Saturday, August 1, 2015


verb, transitive. To put an end to, typically by the use of force. To subdue or silence someone. To suppress a feeling, especially an unpleasant one.

It was dark by the time they realized that neither of them had remembered to fetch the mail from the box by the road. She volunteered to get it. He had spent the day trying to fix the lawnmower and she knew he was tired. She took the flashlight from the counter beside the kitchen door and went outside.

The world changed in an instant as soon as she turned her back to the house. She could see nothing but the ellipse of the flashlight's beam, bobbing before her steps in rhythm with them. Too late, she reflected that flip-flops might not have been a good choice for this walk. What if she had to run?

The thought gave her a shiver. Mountain lions had been sighted in the neighborhood, not that long ago. She was almost certain one had holed up in a thicket near one turn in the trail to the back of their property. Every time she walked past it near sunset, she smelled a strong odor, kind of like domestic cat urine, but not quite. It hadn't stopped her from using the trail to go out before dinner and watch the setting sun for a few minutes, every few days. She hadn't encountered that smell in a long time. She wondered if the big cats ever came around now.

She pulled the few pieces of mail out of the box and closed its door. In the wavering light, she could tell that there was only one item that wasn't junk. She closed her hand on the bundle and prepared to return to the house.

But first, a moment to experience the night and nothing but the night. She switched off the light and stood. Looking around, she still could see almost nothing, but she could hear. A cricket scritched to her left. One of the last katydids scritched in a different key off to her right. Behind, one of the neighbors' horses snorted and stamped a foot. The welcome coolness of an after-sunset breeze lifted the hair from her neck. The idea that, big cats or no, she was home, quelled any uneasiness she might have been feeling.

Finally, she tilted her head back to examine what little natural light was shining down at that moment: the stars. A lighter portion of sky surprised her. It was the Milky Way, back in view now that summer was ending. She traced its path across the heavens with her eyes, then switched the flashlight on again and began to make her way up the drive toward the house, its open door spilling warm, golden light across the porch to welcome her back.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

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