Page 83

Fractured Jack King

It had been a morbidly hot June, and Raleigh Evans didn’t think the summer would get any better. He stood on a low hilltop with Western Maryland unfurled around him. The farmlands were broken by clusters of neighborhoods and tightly packed strip malls that grew in density the further east you went. Just beyond the horizon lay Baltimore City and the vast urban sprawl that stretched along the east coast, countless millions that would one day thrive off the gas wells he and his intern were mapping out. Raleigh took in a lung-full of honeysuckle and pine scented air, which brought memories of summer evenings watching fireflies with Emily. Funny how the simplest things are the ones you miss the most. He checked his map, noted the drilling sites that still needed surveys. Maybe a month of work and then he could become one of those tubby corporate geologists who lounge in air-conditioning all day. More than a mile underground laid the edge of the Marcellus Shale, the vast reservoir of natural gas that spanned from Tennessee to upstate New York. If not for the intern, Raleigh would’ve been doing the job alone. Would’ve preferred it, actually. But an ARECO executive had a son he wanted to keep out of trouble for the summer, and truthfully Raleigh needed a companion in a way he couldn’t articulate, like scratching an itch you didn’t realize you had. He wanted to think of Kyle as a hemorrhoid because babysitting the boss’s son put him in a remarkably awkward position he didn’t appreciate, but nothing ever works out like you think it will. The boy had an innate curiosity that reminded Raleigh how much he enjoyed geology. Every rock had a story, every pebble was tied to the great chain of shifting earth and colliding continents put in motion when the planet cooled. The summer held a promise he’d forgotten could exist. Asking for anything more seemed foolishly optimistic. Raleigh felt a tremor and thought of the burrito he ate for lunch. Gas had a bad way of vibrating his insides before leaking out, and lately his farts had a stench that likely violated some Geneva Convention. He thought it wouldn’t be good to let one rip in front of the intern. Good thing the boy was on the opposite hill. But the vibrating wasn’t in his bowels; it was in the earth. Kyle’s voice crackled through the radio. “You feel that?” Raleigh scanned the horizon, saw trees shake and birds dart into the sky. “Earthquake,” he said. “Unusual on the East Coast.” Ideas flooded his mind bringing the same kind of adrenaline-fueled panic he felt when Emily told him about her biopsy results. They were in the middle of a divorce at the time, and Raleigh never would understand her infidelity. He thought about the forty-five test wells already producing, deep holes sunk a mile into the earth that formed a dotted line across fields of premature corn. The quake subsided, and his panic stalled. “It’s fine,” he said into the radio. “Because the bedrock is the pee-more plateau,” Kyle said. “Piedmont,” Raleigh laughed. “Piedmont Plateau, and it’s more than three hundred billion years old.”

LITERARY-ARTS MAGAzINE | 83

Sanskrit 2014  
Sanskrit 2014  
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