What the World Has

Margaret dies on a Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday is Eliot's first day of being a bachelor, so he gets up early, takes a mug of coffee and drives out to Lodi and then to the river preserve to see if the sandhill cranes are coming through this year. It's either that or stay home and drink through the morning. He takes Margaret's camera with its good telephoto lens because she would have wanted him to and arrives before the sun is out. He sits in his car watching the sky turning into day until he can get out and see what the world has for him.

What the world has is for him is a red morning and birds but no cranes. It has a dog wandering on the other side of the marsh, where he would have thought the mud would give way and an animal would be mired. What it has for him is a tent behind a clump of bushes. The woman opening the flap and calling to the dog must think that she is hidden, and she probably is to anyone but Eliot. She's wearing a red button down shirt that catches the dawn light, in a way that makes it light up and he takes a picture instinctively, drawn by the beauty of the moment, but he erases it just as quickly. Margaret would have said these were her people, her clan because her parents had come to California from Oklahoma during the dust bowl days.

"I'm sorry," he says out loud to Margaret, but she doesn’t answer back. "I miss you,"" he says to her, but she is silent. "I love you."" The river is still this morning. He looks through the telephoto lens to see the woman throwing a stick for the dog who seems unimpressed by the game. He wonders where she found the dog, if she had him when she crossed the border, if she is even a person who had to cross the border.

What the world has for Eliot this morning are questions without any sign that anyone is listening or cares. There are no sandhill cranes here and no Margaret. There are no dust bowl people left. She and all her people seem to be on the far shore of rivers too cold for Eliot to chase across.

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