Elysian Fields

Fiction

I wake in morning light on my back-porch cot, glad to figure I’ve found my way back in the night, thanking Providence and Zeus and whoever else. In the night I must’ve dreamed about Helen, the older sister of Parke Wright and the only woman I’ve ever truly loved. I’ve got her song on my brain.

Fiction by Tad Bartlett

Fatty sits astride the old white homeless dude we call Moses, next to the gas pumps under the fluorescent lights of his gas station on Elysian Fields Avenue. Fresh blood webs across half of Moses’s face. Fatty wraps his large hands around Moses’s throat. I’m leaning against the wall of the store, sitting down, cause the damn world is just too unstable for standing.

“Goddamnit, Moses, you gonna do this, right?” Fatty screams down at the man in that foreigner’s accent of his. I don’t know what kind. I’ve been all over the world and Fatty looks and sounds like about twenty different places. I fell in with him a few weeks ago when I pushed my car up into his gas station lot when it quit on me coming home from my parking garage gig and he came out his store, rubbing his hands together, knowing he got him another fish on the line. Said he’d fix it for me, would I do him some jobs, and then he’d leave it for me all ready to go. That’s the way I have to do to take care of things, trying to stay off official billings and receipts and such, what with that car being stolen from up in Valonia and me laying low here in New Orleans.

Moses smiles. His eyes are almost swole shut. “Sure, boss.” He grins wide. What teeth he has are all yellow and crooked through that white scraggly mess of beard. “I’ll do it, but how bout you hit me up with some more a that Wild Rose?” I’ve seen Moses around, living a life like mine, though maybe twenty years further gone. So I can relate to him, but I ain’t so sure about getting between Fatty and him.

Fatty takes one hand off Moses’s throat and crunches it into a fist, draws it back and aims straight at his face. “Fuck you, Moses. How about you go fire up that damn store and in return I won’t fucking end you? How about that deal, Moses? Tit for tat, motherfucker.”

Moses thinks it over, all silent. Even stops smiling. Fatty’s fist stays ready to strike. He’s a snake, that one. Sometimes I think I almost might be better off back in the Delta, ducking from the Wright kid. It seems Moses has passed out or died or something, so I say, “Yo, Fatty, look, leave Moses be and I’ll do the job for you.”

“Shut up, Skipper,” Fatty says. “It don’t concern you.” Skipper is me, Bobby Youngblood. “Skipper” because I was in the Navy five years, on the boats, sailing the seas.

Offering to take the job off Moses’s hands seems what Moses needs to snap him to, because he finally manages to open one eye and look at Fatty and say, “Aight. I’ll do it then.”

Fatty lets his fist fly anyway, but he stops short of Moses’s face, taps him on the nose instead. Moses flinches. “Good boy,” Fatty says. Fatty gets up and steps to the side. He ain’t a tall man. He’s wide, but with muscle. Everyone only calls him Fatty cause they can’t say whatever his foreign name is. I take a sip from the tall boy that’s been resting on the concrete next to me, and watch Moses struggle to his feet. He’s all bowed over, makes Fatty look like a giant.

“Come on, then,” Fatty says, “get you cleaned up.” Fatty digs his hands in his pocket and comes out with that big ring of keys he has, like a prison guard or something, and turns and walks around the corner of the store.

Moses looks at me sort of sideways as he follows Fatty. Gives me a look like cold ice, no trace of that grin, and I know he knows what he’s doing. “Hang on, boss,” he says. “I’m comin’.” He nods at me, like he’s seeing me for the first time, then staggers around the corner, too.

I push myself into a standing position against the wall. Test the world out, find it spinning a bit less. I train my eye on my car up under the tree by the dumpster on the edge of the lot. I aim for it, take a couple steps, then lean back against the wall again. Take a breath, sip from my can, then take another few steps before I need another rest. I do like that until I’m at the corner of the building, nothing but concrete and no rest stops for another thirty feet to the car. It’s a piece of junk, but when I took it I wasn’t in any state to be picky. When that Wright kid, Parke, heard what happened to his sister, Helen, he said he aimed to kill me, get him an eye for an eye. Them Wrights are crazy enough I knew I’d better get gone the quickest way I could.

Fatty and Moses come back from around back. The blood’s washed off Moses’s face, but he has a gnarly circle of pink, meat-looking wound by his right temple where Fatty had first slammed his head against the ground. He has a bottle sticking out his coat pocket, with a rag poking out the top of it.

“You’ll need this,” Fatty tells him, handing him a lighter.

“OK, boss,” Moses says. “Be seeing y’all around.” Then Moses sets off across the parking lot toward Elysian Fields. Across the wide street is another gas station, almost a mirror image of Fatty’s.

As we watch Moses cross the street, Fatty says, “Them damn gutter daddies’ll do anything, properly motivated and all.”

I never know what to make of Fatty, so I tilt my head over to look down at him. He’s standing next to me, all erect like some stubby little dick. I could spit on him, easy. I look back over at Moses. He’s on a median strip in the middle of the street waiting for traffic to clear.

“You know,” I say to Fatty, “you’re pretty mercenary, too.”

“What’s your point, Skipper?”

“Just saying you shouldn’t maybe call names like that.” Moses walks across the street. When he gets to the other side, he stands under the lit-up canopy by the fuel pumps, looking in the store. No cars are pulled up, at that store or at Fatty’s. But I see a fella in the other store, looking out at Moses.

“Look, you watch out you don’t tell nobody what you seen here, and maybe I’ll give you money for another job. Come back around tomorrow. I’ll have something for you,” Fatty tells me, low and growly. But we can’t neither of us take our eyes off Moses. Moses takes the bottle out his coat pocket. He struggles a couple times to get the lighter going, but then he gets it. The little flame grows bright as he touches it to the rag. For a moment he stands there, hefting it in his hand, then he hurls it, hard, right as the clerk opens the door to come out the store. The clerk ducks, and the bottle bomb sails over his head. There’s a muffled crash and whoosh and we see flames inside that store. Moses had bolted before the bottle even hit, like he was sober and young.

I want to watch what the clerk is going to do, but Fatty turns on me, pushes me up against the wall. “I’m serious. I’ll throw your drunk ass in the swamp,” he says, “if you ever tell anyone about this, or ever say shit about me again. I ain’t no ‘mercenary.’ I’m a businessman.”

Sirens approach. Fatty lets off me and steps back. He grabs something out his pocket and holds it out to me. A full bottle of Wild Irish Rose. “What’s this for?” I ask, grabbing it and stuffing it into my own coat pocket before he changes his mind.

“For staying out of the way.” Fatty walks back into his store. I stumble around the corner. Fatty sticks his head out the door again. “Oh,” he yells after me, “Little dude came by looking for you this afternoon.”

I wave him off, but I shudder inside, like my stomach gone to liquid. I don’t want to hear that. At the back corner of the store, I look over at my car again. I’ll have to get it later. Police and fire trucks screech up across the street. I lunge off the back corner of the store and set sail into the scrubby trees behind it, my hands tearing off the seal of the bottle and unscrewing the top. It’s another night to disappear.

 

* * *

 

I wake in morning light on my back-porch cot, glad to figure I’ve found my way back in the night, thanking Providence and Zeus and whoever else. In the night I must’ve dreamed about Helen, the older sister of Parke Wright and the only woman I’ve ever truly loved. I’ve got her song on my brain.

“Oh, Helen,” I sing-song as I sit up on that cot, “I fell in … big lovin’ … with you.” I heard that song somewhere. It’s about an “Ellen,” but I make it about my Helen. I make it mine, the way we do.

Back at Paluma County High, kids called me “White-Trash Boy” or “Shoddy Bobby” or yelled out “Where’s your Daddy, Boy” and laughed, but not Helen. She’d throw me a smile every now and then, even tell me “Hey, Bobby, how you doing?” and wait around long enough for me to stutter out, “G-great, Helen. You?” We weren’t prom dates or nothing. Hell, I wasn’t even going to that school anymore by the time our senior prom came around, working instead at Mister Mike’s garage and waiting to be old enough for the military to take me.

Things were all changed up, though, when I finished my five years on the ship and went back home.

“Bobby Youngblood, is that you?” Helen yelled, I mean yelled, across the parking lot of the Piggly-Wiggly in Valonia.

I dug my hands in the pockets of my jeans and walked over where she was. “Hello, Helen,” I said, not stuttering at all. “How’re you?”

“Oh, same old thing,” she said, with a tired laugh. She was loading brown bags of groceries—carton of eggs in the top of one, two loaves of Wonder Bread in one, pack of diapers in another—onto the floorboard of the passenger side of an old mint green Chevy pickup. I remembered one of them Sardis boys had one like it back in school, and I figured she must’ve hitched up with him and had some kids while I was gone.

“You with Charlie now?” I asked. That smile she’d been giving me fell and she looked down at her hands. Thin little gold band on one of them.

“We married a couple years after school, yeah.” A pause, then, “But you sure are looking different.”

“Five years in the Navy, I guess. Ain’t stopped working the whole time hardly.”

She looked up into my eyes, and I didn’t look away or down or nothing. “You just seem more confident, Bobby, like you a grown man now.”

“Well,” I said, not sure what to say, “thank you.”

And we came to run into each other three, four times a week, passing more time together, talking and catching up. Five, ten minutes in the parking lot at the Pig, or in line at the post office, or out front the hardware store, and then it was whole shopping trips together, walking up and down every aisle of the grocery store, even the aisles where we didn’t need nothing. I never saw Charlie Sardis around. Not when I saw her, and not no time else, either.

And then it was lunch at the McDonald’s out by the highway to Greenville. I was heading to find a part for Mama’s tractor when I saw that mint green Chevy in the Mickey D’s parking lot, so I decided I was hungry right then. I pulled in and parked next to her pickup and she was still sitting in the cab, like she was waiting for me, or like it was fated.

“Hey, Bobby Youngblood,” she said, “you eat lunch with me?” And of course I did, and I suppose that was our first date, if you don’t count those times in the grocery store or at the post office. We ate Quarter-Pounders, both of us, because we both had the same favorite things, and she asked about the food in the Navy.

“People complained,” I said, “but people always complaining about something, and it’s like it was just the regulations to complain about the food, but it wasn’t bad, really. Them boys in the galley did the best they could with what the Navy got us.”

“That’s just like you, Bobby,” she said.

“What?”

“No matter what your situation, always seeing the good in folks, taking things nice.” And she put her hand on top of mine right then, where I had it stuffed in the little paper bag of french fries, and I suppose I should’ve known there would be trouble.

But I still smell the faint whiff of them fries when I wake up from dreaming about Helen, singing that song.

There’s a knock from the inside on the back door to Leigh Ann’s house, the one that goes from the back porch into her kitchen, then it scruffs open a crack. That door hangs low and scrapes against the linoleum, this house crooked like they all are down here. Leigh Ann pokes her face out the opening.

“You up, Bobby?” she asks.

“Yeah, I’m awake,” I say. “You know I told you you don’t got to knock to come out on your own damn back porch. I ain’t going to be trouble to you.”

She scrapes the door open wider and slips through, sits on a flaked-green-paint-and-rust metal porch glider across from the cot, her back to the scrubby backyard. “I know you don’t want to make trouble,” she says, “but I think it came anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“Scrawny plain-clothes cop just come around the front door. I thought it was to hassle me about my customers, but he showed me a picture of you, Bobby. You was looking fine, honey, all done up in your sailor uniform.” She gives me an up-and-down look, I’m sure thinking how I look a far sight from what I did then. “He asked have I seen that man in that picture.”

“You didn’t tell him I’m here, I suppose.”

“No. Told him I maybe seen a man like that a week ago, but he was like a transient, passing through, ain’t seen him since.”

“Well,” I say, then I look down in my lap, then over at my shoes on the floor of the porch by the screen door, all dirt and mud but still holding together good, ready to run. “Guess that ain’t good.”

“You know you need to make yourself scarce, right?” she says.

“Of course.”

“I don’t want to evict you, Bobby, but I have to be careful. You come back around in a week or two. I won’t let no one else have your cot.” She smiles then, and I imagine in different times and places for both of us this could be something more than what it is, a business relationship, a convenience, an alliance.

I bundle up my few things I’ve accumulated the last couple months I’ve been down here into a backpack. Couple changes of clothes, not much else, and hop the back chain-link fence into an alley I can walk all the way to where it dead-ends in the bramble that runs up behind Fatty’s store. If no one’s snooping around, I can hop in the car and maybe find myself some other part of town to hole up in for a bit, a different precinct where cops ain’t looking for me. I’ve done nothing, but no use even arguing with them, me being in the state I’m in. I ain’t nothing to them.

I wrestle through them vines and little trash trees across a drainage gully between the neighborhood and Fatty’s store. There’s a mess of voices, though, ahead of me, so I don’t go popping out the bushes into the parking lot. I ain’t a dumb man. I stay hid, down low, and look out at the scene.

Ambulance and three cop cars are pulled up in Fatty’s parking lot, and there’s a crowd of people knotted around by the door of the store. Mainly the neighborhood hanging-out folks, like me, probably curious for the gossip of whatever’s going down in there. My car ain’t twenty feet from where I crouch, but I don’t dare come out from hiding, not yet, not until I figure out what’s what. Them folks at the door of the store, they’re bubbling and circling about, like they’re in a boiling pot or doing some Friday night dance, changing places, hub-bubbing, and I know something’s bound to happen soon, that the pot lid’s going to blow right off.

And it does. Folks yell, “Clear the way,” and them people by the door fall to either side and those ambulance men wheel a stretcher out with a big black vinyl bag laid out on it, body bag, occupied, and six, seven cops follow them out and fan through the crowd, notebooks out, one of them with a big camera rig, snapping pictures, and one starts walking my way, likely to check my car, and I shuffle backward deeper into the brush, keeping my eye on him.

A hand clamps down on my shoulder from behind, and I smell sour whiskey and hear the breathing of an unhealthy man. “Skipper,” he says, and I turn my head fast, grab the arm of the hand that’s on me, and it’s Moses and he’s quick. He takes his other hand and grabs my arm and pushes me back to where I fall on my butt in the dirt.

“You quiet now,” he whispers, harsh, and he’s looking up through the bushes. He’s right. Ain’t going to do no good to get arrested for fighting when there’s a murder investigation happening just steps away from us.

We lay there, the two of us, making no sounds but our breathing. I’m looking up past Moses at a gray sky through the leaves of the bramble. Been nothing but gray since I been here. Ain’t no sunshine. Moses is watching the parking lot, his hand still gripped on my arm. Finally, he eases up and looks down at me.

“What you doing back here?” he asks.

I struggle up to sitting and look back at the lot. No cops by my car any more, but plenty action happening up closer to the store. Ambulance is gone, but them cops have that yellow-tape scrolled across both entrances to the street and around the door of the store, and have them folks all lined up on the store wall, asking them questions, going down the line.

“Come to get my car,” I say.

“No,” Moses says, “they watching it, looking for you.” I squench up my brain real good, because none of this makes sense.

“Say, Moses, who were they wheeling out Fatty’s store?”

Moses looks at me hard, no expression on his face, though, like he’s coming to a decision for himself, then he must’ve reached it because then he licks his lips, says, “So you really don’t know. That was Fatty. Shot up real bad. Ugly scene, man. Blood all over.”

“They think I did it?”

“Boy, I know you ain’t done it. Shit, you couldn’t shoot straight to save your life, drunk as you always are. But they’s folks up there right now telling them you done it. Maybe telling them I done it. Maybe one of them saw us up by Fatty’s store last night.”

“But no one, not no one, saw me shoot him,” I say, “because I didn’t.” I’m half a mind to go barging out them bushes and tell them cops to look and see, I didn’t do it, I ain’t got powder on my hands, no gun, nothing.

“I saw the man what did it,” Moses says. “Skinny little dude. Out behind the dumpsters. He walk up to Fatty. I’m here in the bushes, waiting to get a crack at Fatty myself, but this dude there first. Holding this big ass shotgun, like he out hunting in the woods, but all casual like, slung over his shoulder. I hear him, says, ‘You sure you get that Bobby Youngblood come back here tomorrow,’ and Fatty, he cuss the man some, tell him you be back here tomorrow, what that’s today now, then Fatty cuss him again and tell him to get the fuck off his property. Then that skinny dude says, ‘I seen you give that old man the shit to firebomb that store. I been watching you.’ Fatty goes for his pocket, that gun he keep, but skinny dude lower his first, emptied it into Fatty. All calm like. Then he dragged Fatty up into the store. He a crazy man. Don’t just run off, but drags Fatty into the damn store. Then walk across the street like he ain’t done a thing, gets in a car and drives off all slow.”

Well, I’m in a panic now. Skinny dude with guns, and crazy, too. Asking for me. Too much damn coincidences.

“You see what tags he had?” I ask.

“Mississippi.”

 

* * *

 

I hate to borrow Leigh Ann’s old car like this, without asking her or nothing, but I’m in it and heading for water. South and east out of town, through Arabi, Chalmette, Meraux, Violet, all the way to where the marsh spreads out, just like Moses said to do.

Gray marsh grasses in waves and old cypress pointing winter gray skeleton fingers to the gray, gray sky. The road keeps getting smaller and the water closer. Yscloskey, Shell Beach, Hopedale, the end of the road.

“I got to get out of town, talk to that man,” I’d told Moses. We’d been passing a bottle back and forth in those bushes. I was checking over my shoulder, knowing it was time to do something, time to stop feeling what I’ve been feeling.

“Ain’t no talking to a man like that,” he’d said. “You ain’t seen him, seen the look on his face.”

“I’m not going to keep running, though,” I said. “And I can’t kill any more. Not any more. If I can’t talk some peaceful end to all this with him, well, then, I guess he can shoot me.” And so Moses told me a good place to go, said he’d stick around to see the Wright kid show up again and tell him where I’d be.

I crunch the car onto a little parking strip on the narrow shoulder paved in dusty white pieces of oyster shells. I step out the car and look down at a wide bayou emptying into a larger canal. More marsh, broken into little patches separated by large open water, on the other side of the canal. I look around. Ain’t no one else here, not yet.

Concrete chunks and rock, rip-rap, lines the bank from the road down to the bayou, and I carefully climb down and sit on a piece of concrete, set my feet on another at the water’s edge. That bayou smells like dead things, slime and mud and salt and oil. I look down at my hands where I’m trying to rest them still on my knees, but they tremble anyway. Ain’t had a drink in ten hours. Shouldn’t have shakes yet.

Helen looked so beautiful that last night, sitting on the bench seat of that Sardis boy’s Chevy truck beside me, the wind flowing in through the open passenger-side window, whipping her red hair around so she had to put her hand up to push it back as she looked over at me. Her other hand was resting on my knee, and it made me want to push that accelerator pedal all the way down and go fast, fly with her. I took a swig from the bottle wedged between her and me.

“You sure you want to leave?” I asked her, handing the bottle over. I already knew the answer, but I liked to hear her say it. She tipped the bottle up and took a deep pull. I figured we both needed it, what we were doing, and grabbed the bottle back and did the same.

“I’ll do anything to be with you, Bobby,” she said. “I don’t care about Charlie or my Pap or none of them. We ain’t got to see any of them again.”

We were on the road to Alabama and a new life. Her and me. That baby was all quiet in his crib when we’d snuck Helen’s suitcase out to the pickup. Then she’d run up to her Pap’s porch and slipped that note into his screen door. She ran back to the pickup and I honked real loud and spun gravel and dirt up into the yard as we took off.

“I love you, Helen,” I said, looking over at her longer than I should, wanting her something powerful, all of her, for all time. Everything was working on me. Helen, the drink, the danger, the road, and I know I should’ve been more thoughtful about it. Been more careful about some part of it, any of it, but I was taking action, being that confident man she saw that first day back at the Piggly Wiggly. But then the wheels of that old truck were flying cross a ditch and we were smashed up against a gnarled oak, Helen flown out through that open window with that wind, her body limp and blood dripping from the tree.

Then her brother, Parke, after me like a demon.

 

* * *

 

Wasn’t hard to find the place. I hope it’s not long till he shows up. Truth is, I’m sick about it, nervous about it. Probably why I’m shaking, not the lack of drink. If all goes well, I’m going to get me a long drink back up on Leigh Ann’s porch, then maybe I’ll get to go home. Mississippi home, and this’ll all be over.

The sky fades from dull gray to pitch black. No flaming clouds from the sunset, because the sun doesn’t live in this gray land. No moon, no stars, just a dark pressing down heavy. The water comes alive, little splashes and moans, skittering feet on the rip rap around me. I wish Helen was sitting here, leaning her body into mine, mine into hers. Her smell was like sweet whiskey and confederate jasmine, faint cigarettes and denim, a hint of gasoline. I want to breathe her in, right now.

I sense them headlights coming before I see them, way off up the road, flicking through them skeleton trees and nests of shrimp boats. When they’re on that last straightaway to where I sit at pavement’s end, I make on purpose not to look at him come on, but stare down at that water dark like old blood. Hard not to look up, especially when them brights catching everything around me in a blast of white. He knows I know he’s here, but I still don’t look, don’t move.

His car crunches up onto the shells. His engine roars with a vengeance of Hell, and he sits there, letting it growl for a minute, before he shuts it down. He leaves them lights on, though. I hear him open his door, hear him say “stay in the car old man,” hear his boots step out onto the shells and step slow, one after the other, up to the edge of the parking strip where I know he’s standing looking down at me, probably pointing that shotgun barrel down at me, thinking about pulling the trigger and being done with it. But he ain’t going to do that. He’s going to want to say some shit first, make me feel real bad for what I did to his sister. Like there’s any more worse place my mind to dwell than where it’s been.

“Youngblood, stand up, boy,” he says, high-pitched but not like a squeak. More like a preacher. And I listen.

I rise, not the least unsteady on them rocks and concrete. I turn. Sure enough, he’s aiming that gun my way. “Parke,” I say. “I’ve been waiting.”

“Boy, you been waiting to die, then.” Them bright lights from his car shine like a train light, framing him, but I see his face good enough anyway, see him smiling, see them eyes open wide and crazy. That boy is far gone, maybe too far gone for this to work, to talk peace with. But I know it’ll have to be peace or death. Ain’t no islands in between.

“You know I died when Helen did, Parke,” I say. I hold my hands loose at my sides, hope he knows I ain’t going to try to fool him, pull a piece on him. “You and I share the same pain,” I say.

“Boy, you don’t know pain. You think you know what Charlie Sardis feels, you stealing his woman twice, once from his bed and once more on that road? You know what my Pap feels, do you?” He shuffles a half-step closer, his hate propelling him forward. “And that baby?” Little shells kick down onto the rip-rap.

I raise my hands up shoulder-high now, palms out, like surrender. “Now, Parke, you know I didn’t mean to steal no one. I did nothing premeditated. You can’t choose when love’s going to get you. You know that.”

“Don’t try to change things with your silver-tongue, boy. I know that’s how you tricked Helen. You ain’t going to trick me. Your death certificate’s already filled out, Robert Youngblood, just like the rest of your sorry-ass family.”

“Please,” I say. It’s as far as I’ll go toward life-begging. If he aims to kill me, I’m not going to go like a coward. I’m no fool, and I’m no coward, neither.

“Mother-fucker,” he says, and he raises the shotgun up and sights down the barrel at me, not ten feet from him.

“Thank you, Parke,” I say.

“What you thanking me for, boy?”

“For hurrying me on so I’ll see Helen tonight and not have to wait no more.”

I hear the blast and shut my eyes at the same time, like I can’t bear to see my own death. I taste the blood in my mouth as I fall across the rocks and into the chilly bayou water. I’d thought death would be filled with more pain, or more nothing, but not this. This feels just like life. Struggling for breath, wanting a drink, flailing out, my hands finding concrete edges and pulling up. And I open my eyes and I’m still right there, half-in and half-out the water, the end of the road rising above me, Parke Wright’s headlights shining forwards.

But Parke ain’t standing at the top of the embankment no more. He’s splayed on the rip-rap, and it’s Moses I see standing at the road’s edge.

“You need a hand, Skipper?” Moses asks, though he doesn’t move to come down on the concrete.

“I don’t know,” I say.

“Pull your sorry ass up on them rocks. Come on now, quick. Them fishermen don’t come down here, then sure’s shooting they’ll have the sheriff down here fore long.”

I slip and slide out of the mud and onto the concrete chunks. Parke Wright doesn’t move. I look down at myself, red blood all over me. Parke’s blood.

“Come on,” Moses says, and he goes around to the driver side of Leigh Ann’s car. I hoist myself over Parke’s body and up to the roadside. No headlights coming our way, yet, but a couple dogs baying in the distance. Maybe coyotes. I open the passenger-side door and collapse into the seat.

Moses turns the car around and we head back up the road. He doesn’t look at me. He doesn’t speak. He reaches into his coat pocket and brings out a bottle of Wild Rose, hands it to me without looking. I unscrew the cap and let it pour down into my throat. Nothing to see outside, the whole world dark. We drive back up through the marshes, north then west then north again, toward Mississippi and whatever home there may be, my heart all clouds, pressing down.

 

Tad Bartlett received an MFA in fiction from the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans, where he was a reader for Bayou magazine. He is now the Managing Editor of the Peauxdunque Review. His creative non-fiction has been named a “notable” essay by Best American Essays, and has appeared in The Chautauqua Literary JournalThe Bitter Southerner, and the online Oxford AmericanHis fiction has been published by The Baltimore ReviewCarolina Quarterly, Stockholm Review of LiteratureBird’s Thumb, and others. Feel free to follow him on twitter @swampytad.

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