It was said that he came from the North; though, later, there was some disagreement. Some said they had seen him making his way toward town from the West. Those people whose houses bordered the river had watched him appear on the horizon like a bird rising from the water, growing larger as it approaches until its wing span creates a shadow when you shade your eyes to look up at the great bird approaching through the glare of the sun. In truth, he had arrived under the cover of nightfall. Save the echo of a single dry cough as he passed by the old fire station, his arrival went entirely unannounced.
Sitting at the bar the evening after his arrival, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the figure of the traveler as he came through the door. From the other room, there came the laughter of the local farmers who stopped by the tavern each night “to wash their hands and straighten their stories,” as Old Jim used to say, ordering a beer before making his way home from the field.
As I watched several men try to interest the traveler in a small game of pool that was quickly taking over the back of the barroom, I wondered what part of this two-bit town the traveler had left behind.
Did the Motel sign above the overpass look familiar? Had he seen the Vacant sign before, hanging beneath the white, clapboard window at the Inn? What part of us had he inhabited before and what part of us might he come to claim: a barstool, the song my father used to sing as he brought the cows out to pasture, some kind of kin.
The next morning, I awoke to the shadow of a hawk outside my window. Laying on my back in my old rattan bed, I watched the shadow cross the vault of the ceiling until the outline of the hawk’s wings were cleaved perfectly above me like two halves of a heart. Through the window, I smelt the salt of the ocean and heard the familiar footsteps of a man passing by. It was not until I heard the sound of the morning paper land at the base of the window, not far from my feet, that I realized I was looking up at my own window remembering a dream of a man in his bed who awakes to find himself staring at the shadow of a hawk.