A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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David Rutschman is the author of the story collection Into Terrible Light. A Soto Zen priest and hospice grief counselor, he lives in California with his wife and two children.
We gather beside the pond in great ragged flocks, like birds. We run. Knees and backs stiff, we run — along the available routes, the ones before us, the paved and unpaved paths.
I was reading a poem by Ryōkan about a leaf, and how it showed the front and the back as it fell, and I wanted to call someone — my wife, my brother — to tell about the poem.
Once there were two hogs and a sow who lived in a sturdy pen outside an old man’s hut. Then the old man died. That morning, no one brought food to the pen; the next morning, no one brought food to the pen. By evening the animals were panicked and ravenous, the bottom of the trough licked smooth as tile.
Once, a donkey ascended to the shining gates of the kingdom of heaven. The gates were open. The donkey heard music more beautiful than anything he had ever imagined. Each note was a star going supernova, a pack of wolves running down an elk over snow. The song poured itself into the world. The donkey stood transfixed. Without thinking, he opened his mouth wide and brayed.
Say there’s a game: You’re walking by yourself on a / dirt road through a forest at sundown, and all you / have to do is keep walking. Nothing to it.