Return // Enter

A helicopter above a town like Tahoka, Texas, where small houses crowd between cotton fields, is an incursion. The sound rattles children’s spoons within their cereal bowls. Their curious eyes trace kernelled ceilings, and somewhere high above their homes, a menagerie of medical plastics and beeping biometric devices remind the flight nurses of an encroaching death. But the dead, perhaps even higher, are skipping stones near the bladed whir, as if all the heavens were a vast pond, and we, the living, were stones at its bottom. Ripples bellow through the clouds that are portals or springs or useless things to the dying man below, gasping in the belly of a machine, mid-flight as if the medevac is a lesson on earning wings. When his heartbeat flattens, the flight nurses prod the monitor’s keys like the keyboard’s letters might return words to the man. “Please!” they call to the mute and dead. Return, return, return, on the keyboard they press, as if directing the dead from some errant egress. But the same key is enter, enter, enter, too, go on, depart, farewell, adieu.

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© 2020 Joshua Aaron Crook