Fossil Fuel


They met in October as the leaves were turning. There were no trees in the oil field, though. They met, night after night, under an old pumpjack, out in barren fields many years from cultivation. One night they tried in the remains of a clapboard farmhouse, but there were too many ghosts disturbed, so it was back out under the stars, away from the town and the swinging trees with their bright pennies flashing in the wind.

 

They made love, clutching the beak end of the pump, frozen head down 40 years ago. It looked like a rusted chicken, permanently scratching, scratching the dry earth. Up above, the stars shot and bothered, hot and bright. Some nights, no stars at all, a dark sky with a low moaning sound that rushed through the gateway and into the great open. They pushed together, hiding their faces in bosom and the crush of arms.

Sometimes, she thought this is what the afterlife will be, this steady in and out. There were no rumors, no blistered whispers from minister or clerk. All was sweet, all was sweet and slick with happy longing. The rig cast long industrial shadows on full moon nights. One night under that moon they stripped and watched their shadows dance, long and tribal, around the head of the dead beast.

This is a stereopticon view of an imagined happiness, more real than the shadows cast by the two of them rutting in that fossil fuel graveyard, long after the well had gone dry. It is as true as any snapshot; in memory we see them kissing and turn away, cheeks reddened. In memory when they meet, it is as if rusted iron and joints stiffened with disappointment will never exist, and the pump jack  shakes loose and tips its head back to the sky.

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