Sunday, April 24, 2005

shinola! at ten thou and counting

So much for making this one a marketable length.

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They found the fireman not ten yards from the train, trying to crawl back through the shale and juniper brush. He was sobbing in that broken, wheezy way Trace remembered from Antietam; his shirt was wet and sticky when Trace touched his shoulder.

“Easy, feller, we got you,” Trace said, turning the man onto his back in Boz’s arms. He began to scream immediately, and bat at them with his shredded hands. His face was dark and shiny in the moonlight, black with blood that seemed to be coming from his scalp. The rest of him was shaking and cold, the breath rattling in his throat. “Conductor! We got your man down here!”

There was a skidding and scuffling as the conductor and Willie scrambled down the grade; Willie’s lantern threw shards of light over the ground and the chewed-up fellow between them.

“Tommy!” the conductor said, dropping to one knee. “Tommy, what happened? Where’s Earl?”

The fireman gurgled gibberish, pawing at the conductor’s coat. His sleeves had been torn off, and there was a big chunk of meat missing out of his forearm. With the lamp brought closer, Trace could see a flap of torn scalp dangling over his forehead, and one eye was gone. It looked like a wolf or bear had bitten into his head.

Trace looked into Boz’s eyes, read the question there, and stood up, looking back toward the train.

“What was it, Tommy?” the conductor asked. “Wolves? Did they get Earl?”

Trace squinted. The windows of the passenger cars glowed dimly from the lamps; he could just make out heads and bodies moving inside. He could see two men standing on the colored car, pacing back and forth, keeping watch. One of them had a spark of fire in his hand, which he raised to his lips.

Something dark was slinking up the gravel grade to the tracks. Something blacker than the sky, darker than the shadows. It moved low to the ground, crawling like a frog but much faster, the size of a man. Another one, behind it. Two more--two cars down. Converging on the train.

8 comments:

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

So much for making this one a marketable length...

Heh. Well, at least you can say you're consistent.

Thinkin', Ms. Messinger, I'm gonna have to start up a mag that just does that difficult, unsaleable between-a-short-and-a-novella taboo length, just to get folk like you who actually put a little worthwhile texture and context into their shorts published.

Good to hear it's moving along, anyway.

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

Oh yeah... and:

t moved low to the ground, crawling like a frog but much faster, the size of a man. Another one, behind it. Two more--two cars down. Converging on the train...

Yikes.

Holly said...

Heh. I've been thinking that same thing... about starting a mag, that is. What stops me is A) I've seen what the slush looks like and B) it would cut into my own work too much.

I really need a grant.

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

I think of these things, and then I think, I dunno... publishing. Cutthroat, competitive business, usually pretty meagre margins... Got out of reporting partly because the hours were miserable, the pay and career path always so dicey...

My publisher friend seems happy, tho'. Can't be all bad.

Holly said...

My parents are printers, and have owned a small business for years, and I work in business publishing, so if anyone should be lacking in delusions about the industry, it's me.

But I'm not. I still think it would be cool. And my mom keeps egging me to do it. But I think what she has in mind is more of a vanity press or book packager.

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

My publisher friend (one Andrew Steeves) runs this cool little press:

http://www.gaspereau.com/

...I'm occasionally jealous. It does look like fun, now and then. And they've done some pretty good stuff. One of their books (George Eliot Clarke's Execution Poems) won the Governor-General's award for poetry (easily the most prestigious literary award specific to Canada) in 2001. And I'd say (unlike some award winners) it deserved it, well enough. And they seem to be doing all right. Guess it is actually possible to publish worthy work and still survive.

Anonymous said...

Was it at Antietam that Trace got his bayonet wound?
Scotius

Holly said...

I think so. I haven't entirely settled on which battle he was in that ended his army career, but that's the general intent.

Yes, Trace fought for the Confederacy. As he put it, "I never held with slavery, but I never held with a government tellin folks how to live, either."

I acknowledge your point about the Confeds referring to Antietam as Sharpsburg. However 1) Trace is from Missouri, and probably knows the place by both names, and 2) it's a case of either do the accurate thing and no one will know what you mean, or say the commonly known thing and risk having a few pedants send me nasty letters. I'll take the risk.