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Chapter Twenty-Seven

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

When Frank woke the next morning, his first thoughts were of fishing. Even before he was fully awake his mind formed lists of things he’d need to fish with Chub today. Then he opened his eyes and took in the bearings of the old familiar room, the same one he’d woken in for the last forty-five years, and the cold and certain knowledge that his friend was dead returned. There was the funeral to deal with. Ollie. These facts visited him one after another and he left his head on the pillow, eyes closed again.

Eventually he rose and drew on his clothes. In the kitchen he lifted Catfish, tail wagging, out of his corner pen, and the dog followed him to the door. Frank let him out, poured some coffee, and sat down at the table. There was an empty plate at his place. In a minute or so the pup would scratch at the door and he’d serve him a bowl of food. Ethel sat at the table, drinking coffee and reading the paper.

“Howdy,” he said to her, quietly.

She looked up at him, eyes tired. She looked ten years older today than she had yesterday. “There’s something in here about his funeral,” she said.

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Chapter Twenty-Five

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Loss,” the preacher said, trying to look him in the eyes, “this is not something God meant for us to understand infallibly.” They sat on the hard pew in the little church on the edge of Logjam. The preacher’s eyes were magnified by his glasses and any time Frank tried to look elsewhere the preacher would touch him on the knee and affix him with a fresh stare. Frank had never spoken to this man and he’d barely set foot inside these walls. There’d been a few weddings and funerals—only funerals over the last ten years—and this particular preacher was new. He’d served elsewhere, though, because he was older than Frank. The sanctuary looked the same: chips of plaster had fallen off the low ceiling and Jesus hung from a cross on the wall. It was not an astounding likeness, Frank assumed.

He sat there and examined the curve of his cane handle, held upright between his knees. Metal worn smoother than any machine could sand it. Only a leaning hand could do such work, and only over years.

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Chapter Sixteen

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Tuesday after work Ollie drove over to Hapgood, a pilgrim in a dented truck seeking Coondog as one might go visit a sage. If it were possible for one man alone to figure out this current situation, he felt certain it’d be done by now. He’d sure as hell given over enough man-hours to thinking about it. When he was a lot younger his mother had asked him to sort chickens by breed and age, and Summer was turning into something like that. When he got a thought chased into a corner he went back for another one and the first one shot between his legs or squirmed out a hole in the boards. He felt like he had loose feathers floating in his head. When he pulled up to the house, Coondog was out in the yard, his legs sprawled underneath the giant bucket truck he used in his tree trimming business. The hood was up. Ollie walked over and nudged the leg with his foot.

Coondog recognized the boot of his only true friend. “What say, stranger? Long time no see, you bastard.”

“You could say I been real busy.”

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Chapter Six

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Now what do ya think of that folks?” Jerry Sallus yelled through the PA system, addressing the grandstand crowd. “He calls the car Every Mudder’s Nightmare’ and comes from Logjam! Name of Trent Smalls. And folks? The boy is only seventeen!”

Ollie watched as the tractor pulled the wrecked cars out of the ring. The station wagon that’d done so much damage to the Impala had won the heat, and now to find out the driver was some punk kid from their town? Some kid half their age, almost like a version of themselves before they grew up? Coondog would be hot. The lights overhead burned, illuminating the busted cars in the ring. The open mouth of the grandstand looked dark, but Ollie knew it was chock-full.

The volunteer fireman driving the tractor left Coondog for last. When they finally looped the chain around the Impala’s bumper and pulled it back into the ring, Coondog came squeezing out of the window of the welded-shut door, orange helmet leading the way. Even from where he stood, Ollie could see it was the wrong thing to do. The firemen yelled at him and told him to stay the hell in his damn car.

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Chapter Twenty-One

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Frank first thought, after being awakened by the horn, that the appraiser or someone like him had returned, and his initial idea was to grab the shotgun from where he’d recently leaned it in the corner of the coat closet. But when he got to his feet and peered out toward the end of the driveway, he recognized the truck and the giant shape behind the wheel. He took the padlock key from where he’d hung it on a nail by the door and let Catfish outside.

It was a long way to walk, this driveway. When they’d gone somewhere this week, like when Ethel took the car to get groceries, he’d driven out to the chain in his truck. Today the sun was shining, although they were calling for more storms tonight, and he decided to take the long walk to let Chub in. Maybe Catfish wouldn’t pee in the house again if he had even more time to run around outside. As Frank walked the dog ran in widening circles across the yard. The truck waited for them, idling, front bumper near the chain and rear end still out on the gravel road.

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