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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Edition Five.

Today we're doing a couple of things differently. Publishing just one story this Edition, which may or may not become part of a series of stories that may or may not be connected.

Now the next announcement is one concerning the next Edition: Valentines Day Poetry! So if you or any of your friends have some excellent (or terrible) poetry you'd like to share, send it in! 
We've already got a few submissions, and we're eager for more: westegg [dot] publishing [at] gmail [dot] com

Now, on to our story!

Note: Neither one of our editors endorse love as a feeling or an idea with any basis in reality, but we encourage love if it inspires creative endeavors.

Running to the City
Sarah Fogle

          He’d been telling his mom for weeks that he needed to leave. She cradled a bowl of steaming sweet potatoes, walking toward the rough wooden table with tremulous steps, and he just said it, right then and there: “Mom, I’ve gotta go somewhere, I’ve gotta go real soon.” And his mom just let the bowl slip from her hands onto the table, slip right out of those bone fingers, and the blue glass cracked and the pulpy orange seeped through real slug-like. He wanted to yell at her so badly, he wanted to leave her to scoop up the mess and just run out to the field and scream into the tall grass. He could hear them now, the cicadas thrumming outside at dusk like dumb drone bees around a hive, humming like they were speaking to his bones.
          But he’d never run out before; he wasn’t like his father. He pushed himself away from the table, trembling hands gripping the table edge as if making to leave deep marks, and he looked up into those blueberry eyes of hers and saw the beginnings of a wild rain.
          “Oh momma, don’t cry. Now, you know I—“ and he cut himself off as his hands slipped under the cracked bowl and carried a heaping mound to the open trash can. He turned around to see his mother plucking at the glass shards like a cat trying to swat at fish in a pond, her hands too frozen to grab up the pieces as she shuffled them around like bingo chips into a pile he could sweep off the table. The sweet potato smell was everywhere, the rich earthy warmth mingling with the sweet marshmallow buttery air. Everything was indistinguishable now, a swirl of pulp with bits of blue glass. He tried not to cut himself, but it usually happened somewhere, somehow to someone or other, and it may as well have been him better than anyone else. Maris ran down the stairs in her cutest pink dress, her six-year old smile like sunlight through musty barn walls, and she froze on the second-to-last step and started to wrinkle the edges of her dress, and her face crumpled up like a paper bag, the stork bite in the middle of her forehead flaring cherry red as she saw her momma’s tears.
          He tried to clean his hands off best he could before running to his little sister and pulling her up to his chest where she breathed ragged, and he let her hot tears soak up while he petted her dark brown waves of hair.
          “Jason, you can’t leave, no way, no how.” His mother sputtered, her hands halfway through the pulpy mess, staring with eyes he knew she couldn’t see through for all the tears. He walked over, cradling Maris in his arms as she shuddered like a butterfly cocoon in the breeze, and waited for his mother to slough the pulp off onto her apron and reach out for the little girl.
          Stepping back, Jason looked at them all, glimpsing his own reflection in the kitchen door, the three of them a bright mess, marked somewhere by the orange pulp, the palm of his hand stinging smartly and his mother’s fingers covered in tiny cuts. His momma let out something like a cut-off laugh, a burst of giggle she choked down real quick. Maris buried her little head into her momma’s thick sweater, her dark hair spilling out over arms swimming in creamy cable knit sleeves. He watched his momma run her fingers through her daughter’s hair, and he uncrossed his arms real slow and made for the kitchen door with steps like whispers. And just as he was halfway out the door and his momma’s eyes jumped up and stared right at him, he say he’d be right back, and then he went.

          It was easiest for him to be outside at night because there wasn’t a soul outside to stop him when the only eyes that saw him clearly were the stars. He could feel the full moon steady on his back like a hand leading him to the Promised Land, but he wasn’t looking for milk and honey; he was looking for an explanation. Some days he’d reach up to the sky with hungry eyes and open his mouth waiting for God to rain manna from the clouds, but all he got was a car honk in the distance, reminding him to stay off his neighbors’ properties, reminding him that a farmer would sooner shoot a Wilk on the spot than invite him in for dinner.
          He thought about what his momma said, imagining her stories about dating his papa: “I’m sure as hell you’ve made up some romantic image in your mind of him, but the devil knows how cursed we Wilks are, and your father’s got the worst of it. Sure, your grandpa suffered real good, but your dad…now, he can’t even control it, son.
          “Do you want to know what it was like coming into town with a name like Wilk tacked onto your back? I thought we were gonna die the day we went to the general store, the way they opened fire on the old red pick-up truck like that. If you ever go to find your dad, I hope to God he stays the bullets and the pitchforks. Do you know what it’s like to have someone run away ‘cause they were afraid of hurting you? And I don’t mean like you refusing to fight with Jim because you could kick his teeth in, I mean ‘cause you were afraid you couldn’t control your instincts to jump at anything that moved, like a wolf tearing after a sheep across the valley.

          “‘Damned dog, I’ll aim straight for your bitch’s gut!’ Do you remember Ackelson? Well he said that to your papa, right before you were born. Just ‘cause your father went out running during the full moon, happenin’ to change right by Ackelson’s farm. Stole the clothes right off his scarecrow and beat it back to our place. Jason, your dad didn’t just leave because of them, though, and you know it. And I’m telling you so you know, if you leave to find him, they won’t never let you come back.”
          He was about a mile now from his home, and stopping alongside the edge of a farm, he found a scarecrow—maybe it was the very same one—with torn-up jeans and a straw-stuffed flannel shirt, and since clothes were clothes and he was the closest Wilk around, he took them and ran for the high grasses on the edge of the nearest farm. He was near out of breath by now; he didn’t have legs like his papa, didn’t inherit much good from anybody. But he had scarecrow in his hands and fire in his heart, and that had always been good enough for a Wilk.
          There was a shuffle in the distance like a barn cat scratching up hay bales by the horse stalls, and Jason stared ahead to see the bright eye of Akelson’s floodlight careening over the field in his great calloused hands, just looking for mischief. What Jason didn’t have in running speed he made up for with eyesight, and he could tell by the agitated shuffle of the farmer’s gait that if his light came near that naked scarecrow he’d let out his border collie hellhounds to scour the length of this field until they found a perpetrator, innocent or not. He’d seen them claw up a rabbit’s nest, and he had heard the screeching, the blurs of black and white fur around little pink bodies, as if rabbits had any interest in knocking over milk pails, any interest at all.
          When he got back to the house, the kitchen lights were still on, and the rosy glow of Maris’ room on the second floor was blinking like a little beacon. Inside the kitchen, his momma was sitting at the table, a mound of paper at her fingers, searching for something in that mass of receipts. He passed her by, listening to the scribbling of columns of numbers into her notebook.
          “If you’re going upstairs, could you grab that letter from the bank in my dresser, please. And tuck Maris in real quick. She wanted to wait for you to get back.” His mother said. Jason couldn’t feel her eyes on him, but he could sense that stony suggestion of her shoulders that never budged, the glaze of frost over her expression, if he were to look her in the eyes and say, “Yes, m’am.” But all he did was walk on down the hall and heave it over his shoulders, just like that, like a wheelbarrow load over the hill, “Yes, m’am.”

          His eyes adjusted well enough when he walked into his momma’s room, and he didn’t bother turning a light on while he opened up the drawer. There it was, that bank letter peaking out from crisp edges of other letters, most of them white, some of them junk mail she’d forgot to throw out. He pushed around the letters to get to the bank, and his eye caught one that just stuck out from the rest. It wasn’t crisp—and maybe that was it, the brownish stain to it, the age—and the writing was like a chicken took ink to its claws and scratched up the envelope; he could barely read it for all he tried.
          “Jonathan Wilk,” That was all he needed to say out loud, or all he needed to even see. It was like a finding of something that you thought would never come back, like his dog when he was in seventh grade, came walking back all proud from the woods weeks after jumping the back fence and running off with the Thanksgiving turkey. Jonathan Wilk, his father’s name. The envelope wasn’t dated, wasn’t even opened. He had half a mind to tear at the seal right there, until he heard Maris humming a tune down the hallway, biding her time until he came to her. He snatched up the bank letter and tucked his father’s letter behind the edge of his sock.
          “You took so long. Why you always running outside this late at night? Do you like running?” Maris said, peering at him, mouth hung open with her question while her eyes followed him right carefully.
          “I do, it helps my food go down. Don’t you like running?” He answered, coming to sit on the edge of her bed, patting down the plump squares of the quilt. He looked her in the face and she stared at him quite furiously like children are likely to do until they’re answered.
          “But you didn’t eat dinner.” She narrowed her eyes up at him, her freckles all scrunched up, and then she laughed, and it was clear she meant to laugh straight in his face. He smiled and reached over, mussing up her hair, and she reached up at his wrist with little strong hands and clamped down on his arm until he stopped, ghost-white fingerprints on his skin as she let go, and he smiled again.
          “Momma fed you while I was gone?” He asked.
          “Uh-huh, did she. Momma had casserole left over in the fridge from yesterday. You know how she always saves extra, ‘it’s in case someone real important shows up,’ but she usually lets me finish it.”
Jason went quiet for a little moment, and he felt Maris staring at the lines on his forehead, and he waited for her to extend a little finger to press on them like she always did, and she did, trying to smooth them out while her gaze went intense.
          “You think she’s saving it for dad?” She said, her eyes real watery and somber like rain puddles on the driveway under the moon. He looked down at her and then reached over with his strong arms and pulled her into his best hug.
          “But don’t you worry about it, Maris. Don’t you worry.” And as he stroked her hair, he could feel the weight of the letter in his shoe, and his mother walking on the kitchen floor downstairs.

Sarah Fogle is a writer and visual artist. She is a fan of magical realism, and sentence structure.

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