by Bill Yarrow
She lies on her stomach by the side of the pool staring into her towel. On her back, I can make out a pastel isthmus, surgery's pink art or charlatan's scab, I can't tell which. She is beautiful as rare roast beef is beautiful. I stare at the curve of her calf, a crescent of red flesh. I recognize her from the oncologist's office, her appointment had directly preceded mine, but who am I to cast blame? I am in the water myself, a little cool today but tomorrow sure to be hotter. What tomorrow is not hotter than today? I jump out and look for some shade, but there is none to be had. Maybe sunscreen will protect me. If not sunscreen, then Athena.
I throw on my shirt and, as best I can, cover my legs. The sun's the enemy. Was that always the case? Perhaps I was just too stupid to notice. I'm not a good judge of character. I've made friends with pestilence and shiftlessness, hypocrites with swords. I've shaken hands with traitors. The baleful will inherit the earth. Unless, praise the Lord, the sun gets them first.
I should (shouldn't I?) try to save that woman. Why? Because no good deed 'scapes whipping. But she looks the kind that detests salvation. One who no doubt resents amelioration as well. Well, salvation's not everyone's bag. How sad though to see her incinerate by degrees. I'll alert her she's burning, but aren't we all? Sinnerman, sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
I wade in the water, but just before I submerge my head, I turn back for another glimpse of her. She is beautiful, well worth frying for, her lissome frame mistress of every billboard in every shade of red, her lithe corpus consort of every flag carved of ruddy color. Long may she wave, I wish her that, even as I see and grieve her intrinsic softness abraded by full-frontal doom.
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A version of this piece appeared in Olentangy Review.
It also appears in Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press 2015).