Struck by Willow Lawn
By Paisley Hibou
Henrico County, December 31: Predzel Hawtorne, 84, no more.
Killed by a Honda Civic the last and starry Monday night of 2013.
West Broad Street halted long enough for his body to be collected.
Downtown, the Medical College of Virginia pronounced him dead.
“Late night, brakes lock, hear the tire squeal.”/Thrice,
Ten years earlier, The Artist in the Ambulance.
You fired Mike Shanahan; why don’t you pow-wow and fire your name?
You say you play a game of pigskin but racism is your preferred game.
“Founded 1932” should be no excuse for your abuse of many nations--
or do you not care, obsessed with the ratings on the television stations?
Washington, you had a 3-13 season because you angered the Great Spirit.
In October, tribal leaders called for change, yet you didn’t want to hear it.
“Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”*
By Jody Rathgeb
It seemed fitting that Old Lucas came with a song and a story. He was the complete package. If I’d been directing a movie about this island, about Ben and me moving here, I’d have cast him on the spot. He was so perfectly the colorful old islander imparting wisdom to the American newcomers: long, angular face like an African carving, one silver tooth in a mouthful of crags, hands like garden rakes. He even kept his green workpants on his skinny frame with a piece of rope that also tied a machete to his waist.
We actually did hire him on the spot, as our yard man. The local builders had left chunks of concrete, nails and asphalt shingles among the rocks and scrub, so getting the place into shape was going to be a big job, and Ben would be busy setting up his tech firm. Lucas happened along at the right time.
“I know dis place. I born over der.” He waved one of those big hands vaguely. “An’ I knows de plants what will grow.”
Ben looked at me, and I shrugged a yes. The island wasn’t big enough or developed enough for landscape companies, so we had to move on instinct and trust. The old guy seemed strong and capable enough. Ben hired him, they agreed on a price and Lucas was told to come by in the morning for instructions. But Lucas wasn’t ready to leave just yet.
“Yeah, dis spot ready for growin’. Dis where Delia shot, you know.”
He said it so cheerfully that I couldn’t help being intrigued. “Someone was shot? Here? When?”
“Yeah, yeah. Long time. Dey was a bar here, a illegal bar. An’ Cooney was here an’ Delia found ’im.” Lucas straightened, dropped his arms to his sides and began singing:
Delia found Cooney
On a Saturday night.
She cut him such a wicked tongue
He said he’d have her life.
Delia gone, one more round, Delia gone.
First time he shot her,
She took it in the side.
Second time he shot her,
She fell down and died.
Delia gone, one more round, Delia gone.
He stopped and winked at me. “I sing you more another time. An’ I bush man, too.”
And then he left. I would learn that he never bothered with goodbyes, but at the time it was startling. Ben and I wondered if we’d hired a character or just a nut, and doubted he’d show up the next day.
He did, though, and proved to be a hard and faithful worker. So much so that I began to feel guilty watching him from the house. As he cleared debris and hoisted rocks, I noticed how really old he was. This was like asking my grandfather to do hard labor. I put on my gardening gloves and joined him.
He scowled at me as I bent over and began tossing rocks into his wheelbarrow.
“No, no! My job! You no want to hurt baby in you.”
I blushed. “I’m not pregnant,” I stammered, wondering where he’d gotten the idea. People were always telling me I was too skinny, so I knew I didn’t look pregnant.
“Maybe not yet. But you want a baby.” He smiled at me in the way all the medical people had, full of vicarious hope and encouragement. I could feel my face get even hotter. How dare they smile that way when it just wasn’t happening? How dare he? And how could he have guessed?
Reading my anger, Lucas turned his attention to the rocky yard. We both worked in silence a while, and then he began to sing.
We all called for the doctor.
He came dressed in black.
He did all those doctor tings,
But he couldn’t bring Delia back.
Delia gone, one more round, Delia gone.
Curiosity overcame my snit. “So who are these people? Is the story real?”
This was apparently the opening he wanted. He straightened from his task and smoothed his hair. “Oh, yeah, it real. Happened long time ago, when there were a village here. Plantation people gone.”
Ben and I had learned early on that our land was once planted in cotton by American Loyalists, who then, because of weevils, abandoned both the plantations and their slaves—no doubt Lucas’ ancestors. But there’d been no mention of a village and I saw no evidence of one.
“What happened to the village?”
The Cemetery on Christmas Eve
By Starling Root
Lips ravaged by raccoons and eyes gouged by curious ravens--
Dennis Bullock had his face laid out as a days-long scavengers’ feast
beneath the unseasonably hot December sun and the Yuletide moon.
54 years old, a mechanic, an alcoholic, a drug addict gone too soon.
A passerby, anonymous, came across the Northside man in Riverview,
the little sister cemetery to Hollywood off of South Randolph Street,
where dark trees and monstrous vines and sinister mushrooms lie.
His body had begun to decompose amongst the older dead in the heat,
the stink of foul play on his flesh and bones, as he was nearly naked,
leaving the world behind wearing only his boxer shorts.
The Possum Who Cheated
One morning a possum encountered a jinn while strolling through the woods. The jinn wore large, billowy pants and no shirt. Gold rings hung from the jinn's nipples. Being in an agreeable mood, the jinn offered the possum three wishes.
"It's your lucky day," said the jinn. "For today I offer you three wishes. Anything your heart desires, all you must do is ask."
The possum looked at the jinn. The possum saw stars.
The possum thought for a moment, then made a decision. "A new hut would be nice," said the possum.
"Done," said the jinn. "When you get home, a new hut will be standing in place of the old one. If it is not to your liking, just snap your fingers and I will appear."
"Thank you," said the possum.
"Now, two more, my friend. Use them wisely."
The jinn beamed, happy to help.
The possum thought a moment. He placed his paws behind his back and paced back and forth. He stopped.
"Yes?" said the jinn.
"A new fishing pole would be nice," said the possum.
A bamboo pole appeared in the possum's hand.
"There you are," said the jinn, beaming. "Now, just one more wish. Choose wisely, my friend."
The possum answered immediately. "I wish for three more wishes," he said.
"I'm sorry," said the jinn. "You may wish for anything but that."
"But you said anything—"
"Here, try again. I won't count that one."
The possum looked back at the trail he had followed. It was dark, but he knew the way.
Slowly turning around, the possum began the trek back home.
"Wait," said the jinn. "Where are you going?"
The possum did not answer.
When the possum got home it was just as the jinn said. A new hut stood in place of the old one. The possum looked it over. It was much nicer than the old one. The roof didn't sag on one side.
But the possum was still angry at being cheated and snapped his fingers.
The jinn appeared. "I knew you could not resist," he said. The jinn somersaulted around the hut. "You've made me so happy!"
"Take it," the possum said. "Take the hut, take the pole. Take it all back. I don't want it."
"But my friend, I'm giving them to you. They're yours. Don't you like them?"
"I don't like cheaters," the possum said.
"But my friend—"
In place of the new hut, the old one appeared. On one side the roof was caved in. The door hung crookedly.
"You're sure?" the jinn said, tears welling in his eyes.
"Good day," said the possum, and slammed the crooked door.
The jinn cried for days.
Mark McKee is from the American south. It's even creepier than Faulkner said. You can find his work here.
Fire and Ice—Cremation Delights
On this day in 1943
Fire and Ice battled you see
Over caskets, made and sold
in Richmond City of old
The Spencer Caskets building did burn
and fire fighters tried to spurn
the flames with water but no luck
it turned to ice once leaving the truck
I wonder about these things
climate change and bells that clang
old buildings that burned so swift
and industries that here no longer exist
When your caskets do burn down
an idea perhaps comes to your town
to burn the dead instead of bury
To me, I'm not sure which is more scary
Fire and Ice had their day
and in these times cremation holds sway
for we are running out of space
and cemeteries sure take up the place
The icebergs melt the climate changes
perhaps my thoughts are all deranged
as I envision an elemental battle
fire, ice, and my deathly prattle.
The Young Couple
By Kay Feathers
They met in high school like every love song cliché
Coquette locker conversations, dates made after class
Living in a city they adored more and more each day
But they moved away for college, not noting time pass
When they graduated, they dreamt of returning home
to the streets and shops and skies that they once knew
with suitcases and salaries and a car trimmed with chrome
Yet rental application after rental application was rejected
and the sweethearts bid adieu to Washington, dejected
Sitting up straight and smiling as they drove to Baltimore