KARMA • by Walter Lacey

Sometimes there’s a moment so quiet right after the exhaled breath when there is no breath, and an interval between two lives is suddenly bridged.

My name is William, Wendell or Wallace. I’m not sure which. At this moment, it doesn’t matter.

The evening gradually slips into a fading blue sky with an orange glow over a distant river at the bottom of a broad valley. My view is free of long wires, posts, and fences. Far off, open fields extend before me with houses and barns dotting the landscape here and there, and everything is pleasantly quiet.

Standing on my front porch, I watch a darkening, unpaved road before me. It’s a road shared by two houses farther away on the other side. I can see lamps on the ground floors that have already been lit, just as they have been in our house. I don’t know what’s going on in those houses, but I do know I want no part of what’s happening in mine.

Relatives have gathered in the parlor where my younger sister is entertaining them with her wealth of knowledge and wit. Aunts, uncles, cousins and our mother lavish their attention on her. Everyone is laughing with her, and everyone is smiling at her.

She makes me ill. The thought of her is like a sore festering inside of me. Dread overcomes me when I see her like a weed creeping into my presence. The sound of her voice reminds me of a squeaky wheel that needs to be greased. Just hearing her name is enough to make me wince.

My father walks up the stairs leading to the porch and greets me with a smile. It vanishes at my dark response. He asks me what’s wrong, but I don’t elaborate. When he hears the laughter and animated chatter from inside the house, he grasps the situation since it’s repeated itself so many times before. He tells me to move beyond it or something to that effect.

Thankfully it’s April. I can spend more time outside the house and earn money by mending things that have fallen into disrepair over the winter. There’s a narrow, wood-plank bridge on our neighbor’s farm. It spans a small creek that flows through a gully. The man who owns the property asked me to replace some boards along the sides since a few have started to splinter and come loose. But with the melted snow and heavy rain, the creek has become more like a raging river that almost touches the bottom of the bridge, so I’ve decided to put off my repairs until the water goes down.

Today my bothersome sister is following me at a distance for reasons I don’t care to know. As I walk over the bridge I was asked to repair, I stay in the center, avoiding the unstable planks on either side. After I cross, I continue on my way until I hear a crack, like an ax splitting wood, then a sharp scream and a splash. My sister has fallen through a worn-out plank on the bridge and is now caught by the strong current below.

I run back. Sister is almost entirely beneath the bridge, only her head and two hands grasping a wood plank remain visible. Water rushes over her face while she tries to cough it out of her mouth. She looks confused and scared as her eyes open and close in an attempt to focus on anything above water.

I find myself caught between two opposite parts inside of me that I can’t understand or control. I extend my hand to try and pull her out. She takes one hand off the plank to reach for mine. But because of my intense aversion to her, I instinctively withdraw my offer to help. The current is too strong for her other hand to hold the plank by itself, and slips off. The torrent pulls her under the bridge. I find her lifeless body a quarter of a mile downstream.

The numbers illuminated on the orange background of my digital clock display the time: 7:15 pm, 10/29/09. The rapid chopping sound above me must be a traffic helicopter following this evening’s commute. There’s a roar from the engine of a street sweeper cleaning dead leaves and debris from the pavement. Shaken, I get up from my chair and walk across the hall to the bathroom. I flip on the light to check my reflection in the mirror. It still looks like me.

Relieved, I go back to the living room, lie flat on the couch and stare at the ceiling. I contemplate the disturbing events that have just replayed before me. What do they mean? Has this somehow come full circle? I don’t know the girl’s name, but today she’s my daughter, Tana. What am I supposed to do now? I close my eyes and become as quiet and open as the fields I’d experienced a little while ago. I wait. There’s only one word that enters my mind: Enjoy.

Walter Lacey lives with his wife, daughter, and son in Massachusetts. He enjoys exploring mysticism and the supernatural. He believes that too often karma is interpreted as a mechanism for revenge or retribution. He would prefer to think that the Universe teaches. People punish. Walter attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received at BA in journalism.

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