Short Stories

Jeeter’s Memorial Service

Jeeter’s friend Zephyr invited him to his mother’s memorial service in the Methodist church basement. He knew Jeeter had run out of venison, winter was setting in, and Jeeter’s meager garden plot was now frozen solid. What little Jeeter hadn’t picked and eaten, shared with ravaging critters, or stored in the garbage can beside his trailer that he used for a winter freezer was now frozen in the earth. The church ladies always turned out a fine meal of casseroles ranging from the ever-popular mac and cheese with hot dog slices and hamburger goulash, to the less popular “Cheese Whiz broccoli,” a mortar-like dish made of frozen broccoli florets, Minute Rice, and a jar of Cheese Whiz. Jeeter asked Zephyr …
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Fannie Fancher and Crazy Chase

It was his second day in first grade and his first time walking home from school. Maple Street was a half-mile long, one of several streets in Morrisville beautifully canopied with elms. There were twenty-three houses on the left side and nineteen on the right and, try as he might, he could not count both sides as he walked home from school. He would lose track as his eyes darted from left to right and the sums vanished. Just below the hospital, Maple Street merged into Washington Highway which led east out of town towards the hill farms in the shadow of Elmore Mountain. The street’s lofty named belied its rutted gravel surface. His house lay just beyond the hospital …
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Hunger

He’s thin now, down to seventeen pounds. In the prowess of his youth, he weighed almost twenty-four pounds, not big, but he was born small. He’s a decade old now and when he lopes through the backyards in suburban Boston, it looks to those who see him from their decks and cars like his legs dangle from his rising and falling torso, the pads of his feet landing with just enough coordination to propel him forward from garbage site to garbage site.  When he goes to ground in the nearby woods at sunrise, he sees the contours of his ribcage below his thinning pelt. He no longer has the will or stamina to challenge a domestic dog for feeding rights …
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Uncle Benoit’s Wake

When I was ten, just after my mother had buried my grandfather, Uncle Benoit died in a spectacular late night car wreck. Uncle Ben, as he was called by us kids or “Mon Onc’” as he was called by his own generation, was my father’s uncle on his father’s side. My father’s mother Eugénie had married Gaston Delaire, acquiring Benoit as a “beau-frère.” Gaston had died several years earlier of pneumonia. Another brother, Arnaud, took holy orders and became an Edmundite missionary in South America among the rainforest people. Uncle Ben and his wife Colette had a pristine farm off Route 100 in North Hyde Park. A hundred and fifty acres and as many Holsteins and Guernseys produced thousands of …
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Crazy Chase

I was walking home from first grade on Maple Street in Morrisville trying to count the houses between the elementary school and my home. Ahead on the maple-lined street, I noticed an elderly woman walking purposefully towards me swinging a purse as if it were a plumber’s bag full of tools. As she came more into view, it was clear she was a lady. Her gray hair was gathered in a bun. She wore a pillbox hat thought it was slightly askew. Her black dress came to below her knees. She wore black laced shoes with a half-heel. I tried not to stare, but something was amiss. Having lost my housing count several trees back, I pretended to look uninterested …
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The Morrisville 4th of July Parade

Pud and Ginger Leland bought the lot next to Union Carbide and built a modern prefab ranch house, the first of its kind in Morrisville. Later, the most popular model came to be known as the Flanders Wonder Home. One could erect it on a lot in a matter of a few days and it came complete with interiors and appliances. The formal front door with its shiny brass finish hardware hung in the street-facing façade three feet above the ground and next to the “pitcher winda” as Pud called it. The door was largely decorative as Pud and Ginger didn’t pay extra for the precast concrete steps with filigree wrought iron rail that led up to it. Fifty feet …
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Jack Daulton’s New Camp

Pete loved to fish. His preferences were for bait casting and dynamite, although he had tried various schemes involving small makeshift dams on brooks with nets in spillways to catch brookies and browns. The topic Thursday morning in Hardwick, however, was his periodic attempts at trolling. Pete only trolled when he had been drinking heavily. He never trolled in his hometown, perhaps because at the time Morrisville was a dry town and Hardwick wasn’t. In fact no one could remember Pete trolling anywhere except in Mer-Lu’s restaurant, noted for the bottles without labels on the bar and the lack of a printed menu. As Lou — the “Lu” in “Mer-Lu’s — told it, Pete had been drinking alone since mid-afternoon. …
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The Dairy Tax Shelter

“I’ss how the rich gits richer,” explained Eddie Purinton, blowing his left nostril onto the ground with his right index finger. “Some newfangle’ plan where ya sell yer cows t’a rich person what’s got taxes ta pay, but ’che git ta keep yer cows and he pays no taxes. Duke Sargeant in the ’stension service ’splained it ta me yesserday.” “I don’ git it,” answered his friend and neighbor Purvis Bettis. “Ya sell ’em yer cows, they pays ya what they’se worth and maybe ya pay ’em sumpin’ monthly for a lease. The rich peoples write the cows off’n their taxes. Works fer me. I never made enough money ta pay no taxes anyhow,” added Eddie. “So they gives ya …
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Lyla’s Bucket

Hardwood Flats does not appear on most local maps but is used by locals to describe an unmarked space between Elmore, Wolcott, and Worcester. It is a hardscrabble bog of isolated ponds, marshland, and mixed second-growth hardwoods and occasional stands of young evergreens. Walking in the woods one can always hear running water somewhere. Much of its terrain seems to float on an inland sea. Here and there, a few dirt roads, passable except in mud season, wind through the woods, feeding into corduroyed logging roads and then tapering off into hunting trails and deeryards. Occasional year-round dwellings nestle here and there on the passable roads. Hunters or hikers will occasionally run across abandoned farmhouses mouldering in clearings marked only …
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Anne’s Biddies

It’s the second Sunday of Advent and Anne Stone braces for Christmas. Anne has been a nurse at Copley Hospital for 48 of her 69 years. As a young woman, she trained at the Jeanne Mance School of Nursing in Burlington and then served next door as a candy-striper at the Bishop Degoesbriand Hospital in the late ’50s when the twin towns of Winooski and Burlington shared three hospitals. She returned home in 1959 and began nursing at Copley for 85 cents an hour when it was still a four-story wood firetrap enmeshed in countless fire escapes Most of the time, Anne loves her work. She has opinions about many of the “advances” in health care, but she keeps them …
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