mid-day post, april 18, 2015

(My faithful readers. Here is a second stab at a story that is based on a man who lived here in WV seventy some years ago.  It’s mostly a repeat of a prior post and I am sorry for that, but I am looking for feedback (i. e. criticism).  Is this an improvement?  Is the story engaging?)  I would even accept some encouragement.

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After supper he took the coffee pot from the burner and poured himself another half cup and sat down again at the kitchen table, now cleared of dishes.  He tipped the cup over his saucer and dribbled the coffee into the saucer and then leaned forward and blew softly across the saucer as the steam rose from the black liquor.  He straightened and looked away through the open window and saw that the sky had cleared and that he would have sufficient daylight to get down to the river and back.  He knew that Number Seven would be loading underneath the tipple at Sharples right now.  He bent to the table and slurped the cooled coffee from the saucer and then rose and put the empties into the white soapy water that filled one well of the sink.   He walked out of the back screen door and took from the first step the white enamel slop bucket that was filled with the leavings of supper and walked to the shed and set the bucket down and lifted the latch

From the wall of the back shed he took down a bushel basket and set it on the dirt floor and then opened a drawer under the workbench and dropped into the basket a few small articles his cousin had hidden in his dinner bucket and slipped out of the mines.  He took a roll of black tape from a nail on the wall and dropped it into the basket.   He stretched to reach a rolled up, ten-foot casting net from a rafter and unrolled it and folded it over and over atop the stolen goods in the basket.  He closed and fastened the door of the shed and with the basket in one hand and the slop bucket in the other he limped around the shed to the hog pen where he emptied the slop into the trough.  The hogs were anxious and grunting and crowded over the trough.  Get your heads out of the way.  I can’t get your food down if you’re in the way.  If it’s on your head you can’t eat it.   He turned the empty slop bucket upside down and set it overtop a post and picked up the bushel basket and went out the back gate into the alleyway.  It was late summer and the air was still charged from the afternoon storm and the summer’s growth had all but obliterated the alleyway, now only two tire ruts separated by a swath of healthy weeds.  He walked the alleyway all the way into the camp and then on the one road of the camp,  past the company houses and beneath the single power line that dead-ended at the last of the tiny houses and then, once through the camp, cut off to the creek and followed it down to where the trestle crossed the river.

The afternoon rain had been heavy and the riverbank was wet and slippery and the little stream already high for late summer.  The water was rust red.   As he neared the trestle he left the creekbank and pushed his way through and under the weeds that were well watered and at full maturity and stood over him like small trees.   He stashed the basket under a stand of polk weed and took the casting net from it and unfolded it and laid it on a sandy flat just downstream from the deep hole under the trestle.  The he took the two sticks of dynamite and the carbide filament fuse from the basket and fixed the fuse to the dynamite and found a flat rock the size of the sole of his shoe and took the blacktape  and wound it, again and again, around the dynamite and the stone.   He laid the bomb before him and and rolled a cigarette and squatted in the tall weeds, disappearing from all sight, and listened for the train.

When he saw the train approaching the trestle with all the force and volume of the coming war, so loud that a man could not think, he took the bomb in hand and again waited until the massive engine entered the trestle and the clatter of the train on the suspended rails added to the overwhelming din of the engine.  When the train and was a quarter mile from the tunnel on the other side of the river he touched the carbide fuse with his cigarette and chucked the sizzling bomb into the deep river hole before him.  Just as the bomb splashed into the water, the train whistle sounded for the tunnel ahead, its wail completely usurping the last of any audible frequency left the in the evening air.  The whistle lasted long and before it had ceased the red water in the deep river-hole bulged like a great biceps and set a spray of red water so high that it pelted the bottom of the crossties above, but the sound of the blast was drowned in the noise of the rushing, wailing, clattering train.

In moments the bone-white bellies of the dead fish bobbed on the surface of the river.  Twenty-one of them.  Mud cats, channel cats, red-eyes and sunfish and bass and a turtle.  He hurried to the casting net and flung it over the floating fish, time and again, bringing them in four and five at a time.

He carried the now heavy basket on his shoulder, like grapes from a vineyard, back into the camp.  Under the weight of the basket his limp was more pronounced, but his pace was but a little slower than a run. He knocked on the screen door of the first house he came to.

“Julie,” he called to her.  “Tell Eugene that Russell is out here and I just had a good day fishin’”

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5 Responses to mid-day post, april 18, 2015

  1. I really like the tone of the story. The quirks of the character are engaging and you do a great job of building suspense all along the way. Great twist at the end. Constructive criticism: He did this…he did that…he did another thing. May find another way to describe what he did rather than “he did”. This story has a serious tone reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Chris Offutt. Think Glimmer Train. Award winning potential.

  2. labeak52 says:

    Thanks, Jose. WHat has offut written?

  3. Tales from his place of origin, eastern Kentucky.

  4. labeak52 says:

    Listened to the Offutt story. Reminds me of Wendell Berry. Entered the story into Short Fiction contest on Glimmer Train. Thanks, again.

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