Robert James Russell
to the ground where the bodies had been, ruminating on exactly why anyone would be camping here, on his property anywhere (Itinerants? Poachers? Wayward teens?). He tried hard to tap into those earthly skills taught to him when he was a boy, mostly forgotten, and surmised that this site, this can, had only been used once. That whatever this was, whoever had been here, perhaps they had only stopped on their way through. But what about the bullet? It couldn’t be hunters — Eldon hadn’t seen signs of deer on his property in years. Maybe, then, the bullet was a memento, a found object and nothing more left behind in a hurry as they packed their things. Still, it didn’t sit right with him. Walking back toward the house he cut through a large field and heard mourning doves cooing, chasing each other, and remembered being told when he bought the land how this used to all be corn. Now…just a vast stretch of blue-joint that did as it pleased, risen up to just below his waist — there was no stopping it. When he was younger he’d work the harvest on his granddad’s land with the seasonal Mexicans, but never took much shine to it. Appreciated it, respected the hell out of it, but he saw the quick decline of farms, generations thinking they were too good for the family work — the hypocrisy not lost on himself — and didn’t see much of a future in it. Still, there were times he’d come up and admire the soil, strong soil. He’d daydream about flipping this bit of land to alternate corn and soybean, but quickly squash the notion as fast as it popped up: no equipment, no hands, no money. Besides, he had fashioned himself the other sort of outdoorsman long ago, the hunting and building sort, the kind that knew all the grasses and trees on his land, the mating habits of the various creatures that inhabited them, and that had always been good enough for him.
Short fiction by Jared Yates Sexton, Amanda Miska, Paul Hamilton and Robert James Russell.