Southernmost, by Silas House

I've been look­ing for­ward to a new Silas House nov­el for years now. I've fol­lowed his career since I pub­lished his work in Night Train, and was extreme­ly proud to have his blurb for my col­lec­tion Most­ly Red­neck. His nov­els reveal the best of Appalachia, the pow­er of fam­i­ly, and most of all a rev­er­ence for music and the nat­ur­al world that con­tin­ues to make me feel good when I reread them, which I do every few years. Like Chris Offutt and Chris Hol­brook and Lee Smith and Breece Pan­cake, he writes a world and peo­ple I rec­og­nize in my bones, though the accent's a lit­tle dif­fer­ent where I grew up in the very north­ern tip of Appalachia. Algonquin's pro­mo mate­r­i­al for the new Silas nov­el South­ern­most fol­lows, and I encour­age you all to check it out when it comes out in June.

When a flood wash­es away much of a small com­mu­ni­ty along the Cum­ber­land Riv­er in Ten­nessee, Ash­er Sharp, an evan­gel­i­cal preach­er there, starts to see his life anew. He has already lost a broth­er due to his inabil­i­ty to embrace his brother’s com­ing out of the clos­et. Now, in the after­math of the flood, he tries to offer shel­ter to two gay men, but he’s met with resis­tance by his wife. Furi­ous about her prej­u­dice, Ash­er deliv­ers a ser­mon where he pas­sion­ate­ly defends the right of gay peo­ple to exist with­out condemnation.

In the heat­ed bat­tle that ensues, Ash­er los­es his job, his wife, and cus­tody of his son, Justin. As Ash­er wor­ries over what will become of the boy, whom his wife is deter­mined to con­trol, he decides to kid­nap Justin and take him to Key West, where he sus­pects that his estranged broth­er is now liv­ing. It’s there that Ash­er and Justin see a new way of think­ing and loving.

South­ern­most is a ten­der and heart­break­ing nov­el about love and its con­se­quences, both with­in the South and beyond.


"In Silas House’s mov­ing new nov­el, a pas­tor wres­tles with a cri­sis not just of faith but of all the appar­ent cer­tain­ties of his life: a cri­sis of mar­riage, of com­mu­ni­ty, of father­hood. This is a nov­el of painful, final­ly rev­e­la­to­ry awak­en­ing, of fierce love and nec­es­sary dis­as­ter, of the brav­ery required to escape the prison of our days, to make a bet­ter and more wor­thy life.”—Garth Green­well, author of What Belongs to You

This beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed nov­el brims with a spir­it of hope­ful human­i­ty as one man’s effort to make him­self a bet­ter per­son casts rip­ples in the world around him."
—Charles Fra­zier, author of Vari­na

South­ern­most engages my most deeply hid­den fears and hopes. Silas House has all the gifts of a pas­sion­ate sto­ry­teller, and to this book he adds the heart­felt con­vic­tions of a man will­ing to voice what we so sel­dom see in print—the ways in which with all good inten­tions we can mess up and go wrong, and only lat­er try to sort out how we can win our own redemp­tion. I love this book, and for it, I love Silas House.”
—Dorothy Alli­son, author of Bas­tard Out of Carolina

A spir­i­tu­al jour­ney, a love sto­ry, and a clas­sic road nov­el … With its themes of accep­tance and equal­i­ty, South­ern­most holds a spe­cial mean­ing for Amer­i­ca right now, with rel­e­vance even beyond its mem­o­rable story.”
—Lee Smith, author of Dime­store

Silas House's char­ac­ters are as real to me as my own fam­i­ly. South­ern­most is a nov­el for our time, a coura­geous and nec­es­sary book."
—Jen­nifer Haigh, author of Heat and Light

South­ern­most is an emo­tion­al tsuna­mi. The clas­sic themes of great lit­er­a­ture writ­ten about fam­i­ly life are upend­ed here in a mod­ern twist as a father and son flee one life in search of anoth­er; as estranged broth­ers sep­a­rat­ed by time and their judge­ment of one anoth­er seek redemp­tion and through the women in their lives, antag­o­nists in the strug­gle who become grace notes on the road to redemp­tion. This is a sto­ry of faith lost and love found, and what we must throw over­board on the jour­ney in order to keep mov­ing. A treasure."
—Adri­ana Tri­giani, author of Kiss Car­lo

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Governor Seeks to Kill University Press of Kentucky?

Please don't let this hap­pen.  From Scott Jaschik at Inside High­er Ed.

Ken­tucky gov­er­nor Matt Bevin has pro­posed that some 70 small pro­grams in the state bud­get be com­plete­ly elim­i­nat­ed — as he also has pro­posed across-the-board cuts of around 6 per­cent for pub­lic high­er edu­ca­tion and most oth­er state functions.

Bevin, a Repub­li­can, has cit­ed tight state bud­gets and has not spo­ken on spe­cif­ic pro­grams he would elim­i­nate. But word spread this week­end that one of his tar­gets was the Uni­ver­si­ty Press of Ken­tucky, and many authors and schol­ars have react­ed with alarm.

While the press is based at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky, it is not affil­i­at­ed with that insti­tu­tion alone. Rather, it works with all the state's pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties as well as a num­ber of pri­vate col­leges, include Bel­larmine Uni­ver­si­ty and Berea and Cen­tre Col­leges. The press pub­lish­es more than 50 books a year and is con­sid­ered par­tic­u­lar­ly strong in schol­ar­ship on the state, in Civ­il War and oth­er mil­i­tary his­to­ry, and in vol­umes that relate to the his­to­ry and cul­ture of Appalachia.

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Quick Hits–Paul D. Brazill

This post intro­duces some­thing I hope will become a fea­ture here at Fried Chick­en and Cof­fee, quick inter­views with writ­ers in the crime or rural/Appalachian fic­tion scenes, and short takes on what­ev­er writ­ers I'm obsessed with at the moment. First on this list is Paul D. Brazill, whose work I've known of for some time via Twit­ter and oth­er places. His 2012 arti­cle Brit Grit intro­duced me to a num­ber of new writ­ers on the oth­er side of the pond, and I've asked him just a a few ques­tions here, not want­i­ng to take up too much of his valu­able writ­ing and teach­ing time.

Paul D. Brazill's books include A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brix­ton, Too Many Crooks, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in Eng­land and lives in Poland. His writ­ing has been trans­lat­ed into Ital­ian, Ger­man and Slovene. He has had stuff pub­lished in var­i­ous mag­a­zines and antholo­gies, includ­ing The Mam­moth Books of Best British Crime

In your 2012 Brit Grit blog post, you ref­er­ence Ted Lewis as the father of the move­ment. In what ways do you see his lin­eage in today's crop of writers?

I think it’s in the tim­bre of the writ­ing — peo­ple like Ray Banks, Char­lie Williams and Allan Guthrie, for exam­ple, have a strong sense of the absurd. The ridicu­lous­ness of every­day life. There is also a real focus on char­ac­ter – minor char­ac­ters, the set­tings, the dia­logue, are all well-drawn. 

I’ve said before that I think the dif­fer­ence between crime fic­tion and noir is that crime fic­tion is about bring­ing order to chaos and noir is about bring­ing chaos to order. Or even mak­ing the chaot­ic more so!

So, Brit Grit is clos­er to noir, I think, since even the most real­is­tic police pro­ce­dur­al is still a pater­nal pat on the head. 

You men­tion Gareth Spark and Paul Heat­ley as two cur­rent exem­plars. Which books of theirs do you rec­om­mend? Would you name some oth­er small press prac­ti­tion­ers who should be bet­ter known?

Marwick’s Reck­on­ing by Gareth Spark and An Eye For An Eye by Paul Heat­ley are both great and are pub­lished by Near To The Knuck­le who have also pub­lished Ian Ayris’ bril­liant One Day In The Life Of Jason Dean. All three books are rich­ly writ­ten. Full of light and shade. Also, check out Mar­tin Stan­ley, Robert Cow­an, Tom Leins, Aidan Thorn, LA Sykes, Julie Mor­ri­g­an. There are plen­ty of oth­ers too!

Where would you place your own work in the Brit Grit spec­trum? Who do you look up to?

I’m the light relief. The court jester. A tad bit­ter­sweet, maybe, but I write to enter­tain. The Brit Grit writ­ers I’ve took most from are prob­a­bly Char­lie Williams and Tony Black’s Gus Dury books.

What books are you most look­ing for­ward to in 2018?

I’m just keep­ing a beady, bleary eye out but any­thing by the above writers.

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Ernest Matthew Mickler's White Trash Cooking

by  Michael Adno/Bitter Southerner

In the 1980s, some folks wrote off Ernie Mick­ler, author of “White Trash Cook­ing,” as a yay­hoo curios­i­ty. Oth­ers thought him one of the most bril­liant South­ern folk­lorists and pho­tog­ra­phers of the 20th cen­tu­ry. But per­haps most impor­tant­ly, Mick­ler left behind a tes­ta­ment to the fact that all South­ern­ers — even those at the mar­gins — have a right to claim their roots.

In spring of 1986, Ernest “Ernie” Matthew Mickler’s “White Trash Cook­ing” land­ed on book­shelves across Amer­i­ca — a 160-page, spi­ral-bound anthol­o­gy of South­ern recipes, sto­ries, and photographs. 

Odd­ly enough, damned near every­one loved it. It was imme­di­ate­ly revered by lit­er­ary snobs, South­ern aris­to­crats, Yan­kees, folk­lorists, down-home folk, and peo­ple on either side of the Mason-Dixon.

The book stirred a firestorm of pub­lic­i­ty — part­ly seri­ous, part­ly tongue-in-cheek — land­ing Ernie on “Late Night With David Let­ter­man” and Nation­al Pub­lic Radio, in mag­a­zines like Vogue and Peo­ple, and in a litany of news­pa­pers. In The New York Times, crit­ic Bryan Miller deemed “White Trash Cook­ing” the “most intrigu­ing book of the 1986 spring cook­book sea­son.” Even the grand dame of South­ern lit­er­a­ture, Harp­er Lee, claimed she had “nev­er seen a soci­o­log­i­cal doc­u­ment of such beau­ty  —  the pho­tographs alone are shat­ter­ing.” She called the book “a beau­ti­ful tes­ta­ment to a stub­born peo­ple of proud and poignant heritage.”


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January Sale Down & Out Books

My pub­lish­er, Shot­gun Hon­ey, oper­ates under the umbrel­la of Down & Out Books. D&O is run­ning a 99-cent sale on two ebooks, for a lim­it­ed time only. D&O has estab­lished itself as a clear­ing­house for great crime fic­tion in all its iter­a­tions and I knew that before I came to be part of the fam­i­ly, so you can trust me on these. Vis­it the links below the blurbs to check out the sale.

The demons that dri­ve John “Mocha” Moc­cia to obsess, to put absolute­ly every­one under a micro­scope, and scratch away at every last clue, make him the best hard­nosed detec­tive in Brook­lyn homi­cide. But these same demons may very well write the final chap­ter in his career.

He isn’t the kind of detec­tive to take no for an answer, but in his most recent case answers are damn hard to come by. Part­nered with the con­sci­en­tious Detec­tive Matt Winslow, Mocha endeav­ors to solve the mur­der of the wealthy and beau­ti­ful Jes­si­ca Shan­non, a woman who had every rea­son to live.

As Mocha and Winslow strive to push for­ward the hands of time and solve the mur­der, their impos­ing lieu­tenant breathes down their necks, sus­pects are scarce, and all of the evi­dence seems to be a dead end.

With the last pre­cious grains of sand falling through the hour­glass, Mocha push­es ever for­ward, deter­mined to make an arrest, even if it means this col­lar will be his last.



There are sev­en of them. Children—innocents—whose long-buried remains are uncov­ered by a flash-flood. No one knows who could have com­mit­ted such a crime. Clues are scarce, and with the media turn­ing the sto­ry into a law enforce­ment night­mare, time is short. Only Wil Hard­esty, a pri­vate eye who has more in com­mon with the case than any­one knows, is will­ing to push hard enough—and dig deep enough—to find the cru­elest of killers. The killer of The Innocents …



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Forthcoming from Chris Offutt: Country Dark

This­April 2018 book by Chris Offutt seems to neat­ly cross two of my prime obses­sions, crime fic­tion and Appalachia. Be sure to pick it up. It's a guar­an­teed good read.

His first work of fic­tion in near­ly two decades, (Coun­try Dark is a taut, com­pelling nov­el set in rur­al Ken­tucky from the Kore­an War to 1970.

Tuck­er, a young vet­er­an, returns from war to work for a boot­leg­ger. He falls in love and starts a fam­i­ly, and while the Tuck­ers don’t have much, they have the love of their home and each oth­er. But when his fam­i­ly is threat­ened, Tuck­er is pushed into vio­lence, which changes every­thing. The sto­ry of peo­ple liv­ing off the land and by their wits in a back­woods Ken­tucky world of shine-run­ners and labor­ers whose social codes are every bit as nuanced as the British aris­toc­ra­cy, (Coun­try Dark is a nov­el that blends the best of Lar­ry Brown and James M. Cain, with a noose tight­en­ing ever­more around a man who just wants to pro­tect those he loves.

Pur­chase: Ama­zon, Indiebound, B&N


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Summer, poem by Brenda Glasure

Some days I remem­ber, but most­ly the nights.

We swal­lowed hard, Ken­tucky bour­bon burn,

Cru­dités of pret­zels and Slim Jims and peanuts. 

We rubbed our eyes against the soft of dusk,

bird­song slept, turned crick­ets and bullfrogs,

the tight buzz of mos­qui­toes drift­ed past.


Our legs hugged the curves of the hood on the old Nash,

rust­ed-out obser­va­to­ry in the mid­dle of the south field. 

The radio whis­pered, thin nee­dle scratched the dirt,

old love songs and poets and steel guitars.


We flung our arms wide in the weak-kneed darkness, 

pushed grav­i­ty back, wished for pow­er to soar, 

sling­shot past the sun on our way to Andromeda. 

you be the prince, I the dragon. 


In the mid­dle of a wheat field, crop cir­cles in straw 

the earth spun, a Cohen record in the dark, 

the stars whipped, Medusa’s mane, 

motes of dust, stunned in a moonbeam. 

We made our­selves dance, awk­ward Jr. High sway,

just to keep from turn­ing to stone.

Bren­da Glasure’s poet­ry, cre­ative non-fic­tion, and short sto­ries have appeared in Strong Verse, Drift­wood Review, Sto­ry Gar­den 5 and 7 and sev­er­al oth­er online jour­nals – large­ly under her pen name, Adria Abbott Glass. She grew up in a small Ohio town, and spent her sum­mers work­ing on her grand­par­ents’ dairy farm. She cur­rent­ly lives on the North­coast, run­ning a hand­made jew­el­ry busi­ness and writing.


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A Dangerous Man, poem by Julia Shipley

Have you seen my blue-eyed goose? He asks.

He keeps one among the reg­u­lar geese

in the grain room of his grandfather's barn,

where they honk like bro­ken trum­pets as we approach.

There are six, though you can't count these beaks, wings, crooked necks,

all crushed in a cor­ner, bleating.

He enters, while I abstain behind the chick­en wire door.

He yokes his arms around a goose, and sep­a­rates her.

They quiet—a brash hush.

I see what he wants to show me:

how he exhibits the one whose pupil

is encom­passed with the col­or of a rare, pale jewel.

Blue as the atom­ic scientist's iris,

as any clear sky, fall morning.

Adren­a­lin sluices our blue veins.

Are you ner­vous? He asks, carefully.

I don’t say I'm afraid

any god is a bomb.

Julia Ship­ley is the author of The Acad­e­my of Hay (Bona Fide Books, 2015) and Adam’s Mark (Plow­boy Press, 2015) as well as some chap­books: One Ton Crumb, First Do No Harm, Plan­et Jr. and Herd. Her work can also be found in 5 x 5, Barn­storm, Bar­rel­house, Burn­side Review, Cincin­nati Review, Col­orado Review, North Amer­i­can Review, Poet Lore, Poet­ry, Prairie Schooner (online) and ter​rain​.org. She lives on a home­stead in the boon­docks of North­ern Ver­mont. Her web­site is www​.writin​gonthe​farm​.com

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Forthcoming Changes

I need to fig­ure out whether or not to go for­ward with the Red­neck Press White Trash anthol­o­gy coedit­ed with Tim­o­thy Gager. I'm feel­ing increas­ing­ly guilty about ask­ing my fel­low writ­ers for sto­ries and poems with­out prop­er com­pen­sa­tion. It's one thing to pub­lish online with no com­pen­sation for FCAC, anoth­er to do a print anthol­o­gy. It just doesn't feel right any­more. I need to fig­ure these things out, so I'm post­ing this and invit­ing comments.

At the same time, I'm look­ing for an edi­tor to take over the day-to-day pub­lish­ing details at FCAC so I'm freed up for a new project. I'd pre­fer some­one with deep rur­al and/or Appalachi­an roots to take over. The job is easy, but time-con­sum­ing, at least an hour a day most weeks. Any poten­tial edi­tor would need to be inti­mate­ly famil­iar with Word­Press and Sub­mit­table or ready to learn quick­ly, post­ing new con­tent every three-four days all year long, and of course, read­ing sub­mis­sions. I'm hap­py to host the site and con­tin­ue to pay the bills, but it's not a pay­ing edi­to­r­i­al gig. If you're inter­est­ed, mail me at rusty.​barnes@​gmail.​com. If I don't find any­one, I'll shut FCAC down as regards new con­tent and sim­ply archive the site.

If you have ideas about any of this, please let me know here or via email. Thanks.

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Songbird, fiction by Tiffany Buck


June 1st. My favorite time of the year. The flow­ers are in bloom and it seems that all is right with the world. I’m walk­ing to church with a song in my heart only it’s not Sun­day, that’s tomor­row. Sat­ur­day is when I go see Mama. Mama will love these lilies, she’ll love my dress too; it once belonged to her.

“Morn­ing Mama. It’s so beau­ti­ful today up on this hill. I brought you some lilies I picked from the gar­den. You know the one you and me plant­ed togeth­er two years ago. You made me promise to bring a batch to you every time they bloom good. So far these have been the pret­ti­est ever. I sus­pect you’re won­der­ing about beaus. I don’t have any, but I keep pray­ing for one. There is this one man, Jesse, I am kin­da sweet on. He’s got the voice of an angel. He sings…”

Down below in the church, I hear music and it was not my imag­i­na­tion. I kiss the cross guard­ing Mama. Preach­er didn’t say there would be a con­cert today. Nor­mal­ly on a day like today, I would take the long way home pass the old div­ing bell and dip my toes in the riv­er, but the music stirred me up, like God was call­ing me. I left my shoes on the hill and walked bare­foot to the church. I opened the door and there was nobody except…

“You star­tled me.”

“I’m so sor­ry, I heard the music and it was like Jesus was call­ing me to come and listen.

Jesse smiled. His smile was so warm and invit­ing. Like a hug.

“Preach­er some­times lets me come in here and prac­tice. Is your name Sarah?”

“You know my name?”

“I make it my busi­ness to know every­one in this church. You smell like lilies. You been up on the hill?” 

“My mama’s up there.”

“I’m real sor­ry for that and this.”

Jesse pulls me down on the floor, real rough. My head hit the pew. He put his hand, both small and strong, on my neck. I thought for sure he would kill me. Jesus made me strong though. My head turned to scrip­ture, but I couldn’t remem­ber vers­es only sto­ries. Jesse was lift­ing my dress and shed­ding my under­gar­ments, and then… Mama taught me to be a lady, so I can’t tell you what he did. “Jesus this is my cross, help me look to You like You looked to God.” Then it was over. My body, limp from pain and bloody as he dragged me to the altar only to prop me up like a doll on display.


I was sit­ting on the choir bench hum­ming a tune I made up in my mind. I look through the hym­nal. Shame on me, I almost like the hym­nal bet­ter than the bible. I hear the door open and close. Did God send anoth­er angel for me? No. It was my old­er broth­er Jacob; he can nev­er escape that smell. I smiled. Jacob entered a church and the earth did not shake.

I thought I’d find you here.” said Jacob.

You smell like whiskey.”

“Hell, I always smell like whiskey. Even on Sun­days when I sell the most bot­tles while you’re in here singing about lovin Jesus in that pret­ty white robe.”


“I ain’t got all day, so let’s go.”

“Go where, Jacob?”

“Home. You asked me to pick you up at the store, when I didn’t see you there I thought I’d try here.

Do you know what I was think­ing about today?” 

No. I broke my crys­tal ball Min­er­va from out on 53, gave me.”

I was think­ing about the time when you, Camp and me got drunk off of Uncle Mount’s white lightening.”

That was a time.”

You and Camp wrecked Daddy’s bug­gy and ruined Mama’s garden”

That gar­den looked bet­ter ruined.”

That’s because Mama had a black thumb.”

What I remem­ber Jesse, is you killing a lit­ter of kit­tens while you were try­ing to save their souls. You cried so hard you made your­self sick.”

The Lord’s work nev­er goes unpunished.”

Has the new preach­er in town ever killed any­body in the riv­er, on acci­dent of course?”

Preacher’s a good man.”

Just check­ing. Thought there might be a club for men who drown their vic­tims while bap­tiz­ing them.”

I only drowned the kit­tens and they don’t have any souls.”

You drowned your mama, Jesse.”

She refused to accept Christ, Jacob. I had to resort to des­per­ate measures.”

I ain’t baptized.”

I’ve been mean­ing to talk to you about that, you and Camp both. Where is Camp?”


You mean Gehenna?”

I mean he ain’t here, lit­tle brother.”

I see blood on your hands.”

I think what you see is dirt.”

That’s a cru­el way to go.”

So is drowning.”

You must accept Christ as your per­son­al Lord and Sav­ior today, right now, with me as your witness.”


If you deny Christ, you will burn in hell. Why?”

Because it piss­es you off. I also have no desire to spend eter­ni­ty on a cloud play­ing a flute or a ban­jo with some blond angel. I’m count­ing on hell hav­ing a damn good assort­ment of whiskey. At least I know I’ll have a few drink­ing bud­dies there.”

I pity you.”

Not as much as I pity you.”

I slam the hym­nal shut. I feel my blood boil­ing. Thoughts of may­hem and mur­der enter my mind.

Who’s the cunt on the floor? The one I’ve been pre­tend­ing not to notice.”

Jesus sent her to me, sweet Jacob.”

She dead?”

Why do you ask?”

They always are. She’s got blood on her dress.”

The last one didn’t bleed.”

The last one had two lit­tle chil­dren miss­ing their mama. What am I going to have to do with this lit­tle dove?”

Noth­ing. She has no family”

That don’t mean peo­ple ain’t gonna miss her.” 

She’s so pret­ty, all still like that.”

I hope you real­ize what a fuck­ing mon­ster you are.”

Jesus don’t like you swear­ing in his house.”

But, it’s okay to rape a woman in church.”

Jesus sent her to me. He knows my weaknesses.”

Per­haps if your tongue was ripped out of your mouth and hung on the church door with the word rapist writ­ten on your white angel­ic robe, God would stop send­ing the women to you.”

You love me too much to do that.”

No, I don’t.”

Remem­ber when you burned Daddy’s hym­nal because he pun­ished me for not want­i­ng to go to the church picnic?”

Cracked my knuck­les good.”

So you see, I was right when I said that you love me too much to hurt me.”


It hurts to breathe. My neck feels like it’s being stabbed by a thou­sand tiny knives as I began to wake up.

How did I get in here?”

My guess is you opened the door and walked in here,” said Jacob.

Do I know you?”

Jesse, I thought you said this one was dead.”

Oops. She must have been stronger than the oth­ers. Do some­thing with her for me.”

Don’t I always.”

I guess, I will leave you two. Miss Sarah, believe me it was a pleasure.”

Plea­sure. What does he mean plea­sure? All I feel is pain. I began to cry. My rapist is gone and left me with this man who…

Blood. There is so much blood on my dress. Oh Jesus.

There ain’t no rea­son for you to be cry­ing. This ain’t noth­ing you can’t recov­er from. I buried my best friend today. You don’t see me crying.”

The man walked over to me and rough­ly put his hand on my mouth. I almost gag from the smell of whiskey and dirt.

Shut up!”

I’m bleed­ing.”

I’ll get you a dress.”


I leave the room and walk into a clos­et filled with choir robes and a few dress­es as well as one or two men’s suits. My hands search through the dress­es. I pull out three: a pink one, a green one, and final­ly a blue one. Why do I give a fuck? I picked the blue one because I knew it would match her eyes. I walk back into the sanc­tu­ary. She hadn’t moved 

and her eyes were blood­shot from cry­ing. I took the dress off the hang­er and threw it at her.

Wash your face and put this on.”

I watch her strug­gle to stand up. A gen­tle­man would have offered assis­tance. I ain’t a gen­tle­man. She limps to the wash­room and clos­es the door. I heard the water running.

“What’s your name?” she asks.


From Gen­e­sis?”

If you say so.”

You don’t come to church?”


She walks back into the sanc­tu­ary wear­ing the blue dress. Jesus, she looked beautiful.

Why don’t you come to church?”

You about done ask­ing me questions?”


Dove, I don’t go to church because Sun­day is when I make my mon­ey. You ever sit in here on Sun­days and notice a lot of hus­bands miss­ing? The men are in the back woods behind my house buy­ing what you call the devil’s brew. I make the best white light­en­ing in three counties.”

I pull a bot­tle of whiskey out of my pock­et and chug about half of it. She glared at me, but she didn’t protest.

You want a taste; might make you feel better.”

I offer her the bot­tle. She turns her head away.

Do I look okay, accord­ing to your opinion?”


I grab her by the wrist and look into her eyes. A tiny eye­lash had fall­en on her cheek. I remove it.

Bet­ter. We got to go.”

It‘s twi­light, and the two of us sit at a train sta­tion. I stare cold­ly at the train. Look­ing over at Sarah I see her fid­get with her dress. If she doesn’t stop, she’ll pull a but­ton loose. Her eyes look as if she’s being sent to the slaugh­ter­house. She turns her eyes to meet mine.

I could cook and clean for you. Share your bed. Anything.”

I chuck­le at this proposal.

I don’t pic­ture you as a fall­en woman.”

Mar­ry me. I’ll even for­give Jesse because he’s your brother.”

Dove, you ain’t nev­er gonna for­give Jesse. That’s des­per­a­tion talk­ing. And anoth­er thing, if I plan on get­ting mar­ried to some woman, it’s gonna be me that does the proposing.”


I already told you. You’re gonna get on that train and get off at Way­cross, and you ain’t nev­er com­ing back here. If I see you or smell you with­in forty miles of this town, I will per­son­al­ly put a bul­let in your head.” 

She starts cry­ing again. God­damn it why can’t she stop the crying?

I’m still bleeding.”

As a woman, you should know how to han­dle that.”

How did your best friend die?”


Ear­li­er, when I came to, you told me that your best friend died. How did that happen?”

He stole mon­ey from me. Stu­pid son of a bitch put it in the car box. Oth­er than me, he’s the only one that had a key to it. He was sup­posed to make the run tonight, so he didn’t think I would see it. I found him drunk in his house. I drug him kick­ing and scream­ing to a shal­low grave and cov­ered him with dirt.”


The con­duc­tor makes an announce­ment let­ting every­one in the sta­tion know that the train to Way­cross has arrived.

What if I’m pregnant?”

I lead Sarah to the train. The word preg­nant stings in my head and tiny heart. I lean down and kiss her on the fore­head. A baby in her bel­ly would be my blood. I take her hand and gen­tly mas­sage her fingers.

If it was mine, I’d like to see his face, if it’s Jesse’s I’d kill it. There’s an old man, Mur­ray, in Way­cross. He buys a bar­rel a month from me. His hob­by, aside from drink­ing and hunt­ing with arrows, is watch­ing trains. Find him and tell him I sent you. He’ll be good to you.

Will I ever see you again?”

I bend down and kiss her. Next, I pulled an old stop­watch out of my pock­et and put it in her hand.

Some­day I’ll want this back.”

She smiles at me and gets on the train. I don’t stay to wave goodbye.

Tiffany Buck lives in north Geor­gia on the edge of Appalachia. She is mar­ried and has a three-year old daugh­ter. Her inter­ests include writ­ing grit and mak­ing her own cosmetics.

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