It’s all right,” Cannon said. The ice in his glass rattled as he set the glass on a coaster. Gigi started to wind the gauze around his head. She dropped the roll, and it unraveled down his arm and to the floor. Gigi breathed on his neck and kept winding the gauze. Chill bumps rose on his arms.

Cannon watched the ceiling fan spin. It was a little off balance. He spotted a crack in the plaster near a window. He said, “I do repair work. If you need help with the house. I’m retired technically, but I do it on the side for a little extra.” He hadn’t meant to say it. He hadn’t done anything but locks at all down here, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t. He pulled an old business card from his wallet, scratched out the number and put his new cell phone number down. He handed it to her, holding his breath as she looked at it. Would she recognize the name, connect it to the headlines? Such news had a way of traveling.

But Kyla just smiled and put the card in her shirt pocket. “That’s very nice of you. I probably will take you up on that. I promise not to knock you off a ladder or anything.”

He smiled back. Gigi bandaged his arms next, then his hands, loose coils between each finger.

“I’ll take care of you,” the girl said.


When Cannon got home from work, Jenny was in the pool, which was in the center of the U-shaped condo units. He saw her shiny, purple swim cap as he pulled into the covered parking space. She didn’t look up as he approached. She held tight to the wall, blowing bubbles and jerking her head up for a breath every three seconds or so.

“Jenny.” He leaned down and tapped her head, and she let out a garbled scream, flailing upright.

“Good Christ. You scared me,” she said, her eyes unreadable behind the tinted goggles. She flexed her hands on the wall. They were white and shriveled at the tips from the water and chlorine. “You’re home early.”

He said, “It’s late. You’re pruned up. I think your back’s burned. Come inside.”

He expected her to argue, their standard exchange lately. Instead she waded to the steps, climbed out, and toweled off. She’d lost weight from her already-small frame. The suit gapped at the top, sagged around her legs. She snapped off her cap and goggles. Dark red indents marked her eyes and nose.

“I’ll lotion your back,” he said.

“I’m fine,” she said.

Inside the condo, Jenny set to work making supper, still in her short toweling robe over her damp swimsuit. All of the tile made the place sound empty though it came fully furnished. Cannon missed the sound of Jenny’s piano, her flawless posture, the way her long fingers seemed to float over the keys. Cannon set the table and watched her tense, sloped back as she moved in the short space between stove and sink and refrigerator. After thirty-five years, he knew how she moved. He knew a pressure was building in her. She hated confrontation, avoided it until the emotions she had tamped down erupted, forced out like flames from a ruptured gas pipe. In those hot moments, he’d seen her tip over sofas, break whole sets of wine glasses, bash in the hood of a car, though she never struck him or their son. She’d gotten better over the years, learning to talk it out, keeping it more of a controlled burn than an explosion. But Robert Jr. never had learned. Cannon had seen it in him as they worked together in those last weeks, saw it in the tight hunch of his son’s back as he turned wrenches and hammered nails and changed air filters. There was a flat edge in his son’s voice when he called Felice: That’s not what I meant. Don’t put words in my mouth. Who’s going with you? It’s just a question. It’s just a question. After a call, he sat slumped and pale in the passenger seat of the truck. Tamping it down. No sense in prodding him, Cannon had thought. He’d talk when he was ready. But he didn’t.

Cannon looked down at his hands. His son’s hands had been exact replicas, down to the long nailbeds and thick knuckles.

“Jenny,” he said.

“Don’t pick at me right now, Robert,” she said. “Just leave it be, all right?”

“I’m not picking,” he said. “I was going to tell you about my day.”

“No you weren’t.”

“So now you can read my mind?”

“Here we go,” she said.

He looked at his palms. Working hands. Rough hands.

“He had your temper,” he said to his wife.

Jenny didn’t answer. She picked up the pot of peas she’d set to boil on the stove and turned them onto the floor. They steamed in a green pile on the ceramic tile, the water spreading into the channels of grout. She stepped over the pile and hurried to the bedroom, her plastic shoes smacking the tile. He got a whiff of chlorine. He could hear the bath running. Soon, she would be in there, making herself float facedown inches above the porcelain tub. Breathing, breathing. It grew dark as Cannon sat at the table. Finally, he got up and headed to his truck.

The moon shone bright through the thin branches of the paloverdes and jacarandas lining the driveway, and he gazed up at it for a long moment. The city’s light pollution, though, dulled the stars. Back home, constellations and planets burned diamond-white against a velvet sky. As he backed out of the drive, he pulled the baggie of keys from the glove box and set them on the seat. He hadn’t started out keeping them. One afternoon, he’d found an extra set in his shirt pocket from that morning’s job, a little brick house for rent on Osborn Road. He’d gone back to hand over the set, but the landlord was long gone. He’d put the key in the lock, an absent-minded test, but, when the door unlatched, he stepped inside the empty space, shutting the door behind him. He walked through the rooms again, the carpet soft under his boots. He noted a crack in the plaster ceiling. He flipped lights on and off, knocked on walls, straightened a blind in the master bedroom. He turned on the faucet and let it run, hand-tightened the P-trap nut under the kitchen sink. After ten minutes, he locked the door and went back to his truck, back to his regular day. Now, in the evenings when he couldn’t sleep, or like tonight, he checked on these places that he knew by street names: Osborn, Montecito, Glenrosa, Indianola. Sometimes he simply drove by, and sometimes he went in, wandering the dark rooms, listening to the creaks in the silence. Nothing nefarious. He had no intentions. He just had an urge to check on things, these homes that did not belong to him.

The rental house on Osborn was still empty. He parked in the driveway and let himself in the front door, calling out a hello just in case. No one answered. The electricity was off, so he walked through the dark hall, running his hand along the drywall. In the back bedroom, he opened the closet where the breaker box was. He stood there, trying to decipher the labels on the panel, wishing he’d brought his flashlight. He rattled a clump of wire hangers.

He never said it aloud. In Flagstaff, where he’d lived for his entire fifty-four years, he’d never had to. Everyone knew. They knew Robert Cannon and his family: wife Jenny, son Robert Jr., daughter-in-law Felice—freckle-faced Felice whom Cannon nicknamed Dots—two young grandchildren. Cannon had met Jenny at the university, back when she had straight brown hair down to her waist and gave piano lessons to help pay for tuition. Jenny taught music at the high school for twenty-eight years. Cannon built her a house, a wood and stone split-level off Lake Mary Road, the same road he’d grown up on, where they hiked, biked, and, in winter cross-country skied in the woods behind the property. Cannon was the do-it-all handyman, owner of his own business, Cannon and Son—trustworthy, fast, affordable, just like it said on their cards. He’d coached soccer and Little League, and Robert Jr. had, too. They went to Lowell Observatory on summer nights, stood in the cold, pine-scented air and gaped through the telescopes at the moon’s wavy craters, at comets and planets and other fuzzy celestial objects. They traveled to nearby destinations and once to Europe, for his and Jenny’s twenty-fifth anniversary, and they would do more when they retired. That was how he believed he was known, how he wished to be known, how he knew himself. That life was bountiful beyond what he could have ever imagined. But now. Now. Everyone knew a different version. They all knew what he could not say aloud.

Cannon moved his hands in the dark, empty space of the closet, a movement that he imagined both sleeping and waking. He could not stop seeing it, or the results. Thumbprint bruises on a freckled neck. The scald of gunpowder on a face. He thrust his arms forward, then back, then up, banging his elbow on the closet door.

Her temper. His hands.


A week later, Kyla called Cannon and asked if he could repair windows. She had a few cracked panes in the casements. He could. He certainly could. After he finished with locks in the early afternoon, he called Jenny and left a message that he’d be home late and not to hold dinner. She didn’t call back. He headed to the house on Heatherbrae.

Kyla was in the kitchen when he arrived. She wore a blue kerchief over her curls and denim overalls with a smear of white paint on the bib. “Kitchen trim,” she said. She grinned and held up a pint of paint. She showed him the windows, and Gigi left her post in front of the television to follow him as he made measurements. The child, who wore a headband with a pair of glittery shamrocks bobbing on springs, chattered about Mr. Cat and a loose tooth. When he returned from the hardware store with cut panes, Gigi brought him a plastic tumbler of lemonade and sang for him, a little song she’d learned at school, something about good fairies and field mice getting bopped on the head. He smiled. He removed the old glass and set the new panes, quick with the caulk and glazing, humming a bit under his breath. He wiped his mess and put his tools away. Kyla was still in the kitchen, and he caught small bursts of paint fumes. He stopped the ceiling fan, duct-taped a penny to the top of a blade to make it balance. He turned it back on, pleased when it spun steady.

Kyla stood at his elbow.

“Mr. Cannon.” She had a fleck of paint on her cheek.

“Bob, please.” He looked down at her, and his heart gave an awkward jump.

“Bob. Would you like to stay for dinner?”

“We’re having pizza!” Gigi yelled.

“Yes, it’s fancy-pants dining around here these days. But we’d love to have you.”

“I’d like that.” He said it quickly, before she could take the offer back.

“Do you need to check with your wife?”

He scratched his ear and shook his head. “She’s away.”

They sat with their plates on their knees in the living room, the cardboard pizza box on the coffee table. He drank a cola straight from the can. He told her he and his wife were retired now. He told her he had two grandchildren. He asked about her. He sat with his hands on his knees and listened to her talk. As Gigi turned her attention to a coloring book, Kyla told him about her ex-husband, how he just came home one day with the news that he was in love with someone else. “It was like I stepped into a ditch, you know. Just, whoops! Down I went, my legs out from under me.” She gave a short laugh. She had a freckle under her right eye. A few nods and mmm-hmms seemed to assure her, and she kept talking. She worked at Gigi’s elementary school. Just a secretary, she said. It wouldn’t be for forever. He liked that phrase, for forever. She was going to take a class or two down at the community college. The ceiling fan pushed a breeze on them, and that’s how it felt to Cannon, listening: breezy. Fresh air on skin.

Gigi fell asleep on the yellow pillow, and he looked at his watch, surprised at how late it was. He stood, though he didn’t want to.

“What do I owe you?” Kyla smiled up at him. “For the windows.”

“Pizza,” he said. “And a soda.”

“No. Please.” She rose and grabbed her purse. “I pay what I owe.”

He waved his hand. “It was nothing. It was my pleasure. I enjoyed the work. And the company.”

“Next time, then.” She shook his hand then leaned forward and hugged him. Her curls brushed his mouth, and he stepped back, catching his balance.

When he let himself into the condo, Jenny was already in bed. He undressed as quietly as he could, careful not to let his belt buckle hit the tile. He crept under the sheet and curled up against her. Here, in exhausted sleep, she relented. He slid his arm about her waist, calmed by the warmth of her skin. But she was gone at first light.


March turned to April. April grew hotter, the smell of the orange blossoms fading. The grass in yards grew thicker. Spindly branches sprouted outrageous purple and yellow blooms. The desert pollen attacked his sinuses, and he carried packs of allergy medicine in his pockets, like gum. He changed locks. Jenny tried to swim. The condo smelled of chlorine and mildewed towels. He changed locks. He changed locks.

Kyla did not call again. When he drove by, a Realtor sign was in the yard.


On a late April night, Cannon slid out from bed around midnight, unable to sleep even against Jenny’s pliant back. He drove to his properties. The Osborn house was occupied now, a green plastic Adirondack chair on the front stoop. He drove past Montecito and Glenrosa and Indianola. He drove to Heatherbrae. He pulled to the curb and sat a moment with the engine off. The For Sale sign now had an Under Contract slat on top. The flowerbed along the walk held fresh flowers and shrubs. Water glinted on the petals and soil. The windows were dark. Kyla’s sedan was parked in the carport. He took off his boots and set them on the seat next to him. He pulled out his keys. In his socks, he walked across the grass to the front door.

He let himself in, quickly, quietly, the lock smooth and precise. The blinds were cracked open, and, in the light from the street, he could see boxes stacked along the far wall. The couch and TV were gone. He stepped into the hallway. His eyes adjusted to the dimness. The bedroom doors were open. He walked to the far end of the hall and stood in the doorway. Kyla’s room. In the glow of the alarm clock, he could see her shape among the pillows and bedding. A leg kicked out from under the covers. He could hear her breathing. Deep and even. He stood a moment and just listened.

He stepped backward down the hall to the other bedroom. Gigi’s nightlight was bright, with glitter inside of it, throwing patterns on the wall. The child slept on her back, her arms flung wide, her mouth slack. They could sleep through anything, couldn’t they? Robert Jr. was like that. Would fall asleep at football games, in traffic jams, at his and Jenny’s poker parties, right in his chair. Cannon would scoop him up and carry him to his bed, tuck him in the cool sheets. He never woke up, a tiny body at rest, calm with primal trust. The sleep of the dead. Cannon held his hands out in front of himself, spread his fingers in the dim light.

The little girl stirred. She sat up in bed.


Cannon blinked and stepped forward into the room. “It’s me,” he said. “I’m here.”

She rubbed her eyes. “When are you coming home?”

“I’m home now. I’m not leaving.” He stepped closer, a few feet from the bed. “You won’t leave either, will you? Do you promise?”

She nodded slow, half-asleep. “I promise,” she said, and something in the pitch of her voice startled him, shook him out of his daze. He realized then exactly what he was doing. He stood still, frozen in terror.

“It’s just a dream,” he said finally. He took a step backward. “Just a dream, honey. Go back to sleep.”

“Daddy, don’t go.” She held up a hand and started to cry.

He moved backward fast. He hurried to the door, quiet in his socks, as Gigi’s cries grew louder. He stepped into the night and locked them back in. He started the truck by the light of the moon.


When he pulled up to the condo, his headlights flashed on a shiny purple cap in the pool. Three a.m. and Jenny was in the water. He took off his socks and stuffed them in his boots. He stepped out of the truck in his bare feet.

She looked up at the creak of the gate. She folded her arms on the tiles, rested her cheek on her forearm.

He rolled up the cuffs of his jeans and sat on the side next to her. He dipped his feet in. In the pool light, they were as white as caulk, cut with blue veins. His toenails looked thick and yellow. Old man feet. The water felt warm in the cool night air.

She pulled her goggles off and looked at him. “Where were you?”

“Driving. Couldn’t sleep.”

“Where’d you go?”


She lowered her mouth in the water, blew bubbles.

He picked up her goggles and stretched the rubber band. “We have to go home,” he said.

“Home,” she said. She put her mouth in the water again.

“They’re ours, too.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“I know it. Nonetheless. They should know us. Some part of him.”

“Which part?”

He shook his head, swished his pale feet.

“Do you want to hear something terrible?” She continued without waiting for him to answer. “I scored it.” She hiked up the strap of her suit. The fabric bagged, the elasticity eaten thin by chemicals. “I was standing there at the sink, doing the dishes, picturing it, you know, and I started putting music with it. Like it was a scene from a movie. Piano. Strains of violin.”


She grabbed his calf, digging with her fingernails. “It was an accident. Wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know.” He reached down to take her hand, but she pulled back.

“I can’t do this. I can’t.” She yanked her cap off. Her silver hair stuck up on end, and her eyes gleamed.

He hesitated, but then reached out and smoothed a tuft of her hair. He tugged off his T-shirt, lifted his hips, and slid down into the water. He waded out. His jeans grew heavy, dragging against his skin. He stopped at sternum level, in the middle of the pool.

“Okay,” he said. “To me.”

“I can’t.”

“You can. I’m right here.”

She stared at him. She turned her back to the wall, braced the flats of her feet against it, and grabbed the gutter with one hand. “Don’t you dare move.”

“I won’t.” He reached his arms to her. “Come on.”

He held his breath with her as she threw her arms forward and pushed off the wall. She put her head down and kicked like mad, the water churning. She propelled her arms in a panicked, ugly stroke, her body thrashing like a predator wrestling down its prey. She lifted her face out of the water, shaking it from side to side, her eyes locked tight. She couldn’t even see that she reached him. He stretched forward, grabbing her hands.

Jenny’s chest heaved as she gulped the air. “Don’t let go,” she got out, panting. She clung hard to his wrists.

“I won’t.”

He pulled her close. He wanted this to be a good moment, a strand of hope, a tiny victory to counter these endless sleepless nights, these thumbprint, gunsmoke images that lurked just behind their eyes. But her body was stiff with terror. She tried to climb his limbs. She pressed on his shoulders and thrust herself upward, trying to save herself by pushing him under. He lost his balance and plunged back into deeper water. He scissors-kicked, his legs weighted with denim, and hot panic shot through him. In the wavery liquid light, they gasped, fumbled, and clawed at each other. Jenny, for God’s sake! he yelled. Abruptly, she stopped struggling and went limp in his arms. He kicked hard toward the shallow end until his feet touched the bottom again. He caught his breath as the water lapped at their skin. She pulled back and looked at him.

“Don’t,” she said. Her voice gave, and her face crumpled.

He started to shiver. He shifted his grasp, cradling her under her back and knees. He waded toward the steps. Floating, passive now, she was nearly weightless in his arms. Like carrying a sleeping child. Like walking on the moon. Lit from below, their bodies did seem unearthly, lunar in their tremulous pallor. He, his wife, and his boy had watched that first moon landing together. In the darkened, hushed living room, the boy sat between them, his short legs sticking out straight on the sofa. They all watched, wide-eyed, taking in those crackling images, the scratched echo of voices, the bounding steps those men took into the unknown dust. Cannon watched his son’s face, illuminated by the screen. The boy looked up at him and whispered, Dad, they made it, and Cannon said, They sure did. The astronaut said, Beautiful, beautiful. Magnificent desolation. Cannon then leaped up and opened the curtains, searching for the moon in the sky, suddenly frantic to see that reassuring orb from a distance, to connect the unimaginable sight before him with reality. And when he couldn’t spot it, for a moment he remembered thinking, Well of course it’s gone away. They changed it. It won’t ever be the same again.  end

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