The transformation itself was easy enough; what he had not anticipated was
the pain. Having become her shadow, he discovered that he was
still of his own mind, which created insoluble problems. Her betrayals, for
example, made him hesitant, stubborn with anger to the point of refusing to
be one with her as she paced on a sun-lit corner or a secluded beach, or
even at night in the harsh light of some cheap bar. There were other,
better times, usually in the privacy of her room where she sat in the glare
of a lamp, staring at herself in the mirror, touching her face and
sometimes her naked breasts as she talked softly to the glass image. Once,
he watched her draw, with her hand cupped palm-down, the imaginary
roundness of the abdomen as it might appear in the eighth or ninth month of
pregnancy. Then she sat motionless, lovelier than he ever remembered as he
forgot himself and moved slightly towards her. It gave her such a scare
that he froze and could hardly bring himself to follow when she rose
suddenly and left the room, rushing down a flight of stairs, stumbling so
he thought surely she would fall head first, dead at the bottom. After more
than one such incident he soon grew weary of his pointless ruse. One
evening as she walked due west, he lingered, slowing his pace, stretching
like a thread of dark syrup until he detached himself forever. She was
going to meet the last of her lovers, a slick-haired, sick Bulgarian poet
who had lured her with his erotic poems and what, to her, would always be a
mysterious flow of Swiss francs.
The Power of Speech
The fox jumped over the fence and the dog ran away with the gun.
Pissed, the hunter squatted and drank from a bottle of Jim Beam to
keep the chill at bay. Suddenly a shot resounded from far out, down by the
creek. Pretty soon the dog came running back, panting so hard he could
hardly talk. When he finally got his breath he explained how the fox had
tried to cross the creek at the low spot where the tree roots hang exposed
The hunter shook his head yes, he knew the spot. As a kid he had
piled the very rocks the fox had tried to cross.
"That's where I shot him," the dog said, "dead in the water."
"But why," the hunter asked, "why did you do such a thing? In all
of our years together you've never done such a thing."
At first the dog acted as if he might not answer, gazing instead at
the ground and then out towards the creek where the fox lay bleeding in the
"It was something you said this morning as we started out," the dog
"Something I said?" The hunter looked puzzled and tried to think
back four hours, more or less.
Neither one spoke for a moment as crows talked to each other in the
sky above, then the dog walked over and nuzzled the bottle. The hunter
cupped his left hand and poured a few drops. The dog lapped it up.
"Remember now?" the dog asked softly.
"Yes, now I remember," the hunter said as he began to laugh, joined
by the dog, until the two of them were rolling over the frozen ground.
Moments later, having regained the power of speech, the hunter
asked the dog what he had done with the gun.
"Forget the fucking gun," the dog said, and the hunter fell back
again convulsed with laughter, holding his face as if it might split.
That evening, when they tried to tell their story to the hunter's
mother, she refused to believe them and turned the TV on instead, though
not before scolding the two of them for wasting her time with such an
"Foxes are not that dumb," she said. "The truth is you lost your
gun, didn't you. The two of you out there drinking in the woods when you
should've been hunting and you left that damn gun god only knows where. I
work all day, come home at night, and this is what I have to put up with.
Well, no more! If you can't put a little meat on the table—and obviously
you can't now that you've lost your gun—then you'd damn well better start
looking for a job—a real job that pays real money in a real world!"
Two years ago, at age 57, Roger Pfingston retired from teaching English and
photography and now has more time to write poems and make photographs.
He's received an NEA Fellowship for poetry, two PEN Syndicated Fiction
Awards, and a Teacher Creativity Fellowship from the Lilly Endowment to explore
alternative processes in black and white photography. His poems and photographs
have appeared in New Letters, Orion, The Laurel Review, American Photo,
Shots, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Sun and Ontario Review. New poems are
scheduled to appear in 5 AM, Southern Poetry Review, WordWrights,
Rhino and Chiron Review.