Shawnee arrow heads under a Pennsylvania field at night

From the Centermoreland General Store — where grainy, sepia photos show me horse and buggies once piled themselves with vegetables and grain for transport to the farms — I can step off into the dark Pennsylvania roadway. Potholes every five steps, deer every half mile, jumping out to test the brakes of your car as you cruise through the sickly, damp night. I can walk and walk and walk through the fields and past the dive bars — the run down and dilapidated homes that I’m not quite sure someone lives in but I pray they do not. And walk and walk and walk — on through the brambles and the barbed wire on the edges of hunting grounds whose owners’ dirt poor ancestors long ago made a pact with my ancestors so that I may walk unimpeded through their land. And I can hear your voice. Running through the underbrush like a spooked raccoon, zig-zagging and picking up speed as my Chippewa boots pound the ancient Shawnee arrowheads under the dirt farther into the past with every step. And every step of my Chippewa boots pounds the red man further under my heel despite my protests and despite my pleas but I don’t have time to apologize and I don’t have time to make the blood debt right because I hear you. And your voice wraps through the willows and over the creek with the bitter sweet sound that fills my heart with the deep, abiding sadness that comes when your friends forget your birthday — before the shock and half-relief of them jumping out from behind couches or around corners to pop poppers and buzz kazoos, cheering and chanting and telling you that they remembered and love you. But still, that feeling of loneliness persists, because one day they will forget, and you will be alone, and your birthday will pass by without a present or a card. But I will be alone with you, if I can only catch up, and if I can only grab hold. And I run, run, run straight across the fishing pond where my dead grandfather waddled out and left his used, needleless Christmas trees every January to sink to the bottom for the next generation of bass. And one day my mother will be dead, my father will be dead, my sister and my brother and I will be dead and buried and maybe the Shawnee will have their final judgment of us. And as I sprint forward — tears hot on my cheeks from both the icy air and the memory of your hands where the moisture now chills me —  I push harder and my boots pound like the ice but my body continues sliding forward at breakneck speed, at redneck speed, at roughneck speed, at paycheck speed and I’m sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. Over the hill and toward the moon and over the cliff and into the Susquehanna where I plummet, I sink down, and finally remember that you’re gone. In the distance, a mountain lion lets out a wail like a dying whore in hell, and I remember for a second that the lions aren’t supposed to live in Pennsylvania anymore. And in that dark, cold pit with all of the devils of hell howling around me, I question that age old wisdom, and realize perhaps, just perhaps, God doesn’t love me unconditionally anymore.

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