His dad left in the middle of the night, and the next morning we started digging. We dug until the hole was wider than we were tall and deeper than we were wide. We stole the Olsen’s pool cover from their backyard and created a liner. We had buckets, we needed a hose.
“Rain’ll fill it,” Josh said. We stood stoic, the corn growing audibly around us.
“But that’ll take days, weeks,” I said.
Josh looked puzzled, his gaunt face thinner even than normal, his eyes, like those of a tired old bass, appeared bulged, dark, resigned. “Okay, then. The Stein’s. They’ll have a hose. We can fill it tonight, in the dark.”
At nightfall we met in the cornfield. Josh wore black jeans, a black hoodie, black shoes three sizes too big.
“Can you even walk in those?” I asked.
“They’re my dad’s.”
It only took twenty buckets to fill the pond, and it was surprisingly easy to fill them quietly, walk back into the field unnoticed. We stood above it, admired our work, wondered if we’d want to find fish to stock it. But it didn’t matter if we ever did. Every morning that summer we met just after sunrise at the pond. We were scared. We didn’t know of what. We just knew that people left, things changed, and then maybe you’re dead. That’s the scare of early mornings. That’s the relief of waking and having a place to go.
Gary L. McDowell’s first collection of poems, American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), won the 2009 Orphic Prize for Poetry. He’s also the author of two chapbooks, They Speak of Fruit (Cooper Dillon, 2009) and The Blueprint (Pudding House, 2005), and the co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010). He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Belmont University.