See Disclaimer Below.

Posts Tagged ‘The Bellingham Review’

What They Left, Part Two

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Short Story, Writing on July 6, 2012 at 8:45 am

A.G. Harmon is a professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.  He received his J.D. from The University of Tennessee, his M.A. from The University of New Hampshire, and his Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America.  A nominee for The Pushcart Prize in the essay, he was a 1998-1999 Richard Weaver Graduate Fellow and winner of the 1995 Glen Writers Fellowship.  He received the 1994 Milton Center Postgraduate Writing Fellowship and was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2003. His novel A House All Stilled (The University of Tennessee Press, 2002) was awarded The Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel in 2002 and was nominated for the Virginia Literary Prize and the Pen-Hemingway Award. His novel Fortnight was the runner-up for The William Faulkner Prize for the Novel in 2007. His book on the law in Shakespeare, Eternal Bonds, True Contracts: Law and Nature in Shakespeare’s Problem Plays, was published by State University of New York Press in 2004.

The following story first appeared in The Bellingham Review, Volume XXIX, no. 1, Issue 57 (2006) and is reprinted with express permission from the author.

…continued from part one….

“You sell car parts—and shit like that?” the policeman had asked. He leaned against the iron post that held up the front porch.

“That’s right.”

“You own that junk stand? Up there on the road?

He was fat and sweaty and smelled of green after-shave. He chewed stick after stick of gum. Another policeman, bony, with a mustache as thin as a boy’s, sat on the front step. He dug dog shit from the soles of his patent leather shoes with a piece of tree bark.

“I sell parts,” he had answered.

“Must be doing pretty good, if you’re this busy,” the fat one said.

“It’s never too good.”

“Well, must be. You were there instead of here.”

He unwrapped the foil from a white stick of gum—spearmint—and shoved it into his full mouth. “Why’d you leave him, in the state he was in?”

“I have to work.”

The fat man frowned, squinted. “He stays—stayed—here while you were at work?”

“Yes.”

“You couldn’t get nobody to stay with him? In the state he’s in?”

“No.”

The man popped his gum. “How long did he stay alone?”

“‘Til I got done.” Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

What They Left, Part One

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Short Story, Writing on July 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

A.G. Harmon is a professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.  He received his J.D. from The University of Tennessee, his M.A. from The University of New Hampshire, and his Ph.D. in English from The Catholic University of America.  A nominee for The Pushcart Prize in the essay, he was a 1998-1999 Richard Weaver Graduate Fellow and winner of the 1995 Glen Writers Fellowship.  He received the 1994 Milton Center Postgraduate Writing Fellowship and was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2003. His novel A House All Stilled (The University of Tennessee Press, 2002) was awarded The Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel in 2002 and was nominated for the Virginia Literary Prize and the Pen-Hemingway Award. His novel Fortnight was the runner-up for The William Faulkner Prize for the Novel in 2007. His book on the law in Shakespeare, Eternal Bonds, True Contracts: Law and Nature in Shakespeare’s Problem Plays, was published by State University of New York Press in 2004.

The following story first appeared in The Bellingham Review, Volume XXIX, no. 1, Issue 57 (2006) and is reprinted with express permission from the author. 

What They Left

Each call stood out from the next: a soft moan, a low horn, rising. The man’s head lifted an inch. His eyes wrinkled at the corners. His tongue touched the top of his palate, as if he smelled fire.

There was nothing to keep him from his work except these sounds, and even they only made him pause for a moment—turn small, keen eyes toward the line of hills, colored black in the last orange light, from which the sounds seemed to come. Then he returned to his labor.

A pen-light hung from the raised hood of the car’s engine, where his hands—the knuckles scabbed and some bleeding—toiled inside the motor. His flesh was raw and cracked and chapped from too much wind, too much weather without gloves, too little idleness.

He had lived past his middle age at the end of this tree-lined road. He had cut the way himself, a narrow alley leading from his back door, through the rear of his property, and ending at his store on the highway. There he sold old things, used things, gathered together by function, then by size, then by cost. Besides him, the only people that used the road were those who abandoned things alongside it. He did not know when it had become a castaway point, but it had happened slowly, and he had noticed it, slowly. After a time, as he made his way home, he began to find iceboxes, dishwashers, gates, air conditioners, lengths of fence, rolls of barbed wire. In the end, weeds took them.

Sometimes he would stop to see if he wanted any of the discarded things for himself—to salvage, reclaim, sell. If anything could be saved, he would slip back at night with a pulley and tackle, winch it against a tree, then slide what he wanted up from the ditch. Sometimes people got there before him though, so he had to work fast. Other times people took back what they had left. Once, at his store, a man claimed a tiller that had taken three days to fix:

“This is mine,” the man had said, his eyes bright, sharp. “I can tell.”

He shook his head, widened his stance so that his body stood at an angle to the other.

“I found it on the road.”

“It’s mine.”

“Not now.”

The other had placed his hand on the plastic grip, leaned over the top of the thing, glared: “You stole it. Prove you didn’t.”

So he had learned. He had to be careful of what he touched. He had to change things, just enough.

This time, though, they had worked too quickly, had been interrupted. He himself might have surprised them, coming down the road. He was thin, but tall, so his feet hit the earth hard and loud as he walked, grinding in the chert. They could have heard him a long way off. Nothing else accounted for how much they had left. The stereo had been slipped out, and some of the engine broken free, but he could work with what remained. It lay, piece by piece, cupped inside his hands; cold and slick and greasy; with his tools, it could be made to tick and turn warm.

It was only a day or so there; not even that. It had come to his notice that morning, as he walked to work. He might have overlooked it, had not the first of the sun picked out lights in the black paint. The car had been left off the shoulder, down a bank and beside a stand of pines.

His wrench slid over a bolt deep beneath the battery plate. It was a tight fit, but it caught the bolt’s angles. After several yanks, the wrench fell into the familiar release and give of loosening. If all went well, the engine would start soon, with new plugs and a new fan for the radiator. He would have to decide what to do with it then, though. The law would come into play. He could not say how, but he would have to decide.

His cap made his head hot. He pulled his hands out of the body and pushed his hat’s bill back from his brow. He thought for a moment and ran his fingers over whiskers, three days grown. He raked them back and forth. The bite warmed his face.

There was more to do, but not now. In the morning, then.

It was a small climb up from the stash of trees back to the road. He picked up a bucket of greasy tools, held the light between his teeth, and clawed at the grass with his free hand to keep his purchase. Once there, he took the light from his mouth and shined it in the direction he would take. The beam bobbed before him as he walked—a soft, collapsing tunnel through the dark. The tools jangled in the bucket.

The sounds returned: Two. Three. Silence.

He marched on through three more calls, and rests, and calls, before he stopped and spun toward them, swiveling on his down heel. He stared into the woods for a moment—a gray, ashen blue—then commenced to walk. He kept up the same stride as before, but with the hills facing.

There was no point going on until his mind was free. They might have come back—keys in hand. And he would not surrender his work to theirs. It was no more theirs than his.

He stopped to glance back at the car, then slowly ran his light down its length, fender to bumper, marking the body.

It was almost lost in the dark, now. It would take a man with a light, now.

To find the sounds he would have to crawl down the opposite bank, which fell off at a stiff grade. The light and the bucket together would be too much to carry. He would need a free hand to compensate, so he set the bucket down and drew out a hammer by its claw. He hefted it twice, then once more—once for each sound he had heard—and sat himself on the bank’s edge. He went belly first, sliding, the damp ground pressing through his clothes, kissing at his skin. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: