I have heard people say they think in shapes and some in colours and one time a guy told me he thinks in hurricanes and I mean he could hardly get a word out this guy for the storm raging in his head. Most of us think in words, though, and it’s hard to imagine how one could think those other ways, isn’t it, but when I remember Oath Yager’s place silhouetted up there on the hill I get it alright, not a word in sight it’s all shapes, that old house just a black swipe against the sky you could see right through the window straight into the setting sun on the other side.

It was like their place had been built for the stage, something quick and slap-painted black, to lend a scene some years.

I do not think anyone had lived in that house for a long time  – why would they? – but two-dimensional Oath and his two-dimensional mother moved in just before high school. The house was on the only hill around – we lived in the Canadian prairies – and the hill so strange was perfectly round like a sunken clock, buried from four to eight, the house at exactly noon.

Oath was in my class all the way through high school and we got to be friends due to alphabetical order mostly. I stood or sat beside him for all things – he was my partner in chemistry, my opponent in badminton, my predecessor in everything – I am a Yanta, you see, so when it’s my turn, it, whatever it is, is over.

Looking up from my window I kept an eye on Oath’s house, sometimes his mother’s shape getting into or out of a taxi cab or walking with grocery bags like she was carrying props, Oath’s shape running to meet her, the props shifting hands. Nobody ever mentioned Oath’s father or where he might be, but since the population of our town leaned, for reasons of fate alone, to widows, everyone assumed his father was dead.

Now let’s talk about that. Fate I mean and how it applied in our town.

Almost all the men worked at the maximum security prison one hour away, in Brandon, and before you think they were maybe killed on the job like in the movies or died in job-related accidents or on their commutes which were hairy at times, winter being fierce in the Manitoba prairies like you wouldn’t believe, and also driving into the sun both ways, before and after their 12 hour shifts, three days a week, I think it’s called the continental shift although that sounds suddenly geographic, but before you think they died in any prison- or job-related way, they didn’t. Each of them died in their own private way during their days off.

My exempt father, the only consistent pallbearer, ran the hardware store in town.

There came a day I saw the shape of a man – I had inside info and was watching for him from my window – he was bent-walking up the hill right on the crest only sky around him blue as could be I caught his shape right at four o’clock and he moved so slowly, so precise, so steady, he defied time and gravity both. When he got to three, the door at noon flew open (in my mind now it flies right off and into a trapezoid in the sky smaller and smaller like a bird) and out popped Oath and Mrs. Yager, her name was Isla, and they ran splayed they seemed to cartwheel down that hill but with a slow-motion grace to the man who fell on his knees, first one then the other, tic-toc, and they became a single round shape for so long I was afraid they’d roll down the hill and I’d never get to meet Oath’s father, who, Oath had told me in confidence when we lined up side-by-side in the gymnasium that first day of grade 9, had finished half his sentence and had five more years to go.