Run Woman, Run


Woman runs. She is not an experienced runner. Her gait is an adult version of skipping. A thin woman with a slender build who bends forward at the waist to a position better served by knees going up and down, but hers don’t, and instead she employs a ladylike scissors movement in which the legs move stiffly from the hips. She plunges forward in a headlong stance implying an effort to increase her speed. That she runs is understandable; any woman alone on that road might, because the world is dangerous. The roadway is paved, but it is surrounded by a grid of dirt packed paths barely wide enough for cars. The early evening air is cold. The misty rain is beginning to change to fat raindrops that cling to her shoulders. Such darkness might be anticipated – woman runs on lonely road on such an evening, therefore, thick clouds must obliterate both quarter moon and stars. Possibly the woman screams, although that part of the road would be deserted so close to dinnertime.

However, if she is running as fast as she can, then it might be impossible to spare the breath needed for screaming. The time is 5:30 PM. She could have been running for about a half-hour. She must have moved very quickly if she came from the nearest house that is more than a mile away. The woman doesn’t wear a coat. Impossible to accept that she went out willingly on such a night without putting on something for warmth. She must already be chilled and soon will be thoroughly wet unless she huddles beneath a tree. Still, she keeps running. She wears a long sleeve white cotton blouse. The embroidery on the front is a pattern of lightning flashes in red thread crossed by dashes in pale yellow. The black wool skirt that comes well below her knees has no pockets. Her feet are covered by nylon hose; therefore, the intent was not to go barefoot. She must have lost her shoes as she ran with no laces to hold them fast. The reason for her running is unknown. Someone could be chasing her or she could be frightened for an unknown reason. She carries no purse. On one wrist she wears an expensive looking gold wristwatch. On the other wrist she has a silver bracelet with heavy links and a single charm – a silver circle. She turns and leaves the road to run heedless through old woods that pitilessly resist her passage. She seems unable to stop. Raw ends of twigs caress her. Thorns like living daggers. She reaches a clearing, then either in despair or because she’s out of breath she sinks down on the ground leaning against a sapling with her knees pulled up to her chest. The mud underfoot has the same shine as the leathery leaves where drops of rain still hold their shape against the darker green. The entwined branches create a great circle of wild holly surrounding this young tree that she chose. In the air the smell of holly invokes festive memories. That is where she stays. Whether that position in that unknown space and against that tree was her choice or whether she was later posed cannot be known. It is believed that the date when this happened was the 14th of October. She has been in that lonely clearing for a period of forty-three months. Or twelve hundred ninety-three days. Time in such a place would not be kind, not especially to her, but to anyone. She is now partially skeletal and mummified. The soil is fertile. Tendrils from surrounding vines have gently wound around that body holding the knees upright and keeping what is left of signs of her existence from falling away. She stayed in that small clearing through all those dawns and afternoons and nights. Nobody came looking for her. Some might say that is both sad and unfortunate. Others might decide that she was the sort of person who preferred to be by herself and was often known to go off without notice. She had blonde hair. She was believed to be about forty years old. The seasons rend her garments into funereal shreds and sink her flesh. She turns into a nameless body.

About Bette Pesetsky

Bette Pesetsky is the author of two story collections: "Stories Up to a Point" and "Confessions of a Bad Girl." She has current fiction published in Oblong, Chicago Literati, and forthcoming in The Moth, Vignette, and Helen Literary Magazine.

Bette Pesetsky is the author of two story collections: "Stories Up to a Point" and "Confessions of a Bad Girl." She has current fiction published in Oblong, Chicago Literati, and forthcoming in The Moth, Vignette, and Helen Literary Magazine.

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