Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, June 6, 2014

"Good Country. People" by Heather Fowler. A Short Story.


Today I am very honored to be able to share with my readers a story I love by Heather Fowler.   

I recently read and posted on Heather Fowler's most recent collection of short stories, her wonderful Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness.  Here are some of my thoughts on her collection

"Sometimes I feel a great depth of sadness in accepting the fact that there are many wonderful writers I will one day end my reading life never having even heard about, let alone read.  I am very glad that Heather Fowler will not be among them.  There are seventeen delightfully disturbed and disturbing stories in the latest of her four collections of short stories (I hope to read them all in 2014).  All are first rate and some just amazed me.  Heather Fowler loves the short story and it shows in her work.
In the past I have used a kind of forest metaphor to describe collections of short stories.  Some forests are perfect for a weekend in a cottage, others for exploring the tropics. I see the forest of the stories of Fowler as not far from a once great civilization, now on its final stage of collapse into anarchy and chaos.  Few of the residents, and almost none of the elite classes, have any sense of this.  Mental illnesses become the norm, plagues take hold, the poor begin to lust for vengeance, the affluent seek escape in sensation. In the wake of this some begin to retreat to the forest, but for many who flee it is too late.  
My bottom line is a total endorsement of Elegantly Naked in My Sexy Mental Illness to all lovers of the form, especially those with a fondness for the darker side of life."

Heather also kindly recently contributed a beautiful post to The Reading Life on a topic dear to my heart, the wonders of the short story.

Heather Fowler is the author of the story collections Elegantly Naked In My Sexy Mental IllnessThis Time, While We're AwakePeople with Holes; and Suspended Heart. Fowler’s work was named a 2012 finalist for Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in Short Fiction. She received her M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University. Her stories and poems have appeared in:PANKNight TrainstoryglossiaSurreal South,Feminist StudiesThe Nervous Breakdown, and others. Please visit her


By Heather Fowler





For Flannery. Because I love her. And since that girl of hers, left in the barn, has needed some vengeance for years.


“Some cant be that simple,” the girl said. “I never could.” Girls name was Treble, Treble Ann Joiner, and as of one week ago that day, she was nineteen years old, but now she sat talking to her mothers pet, would-be boyfriend, Mister Loved-Treble-So-Much Ray Adams, who had been trying, in his own vacuous way, to enter her man-trousers for years. Ray Adams was forty-four.

“His dick dont even work, likely,” she was fond of telling her friends when they came by or called, which was infrequently. Nobody came this far into the backwoods without a good reason.

“And if I could be that simple,” she said, twirling a string of her ratty brown hair on a spit-wet finger and relishing the idea, “I wouldnt.”

To this last bit, Ray Adams nodded without listening.

Treble expected no response, often spoke just to hear the melody of her own voice playing in its various registers, and often it was like she was mimicking somebody, her mama,Johnella, more than likely, or her mamas friend, or her mamas mama—

maybe even the mama of somebody else like-a-nobody to whom her mama spoke in the oscillating fan-swirled smoke of the homes inner parlor, chatting an interminable amount of time as some kind of greens were cooked in the grease of slaughtered pigs and the other adults, as she called them, as she called anybody not her and over thirty, spoke on in blue yammering streaks due to mourning the loss of the impossible, or possibly nonexistent, gentry inside themselves.

No adults ever truly addressed one another, shed decided years ago, just engaged in the ceaseless monologues of deciphering their own lifes riddles, most folks responding as if interacting, and interjecting here and there a few slightly tangential relationships to the topic at hand to appease the idea of participation in the immediate conversation. For this reason, Treble Ann often said things completely unconnected, as outbursts, not to add to the discussion, but to disrupt it.

And there was Mama, Treble Ann thought, overhearing the bustle and swish of garments moving in the back room, putting on yet more perfume for Ray Adams that would stink up the smoking parlor, which was already flavored perfectly with Ray Adams lit pipe, likely buttoning closed some dress shed bought out-seasoned and too small at a bargain sale, in the hopes of finally enticing, in the hopes that Ray Adams might summarily give up his highly inappropriate crush on Treble Ann and put his lewd intentions where theyd enjoy better use. After all, the Bible in her mamas boudoir was too oft consulted for no good temptation and Johnella itched for contrition, but hadn’t enjoyed a lick of wrongdoing in months.

Poor Mama, Treble Ann thought. You gonna die out here and no suitable man will ever come calling. None so good as Daddy. But there sits stupid Ray Adams.

As if in sync with Trebles thoughts, “Ray Adams?” Treble Ann heard her mother call. “Can you come take a look at this here shelf in my hall? It could use some straightening.”

Iffen I help her,” Ray Adams said, “you gonna finally give me a kiss, Treble Ann?”

Treble Ann snorted, said, “Ill give you a kiss with my fist, Ray Adams. No problem.” His face reddened and he cleared his phlegm-happy throat. She spun another curl on a newly licked finger. “What I will do, if you fix it,” Treble Ann continued, “is not tell my mama you been asking me to kiss you again, Ray Adams—because you get free supper here all the time, you lazy, no-account bum. And you know that could end. In fact, why not scram early?”

Aggrieved, as if it pained him: “Coming to help just this minute, Johnella,” Ray Adams shouted toward the back room, standing before fixing upon his beloved a forlorn look. His hair had thinned. He was a man stretched like string shadows with a ball lump where his belly had spread while the rest of him hadnt. But he was weak—couldnt open the stored fig bottles, wouldnt even spar on account of Trebles fake hand, he said. Didnt want to hurt her, hed opined oncet, but hed seen her punch a block of wood in the yard with her club-fist a number of times, take down some neighborhood boys, too, so when he muttered that malarkey about not wanting to harm her, all tender, ready to burst with his own tremulous would-be goodness, shed dressed him down right quick, whispering immediately under her breath, “You afraid Igonna tear your face off with this hand of mine, Ray Adams, arent you? You and every other boy round here. Because I would—or I could.You negligent piece of shit.”

He took a few weeks before applying his next flirtation.Brought her a few gifts that wouldnt be noticed. Lima beans?She had graduated high school the previous June. “Biggest nightmare, Im going to get so bored here now,” she told herself just then, listening to the shelf banter in the hall, picking up Rays smoldering pipe and taking a toke, “that I might actually change my mind about him. Liking Ray Adams would be a terror. Id rather punch his lazy face.”

She practiced boxing regularly. Her father had been dead so long, thirteen years as it were, it seemed his long-ago pugilism lessons were fading, though ever-present, like the memory of his hands as hed helped her up so many times, so she now extended these teachings with the help of his spirits ghost inside her, for he was the only one she listened to, and she could hear him talking to her sometimes, when she paid attention quite close, encouraging her, like he had when shed lost her hand at age ten—falling on the road, concussed after a few night rounds in his ring, laid on the roadside with her palm pointed toward the sky, alone and spread on the asphalt, as a 36 Plymouth full of liquored teens barreled down the country pass and ran it clean over, crushing every bone.

“Treble Ann, you gotta fight this,” her daddy said then, “like you fight for everything. Dont let it take you down.” Viewing the stump, lacking the digits that once wrote and picked up tools, no one thought shed finish grade school, or high school, no matter her new prosthetic—but she had! Though her daddydpassed soon thereafter, she learned to write with the other hand, fought more, fought harder, and kept his training paces. She used her prosthetic better than most gimps around, exceptingshe didnt want the tool hand so often. She wanted the blunt fist her daddy made her just before he died, the hitting hand that fit like a charm below her boxing glove and did some damage.

The real prosthetic she wore just for work at the Five and Dime. At home, she brandished the hardwood replacement, rounded, the one that bore no resemblance to the pronged metal creeper, and she lorded this about like an ever-held rock.

She grew. She learned. As her mama would say, she had blossomed. Through the years, she ran in the mornings, rain or shine, to keep up her stamina, breathing in the good country air, checking out the thorn vine growth from time to time, and climbing the hills steadily, insistently, breezing down them on her long, strong legs, darting behind and between houses in a pair of torn gray sweats getting shorter by the year, like a ghost of a girl who had always been a boy at heart. So powerful while running and hitting, she had no care for romance. Never had.

Probably why Ray Adams took a shine to her. He enjoyed no immediate competition, so often said when outside Johnellasearshot, “You shore do have a pretty face, Treble Ann,” again and again, like the effect of an already poor compliment could increase by repetition alone. Treble Ann didnt want her pretty face. She wanted to fire her boss and reopen her daddys store to sell hard liquor and playing cards out the backdoor, like hed done when hed been shot. She wanted to own every person in this town by knowing their secrets—the Cottons, the Hopewells, the Freemans, the Joneses, the Townsends—because you could know a family by what they bought: Whos an anorexic, false slut? Glynese Redhead Freeman! Whos sticking it to someone elses wife? Edgar J. Cant. Sure enough. Look at all that baby repellant he buys!

Treble Ann first wanted to re-own her daddys store, and then maybe she wanted to beat every lousy boy at St. Marys Christian Fellowship Academy whod ever given her a moments cruelty over her gone hand. That, or join a circus, though she had no marketable skills.

Still, the daily boredom wore her down. Mamas checks from the insurance were long gone, all casinos miles away. Most days, the house was still like a witness on the stand, this rotting house, and between Johnellas door-wreath fixings, selling henseggs, and working odd days at the post office, plus Treble Anns small earnings from the Five and Dime, they had plenty of victuals, but no hope of expanding their horizons—unless there was a bank to be robbed or an inheritance to be swindled. So, the urge to hit something. Hitting things relieved her.

If Treble Ann had been born a boy, she woulda been a champ welterweight. Woulda been on television, knocking those fools out, even the black boys who thought they were something. Truth was, even though female, or because of this, she didnt really miss her hand, often speculated that if she came upon some trouble, the wood her daddy had fashioned as a fist would work better than any fragile hand of skin and bone. Her wrist had not grown. The club-fist would fit forever, though was roughhewn with the beatings she gave it. The car that had rooked her fool hand could run over the club-fist five or six times, and it wouldnt be worse for the wear.

It was this longevity and durability she thought about whilestrolling to the wood porch as she saw a stranger sauntering up their drive, a young man—and what a sad sack of shit in an eye-popping blue suit he was, carrying some red-handled black valise like he was the Reapers son, walking so full of himself, so inappropriately erect, like somebody had rammed a thick stick clear up his rear and into his spine. He was thin, coltish, none too clean, a half-smile perched on his face like a flatulent frog.

Initially, she had no hopes about his impending arrival, scrawny as he was, until realizing that, because he was a boy, because he was new around here, he might want to wrestle. Since attempted wrestles with Ray Adams had been more about restraining the hands of a deliberate tit-grazer than pure athletic sparring, she smiled at Mr. Thin-Whatever-His-Name-Was, hoping to appear engaging, or at the very least nonviolent. “Treble Ann, you must hide how aggressive you are,” shed heard her mama say so many times.

“Shut up your head, Mama,” shed wanted to say each time. “I studied boxing, not philosophy.” But she viewed the new boy arriving with interest. His novelty sparked her fire.

“Why, hello, maam,” the boy said, coming up to the porch, tipping his toast-colored hat from below.

“Hi, you,” she replied, like she didnt care. “Fine day, no?”Tumescent clouds gathered on the hills horizon, thick as clots.Where the day was blue and cold before, she could smell the impending rain.

“Your mama home?” the boy asked, hat in hand.

She rolled her eyes before answering, even waited to create some suspense. Then, “Yep. Shes here,” she finally agreed, tapping her club-fist lightly three times on the banister. “But shes enticing Ray Adams, so youll have to come back.” Treble smiled slyly. “Because she may not want your interruption.”

“The Lord is never an interruption,” the boy replied, sassy as a varmint. “Besides, I just walked clear across that field with all the pink flowers to get here. Up and down a buncha hills.”

“No mean feat,” Treble said, unimpressed.

“All right then,” he replied. “Can you let me see her?”

“Ha.” Treble Ann put her hands out in front of her, folding the whole one over the club-fist delicately at her waist. “Can I let you see her, salesman-boy?” she asked, raising the tail end of her inflected sentence. “Like I got a lease on yer dumb eyeballs? Or maybe you think I can just pull a curtain cord, and out Mama will come?”

He gave a disgruntled look.

She laughed, eying him scornfully, then asked, “Hows about we whistle and see if that works?”

“I dont think you got a lease on my eyeballs,” he replied, attempting cool and collected. “Any more than I got lease on yours.” But his gaze had settled on her breasts, the large breasts she had never wanted but gained as Gods gifting curse, those that filled out her blouses and dresses too fully ever since she could remember.

She felt a flush, asked, “Whatre you looking at now?” crossing her arms in front. “Bet you was just wishing you had tits like mine in your shirt,” she went on. “Cause then youd never leave home. Am I right?”

He considered her words like they merited his evaluation, touching his pointy nose with his left hand before saying, “Nome. I could just touch yours without having my own.” He held out his palms like he would.

“But you wont,” she said, stepping back and turning half away. “Cant touch mine. Wont ever.”

“But I could,” he replied. “Right now. As we speak, Im even touching them with my mind.” He didnt step close, just kept his dirty eyes glued to the front of her shirt.

“Could and will are two separate things, sales-boy,” she said. “What you selling, anyway? Bibles I bet. Something not worth my trouble in this whole world of things not worth my trouble; just figures. Nobody sells nothing worth a shit round here.”

He giggled in a way she deemed girlish. “Yeah, I got Bibles,” he said. “But hey, dont tell your mama I said nothingbout your tits and maybe Ill kiss you behind that tree later,” he replied. “Ill kiss you good and long and tell you I love you, maybe. After I get through with my business in there.”

“Mama has a Bible,” Treble Ann said, turning on her heel to enter the house, her head turned uncomfortably as she spoke, like to watch him from behind while walking forward. “Youaint got no business here. But come on up, if youre itching for it. You can try your wares on her.”

The boy smiled with half his face, revealing a crooked tooth that Treble Ann liked. Her estimation of his attractiveness rose each time he went silent. “So whats your name, anyway?” she asked, sizing him up again, wetting her finger with spit and rolling another curl.

“Jeremiah Godman,” the boy said.

“Bull. Shit,” Treble Ann replied.

“Jason Strepper,” he tried again.

“Hail Mary, Mother of God, what a lie,” Treble Ann responded.

“Okay. Reginald Klepheart.”

“Better,” Treble Ann said, “but keep practicing that one.” She hollered for her mama and then whispered to him, like this was some secret, “Well, Vesper C. Klitosis, make your home in our kingdom and come on in.”

From the outset, Ray Adams did not like the boy. Treble Ann knew from the way the elder man stood stock-straight in his skin, like thered be some cockfight or wager coming soon. Truth was, Treble liked the boy more and more all the time. If not for his own good traits, then for the distraction. Two men and two women here now—a good balance, even if you liked neither man. “This here boy is good country people, out selling Bibles today, Mama,” she announced as they entered the parlor. “I told him how much you love the Lords Word, how avidly you dote upon that Word, and though we aint short of any Bibles here, we might think to show him some hospitality.” She paused a second before saying, “He wants to sell you his favorite keepsake edition, gilt-edged Bible, from inside that there black luggage, dont you, James?”

Johnella smiled at the boy and then at Treble. Her perfume filled the room like a platoons funeral bouquet. “Whats his name again?” she asked.

“Henry P. James,” Treble Ann replied.

“Henry?” Johnella said, astonished. “You dont say!” asTreble apishly smiled. “Why, thats my late fathers name! You come on into the kitchen, now, boy, and take the weight off. Any child named after my father—”

“Yes. Show her your special fancy Bible then, Henry James,” Treble Ann prodded. “You know, the one you shown me.”

The boy opened his luggage, propped upright on the kitchen floor, but peeked in just a crack. Ray Adams stood as if to follow the boys gaze into the darkened slit, staring him down, but the boy paid him no mind, groping in the hole of the aperture at what few books he must have assembled therein, rifling like submerging his hand in a narrow hole. He finally selected a blue Bible as he pandered to Johnella, talking all the while about how he had sold seventy-eight Bibles in the last five months, with four more on promise. He spoke up a storm, said he was born a middle child, always overlooked, until hed decided to find his way by selling the Word of God, but that he was frail in the way of a lamb, with an ailing heart, mightnt live past thirty-five. “And heaven bless the Word of the Lord,” he announced, near fervent enough to encourage a strong emotion in Johnella, assuming a red glow about him that passed for zeal and suffused his gaunt cheekbones and his neck with enough blood to lend an appearance of boyish optimism.

“Sit down and relax,” Trebles mother said. “Suppers almost on.”

Every so often, he leaned close to Johnella as she cooked or cleaned the table and clutched her hand, peddling his overwrought sincerity like a lemon on a car lot.

Johnella liked the attention and better liked his hand clutching hers. Before long, they sang a hymn or two and she invited this boy to stay for supper, which disgruntled Ray Adams but tickled Treble Ann, who kept humming, after the singing stopped, “Whos that yonder, dressed in black?”

“How we all going to eat?” Ray Adams asked. “Im not splitting a chop with nobody.”

“Well make do,” her mama said.

“Maybe you should split a chop,” Treble Ann said, staring pointedly at his stomach. And, Ray Adams can suck my dick, Treble thought, bored of his proprietary erroneous righteousness. When she tired of the mixed banter betwixt he, her mother, and the kisser Bible-boy, after choking down some grits and green beans without the benefit of a chop, Treble Ann went back out to punch her boards. They couldnt see or hear her from inside and besides, if she had one hope it was that her mother would kick Ray Adams out for the evening and get it on wild-boar style with Bible-boy so Johnellad have something salacious to talk about at church or in coming weeks. The desire for this indiscretion was so strong it welled within her, andTreble even began to imagine how the scenario might play out, the bony hips of the small boy ratcheting atop her plump mama on the parlor floor like a chickens wishbone trying to pop back in, by force, to the plumper cooked meat.

Treble laughed. But because it was her mother in the fornication fantasy, she soon grew so repulsed that the urge to vomit rose steadily as she blasted at the splintered wood with her ragged club-fist, not to say she still wasnt hopeful.

“He who loses his life shall find it,” was one thing she remembered the boy had said, and oh Lordy, did Treble Ann want something found, maybe just something nice for her mama, who was a good woman no matter what anybody said. It did rather trouble Treble that Ray Adams wouldnt give Johnellaany sugar. Not like her mama didnt make him dinner, do his dishes. Not like he had a chance with Treble Ann.

Soon enough, though, Ray Adams left for the night, skulking, and the sun hung low in the sky. Not long after, Treble watched the boy exit, pressing his silly lips to her mamas round hand, kissing it again and again, like in queenly tribute. But they hadnt, Treble Ann speculated, done nothing.

Boy was still simpering, still too kind. Woulda had a taller gait. How boys were when theyd pounded something, and, “Fuck it all,” Treble Ann said, sweaty from her exertion. She went into the field to run sprints. Again and always, while running, she pretended she was a boy. Maybe an Olympic contender. She was right in the middle of fantasizing she had won an enormous race, the crowds cheering madly, as Bible-boycame up on her. She would have let him walk right past. But he took to watching her through five sets of sprints.

At their conclusion, she huffed and puffed, ignoring him. Finally, she sat in the tall grass, crushing it beneath her. Then, “Why you still watching me?” she asked.

“Cause I want to,” he replied.

She smiled before saying, “You sell any Bibles in there, Holy Man, weak-hearted boy?”

“No, but I think your mama mighta wanted me in her bed.”

So do it already,” Treble Ann replied. “Would it kill ya? Ill give you a nickel.”

The boys eyes widened as he took an insuck of breath. “You say you want me to do your mama?”

She cocked her head, inspecting his lapel, his dirty pants with dust dragging on their hems. “You or somebody better.”

“Whats that on your wrist?” he asked, sat beside her, and said, “Its a wood-club, right? What? Cant afford a real hand? Not going to grab anything with that.”

“I dont use it to grab,” she said.

Giggling again, he then took her club-fist and brushed it over his cheek.

She pulled it back. “I got a real prosthetic,” she said. “I just dont like it. But what else you got in that valise besides Bibles?”

“Oh, nothing,” he replied. “Nothing youd want.”

“I bet something,” she argued. “You dont know what I want.”

“We should trade,” he said. “You tell me just what you want out of this shitty asshole of a life—and Ill show you whats in my bag.”

Treble Ann said, “Deal. I want to own my daddys old store that he lost to the bank, I want to fire my boss, and I want to know everybodys business. Good enough? Now, open it.”

“Youre kinda pretty, Treble Ann,” the boy replied. “Dirty hair and all. Think your mama can see you and me out here in this tall grass?”

“Why you ask?” Treble Ann inquired, interested. “You want to wrestle? Because I am happy to.”

“Yeah. I want to wrestle against those tits,” he said. “Be a good girl and give em to me.”

“Oh, Ill give em to you, all right,” she replied. “Stifle your face with them till you cant breathe. Like this.” She made a couple of asphyxiated faces, clowning, then said, “But first show me whats in the bag.”

The boy scooted his bony butt closer on the grass, weirdly whispering again, “I got a girls leg in here. I got another girls eyeball. Can I have your club-hand now, Treble Ann? To place in my hand. To put in my valise. I think I want it.”

“No, you stupid piece of shit,” she said. “You cant havenothing you want.”

He laughed, another stream of high-pitched giggles, and then said, “Peep in the bag if you want to.”

She grabbed his valise and threw it open. There they were.Just as he said. And a real Bible and a fake Bible too. “Shitfire,” she said. “You werent kidding.”

“I may look like one, but I dont kid,” he murmured, tracing his fingers across her breasts. She trembled. The sensations were confusing, sweet and menacing at once. Not like shed had much romance, nor cared for it, but since she remained quietly under his touch in shocked deliberation, he put his other hand deep in her trousers just after unbuttoning them, watching her eyes blink rapidly as he started to massage her there with his dirty digits, saying, “Oh, yeah, sweet thing, lets get to know each other a lot better,” before shoving one sharp finger deep inside her.

With his other hand, he pushed her down. On the ground was his open valise. Theres a girls leg in there, she thought.Another girls eye. Using one wrist for two of hers, he trapped her arms above her head. She did not resist. “I could scream,” she announced, like she was weighing it.

“Sure could, babycakes,” was his reply, leaning over her with breath reeking of whiskey. “But you wont. Who is going to hear you, Miss Treble Ann? Your mama, drunk as a skunk, hymn-singing in the smoking parlor—the gone Ray Adams?Your neighbors are a mile away. So, come on, Treble Ann. Lets have us a good time. Ill get to know you real good inside. And then Ill take your hand. But first Ill be gentle, so lets see what Mother Nature gave you.” He unbuttoned her shirt, leaning heavily on her and saying, “I want to see those big ole tits. Letem out.”

Treble Ann viewed him like some kind of monster, one forged from both hope and desire. Maybe she wanted him, too, or just knew nobody new came around too often, but it took until he unbuttoned his pants, still thrusting his other hands fingers, one to three, in and out of her while licking and kissing on her bare chest, that she realized she should put a stop to this.

“I dont want to get pregnant,” she said.

“You wont,” he replied. “I cant make a girl pregnant.”

“I dont believe you,” she said, staring at the tip of his erect member now pointed to her or at her, fully freed and flopping, as he yanked at her pants with a series of pulls to take them first down over her hips, then to her knees, and finally to her ankles, taking her undergarments with them.

“Igonna do it,” he said. “Igonna do whatever I want, girl. Because I aint like anybody else. I take what I want, and now I want you. You want some whiskey first? Itll make it hurt less. Youre different and special. I can see that.”

He pulled his immersed hand out and away from her body, and used it, wet and gross, to grab and then unscrew the flask in his nearby valise, leaning heavy to hold her down, swigging a gulp, and then pouring some liquor into her unready mouth such that she coughed and sputtered, whiskey flowing down her face.

“I could take you down, scrawny,” she said. “Youre not taking my club-fist with you, or anything else—even though I have another hand at home.”

He smiled, said, “Youre already down, girl. So now wegonna have us a real good time, but dont you cry—cause I dont like that none. If you dont cry, Ill be real sweet; I promise.”

“You gonna need that Bible in a minute, sinner,” Treble Ann replied, the sexual heat in her blood cooling faster than grease dropped in snow as she realized that he regarded her as a lamb, his dumb, waiting lamb, whom he would enjoy taking—and harming. He was, she saw, a harmer. He reached down, stroked himself, smiling, sipping more whiskey, and pressing what he could of his body tightly against her, rubbing against her. “Any minute now,” he said. “Ill be ready.”

“So, come on then,” she replied. “Get down here, boy, and get to know me.”

As he settled his skinny limbs on her, reaching to position himself, she pressed her legs together for a second, aware she could whip and hog-tie this boy any day of the week, but kissed him once, drawing his hands to her breasts, before she kneed him hard in his privates and pushed him off. She stood, pulled up her pants, zipped them, buttoned them, and said, “You want to fight me now, Bible-seller? Really fight? Lets have a go.”

Wincing, in fury, he stood, eyes flaring with rage. “Im going to take that fist of yours today,” he taunted, wheeling around her. “Ill have it with me before I leave this hill.” Him in her periphery, Treble Ann looked at the innocent hill, the pink flowers so delicate on the upslope, glowing faintly with the dropping sun. She crouched into her fighting stance.

Gonna be night soon,” she told him, tilting her head, and using her club-fist to gesture for him to approach.

He came, but feinting and jabbing, quick and easy on the ground, she took him down in three blows, ducking his attempts to hit her. She hadn’t had a real tussle in a long time and couldnt quite explain the anger that swelled within her as she touched him, made her want to hit him more and more, even after he stopped fighting, but she kept swinging her club-fist, pummeling his face until it was as red and unrecognizable as a tainted valentine outside the month of February, and he rested still as the fake shutters adorning a distant house, his lips and cheeks a chop of bloody meat.

“Thatll swell something awful,” she said. “Iffen you should wake up. But I dont think you might.”

She took the girls club-leg out of his black valise, hefted its weight, and swung the stump like a bat in a wide open swing, cracking the air to the stars, then boxing his ears with the tapered end for good measure. From the valise, she took the other girls eyeball and held it aloft, as if it could see all around her into the tall grass and beyond. The eye was blue. The hills rolled gently as always. Mama must be sleeping.

Hed do nothing for her, this fool. Couldnt even fightnomore. “You aint got no real name, any which way, Bible-boy,” she said. “No skills. And nobody could find you now, even if they wanted to. Nobody saw nothing round here but the hollow sky of evening turned to night.”

She thought about being simple country folk, simple and complex, regarding again her thwarted seducer, monologuingwith him for the sake of being an adult in his company, holding court, admiring his toast-colored hat with the wide red band which was now hers, which was fine and was laid beside him on the ground like a man-lily corsage gone wrong.

She then commenced to digging him a hole.


This story is protected under international copyright law and cannot be published in any format without the author's permission.

I offer my great thanks to Heather for allowing me to place this story on The Reading Life.

I hope to read and post on the work of Heather Fowler for many years to come.  Expect to see much more concerning her in the future of The Reading Life.


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