Issue 35, Final Fringe

Ringlet

by Russell Hehn Issue 28 10.24.2011

[PRE-TEXT]

Mason had been to Point Loma enough to be recognized by the locals, to be invited, on occasion, to stay for dinner, to have the children ask “Can we see that Zippo trick again?,” to be known when he wasn’t present as Das Baron.

He’d considered making his home there, but he didn’t want to die in Point Loma, and he knew that he would die there if he made it his home.  When he thought about the idyllic future he could certainly make for himself, he felt undeserving, as if he were cheating fate somehow.  Maybe he could start flying full time again, or teach flying lessons, reach out, contribute a little.  Take the Air Force stipend, buy a little house on the beach.  Maybe he could find a girl, settle for her, forget about Dolly.  When he told himself that Dolly would never come around, he didn’t like how he felt about it.  He knew it was true.  He’d seen girls around Point Loma on his visits, eligible girls, girls like Flo down at the museum.  Maybe he could shack up with Flo for a bit, maybe she could get him a job down at the museum too.  He liked history, after all.  Hell, he thought, I am history.

When he’d finally made it back to the states, Mason expected to find Dolly there waiting for him, like they’d planned.  He couldn’t blame her for not showing up.  He’d been listed as M.I.A., then assumed to be a P.O.W., though the military couldn’t begin to speculate whereabouts.  They held off listing him as Deceased at the request of Commander Byrner.  “Don’t check that box until there’s a body in the ground,” he’d said, fully aware of Mason’s stubbornness, even in the face of death.

There was no sense in Dolly waiting around on a dead man, especially not when there wasn’t even a ring on her finger.

Mason could have arrived home safely, but he knew that celebrity would come with his arrival, and he knew what came with celebrity, and he didn’t want it.  And so he found his own way home on foot, alone, taking his time through Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain.  He walked with a confidence and a comfort he’d never had before, and that he would never have again.

When he’d awoken in the trees, lashed inside the cockpit of his shot-down plane, the field of edelweiss and privet flooding the meadow beneath him, he knew he would never know freedom like this again, and he decided to wallow in it for as long as he could, meandering across the continent, southward, eventually toward home.

West of Jaén he discovered a spring nestled in the crook of two stone faces that jutted out of the desert like hands.  He stayed for a while, as he was in no hurry.  It was, for lack of a better word, a paradise.  The spring fed the desert soil and what grew there was more than enough to feed him.  The rocks sheltered him from the sun.  He knew people were missing him somewhere, and they’d want to know what took him so long.  He’d make up some excuse later.

One night he killed a woman.  He shot her.  And he did so because he could feel her rage when she came wailing into his hideaway, and he assumed that rage was meant for him.  Had he known that her anger was for the man pursuing her that lightless night, the man who saw him kill her, then he would not have shot.  Mason did not see this man until after the woman had fallen, and he left that paradise immediately, allowing the man his time to grieve.

 

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Russell Hehn

Russell Hehn

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Russell Hehn is a teacher and landscaper in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Some of his other work can be seen in Barcelona Review, Interrobang?! and Pindeldyboz.