After one in the morning, every commercial on Channel 93 mashes fine print into the bottom third of the screen. There's the one for Pauly the Jewelry Bargainer followed by the one for LipoFizz, that revolutionary weight-loss pill endorsed by the woman who used to be on "Old Flames." I suck back the rest of my beer, I drop the empty into the case beside the recliner, and in the two-second blackness before the Warren Reason Attorneys commercial starts up, I say, "Have you been mangled or disfigured in an auto wreck?" Then Warren Reason is on screen: "Have you been mangled or disfigured in an auto wreck?" Living in Bygone my whole life, I'm always fascinated by these big city commercials, Channel 93 being a Toronto station.

I grab a fresh beer from the little cube fridge on the opposite side of the recliner. The extension cord snakes across the barn board floor to the kitchen in my fixed-up farmhouse. A flash outside lights up the downpour mucking up the field where Ma and I used to grow our super-sweet corn. Twisting the cap off the bottle hurts. My hand's still all blistery from last weekend when I snuck into Ms. Wong's backyard and built her that pond she'd been wanting. It was worth the blisters and the dangerously close lightning strikes—it's been thunderstorm after thunderstorm this summer—to see Ms. Wong's face when she came back from her vacation. She was nice enough to come by the next day to give me an overflowing sack of fortune cookies from Wong's Restaurant and to say that she was sorry for yelling at me, that she really did appreciate the pond, and that of course I couldn't have known she'd buried her cat there.

After the commercials, "Ring of Disrespect" comes back on and the Masked Molester is about to pile-drive All Balls. Then he pile-drives him. All Balls lays there on the mat, his leg doing that disconcerting twitchy thing it always does when he gets knocked out. The Masked Molester pins him for a three-count, stands, grabs the mic from the ref, and declares All Balls molested. Then he calls his defeated opponent's name into question and demands All Balls start going by No Balls.

Getting back to this familiar lifestyle, with the beer and the late-night television and whatnot, has really helped me reconnect with the person I used to be—though the posturing in wrestling is more aggressive and mean-spirited than I remember it. Maybe that's typical for someone in his mid-thirties to say. More than the posturing, it's the general brutality these days—the knockout twitchy-leg thing is enough to make a person nauseous. I've got what you might call a soft stomach. Like when I unearthed those cat remnants. I had a dry-heaving fit relocating the poor thing's rotting pieces to a different part of Ms. Wong's backyard.

I reach for the river stone on top of the cube fridge—it's there beside a fortune cookie fortune that says, Taking out the garbage is a good way to clear the air. I stroke the smooth side of the river stone and flip it over to the engraved side. I finger the grooves spelling out PEACE.

I don't like to be negative (or profane), but today was a shit day—yesterday actually, if you want to get all before-midnight-after-midnight about it. It was ten years to the day that I made that ugly scene at Beverly Beevers's doorstep. I don't like to say I keep track of the date, but I keep track of the date. August 10th: the day I opened my heart to Beverly and had my open heart riddled with figurative bullets of rejection. I called Hank this morning and told him today was the day and Hank, great boss that he is, said, "Oh boy. Okay, see you Monday." He marked it as a bereavement day.

Some country music starts up and Southern Hickey comes flying out of the curtains waving a Confederate flag. He dives under the bottom rope and, like always, opens his mouth for the ring cam and shows off his unhealthy dental situation. The commentators, like always, comment on his unhealthy dental situation and speculate on the foulness of his breath.


I spent the whole afternoon walking down Main Street, the only sap slogging through the rain without an umbrella, retracing the steps I'd taken on that fateful day, replaying the events, feeling sick about this being the tenth annual retracing/replaying: from Wong's Flowers where I bought the roses, to Ned's Drugs and Gifts where I bought the heart-shaped chocolate box, to the Church of the Merciful Redeemer where I prayed that Beverly would melt into my arms upon receiving the roses and heart-shaped chocolate box. This nostalgia walk reminded me that next month will be eleven years since Ma died (cancer). I helped Ma with the corn—the old man ran out on us when I was nine—and Ma, in return, parented the hell out of me. Who else's mom gets under the hood of a John Deere to replace a drive belt, and passes the time composing and dictating poem after poem to their nearby son who scribbles them down and tries not to let the superior quality of these things discourage him from his own poetry writing? I am thankful, though, that she wasn't around for Beverly shooting me down. "When you're ready," Ma always said with an arm around me. "Open your heart to her and she'll melt into your arms."

At the church today, I asked my old buddy Brian—Father Brian—why God didn't let Beverly melt into my arms, and Brian said, "Oh boy. Today's the day, isn't it?"

He brought me to the church gift shop. "Here, pick something out. Anything under three bucks."

Brian's great—doesn't get all weird talking to me about Beverly even though when we were all kids he had a crush on her before I did. Back then, he'd always include me: Beverly was into yoga, so Brian took up yoga and he never made me feel like I was stepping on his toes when I took up yoga too. Incidentally, the day Beverly put her hands on my hips to help me with my first Tree Pose was the day I fell for her, those hands so warm and full of love. After Beverly shot Brian down, he graciously said, "Good luck, buddy." We get each other, Brian and me, the only two of our group to stick around Bygone after high school.

I scanned the display case and he patted me on the back and thanked me again for re-shingling the church's roof.

"You're a hero. There's no way we could have afforded the labour on a job like that. And also because I know it's not necessarily easy or safe to be doing that in the rain."

"What's a fellow lighthouse keeper for?" That's what Brian and I call each other: lighthouse keepers, custodians of Bygone.

In the gift shop, I picked out the PEACE-engraved river stone. "You know, I don't think the advice you gave me last month is working," I said. "I've gotten back to a lifestyle I know, a lifestyle I'm comfortable with, but I'm not finding any stress alleviation. If anything, the late nights, the wrestling, the alcohol—they're only making me think of her more. Like, wallowing, you know?"

"Wait. Alcohol? What?"

"No, it's fine. I'm definitely reconnecting with myself—way more than I ever did writing all those stupid Beverly poems—but maybe I just have to accept that I'll never be able to get her completely out of my mind."

"We need to talk more about this, Ernie."

I told Brian sorry, my afternoon was jammed, but that I'd see him next Sunday. "I know God doesn't work like that, making people melt into other people's arms," I said. "But sometimes I feel like he's got a plan for everyone except me."

"You just have to believe," Brian said, rubbing his temples. "Like how you believed you'd eventually get on with life after your mom passed away."

I'd always felt like I let Ma down, failing to win Beverly' heart, not starting a family, etc. I don't know, maybe I was primed for failure—all those years steeped in unchecked trauma from Dad leaving to chase some twenty-year-old over in Milford (it was something about life being too short or not going after what you wanted).

I dropped a whole bunch of change into the donation box, thinking it couldn't hurt my cause.

Down the street, Hank was outside, umbrella in one hand, floor squeegee in the other, feebly thrusting at the rainwater pooled out front of Hank's Hardware. I took the squeegee from him. "Let me," I said. "I'm already soaked."

When I was done, Hank gave me his umbrella and told me to bring it back when I was done bereaving.


The country music stops and an ominous bell starts ringing out. Hidden Rage is next out of the curtains, walking solemnly to the ring in his flowing cloak with the hood down over his face.

"Hickey's in trouble in this one," one of the commentators says. "Hidden Rage doesn't tend to respect his opponents."

"That's why they call it 'Ring of Disrespect,' Jim," the other commentator says.

I remember how hopeful I felt that day, having Ms. Wong do a super special wrapping job on the roses. She told me I was sweet and she wished me luck—I think that's what she was saying. I always felt it was the roses that weirded Beverly out though, based on how much of the whites of her eyes she was showing me. Either that, or when I told her I was pretty sure we were soul mates. I did notice excessive eye whites then, too. "Eye Whites," as it happens, has always been one of my favourite Beverly-post-mortem poems. That's not to take anything away from "Limp Roses" or "Bullets of Rejection"—I've always been happy with how those turned out, too. It occurred to me, as I left Beverly's porch that day, that maybe I misinterpreted her meaning when she put her warm and loving hands on my hips to help me with my Tree Pose.

Hidden Rage paces the canvas, inviting blows from Southern Hickey. Hickey delivers a few cheap ones and Hidden Rage keeps his rage hidden until the end of the match. He knocks Hickey out with a flying elbow.

"Brilliant job of exploiting his opponent's weakness," a commentator says. "We'll be right back."

There's a commercial for DiscountArmyGear.com—they're having another sale on paracords, smoke grenades, and crossbows. Next is for Channel 93's mid-afternoon Justice Fest: "Judge Brad," followed by "Restraining-Order Court," followed by "I'ma Divorce Your A$$!" Then a commercial I haven't seen before: Zooda's Voodoo and Spiritual Services, Inc. A woman with lots of dangly things in her ears and around her neck materializes and says she's got all the best spells/curses, ritual oils, and voodoo smartphone apps. She says she guarantees satisfaction and a graphic comes up that reads, Facilitating Toronto's spiritual health since 1993. She's motherly-looking, like Ma. Then a big puff of smoke and she's gone.

I put the river stone back on the cube fridge—PEACE, my ass—and I get back to working on my beer, which I believe is number nine or ten.

After talking to Brian this afternoon, I may or may not have stopped by Beverly's parents' house. From what I saw through the back window, the place looked exactly the same inside. All those hard lines: the boxy couch, the impractical (and therefore empty) cube shelves, the paintings of squares. When old man Beevers walked into the room and saw me, off I went into the woods—but even as I ran, I kept the image of Beverly's lovely decorating job alive in my head. A month after the incident at her doorstep, Beverly went off to college in Toronto for interior design. The odd Thanksgiving or Christmas, I've seen her back around town—never had the nerve to say anything—but the last time was like four years ago. Brian said he'd heard she married some city guy who turned out to be into country life and brought her back to these parts somewhere to build a log cabin together. Knowing Beverly, that log cabin's probably got designer drapes and stainless steel appliances. I could have built a log house for her and I could have written her poetry inside the completed log house. I would have been such the right guy for her: handy and sensitive.

Easy Peaches, the first lady of the "Ring of Disrespect," comes running out from behind the curtains, grabs a chair, and cracks it over Hidden Rage's back. Hidden Rage, who hadn't yet pinned Southern Hickey, falls out of the ring and his leg does the twitchy thing and he doesn't get up. The ref counts him out, declares Hickey the winner, and Easy Peaches sticks her tongue in Hickey's mouth. Hickey turns to the camera and winks. I turn off the TV and stub my toe on the cube fridge on the way to bed.


Sometime around one in the afternoon, I'm in front of my computer eating a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and Googling Beverly Beevers, which, every time, brings up a whackload of porno sites. Partway through browsing one of them—PretzelPositions.com—I see that my fingers have gotten the keyboard and mouse greasy. I try wiping the keys with Kleenex from the box I keep by the computer. This has the effect of opening a series of photos—naked men and women in pretzel positions. I imagine my face on one of the men and I put Beverly's face on one of the women and it makes me sad because we look so good together, nude and intertwined. A flashing sidebar ad catches my attention. It's for Zooda's Voodoo and Spiritual Services, Inc., which somehow sounds familiar. I click the link. I've got to close seven pop-up windows, but when I do, I find a pretty nice little website: animated lightning bolts and bubbling cauldrons up top, sharp purple lettering on a black background, and—bonus!—a tab for Broken Heart Spells. Which I click. I close a few more pop-up windows, scroll (and scroll and scroll) down through the legal disclaimer, and get to this:

Madame Zooda's Broken Heart Spells are designed to weld/patch the spiritual seams of unhealed broken hearts. Note: If you're experiencing unnatural love circumstances (e.g., unrequited love with your brother's wife or wanting to hook up with a person who has taken out a restraining order against you), you may require (a) multiple Broken Heart Spells or (b) our Forgive and Forget Voodoo Consultation. BEWARE OF NON-GENUINE BROKEN HEART SPELL IMITATORS! LOTS OF SCAMS OUT THERE!

I click the button for the Forgive and Forget Voodoo Consultation. It comes with a money-back guarantee, so my thinking is, I pretty much can't go wrong.

I call the number on the website and a woman with a throaty voice answers and tells me my optimal appointment time is this evening at five, which is perfect because Toronto's a three hour drive from Bygone. It's like she knew that.


Main Street's a mess when I drive out of town. I've got my wipers going like crazy. Ms. Wong is poking the saggy underside of the Wong's Flowers awning with a broom end, streaming the pooled water to the sidewalk. She does the same for the Wong's Restaurant awning one door over. Beverly always said the food there wasn't real Chinese food, that you'd only find the authentic stuff in the city, and me and Brian and the other guys were always like: food made by a Chinese person is Chinese food, Bev.

She always seemed above this town, better than it—in a dizzying, mysterious, beautiful way. You just wanted to be around her and you felt that warm thing in your chest when she made eye contact with you or responded to something you said. She was into rap music, she was a vegetarian (except for fish and chicken), and she travelled all over the place. Brian said there was a word for people like Beverly: worldly. So, her with her worldliness, and me with my sensitivity, we both had things that stood out in a place like Bygone—soul mates you might have said.


At Madame Zooda's, I push through the door and some chimes chime. The place smells of candles and hot oil —reminds me of that massage parlour I stumbled into at the back of that video store the only other time I'd been to Toronto. A woman with lots of dangly things in her ears comes through a beaded curtain holding a stuffed animal with pins sticking out of its face and asks me if I'm the one about the curse for the yappy dog. I tell her no, the Forgive and Forget Consultation.

"Oh," she says in that throaty voice, tossing away the pin-faced dog. "Come with me."

I follow her behind the beaded curtain. It's dark. Pictures of interlocking triangles and weird creatures with tusks cover the walls and there's a display case with all kinds of ornate merchandise. A separate display case holds the non-ornate stuff: pens and mugs and shot glasses with crescent moons on them.

She gestures for me to sit on a stool. "It's cash up front."

I open my hand and let a crumpled-up fifty drop onto the little round table between us.

"Photograph?" she says, and I hand over my wallet photo of Beverly, her grainy face beaming, thrilled to be demonstrating a bum-in-the-air plow pose. "Yes. I see your problem. Madame Zooda will help you."

Her microwave beeps and she says sorry, she's reheating her dinner. "In terms of supplies, you're going to want paper, a pencil, and fish paste."

"I didn't know I was supposed to bring—"

"You do this at home. This is a private and sacred ritual. You carry out Zooda's private and sacred rituals at home."

She starts talking about lighting candles, using the pencil to draw a picture of the victim, and how a heartfelt interpretation of the victim's likeness is critical, but I get hung up on the word victim. Isn't this is a Forgive and Forget? I'm not out for revenge here, just internal peace and warmth. I'm thinking these things and then I realize she's talking about the fish paste and that I've missed whatever came after drawing the picture of the victim.

"The type of fish is a personal choice. Zooda prefers to purée a nice mackerel, but you purée what you like. You can add some mayonnaise to cream up the consistency."

"I didn't bring anything to take notes with."

She reaches for my hands. "You're a worrier, aren't you? Breathe. Breathe with Madame Zooda."

We breathe together. Her hands are warm and full of love. I feel a deep connection with her. Open your heart..., I hear Ma say.

"Do you believe?" Zooda says.

"I believe."

"You get a free Forgive and Forget summary card at the end," she says, letting go of my hands.

The microwave beeps a reminder beep.

"Do you need to get that?"

"You don't mind?"

I tell her I don't mind.

She smiles. "A kind soul." She gets up, goes over to the microwave, and takes out a plate of yellow beef patties. "Madame Zooda likes kind souls."

I feel at ease knowing I've got a summary card coming.

"Wait, so, why fish?"

"Fish forget," she says, sitting and chewing. "Remember, be generous with the fish paste. You really can't overdo it. When you've smeared a few good coats over your drawing, you take it out into the elements, you secure it—drive it into the ground with a stake, staple-gun it to a deck, whatever—and you say the words."

"What are the words?"

She chews. "On your summary card," she says, and catches a bit of beef patty that falls from her mouth. She eyes it, pops it back in, and swallows.

"One last thing," she says, reaching for a dark tin with yellow lightning bolt stickers all over it. She puts her thumb into the tin, it comes out black, and she presses it to my forehead. "Almighty Cerrano, with these ashes of independence, I declare—what's your name?"

"Earnest."

"I declare Earnest fit and able to carry out Madame Zooda's sacred Forgive and Forget ritual from the privacy of his own sanctuary." She smiles and shakes my hand. "Nice meeting you, Ernie."

I thank her over and over. I feel the need to hug her. I hug her. She sort of stiffens so I let go.

"I won't let you down," I say, and walk out, then remember and poke my head back through the beaded curtain. "The summary card?" I say, and Zooda laughs and says, "Right, the summary card," and she gives me the summary card.


Back at my private sanctuary, I flick on the lights, put the grocery bag on the kitchen table, and take out the tuna can and mayonnaise jar. I dig a candle and a pencil out of my miscellaneous drawer, rip a blank page out of my Beverly Beevers poetry book, and get to work on drawing the picture. I'm tempted to use my Beverly wallet photo for reference, but I stick to what the summary card says and draw from memory: her silky brown hair and her cute mushroomy nose and her perfect cheek mole. Just as I'm appreciating my heartfelt interpretation of Beverly's likeness, I realize, crap, I forgot to light the candle. I light the candle. When I finish my Beverly drawing, I blend the tuna/mayo—it comes out more liquidy than pasty—and I drizzle it thick over the two-dimensional version of the only girl I've ever loved. I flick on the porch light, step out into the rain, and, as per the summary card, hold the tuna-covered paper up to the night sky.

"Almighty Cerrano! Cast the memory of Beverly Beevers from my consciousness!" Rain patters the paper and liquid tuna drips on my forehead. The summary card wording seems to lack basic manners, so I add, "Please!"

I staple my Beverly drawing to the porch handrail where it will stay until the pencil image washes/fades from the rain/sun—or until birds peck the paper to oblivion on account of it being primed with liquid fish. I pocket the summary card because the rest is easy. But now, not holding anything, I don't know what to do with my hands, so I put them on my hips. I yell the last part: "Beverly Beevers! I cast you from consciousness, I cast you from consciousness, I cast you from consciousness!"


The next Sunday, I see Brian. He apologizes for being unclear about his advice. He says when he'd told me to reconnect with myself, to get back to a lifestyle I was comfortable with, he didn't mean going back to my binge-drinking teenaged years. He tells me the poetry thing was healthier as an outlet. I say, no worries, I know I'm not the best at interpreting people's meanings. I've since trashed the cube fridge, gotten rid of all the beer bottles, and returned to work.

I finish my poem for the day, "The Curse of the Yappy Dog," which makes seven in the past week and —progress!—they're all in my new, non-Beverly poetry book. I step out onto the porch and shield my eyes from the sun. The grackles have pecked my drawing of Beverly to oblivion. Only the tattered bits tucked under the staples remain. I pry the staples up with a flathead screwdriver and the paper bits flutter off with the wind. Done.


I'm tying up my apron at Hank's Hardware and Hank leans over the checkout counter and says, now that it's stopped raining, would I mind doing the squeegee thing on the lake out front one last time. "That, or grab some life jackets from Sporting Goods and hand them out in the parking lot." He winks.

I approach the checkout counter by the doors and who's there standing across from Hank, holding a tube of Mayhem Lube? Beverly Goddamn Beevers. I get all lightheaded on account of shock and I've got a serious case of Jell-O legs. My gut's telling me to duck into the adhesives aisle and stay there, pretending to sort caulk until she's gone, but I notice she looks different. Is that a plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up? And—what?—a ball cap? The long strands of hair that spill out from the back are a tangle of brown and, what looks like, grey. And, great, now she's looking at me, so the caulk-sorting idea is out. Her eyes are all sunken-in and dark underneath. And her complexion: she's pale and her upper cheeks are covered in wrinkles. She smiles and the wrinkles wrinkle up even more.

I put my hands on one of the extension ladders in the rack next to me and make like I've been straightening it out.

"Hey, Bev." I turn to the ladder, playing it cool. How long do I wait before turning back to her? I turn back to her. "Visiting your parents?"

"For a bit." Then she says to Hank at the register, "So do I get my money back or what?"

Hank takes the tube of Mayhem Lube from Beverly. "See here? It's open. We don't take this stuff back after it's been opened."

"It was like that when I bought it. Why do you think I'm returning it?" Beverly turns to me and smiles. "Ernie, want to help me out here?"

Hank looks at me, exasperated.

I go over. Good god, there's a tiny black hair sprouting out of Beverly's cheek mole.

She says to me, "I bought a tube of this stuff to work in the rail on my new crossbow and I get it home and find..."

Her lips are still moving, but I'm stuck on crossbow. Like, since when did she have or need a crossbow? And, new crossbow? As in, how many crossbows does she have?

Hank tells Beverly that he wasn't born yesterday, that he's wise to this scam. "Buy the tube, use what you need, return the rest, right?" Hank says. "Plus the little promotional trial tube of Super Mayhem Lube that was attached to this is missing."

My thinking is, damn, Hank was not born yesterday.

Beverly's raising her voice now: she's all f-this and f-that and she calls Hank the c-word, which is odd because Hank's a man. She pounds her fist on the counter and various customer heads from around the store turn. What happened to the classy girl I was soul mates with?

I ask Hank if he can just ring the refund through. "You can take it out of my pay if you want."

Hank looks at me like I'm a big sucker—he knows who this girl is and the trauma I've suffered because of her.

"Take it out of your pay," he mutters, shaking his head. "As if I'm going to dock you for this. You're a good man. You deserve more, not less." He turns to Beverly as he says the last bit. He opens the till, counts out $4.82, and hands her the money. The two of them eye each other up something nasty.

I walk with Bev to the doors.

"So, how've you been?" she says, smiling.

How have I been? How is she in here looking like a disheveled mess and acting all casual about it? She doesn't stand out. She fits in. I see her like this and I feel something I've never felt toward her before: pity. I don't know anything about what these last few years of her life have been like, but it must have been rough for her.

"Super. You?"

"I'm good—overall," she says as we wade through the entryway lake I'm supposed to squeegee. "Haven't been feeling so hot lately though. Got these fucking aches and pains. I don't know if it's the flu or what, but it's been a week of this bullshit."

We get to the sidewalk and she tells me she's going to the walk-in clinic. "Want to wait with me? It'll probably take a goddamn hour to get in to see this cocksucker," she says.

"I wish I could," I say, reeling a little from her language. "Just started my shift though."

"I want to catch up," she says. A grackle swoops between us and flaps around Bev's face and she takes a few violent swipes at it. "Fuck off, bird! I'll kill you!"

I'm still processing her new look, her refund scam, and this pity I'm feeling for her—thank you, Zooda!—but I tell her sure, I'd love to catch up sometime.

The grackle flies off and joins other grackles on Hank's roof.

"All week with these fucking birds," Bev says, staring at the gang of them up there. "That reminds me," she says, pulling out her phone. "Check this out."

She gets this big smile and she turns her phone and shows me a picture of her straddling a bear. The bear's got an arrow through its head and there's a pink chunk hanging from the triangly arrowhead. Bev looks crazed, sticking out her tongue and making devil horns with her hands.

"Got a great deal on my new crossbow," she says. "This website was having an amazing sale."

She swipes her finger across the screen and brings up other pictures of her interacting with bloody animal carcasses. In one, she's smiling with an armful of dead ducks, heads flopped down, guts leaking. In another, she's holding up a dead deer by the antlers, planting a kiss on the side of the poor thing's bloody face.

"Nice," I say, even though I think it's the opposite of nice. I think it's disgusting. So disgusting. And, great, now I'm queasy. I put a hand on my stomach. "What happened to interior design?"

"I freelance. Hunting's just a hobby—for now. Troy got me into it after we got married. He's a hunting nut!"

My skin warms. Inexplicably, I imagine touching that pink chunk of bear brain, the wet sponginess of it. I hear the splatter of those goose guts on camo hunting boots. Lightheadedness sets in, the telltale lower-back sweat beads up, and I understand that I'm in trouble. One last mental close-up of that bloody deer face and I hurl all over two sidewalk segments in front of the store. Between heaves, I watch the yellow liquid seep into the gap between segments. The gap fills, overflows, and disappears. When I straighten, Bev looks disgusted. Lots of eye whites. People on the sidewalk detour to the boulevard.

"Sorry," I say.

Bev starts laughing. Hard. Just as I'm wiping my mouth, she aims her phone at me, touches something, and I hear a click.

"Hilarious!" she says. Then she takes a picture of the sidewalk segments.

We agree to meet up sometime before she goes back to her husband and her log cabin. She heads off down Main Street to the clinic. I watch her walk away and I picture an alternate version of myself, holding hands with an alternate version of Bev, one who, back then, melted into my arms. This alternate version of myself and his soul mate wife build a life around shooting things down, showing off carcass pictures to townspeople, and snapping photos when they vomit. Somewhere in there he may write a poem, but mostly it's he and she brainstorming new and exciting refund scams, one-upping each other as a sort of game, and scouring the Internet for deals on weaponry that will allow them to shoot things down with greater efficiency and pleasure.

I go back inside, grab the floor-squeegee, and get to work on the entrance. The grackles on the roof burst upward, a cluster of flapping wings sort of hovering in place at first, then decisively darting south—out of town. I push wave after wave of pooled water away from the storefront. I direct it down to the sidewalk, aim it at the hurl, and wash it away.


Title image "River Stone of Hope" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2015.