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SEEING/Daphne Kalotay IT HAD BEEN THIS WAY for over a month now, ever since that midJuly evening when Brenda, her feet comfortable In thick socks and cushiony white sneakers, her cotton shorts and pink T-shirt light and soft, had gone on her usual evening walk. That was how it started. She liked to stroU for a half-hour or so before dinner, to stretch her legs after long hours at the town clerk's office, where she spent each day Ui a chair of orange vinyl, dialing telephone numbers, attempting to collect on delinquent water and sewer biUs. Evenings were her freedom. She loved watching the smooth folds of the Sangre de Cristo mountains bend sunshine Ulto a series of dark shadows and bright slopes. Many of the dirt roads along her walk seemed to head straight Into them, and though Brenda would have loved to foUow those paths of winding gravel past farms and cattle right mto the land itself, she never did. She was a young woman alone on an evening stroll, and those country roads seemed possibly dangerous, ruled by mangy, unleashed dogs defending no one's territory and handmade crosses where loved ones had died in car wrecks. That Friday evening Ui July had been a pleasant one, the sun hitting her neck Uke a warm breath as Brenda foUowed the sidewalk she knew so well. She was going on three years here In New Mexico. Before that she had Uved Ui Arizona, with a husband who cheated on her and a mother-in-law who defended him. The move had allowed Brenda to look back at her past as though it belonged to someone else. She chose her friends more carefully now, taking her time, living quietly , enjoying her Ufe, her soUtude and the Uttle adobe casita that was her home. On her walks she always kept to the street that ran just parallel to the main road; it was sparsely inhabited but well trafficked and passed nothing but wide fields, a shady ravine and the high school, which would not be Ui session for over a month. Brenda loved the contrast of the bright sky with the ravine fuU of shadows, brush and snakes. No one ever went there except escaped convicts from the local penitentiary . This happened fairly often, since the jail was badly run, with poor ventilation that caused the guards to leave the doors and windows open. It was not an uncommon sight to see men m bright orange jumpers scurrying along near the highway, hoping to miraculously blend mto the silver-green sagebrush. Because the ravine was their 176 ยท The Missouri Review favorite hideout, it was where they were most often apprehended. The reliabUity of this fact meant that instead of causing fear, the ravine held for Brenda a pleasant familiarity. Its darkness was a refreshing contrast to the flat, scruffy fields that followed. Brenda relished the shift from shade to brightness that summer evening as she passed the ravine and emerged Into Ught. Prairie dogs stood at attention and then scurried off Ulto dusty brown holes. Some men in pickups passed, calling briefly to Brenda, their dogs yapping halfheartedly at her from traUer beds. Brenda had grown used to this. No matter where women went, men drove by In menacing , oversized trucks and leaned out of tinted windows to whistle at them. "Hey, baby!" It was Brenda's poUcy to ignore such comments, but this was a voice she recognized. "Long time no see!" In the other lane, coming toward her, was Leroy Sanchez, from the town clerk's office. He was Ui charge of property taxes and was nice enough. Brenda waved at him as he slowed his car, a silver two-door Ui poor shape. "Taking some exercise?" "I have to keep my figure!" Brenda said this though she considered it her lot m life to be one of those women who would always be somewhat plump. "AU right, you do that!" called Leroy. "But don't forget you're bringing the donuts Monday!" A car was coming from behind him, so Leroy waved and drove on. Brenda did not want to think about work...


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