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Chapter Thirty-Nine

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Ethel heard them first. She hadn’t started frying the chicken yet, but she’d chopped up the potatoes, onions and eggs for the potato salad. There hadn’t been much on the table at noontime, and she wanted to make up for it with dinner. He was still in the living room, moping, where he’d been the last day and a half. There was no reason to celebrate but two half-hearted meals in a row would only make it worse. She heard something out by the road, and then that animal of his ran to the window in the living room and shook the house with his full-blown big dog bark. You didn’t hear it very often, thank God. It was amazing how much the pup had grown, and when he barked in earnest it was like having a wolf in the house. It was too much, but she’d given up on teaching either of them any sense.

She laid the knife aside and walked into the living room. He was already at the window.

“I heard something,” she said. So the dog wouldn’t get credit for everything.

He ignored her. He was staring out past the trees to the end of the long driveway.

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Chapter Eighteen

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

A year or even a month ago, he would’ve been worried sick about his truck. The dents would rust where the paint was broken and he hated driving a banged-up vehicle. But instead Ollie spent the week planning their first real date. He’d called Summer and set it up for tonight, and if she’d been too upset about the deer, he couldn’t tell it. She promised to take the little kid to her mother’s house and leave her overnight so it’d be just them. All week at work he thought about the date and also what it might be like to slide those blue shorts down over her hips. There were red warning stickers on all of the dangerous equipment at work, and someone should’ve slapped one on his forehead.

They’d built a new movie theater over in Green City. The Shipley Current ran a photo of the building under construction. He only happened to see it because Doug Sellers left the newspaper in the toilet stall at the sawmill. He hated like hell to drive an hour each way to Green City, but seeing a movie was a real date and that’s what she deserved. They’d be on the highway most of the way, but if they got stuck behind some farm equipment being moved from field to field it might add another twenty minutes. And last but not least, he wasn’t going to pay about fifteen bucks to see a movie with a bunch of cartoons running around. He wanted something with people shooting stuff in it—maybe some nudity if he could get it. He intended to pick her up, drive to Green City, check out the movie times, and eat at Pizza Hut.

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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 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-Six

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

Ollie hadn’t gone to the sawmill Tuesday morning. Instead he woke up at the normal time, called in a vacation day, and slept two more hours. Then he filled a duffle bag with three pairs of jeans, a stack of T-shirts, socks and underwear. After some thought he tossed in three Playboys he hadn’t read completely. By read he meant looked at. At the bank he withdrew the little bit of money his checking account held. If he’d kept a savings account he would’ve drained that, too. Should he encounter a dry county along the way, he bought two cases of beer. He also bought a map at the gas station where he filled up. He’d thrown all of this, along with a sleeping bag and his pillow, into the truck. Now he felt so liberated he thought he might never go back to work.

Driving on the interstate was not something he’d done a lot of. He drove along in the left lane until he got enough angry stares from people passing on the right that he remembered the right lane was home. He knew it was one or the other but had forgotten. The duffle bag sat on the seat next to him, over the pillow and sleeping bag. The beer rode along on the floorboards. He’d emptied the truck bed of trash and drove with the tailgate down to decrease wind resistance.

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