Every Night in Golgatha by Jeff Houlahan

October 3, 2011 Comments Off on Every Night in Golgatha by Jeff Houlahan

The evening tumbles down like a big blue curtain, and he can feel the light leaking from his pores. His skin still holds the memory of the sun, but nothing else. He dwells on tomorrow’s crucifix, the weight of it, the rough wood laying bare the layers beneath his tan until there is a spot speckled with blood. The house but not a home. The stain of us caught in the straight edges and the bound joints. He might not make it through the night. Yesterday, he slung a heavy bag over his shoulder and walked with it to the river. The cats inside the bag pawed at the canvas but made no other sound except the scraping of claw on cloth. The bag was heavy with cats and bricks, and when he dropped it from the bridge, it made a large splash and sank quickly. The sun sparkled off the spot where the bag entered, and it was like his hands had never opened and the water had never broken. He might not make it through the night. He had traded honey for milk and then the milk for a blade with a worn leather handle and a greedy edge, and now he was hungry and thirsty, and the knife was at the bottom of the river because he always wanted to hold the blade and not the handle. How do you keep a knife like that? And then he had left the hole half dug, and the boss would not be happy, but wasn’t a hole a hole? And when the sun was right, you couldn’t see how deep the hole was anyway. He might not make it through the night. All around him are the bones and tongues and wisps of hair that get left behind. He keeps his hands in tight to his sides and his legs together so that he won’t brush against the blackened ribs, or shoes that once held feet, or gloves that covered hands now filled with straw. Or the sharpened stone with a wooden handle kept in place by catgut and mud. Or the spill that might be blood but could be oil, and if it’s oil, then it holds the memory of the sun, and maybe he will make it through the night.

He might not make it through the night.

He must have slept because now the room is grey, and he can see the hump of his pants hung on the wall before he gets up and pads to the kitchen. The kids will be awake soon, and there are lunches to be made.

© 2011 Jeff Houlahan

Jeff is a professor, more particularly an ecologist and conservation biologist, at the University of New Brunswick at Saint John, but his path to here has been a little circuitous. He spent his formative years in Germany as an Air Force brat, and then was a messenger and a waiter and a member of a band called the Rainkings for 12 years. Jeff has written dozens of articles published in journals like Nature or Conservation Biology but just started submitting fiction in June 2011 and had his first short story accepted by the online journal Eunoia Review.

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