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Story by Steve Cushman June 15, 2006

My six-year-old brother, Bingham, is out back throwing Dad’s stuff into the air. There goes a comb, a pair of green underwear, a blue tie, a little tin of Skoal. He looks back at me, standing here at the kitchen window, watching him. I wave and he shakes his head and goes back to the pile under the tall oak.

Bingham’s cut-offs are dirty, strings hanging down and his white T-shirt is wet from sweat. There goes a record, an ancient Penthouse, Dad’s old tackle box. The phone rings and I go over and listen to the machine. I’m not supposed to answer the phone and let anyone know she’s left us home again, but it doesn’t matter because before I can pick up the line goes dead.

He is deep into clothes now—-pants and dress shoes, a flannel hunting shirt, one of Dad’s old suit jackets. He lifts a horseshoe and tosses it over his shoulder, and I duck because it looks like it might come through the window. But it lands with a thud, somewhere out there, maybe in the azaleas. There’s a ketchup bottle, some old photo albums, a basketball, then a baseball. Bingham pauses with the baseball, tries to put it in his front pocket, but it won’t fit so he tosses it over his shoulder.

Mom started throwing the stuff outside last night. She didn’t even look like herself really, looked like a crazy woman, like one of those women you’d see on a TV show. But after throwing what she was going to throw, she walked in here, said she was going to find that good for nothing son of a bitch and that I had better watch after Bingham.

Whoosh, there goes a toaster, a coffee pot, one of the nozzles off the kitchen sink. Bingham is laughing like a crazy fool. I’d like to go out and help him but I got my orders and I want nothing to do with one of her two-day-gone whippings. You wouldn’t either if you’d had ‘em like I had.

But Bingham keeps going, doesn’t look like he’ll ever tire of this work. I’ll let him dig until he can’t dig no more and when the pile is gone, or at least the big pile is a bunch of little piles, and he has still not found what he is looking for I will sit him down and tell him this is how we will live now: the two of us, or three if she comes back. He’ll probably frown or go off into some crying fit, but I’ll hold him tight until he stops, like Dad used to do to Mom, back then, before he left.

About the Author

Steve Cushman’s novel, Portisville, was published in 2004 and named winner of the Novello Literary Award. His short fiction has appeared in The North American Review, 100% Pure Florida Fiction, Lake Effect, Village Rambler, Hurricane Review and the Raleigh News & Observer. He currently works as an X-ray Technologist in Greensboro, North Carolina.

This story appeared in Issue Thirteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirteen

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