Thomas M. Atkinson | River’s Edge

Arnett yelled, “Stop right there!  Don’t do another damn thing.”

He walked over and set his hand on top of the saddle.

He said, “Tie him up good and leave him just like he is. Don’t loosen a damn thing.  Don’t give him a drink or a bite to eat. We’ll see how much pep he’s got after he stays out all night and them wild dogs come by to nip at his ass.”

I said, “Tomorrow’s Monday. We’re off. We’re closed.”

He said, “Hell, even better.”

Arnett and Eddie climbed into Eddie’s truck to go drinking. Eddie pulled a tight circle in the gravel and slid to a stop in front of the stable door. Arnett leaned out the window and pointed a thick finger at Jo Marie.

He said, “Jo, you leave that goddamn horse alone. Don’t let her talk you into nothing stupid.”

Before the dust had even settled on the gravel, Jo Marie said, “Don’t waste your breath on me, honey. You want to get into a pissing contest with Harnett, that’s your business, but it don’t looked like it worked out too well for you last time. You need something to do, get this grass mowed. And stay way from that horse.”

When I was pushing the mower through the high grass out by the road, I thought I saw a little black snake, but it was one of those big zip ties the phone company uses to bundle lines together. Sometimes on the news you see them handcuff people with zip ties, but this one was a lot bigger, almost three feet long and half an inch wide.  I threaded it through my belt loops because it just seemed like something that might come in handy.

Jo Marie dropped me off at the house because Arnett didn’t leave me the keys to the truck and I made myself some spicy hot sausage and biscuits for supper. I fixed an extra plate and put it in the oven and then took a couple of biscuits out to the pond. I rolled little balls of biscuit between my fingers and listened to the cicadas churring in the woods. When I had a little handful, I tossed them in the water and soon steel grey heads were skimming the surface, heads as wide as my hand is long with barbs a quarter inch thick.

Eddie dropped Arnett off before ten, limping and sloppy drunk.

He sat down at the table in slow motion and said, “You got any of them pain pills left?”

I went in the bathroom and came back with three hydrocodones I had stashed in a tampon box. Then I got his plate out of the oven and poured him an iced tea glass half full of cheap bourbon and sat down at the table with him. He washed the pills down then took out his teeth and put them on the table next to his fork.

He said, “This biscuit’s dry as a bone.”

I said, “They tasted just fine at supper time.”

He grunted and broke wind.



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  1. When Some of the Best Novels Are ‘Little’ | Official Web News - January 18, 2015

    […] Prizes and have won more awards than I have room to list. Some can be read online, including “River’s Edge,” “Standing Deadwood,” and “Blue Highway.”More book recommendations […]

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