We rabbit in and out, in and out of weeds while the world writhes. Raindrops batter puddles. Bamboo and Japanese blood-grass, spry in the torrent, jolt and wave. Our geta rub our soles like leather and shovel mud and roots with each step. Patrolmen pursue us. They pursue me. I feel them like acid in my throat. I feel them like I feel my guilt. I halt us in a thick of grass to let my children rest. They breathe. In, out. In, out. I watch their bodies swell and shrink as I have on so many wakeful nights, waiting for that life-sign. I hear them like bellows. In, out. In, out. I must keep them breathing. I quiet their fawn eyes with a bowstring smile as droplets fall from the end of my nose. The waterlog of my kimono weighs on me, and I hold off a tremor. I listen. In, out. In, out. Blades of blood-grass strike my naked arms and face. The puddle landscape undulates, obscuring the ashen cloud-cover above. Let the sun stay away. Oh, let the sun stay away. I look toward the ground and feel my children’s eyes. In, out. In, out.
Then, a shout cleaves the rain. My breath stops. Several voices, closer. Many voices. Closer. I can make out their words now. They have found us. Fire roils through my veins. The world stops. They have found us.
But no. They have found an old kimono in a puddle off to our left. I feel the stick of wet silk and notice my clench on my daughter’s shoulder. In, out. In, out. She crouches next to me with her knees in the mud. I peek above the weeds. The rain still clothes the world in tar and burlap. Nearby, a wild hen chauffeurs her chicks under a knot of muck. My son creeps after a frog. I let him. It hops, hops, hops, and dives into the water. Tears gather at the bottom of my world. I must keep them breathing. My pursuers yell again, resuming their chase from our left. We sneak out to the right, bent low to the water, my children before me. The drops keep dropping. And my children breathe. In, out. In, out.