I crossed Spring Creek where for years had stood the foot bridge that led to the back of town and up the hill to Rutland. When the bridge was washed away the summer before, we had laid a chestnut footlog over the stone pilings. I stopped halfway over and stood silently with my eyes closed. It was an old trick of mine, so I could hear the creek, could feel it washing away beneath me. Normally it was peaceful, the water coursing away into Tennessee, but not that evening. That evening, I could feel a wave of dizziness behind my eyes, a vertigo that threatened to drop me into the water and from there into the deeper run of the river.
        I walked on through the woods behind the town, aware that it was she who drew me. She who might or might not be as aware of me as I was of her. Who might know me, as I knew her, in the creep of her blood or the sigh of her breath. Damn her anyway, I thought, for having invaded my world, her and her camera.
        Had Walter McBride ever been in love? With the young teacher from Dorland School that he had met and married? The chaplain and the teacher. Had John Sanders? Had he ever stopped analyzing the geometry of the world long enough to notice the curve of a woman’s neck? My God, had Pauline been in love with Cousin Roy, that reptile, had she lusted after him before she married him? And how did she feel now, now that she knew him?
        I found myself brought up short, standing on the corner of Spring Street and Bridge Street before it started up the gentle hill toward Sunnybanks. A little girl was standing outside the corner store, busily sucking on a piece of stick candy. Dirty bare feet and a torn dress sewn out of old sacking. Except for the candy, she would have seemed a ghost, as out of place on the empty street as an apparition.
        “Mister Robbins?” she said gravely.
        “Yes, Ma’am?”
        “What them Germanies you got over there really like?”
        “What’s your name, girl?”
        “Well, Dacey, near as I can tell, they’re human.”
        She considered this for a moment. “Like you’n me?” she asked.
        “Near as I can tell, they’re so much like you’n me, they might as well be named Robbins or Fortner.”
        “Fortner’s my name,” she said.
        “I know.”
        “You want some this candy?” she asked. “I done ate the stripes off

it, but it’s still good.”
        I crossed the street and
started up the hill. My dear Pauline,
married to the High Sheriff of Madison
County. A few days before I had seen her
pick a handful of Black-eyed Susans and give them to D. C. Peinart as they stood for a
moment on the small porch off the back of the kitchen. She in the overalls she sometimes wore in the kitchen; he in his carefully preserved shirt
and tie, his sleeves rolled up over his pale arms. Her hands
rougher and larger than my own; his smaller, quickly dried on his apron. He had taken the bouquet and, of course, bowed. And then ever so gently kissed the back of her hand. I was touched almost to tears; if he ever turned her hand over and kissed her palm, the secret inside of her curled, work-worn fingers, what then? Would they wake to find themselves in Tennessee? Or standing in the sun-drenched Gulf of Mexico? As I knew my Cousin Roy, they had better discover themselves far, far away.
        I found myself standing at the foot of the long terraced walk up to Sunnybanks. Standing alone in the early dark, wondering at myself. The air dimmed all around me, the sliver of new moon just barely peeping out over Dogged Mountain. Had Stephen Baird Robbins ever been in love? In forty-plus years of feeling and not feeling? Of running to and from his own instincts? Me? Had I ever once been swept away in the deep water of a dream. No, I thought. No, I had never given myself up, and perhaps it was not in me to do so.
        I was far too harsh a man. My edges much too sharp to touch.


        As I started across the long expanse of the lower lawn, past where the first hole of our golf course had been, I was
caught by a familiar odor.
        Cigar smoke, good and strong, drifting from the deep shade of the one copse of trees we had left standing in the lawn. Whoever he was, I could
see the tip of his cigar glowing in the shadows.
        I angled toward the trees, curious to see