50 Slices
Medium 9780253002365

Chapter Forty-Three

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

By Thursday evening it felt like it was fish or die. He’d sunk as low as he’d ever been, but he suspected that he could get even lower and probably would in the coming months. He needed to mow the yard, but tasks like that felt so pointless anymore it almost made you want to laugh. Like God was laughing in your face already. Maybe it wasn’t God, but it sure felt like someone was laughing. If he’d ever needed the river, truly required it like his next breath, it was now, so he lowered the rods into the boat and took inventory. Four fishing rods, life jacket, cushion to sit on, paddle, gas tank, landing net, cast net, bucket for bait, tackle box. There were other things but he knew he had them because they stayed in the boat. He tied the rods together and strapped them to a cleat before placing anchors on top of the life jacket and seat cushion so they wouldn’t blow out as he went down the road to the river.

Mow the yard! Might as well paint the barn while he was at it. Maybe put some oil on the back door hinge so it’d stop squeaking. Pour new limestone in the tool shed. Reorganize his workbench. Build miles of new fence. Oh yes, there were many tasks to be done now that the water was coming. Make it real nice for the fishes. He pictured catfish swimming around their murky kitchen, strips of wallpaper peeling and waving in the current. A big flathead playing solitaire at the table while its mate drifted down the stairs. A channel cat resting on the couch, staring at the television.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253002365

Chapter Forty-Two

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Here was one more thing Ollie believed about life and how to live it: when it starts getting better, you don’t dare back down. Quite the opposite—you pour gas on the fire. Add a cup of water to the flood. Salt to a wound. Basically, anything you can do to make something more potent. Say it however you want. So when he got home from work that afternoon he was thinking about his truck. He’d been driving the red girl around all over the country with a busted front end, and now that things were so good with Summer, it just didn’t make sense to drive a dented pickup. He had a shiny new outlook on life and wanted his truck to reflect that.

So he stood at the bar in his trailer, pawing through the contents of a seldom-used drawer looking for the yellow pages. He wanted to call Terry Barry’s body shop. Instead of the directory he found an old Chinese throwing star he’d picked up at a flea market. It was metal and looked like a little saw blade. He laughed, fitting it into his hand. Once he made this call he’d go out back and throw the star at the stump at the edge of the field. See if it still stuck. He was going to Summer’s later but a ninja had to make time for himself.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253002365

Chapter Fourteen

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Ollie turned left at Peterson’s Market and drove toward her house. Was it really smart, coming out here without calling first? He wondered about that. On one hand, no one liked being surprised in her own home. On the other hand, he’d showered after work, thrown on a clean shirt and two splashes of cologne. It seemed like a waste of a shower if he turned back now, and what if she was just sitting around, thinking about him? She had kissed him, unprovoked. Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing, to suddenly appear as if her thoughts alone had conjured him?

He decided to drive by her house first. If it looked busy he’d go home and call, not mentioning that he’d been out driving past her mailbox. If it appeared calm maybe they could all go get something to eat. He hated to revisit the Dairy Queen, but driving to the next closest restaurant would take over forty minutes, round trip.

Her house would be coming up just beyond this cornfield, and he slowed to look it over. He glanced down her driveway, back to where she parked her Omni under the trees. But there were two vehicles parked there! Mouth open, he looked at the road and then back, quickly. Sure enough—a big Ford pickup with a construction bed, an orange water cooler in a rack on the side.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253002365

Chapter Twenty

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

The ringing phone woke him up Saturday afternoon but he came to with a smile on his face. Ollie wasn’t a religious man but he’d thanked God so many times last night he half expected to hear His booming voice on the other line saying, “Glad you liked her, my favorite son.” He tugged himself free of the tangle of sheets and slid along the wall toward the phone, which rang on, patiently. Maybe it wasn’t God at all but the Devil, fussy like some collection agent, telling him he owed his soul for last night. Whatever. Now that he’d met her, it was like the difference between living in a house without electricity and one with. She lived so close—why hadn’t he found her sooner? He’d ask whichever omnipotent being was calling.

“Don’t tell me you’re still asleep,” she said.

“Summer!”

“Who’d you think it was?”

“It seemed like it coulda been anyone.” He sat heavily on a stool at the kitchen bar and put his face in his hand.

“Nice, sucker. Just how many girls call your house?”

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253002365

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.

See All Chapters

See All Slices