True Fires by Susan Carol McCarthy

By Susan Carol McCarthy

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It’s something about the way the Sheriff’s smile doesn’t rise to his eyes. And the look in those eyes. Like the look Pap and the other men get when the brush of wild wings breaks the silence outside the duck blind. When the Sheriff says, “This is your lucky day, boy,” Daniel feels anything but. ” Lottsa times up home, Daniel thinks, but says nothing. “Miss Burch, it’s—what? ” Sheriff DeLuth says. ” “Course not, Sheriff,” Miss Burch chirps. ” 4 Betty Clayton Whitworth, proprietress of the Charmwood Guest House on Elm Street, stands on the front porch massaging her right hip.

Don’t go ranklin’ Franklin Dare,” they’d warn the local hotheads. This Sheriff, Daniel decides, don’t know who he’s talking to. ” Miss Lila Hightower strides out of the barn to stand beside Pap, a pretty, auburn-haired woman dressed, as usual, like a man in khaki shirt, pants, and grove boots. ,” she tells Pap, “as in Kyle Ambrose. As in Kick Ass. Or Kiss Ass. Depending on who’s got the bread and who’s holdin’ the butter knife. ” DeLuth’s face splits suddenly into a grin, a boy’s Sorry-I-spilled-the-sugar-bowl grin, I-wasn’t-aimin’-at-the-mockingbird grin, Teacher-it-sure-as-heck-wudn’t-me sort of grin that doesn’t appear to soften Miss Lila one bit.

Got him! Easy pickin’s for a lover of Mam’s squirrel burgoo. Mam. Without warning, her long skinny face rises up in front of him: grinning at a tow sack heavy with a dozen skinned pink squirrels, grimacing at the pain eating up her innards, composed peaceful-like by old Miz Sary on the pine plank she called her cooling board. This last memory of his mother, colorless except for the strange spots of rouge somebody smudged on her cheekbones, tightens the muscles around his sore heart. All at once, Mam’s pointy fingers, never still, ever impatient with any sort of dillydallying, poke him sharply in the shoulder.

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