There’s half a school bus at the edge of a ditch and a man climbing in the driver’s door. He doesn’t know the bus was bought at auction. There’s a wad of colorless paper that used to be an atlas. There were blue lines tracing a path through the West. It never made it that far. It got resigned to rot on stubborn tires for twenty years. It fused with the forest, growing tangles of kudzu and braids of rust reaching far into the roots of it all.

The man sits in the broken-open seat. Loops fingers around the wheel. Between the kudzu and rain-hammered dirt, he sees the white stems of trees. The black hair of branches. He lets his eyes drop out of focus. You never think about the soft muscles of your eyes, he thinks. It feels good to let them do nothing. A moth lands on his cheek. Then another. A swarm? No. Brood? Colony? He blows one off his hairy hand with a puff. He thinks about her. He thinks about himself. He thinks about how much room they really have in their little house, for all of the toys and strollers and bags and shoes and clothes and books and everything else that will come.

The bus waits a few years and the man returns. He climbs in the driver side, brushes midden off the broken-up seat. Upholstery foam looks like raw, black dirt. The cloud of moths find him. It scares him. It’s been years. Have they just waited? But he doesn’t care. He has lots to think about. How’d they get here, in this strange place? These small rooms with fake flowers and attorneys with too much hairspray. How’s wage garnishment work? He looks at his hands, broad and calloused. They smell like sawdust. He’d been proud of what he was, he’d been proud of the measures, saws, drills, hammers and floursent string. A moth crawls through the hair on his wrist and he lets it struggle.

Years become decades, if you let them, and old tires rot to raw dirt. The man comes again, his face thinner and touched with a beard. He sits in his chair but there are no moths. He doesn’t think this time. He’s done too much of that. He’s been thinking about lithium and counseling, about the DSM and how fat a book it is and how it sits so heavy on the doctor’s desk. It’s like something from a dead star, so dense it warps the world. It isn’t a real thing, he’s thought, and it’s full of lies anyway. But she’s wild in school, she’s stealing her mother’s car. Her eyes are glass he can’t see through and the child she was, he’s already forgotten.

He never returns. The glass turns brown as mud. The metal buckles and cracks, tired through with rust. The broken-up seats are carried away, bite by bite by ants. But the eclipse of moths haven’t left. They still float out opaque windows, in the stubborn August light, and float in again on dead currents. Pulsing like the slow, ancient beat of a heart twisted in ivy.

Like what you read? Give r.k.w. a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.