NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W
MALACHI WAITED. The men would
come coal-faced from the mouth of the mine, dark-dusted as if coughed up, nothing unblack save eyes and teeth. The survivors of some hellish underworld, perhaps. The horn blew. Quitting time. Malachi watched them ascend, waiting for his brother. The handles of the overhead conveyor line bounced as the men released them, no sound from this distance. Malachi looked down at his hands. Coal-black crescents underneath his nails, over his cuticles in arcs. Coal all over like gloves you couldn’t take off. He balled his hand into a fist. Pale cracks yawned at the knuckles. When he looked up again his brother’s face appeared, eyes and chin protruding the dark. His face was streaked lighter than the others, more sweat. This was only his first week back stateside, home, and already they were about to strike again. The miners. Tomorrow. Malachi had taken a half day of leave for meetings, planning. Now he stood at the gate. Jesse came toward him, his aluminum lunchbox, dairy-barn-shaped, dangling from one hand, his thermos from another. Both hanging on the slight crook of a knuckle. Malachi worried one of them might slip. Jesse walked up and slugged an arm around him.
WITH ART BY JOHN URBAIN
TAYLOR BROWN’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in more than fifteen publications, including The Baltimore Review, The New Guard, CutBank, The Coachella Review, and storySouth. His story “Rider” received the 2009 Montana Prize in Fiction, and his story collection In the Season of Blood and Gold was published in 2014 by Press 53. He lives in Wilmington, NC. NCLR Fiction Editor Liza Wieland remarked upon her selection of this story for honorable mention, “I admired ‘World Without End’ for its dark and beautiful writing about murder and vengeance in a coal-mining community. I am reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s injunction that the use of violence in fiction should never be an end in itself, but should show forth the qualities in the characters which are least dispensable – in this case loyalty and a deep sense of justice.”
Published on Jan 26, 2015
The North Carolina Literary Review (NCLR) is published annually by East Carolina University and the North Carolina Literary & Historical Ass...