The Difficult I’ll Do Right Now
by Mark Joseph Kevlock
Koriandra was doing what she loved best — tending the garden, examining the roses — when the stranger arrived. The clippers were forgotten in her hand. The soil was cool this early in the morning. The world was at peace.
He was slumped as if tired from a long journey. She had no neighbors within miles. He had no face to speak of, merely long gray hair curling back on itself, protruding from weathered cracks where his cheeks should have been, a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes.
He stopped at her gate, as if expected, and waited on her response. He was wearing a trench coat, but many people did. That in itself could not be considered a crime.
She remembered then that she was naked, as she always was. It did not occur to her to hide. Instead she stood, and moved purposefully in his direction. The flagstones between them were four, three, two....
She still had the clippers, and he might not even be human, from what she could see. He might just be clothing that carried a man inside, hair that needed a place to grow. He might be a wandering baseball cap, or sneakers that could no longer run.
“I can do miracles,” he said, as if a question had been posed.
There might be rain now. A drop seemed to touch her breast.
“Miracles,” he offered again.
He could be her father. Or a pirate. But not a madman. She was too fortunate, too free, for that.
“Are you a good luck charm?” A strand of hair fell across her cheek. She pushed it behind her ear.
“I suppose I am,” he said. “What else could I be?”
And so their conversation began, not awkwardly but kindly, open in all things, as she was, and he too, as she would in time learn.
She called him to the garden, where the miracle was to commence.
“I can walk uninjured,” he said, “through yonder rose bushes.”
So dense, so thick a growth. She had not yet tended them.
“To prove my point,” he said, “I will need to disrobe.”
“Of course,” she said. “Of course.”
And soon he was naked as well. The very young and the very old. His body had no scars.
“I will walk through,” he said, “and not be cut.”
She was anxious now, for this education. “Please do.”
And he did. He strode with his tall, thin legs through the very heart of the growth. And not a thorn touched his skin.
She glanced down at her own hands, yesterday’s cuts still mending. “How?” she asked.
“Good fortune is my companion.”
This was the only answer he would give. Though pressed further — all through the morning, as she fed the birds their bread; all through the afternoon, as they strolled the cliffsides together; and again into the evening, as the fire made its patterns upon her skin — he would say only that she should learn the trick, open her life, undo all doubts.
“But I am open,” she said. “I’m a child of nature, and the seasons. I’m studying the world at my doorstep.”
“Not closely enough,” he said. “You don’t know it yet — the secret — the thinly guarded truth that’s there like oxygen to inhale.”
She sat forward even as he sat back. The rug beneath her made her legs too warm, but he still wore his trench coat buttoned to the neck, as he had all day, even this close to the fireplace.
She was up on her knees now, and he was watching her, expressionless, or perhaps grave.
“What is the truth?” she said.
He waited a bit longer for her, her mounting need, her desperation.
“I love truth,” she said. “I love all truths.”
“Perhaps you do.”
He had removed his baseball cap, but he was still unknowable beneath his gray strands. He squinted as if that was all there was to do.
“The universe is good,” he said. “Unconditionally good. That’s the secret. There is no evil.”
“But how do you know? How did you learn the nature of the universe?”
“I looked here,” he said. He placed his palm gently between her breasts. “That’s where you should look, too.”
“Oh, I will, I will. But how do I start?”
“Maybe tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe on the other side of sleep.”
And so she nestled into the rug, as she did every night, and she began to lose the moment, all shadows merging into one.
“Do you have a name?” she said.
Only a whisper came back. “Doesn’t seem important.”
“How did you come to be here, at my cottage?”
“I was walking, and this is where I ended up.”
She smiled, pleased — as she was with all things — and then the world for that day was gone.
The next moment of importance came as they stood at the cliffs, all raging sea and rocky points below.
“I think maybe I came here to fly,” he said, “if such a thing still has meaning.”
She was in tears instantly, and too much of everything all at once.
“Why wouldn’t it have meaning?” she said. “Oh, how often I’ve dreamed of that... all earthly concerns below me... How magical! How utterly magnificent!” She was set as if to leap right at that moment, with only wind between her legs, only heaven in her thoughts.
“Is it really possible?” She reached out, wanting to tug his coat. “Is it another of your miracles?”
He squinted, though sun was hidden behind clouds. “One of many.”
That night the fire again comforted their day.
“May I see your face — beneath the hair, beneath the wrinkles?”
“This is my face,” he said, and for a time said nothing more.
“What if you were my father?” she said. “Could I then do all the things that you can? Could I be as pure?”
There was laughter in his heart, if not on his lips. “We believe in evil, and it exists. But goodness is a force outside our beliefs. Goodness exists independently of all other things. Goodness is. It has no opposite. It is the rudimentary force of the cosmos.”
“Cosmos,” she said.
“That twinkle in your eye, that patch of health within your chest, all of that which springs forth in your step... We are, all of us, goodness personified.”
“But I’m so afraid of that!” She rolled over onto her back. She reached toward the structured beams of the ceiling. “When I think like that I feel so at ease. I get lost in the feeling. I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“Of course,” he said. And the fire crackled, exclamation to his statement. “That’s what flying is.”
* * *
She was naked, as always, and taking her first steps through the rose bushes.
“There is a perfect path opening up inside of you at all times. Follow it.”
She did. And she felt no thorns upon her skin.
“I walked through the roses!” she said.
* * *
“What about sound?” she asked. They were waiting for the teakettle and it was resisting their patience. “I love sounds. I love kites on the wind and frogs in the pond and the creaking of my gate and the moon in its orbit.”
He smiled, inwardly, again. “Sounds are the most beautiful of unexplored emotions.”
“Unbutton your trench coat,” she said. “You never do.”
“I unbuttoned it when we first met.”
“But that was to prove a point.”
He shook his head without moving. “Listen for the teakettle.”
And she did.
And when it came it was, miraculously, the only sound in the world. It quieted the robins and the waves and even the sizzle of late summer sun all across the rain-soaked flagstones.
“Now I hear the worms,” she said, “crawling in the ground. It’s all so perfect, so wonderful!”
He squinted at the teakettle and it grew silent, exhausted. “I think that tomorrow I shall have to leave.”
* * *
The shapes in the fire could not calm her that night. “What is tomorrow? Why is it important?”
He unbuttoned the top button of his trench coat.
She began to cry.
“You don’t need me,” he said. “The person you should most enjoy spending time with is yourself.”
“I don’t know anything,” she said. She curled into a ball, the rug crumpled beneath her.
He rose to his feet — threatening a premature exit? “You’re the most wonderful person who ever loved. And this is all I can stand of your perfection.”
She shifted. A shrug, perhaps, unable to look in his direction. “You never seemed a coward.”
He secured his baseball cap, but left his sneakers where they lay. “Everyone is a coward in the face of love.”
She did not remember what happened next.
The robins were calling for their bread, and the flagstones for her feet. The rose bushes needed her clippers and the sun, her greater light.
She strode to the edge of the cliffs and found his trench coat there, with his gray hair, all shorn, wrapped in its bundle. The baseball cap he must have taken with him, but not the wrinkles, she felt sure. The wrinkles were only for those who needed a place to hide.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Joseph Kevlock