posted Sep 2, 2008

After Topeka, Peppard wrote to say it was smoother sailing. The glaciations left by receded seas were themselves gone from the land. The hills lay down on the job like Welshmen, he wrote. Geo read the letter on the boardwalk out front, under the sign lettered Geo. Bowen, Undertaker - Furniture Maker - Sheriff. The sun cut under the low shake awning. He lit the wad of corn silk in his pipe and tamped it with his right thumb. Peppard also sent word of a new schoolteacher in Osawkee who’d not take drink but would dance. Geo finished the letter and folded it into the pocket of his bibs. Back inside the shop smelled of sawn pine and shellac. The new smell of the new dead of the west. From a shelf, behind the bins of pulled nails waiting to be straightened and retempered, he took down a mason jar. There was raw white from a still up in Atchison and Peppard was disappeared west in a wagon with a sail. His good old sod whiskey gone with him. Geo had planed the schooner’s two masts himself out of mean hickory. He’d pulled his left thumb half out of socket carving a through mortise. Now it throbbed. He took a swallow from the jar and set it back out of sight within reach. So the bog trotter was set sail for Denver. Setting course by the stars. Sailing past pretty young schoolteachers like mermaids in the grass. Bowen took down his bin of nails and began to beat them straight, pinching the nails with his good thumb, swinging the hammer in his left hand. It hardly came as a surprise then when the hammer fell out of true and struck the meaty part of his right palm. He did not call out. We will not ever call out to you. He saw stars.

Craig Davis’s fiction has recently found its way into Pindeldyboz, elimae, and other outlets. His story “The Shadow Knows the Corner, the Corner Knows the Dust,” which first appeared in Issue 24, was included in the Dzanc Books anthology Best of the Web 2008. Originally from Topeka, he now lives in Kansas City with his wife and sons. For more info, visit his website.