by Daniel W. Davis
She laid waiting for him about a hundred yards from the creek. He didn't see her until he was close to tripping over her; he glanced down and saw her smiling up at him, half her face obscured by auburn hair that had tumbled across her face in the sprint from the barn.
He looked down at her for a moment then smiled and sat down beside her. She reached one slender arm up to his shoulder and tugged him downward. He fell onto the ground with a gasp, laughing and rolling onto his side to look at her.
"Took you long enough," she said.
"Had to shut Becky up. Don't want her runnin' free again. Damn horse is crazy."
She ran a hand down his cheek. He'd shaved that morning, first time in nearly a month, and his skin was smooth to the touch, and she lingered at the corner of his mouth, letting her finger slide gently against his lip.
"I like you this way. Cleaner."
"Don't fool yourself. You're an old man now."
His grin was youthful, alive. "And what does that make you?"
"Makes me proud." She turned her head away from him and lay on her back, star-ing up through the prairie grass. He slowly turned his head away from her, still smiling, and they watched the clouds drift by.
"See a rabbit," she said.
She showed him.
"Looks more like Miss Feathers."
"See the whiskers? And the tail?"
"And how about that cow over there?"
"It's a dog."
"I defy you to tell me that ain't a cow."
"It ain't a cow."
She let her eyes close. Beyond them they could hear the rustling of the creek as it meandered across the prairie. There were fish in it, and if he went fishing later in the afternoon she would clean it and cook it for dinner. Fish was about all he could catch anymore since he couldn't shoot with just the one arm. She would occasionally try
but she'd never had much of a hand with the rifle. She could catch and kill a chicken fairly well but the roost had blown down in the last twister and they couldn't afford to rebuild it, not until winter came again and people remembered how warm and fine her knitted blankets were.
"We should name it," he said.
She turned her face to him. "The cloud?"
"Oh." She thought for a moment. "Why?
He shrugged. "'Cause it's the right thing to do, I reckon."
"Yes. Babies need names."
"We don't even know what 'it' is."
"It don't matter." He reached out with his good arm, stretching above her face, to pull some grass. He twiddled it around his fingers and she inhaled the smell of him and smiled.
"If it don't matter then why you wanna do it?"
He shrugged again.
"You never won an award for answerin', did you?"
"Didn't know they had 'em."
"Well, if they ever do, you'll never win one."
"Just think we should name it, that's all. So we don't have to call it an 'it.'"
"I'm a one-armed man. Peculiar ain't nothin' new."
She laughed, and he sighed with comfort as her body shifted next to his. He held her hand, his fingers stroking hers. His grip was rough and calloused, but still as strong as when he'd held her hand for the first time nearly twenty years before. She rested her head against his shoulder and watched the clouds.
He felt her head move in agreement against his shirt. "Okay."
"What name do you like?"
"Which one we gonna give it first?"
"How about a girl?"
"You've thought about it."
"I've thought about it."
"Okay." He was silent, thinking it over. A bird flew overhead, a sparrow of some kind. It circled upwards for a second directly above them, then darted off toward the creek.
"Miranda's a good name."
"That's what I thought."
"How about a boy?"
"Miranda's a terrible name for a boy."
He smiled. "No argument there."
She pulled up his sleeve and kissed his arm. Her lips were soft, delicate, unlike the rest of her. He gripped her hand tighter.
"How about we name it after me?"
A laugh escaped her, sudden but tender. "One of you is more than enough for me to handle."
"Then how about…Samuel?"
"My father was a good man."
"He was." She brought one leg up, stretching, then laid it back on the ground. "Okay. Samuel."
"Miranda and Samuel."
"No more 'it.'"
"Now which do you suppose we use?"
He kissed her lightly. "Whichever you feel like at the moment, I reckon."
"Don't feel like using either one right now."
"No law says you have to."
She squirmed into his side and they lay beneath the sun. A breeze came, parting the grass, and they closed their eyes and let it wash over them. Somewhere in the distance a sparrow called, perhaps the same one, perhaps its mate, and the call was echoed by the creek as it ran its course through the fertile prairie lands.
Daniel W. Davis is a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University. He spends far too much time ignoring the responsibilities of higher education, instead preferring the company of good books, good friends, and better beer.