Om­phalo­tus Olear­ius

The Iowa Review - - FRONT PAGE -

She sees it from the win­dow be­fore she knows what it is. Her new hus­band is still sleep­ing. That is how she thinks of him: her new hus­band. As though he is still shiny, just off the store shelf. They have known each other now for al­most a year, but they’ve been mar­ried for less than a month, liv­ing to­gether these few short weeks. It’s an ad­just­ment. She moved from her apart­ment near the cen­ter of De­catur to his trailer on the out­skirts of town. She is re­minded of bath­rooms like upright coffins on buses or air­planes—but there are two of them in this one, two of them nav­i­gat­ing the same nar­row space. Which makes our love only more con­fined and in­tense, she likes to think. She is work­ing as a wait­ress while he is work­ing as a roofer and an oc­ca­sional car­pen­ter. Money is tight. But they are happy. They have their bodies, after all, which grow hun­gry in the nar­row space of the trailer. He ar­rives home from work slicked with sweat, his shoul­ders and neck and face fevered red from the sun, and they fall upon each other. What more could any­one want? Even­tu­ally they will have chil­dren, of course, and even­tu­ally they will build a life beyond this bed where they sleep, by ne­ces­sity, in each other’s arms. But for now, she imag­ines that their or­gasms on that bed are like spir­its or ghosts lift­ing to fill the air in the trailer all around them, to re­ver­ber­ate and echo. And she is think­ing about these plea­sures when she rises in the night to use the toi­let, when she sees out the tiny win­dow a blue-green glow per­haps ten yards from the trailer. It ap­pears alive in pale light not far from where her new hus­band’s pickup is parked. She gazes and gazes, per­plexed. The light ap­pears to live at the foot of a tree, the wraith of it trail­ing out across the ground. And not un­til morn­ing does she re­al­ize it was mush­rooms she was see­ing, jack-o’-lanterns that, by day, ap­pear yel­low­ish-or­ange. They are grow­ing wild from the earth, mul­ti­ply­ing. They ap­pear dis­fig­ured some­how, like hideous flow­ers, dead growths that rise into the air. She finds the sight of them un­set­tling, disturbing, and thoughts of them keep re­turn­ing to her mind dur­ing her lunch shift at work. She is so dis­tracted that she drops an or­der of wings with bar­be­cue sauce into the lap of one of her fa­vorite cus­tomers. She is so dis­tracted that she doesn’t see a squir­rel un­til the fi­nal mo­ment as she is driv­ing home. Through the rearview mir­ror she watches the crea­ture rolling to­ward the ditch, then ly­ing still. The tail is twitch­ing, but the rest of the squir­rel has died. At home she

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