after Charles Reznikoff's, 'Testimony'




Nine Very Short Stories

 

I

 

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.

 

II

 

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.

 

III

 

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.

 

IV

 

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. 

 

V

 

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.

 

VI

 

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.

 

VII

 

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.

 

VIII

 

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.

 

IX

 

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 The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 83 times
star mini Editors' choice
Written on 2016-12-30 at 23:29

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Editorial Team The PoetBay support member heart!
This text has been chosen to be featured on the home page of PoetBay. Thank you for posting it on our poetry website!
2017-01-01


Kathy Lockhart The PoetBay support member heart!
Holy Sh*t! Please don't take this down! SK doesn't have anything on you. All those people in your head...its must get really loud! Dang! I'm spinning around in this whirlwind of madness and love it. It's that creepy, "Heeeere's Johnny!," American Gothic, sort of magnetic draw that gets me and holds me and makes my skin crawl. I really enjoyed the ride. "Riding On The Storm." I can hear the Doors singing that throughout.
2016-12-31


Lawrence Beck
These have "Ozarks" written all over them, and they're enormously entertaining. I might like the last one best.
2016-12-30