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Content Categorized ‘Fiction’

Parkway

We find bodies all the time. Lots of folks come up here to die or kill, or get killed. My first one came in the summer. We were up Back Branch, near the Virginia border, where the treeline thickens above the bald. It was me and Coralis, who trained me when I started with the Park Service. Coralis taught me pretty much my whole job, and the only part I’ve ever questioned is whether he taught me how to deal with the living and the dead the right way around.

That first time, Coralis and me were heading from Back Branch to Sugar Knob. This was back in ’83, my first month on the job, before I got my own vehicle. I was one of the only woman rangers in the whole state then. We were heading north, coming out of an early morning fog, and we saw a flash off to the right, like a gleam off somebody’s smile in those old toothpaste commercials. We thought that was strange with it so gray and misty, so we checked it out. 

Coralis pulled over in the grass near a mile marker—the old stones, white and square, the ones you see all along the whole length of the parkway. When tourists first see them, they pull over to take pictures, touch the hand-carved numbers, but after a while they stop caring and ignore them. Those markers look to me like little headstones, so I think people get creeped out after too many. 

Ouro Preto

The summer before my senior year of college, I spent far too many of my waking hours in the basement of the state natural-science museum, rarely leaving, even for meals. During my lunch break, I sat eating red licorice under the yellow orb of a desk lamp, turning pale and flaccid as a mushroom.

“You need something with some damn nutrition to it,” my boss, Bill, would say, jabbing a thick finger at me as I chewed plasticky chunks. But he had a MoonPie with Sun Drop for lunch himself, so my eating habits felt like an act of solidarity.

Bill was a geologist whose Twitter handle was @DrRocks and who played in a prog rock band on the weekends. I was his summer research assistant, having taken the job with little idea as to what it would actually entail but knowing it was the least popular option each year on the university’s summer work board. Mostly, I’d taken it as a sort of punishment. I wasn’t a geology major; I’d taken one class as a freshman to fulfill a science requirement: “Rocks for Jocks,” people called it. As summer drew near, though, I’d allowed myself to imagine some possibility of adventure: the geologist and myself, hiking over hillsides together, delving into hidden seams of mineral deposits, plundering the earth, the jumble of ruby and kyanite and hiddenite in my hands like cool, disinterested eyes. By the end of such a summer, I’d find myself strong-legged and sun-browned from the fieldwork, restored.

The Clown of Rome

John was coming from St. Peter’s. Steph had never mentioned St. Peter’s in her emails, so going there had been okay. When he reached the empty street along San Spirito Hospital, he spotted the man, chubby, bearded, with thinning hair.

Make No Sound to Wake

Evening gusts moved shadows and air the dogs couldn’t smell. This late into Niłch’ih Tsoh, with the ground buried beneath three day’s snow, two mutts curled for warmth inside a scrap-wood shelter built against the northeast side of a hogan.

Foreigners

No, ma’am, I cannot disclose to you where in the States we will return to. I must remind you that I’m the only one allowed to ask questions here. I shall make a note of your interest in my future whereabouts. Please wipe off your look of alarm and stop digging your fingers into your husband’s arm. This is merely common procedure.

Natural Disasters

For the entirety of our brief time in the state, what few trees there were seemed to me to have a wavering, shimmering quality, as if they were projections you could slide your hand through. In lofty moments I think I saw my own presence there the same way. I loved Oklahoma because it had nothing to do with me.