Swimming on Hwy N (excerpt)

Flesh on a hillside. A body barely covered in water. An old body, Louise’s ghost said. Madeline agreed. Sixty was old. Still she spent her days in a bikini, soaking in tepid water in a child-sized pool, in full view of Highway N. Not aging gracefully, Louise’s ghost said, and Madeline agreed with that, too. Her pool reminded her of the one Chris, Louise’s son and Madeline’s first husband, had back when they were both in second or third grade, three blue rings and a flexible plastic bottom. She bought it in April and spent hours puffing and blowing to make the rings full and bouncy. Then she searched for and found the faded red bikini in an unopened moving box marked miscellaneous. The bikini was a concession. She wanted to be bare, wanted her meat and bones blending with the dirt of the Ozarks. She joked with herself this could be a long delayed adolescent rebellion, a way of not following Louise in all. That she was sixty and Louise had been dead for eight years made it an easier rebellion to be sure. She smiled in the early morning heat and haze. Here she was, swimming on Highway N, making herself an object, a thing to notice if driving up above. As you approach downtown Bourbon, look to your right and down the hill and see the old woman in the red bikini, the old woman with three dead husbands and an estranged daughter. The unruined woman