THE HUNT

Father had objected, but mother stood her ground. The boy could hunt alone. She was tired of objections based upon speculations borne of fear. The bone of hunger was greater. Winter had set in well and good, not just on the calendar of but for both she and Father. The old man was wise in woodcraft but unsteady in hand. Truth be told, for three seasons gone by now, he couldn’t have hit the sky with two barrels of scattershot without complaining about the sun getting in his eye.

The boy would hunt alone. All went well enough in those first weeks. Rabbits and squirrels were brought home for the pot and skillet. Stews warmed the father’s stomach as much as his heart, so much so until finally the old man’s arguments withered away.

This was why the boy was afraid to tell them. He kept secret what he had seen when alone in the wood.

The country was not what folk farther away and higher up would call mountainous. Just the same, the land ran hilly and thick with gullies and many steep slopes. In winter, as it was now, the birch trees were words on the page, a study in black and white. Or so the boy thought as he did his best not to trudge but slip through the snow. Wet in his boots and seat, he often failed. Steadfast, he kept his head up in search of game. ‘Keep your eyes afore you and your feet will find their way.’ The old man had taught him that.

Blood speckled the snow on the evening he’d first encountered the white stag. Not the stag’s blood, but from a rabbit he’d shot. Or ‘failed to shoot,’ as Father would have no doubt admonished had the old man been witness to the rushed and bungled endeavor. Now the boy struggled almost as much as the hobbled buck hare as he scrambled up and down following the smattered trail of crimson. Twice the boy was vexed when he stumbled and surged forward only to find he was pursuing a red cardinal flitting on the snow and not the blood of his wounded supper.

Hands and feet were numb with cold. The barrel of his gun had dipped into the banks and was clotted with snow and so he sat back on his haunches to catch a breath and clear his mind and clean his weapon. ‘That damn coney can wait,’ he told himself, breaking the breach to ensure the barrel was clear. As he reloaded a round of birdshot, he looked up to consider his surroundings.

It was just there. Perhaps a difficult shot away if only the barrel was slug loaded. Perfect and still. The boy thought the creature a figment at first. But then the slightest hint of steam escaped the stag’s nostril. A wisp. The boy gasped and the white stag recognized him with a stamp of fore hooves that brought snow from the bows to adorn its broad antlers. Eyes and nostrils flaring wide, the boy and the stag considered one another.

And then it was gone.

He told no one of it. Who would believe him? And if he’d seen it, then why wasn’t its meat on the table, its great rack above the mantle, its fine pelt upon the bed?

With every outing he prayed for another chance. He kept his barrel loaded with a slug instead of birdshot. In that way so many rabbits and quail ran and flew free. The house went hungry.

And this was why they argued that night on the road, his father’s knuckles white on the wheel. His father accusing him of slipping off to nap and malinger instead of being diligent in the effort to trap and hunt.

The boy was shaking his head, stirring and stoking the courage to explain. And then, as if answering for him, there it stood in the dark road before them.

The boy huddled in the hollow of his father’s still frame. Everything told the boy he should be cold, but he wasn’t. Before him was the hunt. The thing his father had said must be made.

The white stag still stood. Ablaze in headlamps askew. The boy made a gun of his fingers and sent “pew-pews” off into the night.

The air was thick with the commingling of steam and gasoline. It burned and gouged every sense. The boy scrunched his eyes as he struggled to pass the rough wool of his jacket under his nose. He coughed. A mistake. With a jerk and shake of its great crowned head, the white stag made a pirouette. Before the boy could clear his eyes, the stag had disappeared, weaving itself someplace between birch and snow.

The boy would have been sad but wasn’t. A year or two before, all he would have wanted to have done was to kill it. Kill it to prove to Father what a man he’d become. How Mother had been right. That was not true anymore. He was glad the stag had gotten away. The boy settled into the cold of his father’s shoulder to find a good place for himself; cold but growing warmer.

Comfort found him there in the twisted metal of their machine.

For just a moment, the great white stag considered the boy and the man where they huddled curiously still inside their broken steaming beast, and then it moved on, climbing the ridge to pass over the hill beyond.

SONGS to WHISTLE WHILE CLEANING UP BLOOD

Released! Set free! It’s been loosed upon the unsuspecting public!

Blood Songs

Cryptids and creeps. Deranged charlatans. Troubled souls seeking redemption or revenge. Strange things and weak, piddling people.  Stories thick with lies. These are weird tales indeed, caught up someplace between myth and fact, without existing in either or maybe, once upon a time and place, true in both….

 

THE CROOKED MAN’S MILE

When he was just six years old, Conner Connley killed a man—or so his father told him. His mother, suddenly and mysteriously absent, could offer no help as young Conner tried desperately to make sense of the confusing accusation.

Abandoned alone with a war-blinded father, and tortured by the heartbreak of his mother’s inexplicable departure, the boy is soon compelled to flee his home in exchange for a runaway’s lifetime of aimless drifting and hardship.

As the ribbons of roads, rails, and decades weave together a seemingly endless stream of odd and fateful events, fashioned and populated by an equally remarkable number of friends, benefactors, and ne’er-do-wells—from the simple but fatherly Roger to the murderous Ringworm—eventually the tides of fate conspire and pull Conner home once more to ultimately discover how so much had gone so wrong, so long ago.

At turns heartbreaking and humorous, bleak and then blooming with love and hope, this is one man’s epic journey to learn the truth behind the tragedy that defined his youth and set in motion the course of his life, greatly determining the incredible man he was to become.

SCISSORS & TWEED

Tweed is the ultimate slacker.  He has zilch in the way of plans. But he’s about to learn how fast zero can go negative.

High school’s out, summer’s afoot, and Tweed’s content to do the usual…hang-out with friends, drink beer, get stoned, and steady bomb the neighborhood with graffiti.  Yeah, he’s got nothing much else in the works and that’s just the way he likes it.

That lasts about half a day.  Soon enough Tweed is upside down and in over his head. He’s falling for Chloe, his best friend’s girl.  Hot though she may be, that one has a few issues of her own.  And then there’s some gang-bangers out to thump his head.  Not enough? Tweed’s grandfather, the man who raised him, is getting harder and harder to keep nailed down.  Until ol’ Pops goes all broken arrow and off the reservation entirely, that is.

Yup.  Whether Tweed is ready for it or not, the time has come for a boy coming of age.

CICADA

A family and community become swept-up in a tempest of violence and tragedy.

After John Sayre starts slipping off at odd hours from the family farm, his wife Frances begins to suspect that he’s joined a newly-revived chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.  By the time their young son discovers the corpse of a lynched black man along the side of a nearby dirt road, Frances Sayre has had enough.  But John hasn’t joined the ranks of the murderous KKK as his wife fears.  Just the same, John’s secret has the potential to destroy their marriage, if not so much more.

What comes to pass over those heated days of summer, none on any side could have imagined, or wanted.

Kirkus Reviews named CICADA “new and notable” as well as awarded it “Best Indies of 2012” status, calling it a beautifully crafted tale with well-drawn characters, adding, “Be sure to read this steamy Southern noir in the AC.”

Special thanks to Julie Rey for her fabulous cover photo.

SEEP

SEEP

Inexplicable psychosis consumes a small town of isolationists, carving out a body-littered, blood-splattered journey into madness. Seep, a gruesome reminder of the fatal nature of life.

Spring, 1927. Without warning, without reason, insanity descends like a cloud of locusts upon a small town in the American Southwest. Neighbor turns on neighbor and family members on one another. The few who are not afflicted battle for their lives as the stain of madness spreads unchecked. Bodies soon litter the dusty streets and the small town burns. Salvation, it would seem, is only for the dead.

Inspired by the true events that struck the village of Pont-Saint-Esprit, France, over the summer of 1951, when a bizarre and fast-spreading madness suddenly affected hundreds, concluding in seven deaths and leaving fifty more interned to asylums.