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Chapter Seven

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Frank woke up and noticed the breeze lightly blowing the faded curtain that hung over the window by their bed. Ethel had sewn the curtains herself, and now the white fabric with its flowered border rose into the room and billowed up before being sucked back against the screen. He watched it do this for some time. It followed the same path but it didn’t. Not an exact pattern he could predict, anyway, lying on his back this Sunday morning in their bed where he’d slept regular nightly hours for the last forty-five years. The window frame had been painted white, but it was chipped in places where he’d hit it with his cane coming around the bed. Dead flies and other insects collected in the corner of the windowsill. The wind blew the curtain in, where it hung in the air for just a moment, before the undercurrent pulled it back to the window frame. Then the breeze would lift the curtain again with almost, but not quite, the same motions. He watched it and thought about how the river breathed the same rhythms.

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Chapter Eight

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Sunday morning came down hard on him, sleeping in the hot, airless bedroom of his trailer. The window stood open, the screen behind it torn and pulled away from the frame, but no breeze came through. The dew had long since burned off and a green fly that had spent the night outside on the windowsill felt the sun warm its wings and walked through an open corner of the screen and buzzed over Ollie’s sleeping mouth on its way to the smells of the kitchen. It was gravid with eggs and seeking a rotting mass suitable for the raising of maggots. Somewhere in his unconsciousness he sensed the reverberations of the fly’s wings and woke up. He was sweaty and waking up hot pissed him off, but then he thought of her and he felt himself smile. Summer.

The room smelled of sweat and beer and the sheets clung to him in a dank mess. On his wall, the antique Pabst Blue Ribbon sign with the built-in thermometer read over eighty degrees. He closed his eyes again.

He had found Coondog, and they’d walked the emptying fairgrounds together until they ran into Troy Beasley, someone Coondog used to work with. Troy gave them a ride back to Coondog’s place in an old ‘69 Firebird that had been painted red with black flames on the hood and front quarters. Once there, all three of them got drunk while throwing horseshoes under the security light in the backyard. At close to four in the morning, Troy gave Ollie a ride back to the fairgrounds, where his truck was still parked in the pits. Troy was leaving then anyway to go wake up his ex-girlfriend to try to have sex with her. A long night, but today Ollie would not go to work, and that pleased the hell out of him.

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Chapter Forty-Four

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Throughout the day trucks hauled in mud-streaked logs of various sizes and types and stacked them around the sawmill in numerous piles, marked and labeled on the sawn butts. The skid loaders were unloading trucks from the time he got to work until he stopped, and inside the sawmill they’d worked just as fast. He’d driven home with a sore back and aching knees. His hands felt swollen and tight. Summer had promised to cook dinner, and Spring would be at her grandmother’s house, but if his plan had been less important, a little less life-changing, he might’ve canceled. That kind of day at work called for a couch and beer. The shower put some energy back into him, though, and he drove to her house rehearsing his proposal.

In the hours since his mother’s visit, he’d accepted the fact that the trailer was a goner. That listing ship was finally going the way of the Titanic. He wondered why he’d never managed to save any real money—after paying a few bills, the rest of his paycheck just kind of slipped away every month. Who the hell knew where it went. Now one possibility involved buying land somewhere on credit and dropping the trailer on it. His parents wouldn’t care if he took the trailer, seemed like. On the other hand, he was ready to be out of the damn thing. It didn’t stand to reason he could afford his own house, though, as he’d never had a mortgage or anything other than a truck loan in his name. The best idea, by far, seemed to be moving in with Summer.

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Postlude

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

It rose through the trees as surely and as steadily as tomato plants growing in June. First it surrounded the trunks of the sycamores, then it came farther and slipped over the roots of the oaks and maples. They were merely stumps by then, and within weeks all the stumps were gone, their flat tops like so many kitchen tables submerged.

It crept through the fescue and the sagging wire fence. The garden, long since returned to a rectangular patch of weeds, was overtaken slowly, from west to east.

It lapped at the stone foundation of the barn before crawling up the frame, the hand-hewn timbers as seasoned and hard as iron. By the time it reached the floor of the loft, it was touching the bottom step at the back of the house. Looters had kicked the door in, and the water flowed over the threshold and across the floor. The dirty river water climbed the steps to their bedroom. It covered everything until the only remaining mark of their existence was the peak of the barn roof. The water swirled around it, the upturned keel of a ship sinking, and then the barn roof, too, was hidden.

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Chapter Thirty-One

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

They rode home after the meeting along county roads dark and deserted. The moon hung nearly full overhead and its blue hue illuminated the gravel they drove on, a ribbon of light. Ethel sat next to him in the darkened cab and he could hear her crying, a sound like kittens mewling, suddenly familiar again, although he felt sure he’d gone years at a time without hearing it.

He wasn’t the kind to blame a man for working, but there were some jobs that involved killing and some jobs that one should be killed for doing. Like that bastard from the meeting tonight—that steel-eyed son of a bitch attorney. Frank kept seeing him up there on the stage, lording over them like they were so many cattle in a slaughterhouse pen. And he knew there were others, too—those he hadn’t seen tonight and would never see. The governor must’ve wanted this lake. District representatives. But, really, some of the ones who most deserved shot were those in this county—people he’d known all his life!—who had supported this idea from the beginning and even called for it. Those fools who thought they knew the river, who thought the floods were too much to contend with, even though they weren’t farmers or landowners and at most had to deal with occasional closed roads. Those who thought this county needed a big damn puddle in it. There was more blame than opportunities for retribution and he knew this, as well.

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