His belt buckle clanks against the floor of the bedroom, sounds so far away that he waits for an echo. He steps out of his jeans, nudges them aside with a bare foot. He pulls off his dark uniform shirt, balls it up in his hand, but before he can toss it away, his wife grabs it. She shakes it out and wraps it around the digital clock.
“Let’s fuck in the dark,” Janelle says. “It’ll be sexy.”
“Let’s light the candle.” He looks for the candle that is usually on a copper-colored plate beside the bed, but the whole plate is gone.
“Come on, Mikey. One time.” She’s wearing her bathrobe, a peach-colored thing, and fuzzy slippers.
The bluish glow through the window comforts Michael Pazur until his wife pulls the shade. He is surprised how thoroughly it blocks the moonlight reflecting on the snow.
“I want to see your face,” he says.
“You’ve seen my face plenty.” She pulls the bedroom door shut and pushes a towel up against it so no light seeps under. She disrobes and slides under the covers in a seamless move. She lies on her side, props her head up on her arm, becomes a silhouette, a shadow of a naked woman.
“I like this,” she says. “You won’t be staring at me for once.”
Janelle always closes her eyes when they make love, so this is all about him. When he realizes he is clenching his jaw, he tries to relax. There’s no reason to think she has stopped taking birth-control pills, whatever their conversation yesterday. She’s from a big family of sisters, brothers, and parents who all adore one another, and until now, this has been nice for Pazur, who has fallen out of touch even with the Blakes, the last of his foster families. His in-laws are more welcoming to him than any of those other families ever were. Those generous people are naturally kind to the man their daughter chose to marry, the man with whom she has intended to make a family, and he has always felt unworthy of their affection.
“Come on,” Janelle says and strokes his thigh. “You used to go into those mines, and now you’re scared of a dark bedroom.”
“I’m not scared.” He slips back, away from her fingers. “And I never went in those places without a flashlight. One wrong step, and you’d be dead in there.”
“I don’t want to hear about the dog skeleton.”
“It was a wolf, Janelle.”
“No bats and rats, either. Just come to bed.”
Pazur learned from his college roommates about sneaking into abandoned copper mines outside of town, past keep out signs, through hundred-year-old rotting wooden doors with rusted locks. He could kick planks aside, jiggle and yank hardware, and climb inside the earth. Sometimes the grades were shallow, and he walked easily, tracing a ragged stone wall with his fingers. Other shafts descended steeply enough that he had to crawl on hands and knees, even slither on his belly or use ropes. Hikers in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Country, know the ground can be Swiss cheese, know the surface can give way without warning, so they stick to paths. Every couple years, some kid disappears without a trace.