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Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2005)

Arnold, Autumn
Epidemic,   pp. 37-41

Page 41

of his neck. He scratches fiercely at the 
raw skin, and I wonder if the blood on 
his hands is his or mine. 
For a second I think about dropping 
the box and running back to the car, but 
it's too late. He takes a step toward me 
and I realize how alone we are in the 
cover of these woods. 
"You from Kirkpatrick?" 
The word is like a charm to ward off 
ghosts. It changes the shape of his face 
and the way he holds himself in the hazy 
light. We are still 20 feet apart when he 
stops, but I can see that his round skull 
is marred by a deep scar and another 
red cut that has healed only recently. 
I pull my mosquito net off my head to 
get a better look at him. When our eyes 
meet, he turns like a startled animal and 
runs heavily into the woods. For a 
moment I want to keep going, to follow 
him into the thick of the swamp, but I'm 
shaking too hard to move. By now the 
forest is absolutely silent; he is gone. 
Without my net, the mosquitoes are 
everywhere. I feel one plunge into the fat 
swell of my lip, but I manage to roll the 
back of my hand across my face to crush 
its soft body before it can come back at 
me again. 
My brain screams in sirens when I 
come up over a crest in the road and see 
a long line of cars pointing toward a 
checkpoint where two slow sheriffs are 
leaning into open windows. When I ease 
the car to a stop like an armrest under- 
neath the leaning cop, he takes a long, 
hard look at everything inside. 
"This thing registered?" 
I reach over to open the small glove 
compartment and a pair of David's 
winter gloves fall into the empty seat 
next to me. I hand over the paperwork 
and stare straight ahead. 
"We got a guy escaped from 
Kirkpatrick," he says, edging closer. 
"You seen anyone around?" 
I reach over and rest my hand on the 
warm gloves. I think for a long second 
about the man in the woods, about how 
afraid he was and how much ground he 
needed to cover before he would be 
"No, sir," I say, looking him in the eye. 
"I haven't seen a soul." 
The car takes off quickly when I ease 
my foot off the clutch, and I watch the 
officer stare after me, scowling as I 
barely keep from screeching the wheels. 
The windows are down and I squeeze 
the wool gloves hard before putting 
them back and closing the door. I drive 
and drive with my jar of mosquitoes, my 
eyes and throat on the painful cusp 
between a laugh and a sob. I'll feel better 
when I get to the trailer, when I freeze 
the mosquitoes and sort them out with 
clicks on my counter. For now, I can feel 
the steady hum of the car, the damp air 
pounding in from the window against 
my hair and my face, and the slightest 
wisp of relief at being outside. * 
For information about author 
Autumn Arnold, see page 5. 

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