“In the Dry” — Breece D’J Pancake

Read Breece D’J Pancake’s short story “In the Dry.” Excerpt —

He sees the bridge coming, sees the hurt in it, and says aloud his name, says, “Ottie.” It is what he has been called, and he says again, “Ottie.” Passing the abutment, he glances up, and in the side mirror sees his face, battered, dirty; hears Bus’s voice from a far-off time, I’m going to show you something. He breathes long and tired, seems to puff out the years since Bus’s Chevy slammed that bridge, rolled, and Ottie crawled out. But somebody told it that way—he only recalls the hard heat of asphalt where he lay down. And sometimes, Ottie knows. Now and again, his nerves bang one another until he sees a fist, a fist gripping and twisting at once; then hot water runs down the back of his throat, he heaves. After comes the long wait—not a day or night, but both folding on each other until it is all just a time, a wait. Then there is no more memory, only years on the hustle with a semi truck—years roaring with pistons, rattling with roads, waiting to sift out one day. For one day, he comes back.

This hill-country valley is not his place: it belongs to Sheila, to her parents, to her Cousin Buster. Ottie first came from outside the valley, from the welfare house at Pruntytown; and the Gerlocks raised him here a foster child, sent him out when the money-crop of welfare was spent. He sees their droughty valley, cannot understand—the hills to either side can call down rain. Jolting along the pike, he looks at withered fields, corn tassling out at three feet, the high places worse with yellowish leaves. August seems early for the hills to rust with dying trees, early for embankments to show patches of pale clay between milkweed and thistle. All is ripe for fire.

2 thoughts on ““In the Dry” — Breece D’J Pancake”

  1. I’ve long been a fan of Hemingway’s short stories. More than the longer works, as good as they are, clearly. I especially love the cut-to-the-bone use of only just as many words as are needed. Recently, though, I discovered Breece D’J Pancake just by accident. Something about the way he can create a back story with just a few lines. Simple, economical, brilliant. I aspire to be able to write just one small paragraph anywhere near as good. Just think, what could he have been if he had lived a few years longer? But, I have to admit that I think the best of creativity seems to come from the darkest of times and the most desperate messages are sometimes hidden deep in the text. Reading “Rat Boy”, the story omitted from the book of short stories, just now further illuminates my perspective.

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  2. Hi, Marclaa—
    Haven’t read/heard of “Rat Boy” — where is it? I still haven’t finished the collection, though—his writing is wonderful, but the stories make me so very, very sad.

    Like

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