Calliope and Zeus

Outside the city there are lumberyards and there are ravines, men playing soccer, freeway passes and bridges, then the plains, and at one point, a small boy in a wool coat who photographed the train. The clouds hang loose and close to the horizon, forgotten strands of spider silk. For lunch, the woman and her father eat stale chocolates and salted peanuts. The woman sweeps up the leftover salt in the corners of the bag and pushes her finger across her tongue. The salt bites.

Her father’s hair is almost all gone except for the strays beneath the crown, behind the ears. He is old, and he has no memory of her, only fragments of another life, his second marriage, other daughters. He is soothed by the repetition of fields, the same blue expanse over the grass, the shadows on the ground moving beneath the clouds, and the possibility of rain. All this he remembers, and rain is something he believes he can still divine.

When the train clatters on the metal tracks, he can remember the coins he saved from his business trips: coins from Amsterdam, Singapore, Guadalajara, and Taipei; coins with hearts on them, with small circles stamped out of the middle, with portraits of hairless men, sitting lions or flowers on the obverse side. But where they are going and where they have come from, he cannot recall. This he remembers: they have never traveled this far north, if it is north that they are going.

The woman and her father are alone. She is taking him back into the heart of Olympia. There is a nice retirement community there; everything there is nice. In college, she wrote poems about him, in dactylic hexameter, no doubt. But lately, the words have fled her.

Robin Tung is an MFA candidate at The Writing Seminars where she serves as an editorial assistant at The Hopkins Review. She is the recipient of the 2006 Saier Award for Fiction and her work is forthcoming in Labletter.