A woman wakes to the air so dim and warm she’d swear he cupped the city in his hands. His feet are on the mattress, his legs crossed at the ankles. He looks out the window through his knees like he is sighting a gun, unnaturally still. What she starts to say is sand on her tongue. The light from the window angles his face in two, a boundary spanned from crown to cheek. One eye is blackened.
The next day the fruit has fallen from the trees. As far as she can see leaves languish. She heaps what fruit she can in her arms, not bothering to use baskets. She has soon a pyramid of fruit, the trees out the front door wallowing in brown first then yellow. At night she pulls his lower lip between her teeth. They rock, caught in the wind. Her hands behind his neck like she is praying. She is climbing him or trying to drown him in the sea.
She sleeps on the floor and when she wakes the fruit is rot already in the heat. Behind her he is banging on the door. His shadow is smaller now than he is and cowers on the bed when he sits like it had slipped out of him. When she leaves the house he’s gawking after her, the window glass smearing him. Someone has drawn him in charcoal and then smudged their thumb across his face.
She is at the table with a bottle of juice in each hand. There is a crash and when she turns things in the kitchen are suddenly on the floor. Pins and screws pop from the cabinet with its three shelves. Orbits of jars and cans cross spinning and before they rest wallpaper swoons from the wall, bits of caulk and glue fluttering. The string looped through a half dozen keys hanging on the wall snaps and they clink one and then one to the ground. Boxtops lift open, the faucet blasts from the sink, her hems unravel furiously, sleeves drooping off, skirt opening at the seams, fabric piling at her ankles. It’s been like this for hours, pulses of light stammering in the clouds, the sky like a movie reel they’ve stopped watching.
People from their doors like they’re striding through a waterfall, backs arched against the spray, children knocked from their feet with the storm’s weight. The rivers rise until they meet and sweep through town, down through the hills, carrying down stalks and soil until the valley is filled. Water bubbles from under the front door and the water rising lifts the fruit and empty jars and sweeps them wall to wall. He stirs small waves as he wades from the bedroom. Banging from outside. He is beside her. The neighbors at the windows crying their houses are giving way and their children are somewhere in the torrent but he will never go home. The water is at their hips now. They bend their knees and give little forward jumps to even move, pulling through the water with their arms, their feet in the mud. The neighbors turn back, voices smothered by the waves, rain slapping the surface of the water.
Michael Judd graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the University of Iowa's College of Law. His MFA thesis was a collection of poems titled Dynamite Museum. Michael has lived and worked in Hong Kong, New York, and Minneapolis, and now lives in South Jordan, Utah, with his wife Regan and their two sons. Though his apple galettes are beautiful, the tree house he built last summer may be his most enduring achievement.