Short Stories

Darcy and Father LeFarge

According to his lifelong friend, Père Renaud, who was with him at his bedside when he died, Father LeFarge’s last words were, “I have never forgotten the face of any woman, young or old, who smiled at me.” “It could have been worse,” noted Père Renaud wryly to a friend at the gathering at the bishop’s residence after Father LeFarge’s funeral. “He could have said, ‘My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?” Father LeFarge was well known for making his bishops uncomfortable. In his earlier years, he had been a fond student of South American liberation theology, which doctrine posed a deep political and ethical dilemma for Rome. After a Calvados or two he would expound to his …
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Widowmaker

Tommy cannot breathe. His 31years of smoking Luckies have shortened his breath, infusing it with viscous phlegm that makes him cough and keeps Ann awake at night worrying that he will die as her father did, drowning with short panic-stricken breaths, unable to oxygenate the blood that flowed to his terrified brain. But Tommy is not Ann’s father. Tommy is in the woods alone. He is dying, but not of emphysema. He cannot inhale. The crushing weight on his shattered ribs and seizing pain in his chest make it impossible to inhale the forest air. In his close field of vision, the forest floor is a landscape of curled wood chips. Some are pale blond and others cinnabar, the mixed …
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Mr. Skiff’s VW

In 1952, Morrisville’s closest contact with the outside world was its neighbor Stowe, where tony people had begun to settle to enjoy the Nosedive, the National, the Perry Merrill, and the other trails hanging off the single chairlift. While Stowe was a smorgasbord of Austrians, Norwegians, and New Yorkers, Morrisville was a pale casserole of Catholics from French Canada and Protestants who thought they were there before trees. Morrisville peopled the Mountain Company’s trail-grooming snowshoe crews, liftline maintenance shifts, and hospitality services. It was also where the ambulances raced nervous flatlanders to have their broken bones set by Doctor Phil in the wood-frame Copley Hospital. Orthopedics was a growth industry in Morrisville in the fifties. Depression, known then as melancholia, …
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Doc’s Come-along

The Mud City Loop Road meanders deep into the Sterling valley and back out to Morristown Corners. Morris Orvis and Doc live along the north branch of the dirt road in a slumping L-shaped farmhouse, the sills of which are skirted with mushroom-dappled hay bales. Two well-muscled Belgians graze about the surrounding fields and a John Deere B tractor rusts near the shed. A larger Allis Chalmers, with traces of its original orange paint and evidence of recent use, is parked by the side door. A homemade wood splitter extends off the tractor’s three-point hitch and is linked by hydraulic hoses to the circulatory system of the tractor. Morris’s woodpiles are legend to those few who drive by on the …
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Lyle’s Dump

The dump’s fading red embers were reflected above in the dusk settling over Morrisville. Sullen rats, emboldened by the quiet, scurried about amid the refuse searching for food scraps. Most townsfolk had completed their dump runs by lunchtime on Saturday except for a few stragglers. Late in the afternoon, a few boys on bikes with .22s or BB guns tied across their handlebars pumped up the long dirt hill that divided the Farr and Greaves farms to “pop a few rats” with Lyle’s permission and then squat down near his shack and overhear the goings-on inside the dump shack where Lyle sorted and disassembled the day’s haul, while the select few invited inside chatted and told stories. As long as …
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Jack Daulton’s New Mailbox

Notice in the Morrisville Post Office from the Police Department: On August 13th and 18th the Morrisville Police received numerous complaints of mailbox vandalism. These random vandalisms took place on Washington Highway, Elmore Mountain Road, Maple Street, and on the Flats Road in Hyde Park. The vandalisms are occurring in the early morning and late evening hours. If you have any further information on these incidents, please contact Officer Boright at the Morrisville Police Department. I. Saturday morning on Flats Road ”Here’s one that works.” “I just bought this shovel.” ”Looks like a mail-order job.” “Yes, why?” “Graves don’t sell that kind.” “What’s wrong with it?” “There’s two kinds’a shovels. One has the boot lip curved back. Ya can’t dig …
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Wyvis’ Fence

When Wyvis Bushway bought the McKean place sometime after the War, farms cost less than a used car today. Those who knew Wyvis had no idea where the money came from, but it was gone within a month or two. Some said it was his G I Bill money, others opined that it was an inheritance from his uncle on his mother’s side in New Hampshire. The McKean place was an ornery stretch of land, set right on Route 15 just north of Wolcott. In spring, the front meadow near the road was a boggy swale through which no one would drive a team of horses, much less a tractor. The price seemed right to Wyvis and he needed to …
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Twist and Shout

Breaking and entering, or “B ’n’ E” as Officer Hubbell called it, was one thing, but B ’n’ E in the white Methodist church of a small New England town was another, especially if the town was Stowe. “Technically,” Chris said defensively, “it was really just an E.” Officer Boright had to agree: there was really no break-in. There was little reason to lock a church if the poor box was emptied nightly. There was nothing worth stealing in most small town churches, just brass candlesticks, vases, worn hymnals, and pamphlets about the Lord and the church’s various committees for dealing with church or spiritual upkeep. The church’s only value lay in its simple elegance and its symbolic role in …
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Edgar’s Mother’s Chimney

The Flats Road lined in parts with regal old sugar maples, meanders east, turning almost immediately to dirt after diverging from its sibling, the Centerville Road. In fall, the road is a joy to travel, rivaling the town’s few paved roads for comfort, whereas in the spring, surface melt and rising ground water combine to brew a rich morass of mud into which vehicles routinely settle only to be hauled out with a neighbor’s tractor or occasionally with Egnor’s grunting dozer. Various dirt tracks head off into the woods, leading to abandoned farms, renegade trails to the top of Sanders Mountain, teenage trysting spots, sugaring operations, or active logging sites. Few houses line the road, but of those that do, …
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The Ferland’s Pet Pigs

Cécile and Thérèse Ferland had just returned from taking their mother, Laurette, on her annual pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. The mystery of countless miracle healings wrought by the intercession of Brother André to Saint Joseph on behalf of petitioners from all over North America had long since faded for the two sisters after eleven years of escorting their mother to the basilica looming over Côte des neiges. The resplendent city of Montreal, however, with its endless shops and boulangeries filled with exotic pastries made the trip a continuing source of pleasure for the two sisters. The annual pilgrimage included a brief shopping foray for the girls on Boul. Ste Cath. and lunch at Ruby Foo’s Chinese restaurant …
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