Jeff Martin

This is Not the Time

Lately I’m waving at deer when walking home at night and dad’s calling twice a week because he’s trapped in the apartment and what is the date and time where I am? He isn’t trapped and he’s got the same time as me, but I like waving at the deer because it’s the right thing to do and I like how they wave back sometimes with their tails as if to say, Evening, brother, the water is still and clear tonight.  If I’m close enough I’ll say, Gentlemen, even though they’re not gentlemen, they’re always doe, but that doesn’t matter and mostly what I do is wave at them and hope they wave back.   

Last night three of them spooked from the roadbed when I got close and they looked at me and then I waved energetically with one hand, and one of them waved back with its tail, which made me wave even harder because that’s astonishing as a lamp shining just because the atoms leapt the gap:  Evening, brother, the water is still and clear tonight, and I said, It sure is, even though I hadn’t seen the water all day, not the water they meant, just faucets and fountains, but it’s bad form to disagree and say, No brother, the water is in fact not still and clear tonight, so I said, It sure is, it sure is, it is a mirror upon the surface of the world, which was too much for one who said that’s a bit melodramatic, isn’t it, it’s just water, and I agreed I was a bit melodramatic, but it’d been a long day and you know how that goes, and of course they knew from those long days under the trees and shadows and the great wide sky.  They appreciated this nod to their suffering, and said so themselves, You hit the nail on the head, brother, some days are long for sure and some nights, too, that’s no lie, either, and I said, That is a true story fact.

We waved more.  That makes the day a little better they said, and I said, It sure does, my father’s losing his mind, he’s in the kitchen at 2:30 AM and he wants the clocks and the water to make sense together, there’s a connection is what he’s saying, and something’s off about the water in the pipes and the time on the clock and how do you fix that? And they shrugged because what else is there when it’s dusk and the air’s lit but not lit and atoms are leaping the gap and the water’s not making sense for a man late at night in a strange kitchen?  It’s not the time for wisdom or righteousness—it’s the time for silence and stillness, something like prayer or prayer itself, outright and blunt:  heal the man or end the man, that is the choice, is it not? 

Let’s wave, they said, and we waved and waved the moon into night. 

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin has been published or has work forthcoming in Mississippi Review, The Greensboro Review, Sou'wester, and Mid-American Review, among others. He is the Associate Director of the University of Virginia's Young Writers Workshop and teaches fiction-writing at Sweet Briar College.