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Chapter Three

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

The act of leaving—motoring upstream against the current and will of the river, trailering the boat, and throwing gear into the truck bed— broke the night’s spell and made Frank worry about getting home to his wife. He left her alone many nights, even now, but always to fish. Still, Ethel was not as strong as she once was. Years ago they’d owned a dog they kept tied to the barn, but it’d died a long time ago and these days there was nothing around to protect her. He hadn’t worried all those hours they’d been fishing, but now they weren’t, and he just wanted to get home and make sure she was all right.

Frank took Chub to his house but couldn’t leave until he’d looked at his old garden tiller. Frank knew the routine—Chub would find anything he could to postpone being left alone. Even though Frank was tired and knew she’d be waiting lunch on him, he had to take a look, at least. Chub had been talking about his tiller the entire drive home.

“It ran fine last week but now the old girl is actin like she got fed bad gas,” Chub was saying. “Yesterday I couldn’t start it.”

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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 Ten

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

By the time Summer finally reached for her milkshake, Ollie thought, enjoy your warm milk. Watching Spring go after her miniature cone was like seeing a possum turned loose on the buffet tables. Ice cream was smeared on her hands, face and hair, and he’d watched as a dollop flew from her finger over his head. Summer about had to make napkin-handling a full-time job. He sat across from them and played with his empty cup. At least the crowd had gone and they were alone at the tables.

“Darn. I think it’s going to rain on us,” Summer said, looking out at the sky over the Dairy Queen parking lot.

“Nah, not today,” he said, examining the clouds.

“So, if you’re named after a tractor, I guess you grew up on a farm?”

“Yeah, pretty much. My folks still live out there. It’s north of town a good ways. My dad, he don’t do the work anymore though.”

“Do you do it?”

He snorted. “Hell no. They rent it out.” He looked at the baby. She was getting fidgety. “What’s your dad do?” he asked.

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Gregory Schwipps Indiana University Press ePub

The corn out this way had grown even in the last week. Now it reached the hood of the truck, and the last time he’d come out here it was barely as high as the wheel wells. Corn lining the ditches on both sides of the road like armies of uniformed and muted soldiers. A breeze through the humid air would’ve been enough to move their leaves but there was none. The crop companies were adding more chemicals to the seed anymore, and corn was tougher as a result. Drought? Floods? The corn could withstand it all, they told you. But when everyone’s corn looked good the prices fell. Sometimes the prices went to hell no matter what the fields looked like. Last summer this road had been flanked by soybeans, and they’d turned out pretty decent. Every season you rotated the crop and waited to see what the world thought of your plans.

Frank drove between the fields of corn and thought about nothing but the fact that they aimed to take his land. He was aware of the corn, the road, and the big pothole coming up on the right the way a bear was conscious of its winter den after sleeping in it for months.

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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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