girl imagined by chance : excerpt one

lance olsen
© 2002



Examine the photograph as closely as you like, only you will not be able to locate the child in it.

You will not be able to locate anything that will become important.

The couple’s move from the northeast to the northwest, say.

The log cabin and fifteen acres of lodgepole pine just outside the viewfinder that brought them here with the perhaps not completely unpredictable promise of a wired-down life.

A slightly more wired-down life.

Your parents’ long brawl with cancer that wrecked your father’s lungs sixteen years ago, your mother’s breasts five.

How, after her mother’s funeral (also cancer, also breast), the woman in the photograph simply turned and walked down the driveway toward the waiting car, slid in beside you, and drove out of her father’s abusive language.


A butter-yellow Subaru.

Or, say, the iridescent mountain bluebird.

The frisky dry breeze.

The iridescent mountain bluebird immobilized in mid-flight in the frisky dry breeze behind the photographer, a thin-necked cattle rancher in a straw cowboy hat and sharp-toed boots from half a mile down the road who dropped by that morning to welcome you to this new place.

To welcome you to this new place and to check you out, needless to say.

To perform local reconnaissance.

The man who snapped the picture in question when you asked if he would be so kind.

How the sheen on the grass looked to you like someone had spilled white paint.

The electric stutter of the phone as the picture in question was being snapped.

How the scene splintered back into everydayness.

How her grandmother spoke to you on the other end of the line when you answered.

How her grandmother spoke to you on the other end of the the line and the pickup truck.

The pickup truck and the hunters that ended it all: the things you can see, the things you cannot.

Her grandmother saying how far away you sounded, how worried she was she might never see her grandchildren.

If in fact she ever found herself in a position to possess grandchildren, naturally.

How you tell a story to yourself so many times you begin to think it may never have really happened. That it is just a good story you made up. Only then you realize you have told it so many times it must have happened or you would not be telling it so often.

How, listening to her grandmother, point-of-view began darting around inside your head like that mountain bluebird, seeing yourself seeing and being seen.

The July light.

Like a television commercial for bleach.

The way, no matter how hard you try, you are unable to locate a single thing here that ultimately matters.