Raven Hill

Raven Hill
Photo by Sam Valadi via Flickr
Photo by Sam Valadi via Flickr

Lila proposes we remove our tops to tan better. We came to the arboretum early in the day, and now hours later, the sun pours down and our bodies glisten with sweat. The only others around are two young gardeners, themselves shirtless, their backs shimmering as they prune hedges and replant lilac shrubs. We gather our clothes and move from the tall oak groves to the sleek grassy slope and sit cross-legged, arching our spines and letting our long straight hair settle into the small of our backs, tickling when the breeze picks up, sticking to our sweaty skin when it subsides.

The gardeners look up at us from time to time, resting their hoes and spades against an overflowing cart. They are just far enough away, we think, to be unable to catch sight of our breasts—Lila’s much bigger and fuller than mine, as if she were already grown up. They most likely think the nipple they catch sight of in the glint of sunlight is not what they hope it is–but an optical illusion, a trick of the glare. We know that sooner or later, around noon, they will have worked their way to the foot of the hill and then they’ll be able to tell for sure. We have about an hour before this happens, and for most of it, Lila speculates on what we should do, whether to move farther up the hill, maybe into the gazebo at the top, where the stone walls will shield our bodies, or whether we should just continue sitting there and wait to see what they’ll do.

“We could always put our shirts back on,” I say, but Lila looks at me as if this is the stupidest idea she’s ever heard, as though I’m suggesting we rush back to school to catch the end of trig before lunch.

“I bet they have pot,” she says. “Maybe they’ll sell us some.”

“Maybe they’ll give us some for free,” I offer, and Lila seems pleased with that possibility.

We lie back on the still-damp grass, our hair fanning out around our heads, our breasts flattening to almost nothing. The gardeners disappear momentarily into the shade of a locust grove. But we know they are there from the clanking shears and the scraping shovel. Lila thinks she hears the sounds of the Grateful Dead playing on a radio, but it’s too faint for me to tell.

We have the whole afternoon to figure out what to do next. We are far from the cool stone dorms of Raven Hill. And even farther from the nuns, who might have secretly approved of our sneaking away for the day.

The sweet young nuns and novices who want to inflict as much suffering as we did on our fathers—mine a surgeon and Lila’s a Dupont executive. Lila says they would smoke with us if we asked them to, that they were just waiting to cast off their habits.

 

Leonard Kress

About Leonard Kress

Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz were both published in 2018. Craniotomy appeared in 2019. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio, USA. .

Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz were both published in 2018. Craniotomy appeared in 2019. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio, USA. .

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