The man sat in the recess of the veranda, in the shadows where he was least likely to be seen. A man in rags, dead meteorites in his bag. Waiting for Beth. A man living in transit. One who won’t take his chances upon the stars. Eyes and feet fixed firmly on the ground. A scavenger. A hardy breed, self selected for qualities like endurance and the capacity for loneliness. Lincoln wandered, collecting stones. He returned with a full bag to the assay office, hoping there would be enough ore for him to eat and buy a clean bed for a while. Safer than going into space with a crew, but only marginally. Lincoln risked sandstorms and starvation, predators and other scavengers to survive. He didn’t have the option of resurrection.
He had never called Beth by her name. Never once stepped inside her door. The life she led inside was a mystery. As cool and contained as they were with one another.
Beth didn’t know how to present herself. She carried a jug and two glasses on a tray. She wished he could see her differently, afraid her hospitality made her seem servile in his eyes, or even worse, patronising and kind. Not stubborn or independent. Docile. Domesticated. Not wild. What use would such a man have for someone so tame?
She poured the lemonade, leaving her glass upon the tray. She allowed herself to watch him as he drained his share, the muscles moving in his throat. She needn’t have worried about impressions. He was just grateful for the drink.
Only when Beth had poured him a second glass, did she take up her own. They didn’t exchange words. They didn’t pass the time of day, only looked at one another when the other looked away. He looked as aged as the terrain. The sun, the wind, the sand, had added a decade to his face. His skin was creased but his eyes were still blue and young.
“I heard about your husband.” Lincoln cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. It’s a bad thing.”
“The Soul of Stones” is now available from Sean Demory’s Pine Float Press.
This story originally appeared in Issue 41 of Not One of Us in 2009.
The lovely cover illustration is by Bernie Gonzalez.
Paperback ( at Lulu for £2.40.