Marlboro Woman

Paul hears a strange voice.
With no one in sight he assumes it is from the ether.
He discounts the idea it might be God.

The voice affects his ears like a good merlot affects his throat.
He relaxes into the act of listening.
It does not sound like anyone he ever knew.

He identifies the voice as a deep female voice.
She talks to him like a buddy not a lover.
She reminds him of when he wore a blue kepi upon his head.

Paul never wore a blue kepi upon his head.
He was never a soldier blue reenacting the Civil War.
He once owned an officer’s red kepi of the Fifth New York Zouaves.

She reminds him of when his beard was long and braided.
He has never grown more than his current goatee.
He wonders why she talks about him instead of herself.

Paul calls out Hey spook show yourself.
The voice from the ether goes quiet.
The sound of a kitchen match strikes Paul’s ear.

Its ignition flares and then it lights a Marlboro.
The voice takes a long draw on the cigarette.
Paul wonders how he knows it is a Marlboro.

A faint glow now exists in the air above where he sits
on a rock among cedars in the Olympic Peninsula.
He decides the glow is the wrong color to be a firefly.

Between puffs the voice speaks about things he does not know.
While listening to the voice it goes from strange to familiar.
As it becomes familiar an image forms in Paul’s eyes.

The mid-thirties woman wears a cowboy hat and cowboy boots.
Her hands rough from labor. Her features plain and weather worn.
Her white western shirt wears dirt stains and grease spots.

Paul pinches himself to be sure he is not dreaming.
He scans the meadow for ruins reclaimed by the forest.
He spots nothing out of the ordinary.

He decides this visitation is like a wrong number.
It is a ten mile walk back to his car at the trailhead.
He rises and walks away.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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