The image is as real as any I have known: vivid, sharp, and sure. The sun is very high and hot. I am running as fast as a runner may ever run. The images of crows and clouds preoccupy the very front of my mind. Suddenly, I am suspended. I am upside down.
I take stock of myself in the way of a fellow who has unexpectedly and inexplicably spilled the soup. What have I ever done to make myself so very much alone and so very upside down? I look into the blue firmament and notice at once that I am hanging by the cuff of my pants from a strand of barbed wire which was once stretched by some now forgotten man. How could such a hard-working man leave such a snare for such a hard-running little boy?
The bottom of the little gully over which I am swinging is not so very far for a springy young boy to fall. I simply unbutton my breeches and climb down them until I can join the leaf-litter. It is no very hard job to reclaim my pants.
I don’t recall telling any of the old people about my brief predicament. No use to create gratuitous worry. But, what troubles the old man with a memory is whether the matter ever occurred. The images are perfect, but the man is deeply, and ever more deeply, flawed. Of course, one has run in the sunshine. Certainly, one has suffered the little disappointments of the interrupted adventure. But, how often has the thing been drawn from the dusty trunk of memory? How sacred is that attic we share with ourselves alone, where our pretenses live in boxes with the fond assurances of those who once loved us?
I have another memory in that same box of a day some years ahead when I had been entrusted with a shotgun on just such another perfect blue day. I was twelve years old and enjoying my very informal Bar Mitzvah of the twelve-gauge. I set out with my new weapon and a box of shells. Fence posts fell like the French at Waterloo. Cattleman’s Association signs went down in hailstorms of buckshot. Then came the moment. A memory was made. A robin presented himself on the ground before me. He settled briefly in my sights and then ceased to be.
I thought I might have missed him. But, there he was, or at least his little head, on the edge of his divot. It was just at that moment that I was once again in the moment, upside down, wondering what I had done and what I would do next.