What the Wind Said


by Paul Negri


 

…only when the wind was high in the trees could Tom hear its voice. Then he would lean his head back, close his eyes, and listen. He would rock gently in the old pine chair and hear what the wind was saying as clearly as he heard everything before he went deaf. And with his eyes closed he could see the wind move about in the treetops just the way he saw everything before he went blind. He could feel on his right arm, the one they’d had to take off, the sun warm as the wind off the summer pond where they skinny dipped in the July haze, he and Mabel, before she looked much like a girl nor he much like a boy, just children without a shred of clothes or care, moving in their perfect bodies, easy as the summer rain…

“Is he okay, Jeff?”

“Yes, he’s okay.”

“How do you know?”

“He’s rocking, honey. Slow like. That’s what Dad does. He’s okay.”

…his ears and eyes high up in the trees like the wind, where nothing is silent and dark like the days and nights of calm weather, the dead calm of the windless ocean where not a sail flutters and nothing moves, not even fear, so long so becalmed that there is no disturbance of any sort, not even regret, calm beyond caring, but still stirrings of the old life and a hope that the wind might blow again in the tree tops and higher, and beneath its whispers a voice so familiar and loved, stronger than stoppered ears and shuttered eyes…

“I don’t think he’s rocking, Jeff.”

“Sure he is. Just very slow. Let him rest. It’s going to be hard later when we take him.”

“You’ve told him, right? How do you do that again?”

“Fingerspelling. On his palm. I showed you.”

…and the motion up and down, feet in the air, not touching ground, no more than the wind’s feet do, the wind not feeling but felt only, there only in the motion it gives to the leaves or on the rippled pond, or in Mabel’s hair, long and soft as summer rain, and the wind on the palm of his hand, tracing words once felt but no longer, now just scratchings where there is no itch, and no longer of interest, and suddenly gusts so strong they lift him up and up, higher than the leaves, higher than the trees, so high the sky is left far below and her face beautiful to see, and her hands pulling him up…

“Jeff?”

“Dad?”

“Oh God.”

“Dad?”

…and one last gust, emptying and complete, and tears, like summer rain, clean and bright and bursting with joy, like annihilation, scattering them both among the morning stars…

 


Paul Negri has twice won the gold medal for fiction in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. His stories have appeared in The Penn Review, Jellyfish Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Vestal Review, and more than 50 other publications. He lives and writes in Clifton, New Jersey.