after Charles Reznikoff's, 'Testimony'
Nine Very Short Stories
A man named Junior waited for a dry March day,
windy, then set fire to the woods. He said
it cleared the underbrush and killed the ticks. The fire
spread because he didn't watch the fire or care.
It spread and burned the neighbors' woods and more.
When Junior divorced his wife he burned down
her house for the insurance.
Junior's son hated his father for his drunken ways,
and said, "if you ever come around I will kill you."
But when Junior's son's tractor failed to start, the son
poured diesel fuel on his tractor and burned it for the insurance.
When Junior's son's son grew spiteful, the son's son burned down
the neighbor's hay barn, just to watch it burn,
then he burned his girlfriend's house for stepping out.
Nobody stood up to the family, and the sheriff was afraid of them.
Junior died, his son died, and the son's son took to meth
and thievery and making babies.
A certain kind of woman likes a certain kind of man.
There is no end to that bunch, they make boys.
A man named Carl worked at country gas station
changing tires and brake pads, but somebody
hired him to manage a ranch, though he didn't know
anything about ranching except what his daddy taught him.
Carl and his wife Fonda had a basset hound they kept tied up
to a light pole outside the house.
There was a burn barrel tipped on its side, with straw in it,
for winter shelter, and a water bowl and a bowl of food,
but the dog could never reach any of it because it walked
around the light pole until its chain was wound tight.
One day the hired man came and said, "there's a cow calving
and it ain't comin' right," so Carl and the hired man
went down to see, and saw that the calf was too big for the cow.
The cow was stretched out on her side, heaving and panting.
The calf's feet were showing, but that's all.
Carl hitched one end of a chain around the cow's neck,
and the other end he wrapped around a stout oak tree.
Then he took another chain, and a come-along, and hooked
the come-along to the calf's feet, and one end of the chain
to the come-along, and the other end to another stout oak tree.
Then he cranked on the come-along until the cow's neck
was stretched tight, and the calf's legs were all but pulled off.
When it wouldn't come Carl took to jumping up and down
on the taut chain, giggling like a school girl.
The cow died and the calf died.
One day a bulldozer came to knock down some out-buildings,
and as the dozer knocked the out-buildings off their foundations
Carl ran around with a broken piece of wood, laughing
and smashing mice as they ran out from the foundations.
One day an Angus bull went through a fence into a hayfield.
Carl and the hired man went after the bull on horses,
only there wasn't a proper gate in the hayfield, just a little gap
in a corner that the bull couldn't see.
Carl and the hired man ran the bull up and down the fence,
but the bull couldn't find the gap, and was panicked, and pushed
against the barbwire fence until the bull's sides were flayed
and the wooden fence posts were painted red with blood.
The hired man stopped and tried to get Carl to stop,
but Carl wouldn't stop until he had run the bull through the fence.
He thought it was a good joke.
After the new manager came Carl quit and got religion.
He preaches on Wednesday nights and Sundays.
One day the dozer man came early, and it was winter
and frosty and just daylight, and he was greasing the dozer
when he heard a woman's voice call for help.
The dozer man went to help the woman and she
was hiding in a brush pile and she was naked and cold.
The dozer man gave her his coat and asked what
was wrong. The woman said her husband beat her
and ran her out of the house in the middle of the night.
One day a man named Charles went hunting
for squirrels and didn't come home. A search party
went out and found him dead. He'd shot himself,
but no one could say for sure if it was an accident.
Junior had a brother or a cousin named Ed
who was a good man. Ed had a hardscrabble farm
on a hillside that was more rock than not.
One day Ed was on his tractor going over the ground
with his brush-hog when the tractor rolled over,
but Ed wasn't hurt too bad even though he only had one leg
from the motorcycle accident that killed his wife.
But later he rolled the tractor on the same hillside
and it killed him.
There was a couple named Newell that lived in the country.
They were good Christian people and they adopted a little girl
and a little boy that weren't quite right.
The children grew up. The daughter married a man that wasn't quite right,
but the son disappeared.
Junior's son said he knew that the man Newell had burned up
the boy in his wood stove.
He said he could smell the stink of him on the wind.
Two men named Jack and Larry owned the local sale barn.
They were best friends and did everything together
and had a lot of laughs. But the sale barn went bust
and each blamed the other, and they never spoke after that.
There used to be an old shack out in the country
that they called a tavern or a dance club,
but it was just an old shack where they sold licker.
A man named Drennon took his wife there on Friday nights
and sold her for a nickle-a-pop behind the shack.
A man name Alis Ben Johns went on a spree
and killed several people.
They tracked him down to Benton County where he hid
in the woods and lived by stealing food from unlocked houses
(everyone left their house unlocked so Alis Ben Johns
would help himself and not kill them, and everyone left their keys
in their cars in hope that he would steal their car and make a get-away),
but he just stole food and hid in the woods for a long time.
Then one day he went in a house, and someone saw him go in
and called the sheriff, but the sheriff said he was busy
and wouldn't come out and get him, so Alis Ben Johns got away.
They finally caught him and now he is in prison.
Poetry by jim
Read 83 times
Written on 2016-12-30 at 23:29
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