Anthony Carbajal

                                               Anthony Carbajal

Zack Strait








The minister starts shouting, speaking in a language I’ve never heard

in my life. Reaches into a shoebox and raises up a fistful

of dust colored snakes. I glance back at the door again and pray

the cops don’t bust in during the service to look

for me. Now the whole congregation’s out of their pews, wailing and

lifting up their hands. A few of them have fallen into the

aisle, convulsing like they just got shot. I get up out of my pew

so I don’t look suspicious. Last time I was here

he had them believing he’d made some old lady in a wheelchair walk

again. Just by laying his hands on her. But I saw the two

of them getting into a sedan together after the service was over.

He notices me and puts the snakes back in their

shoebox. Gets behind the pulpit and points his gnarled finger right at

me. Asks if I’m a child of the light or the darkness. And

have I ever been down to the river. I’m already reaching under

my shirt, thumbing the hammer of my revolver

in case anyone recognizes me. They all shake their heads as I answer

that I went down to the river as a kid, but spent my days

in the darkness anyway. Never regretted it. The minister shouts

his curses down on me and casts me out before

I have to pull my revolver. It’s so quiet I can hear the snakes hissing.



Behind me, the flames are just starting to creep from the farmhouse

into the cornfields. I waited until the funeral was over

to do it. Didn’t want to disrespect my old man, after all he did

for Momma and me. Even though he never said

he loved us. Now his body’s sunk into the ground, like a pirate ship

loaded with blood money. Cruised back out here with

my windows down, after the undertaker started shoveling dirt

onto his coffin. Gave the front door a good kick

and stepped into the living room. Someone had thrown white sheets

over all the furniture. Made it look like a blizzard had

torn through and left behind its deposits of snow. Yanked the

sheet off the television, but all the stations were

nothing but snow too. So I just sat there for a few minutes, studying

my old man’s bowling trophy. The little plastic figure

was still waiting to see if he’d thrown a strike. Struck a match

and lit my last cigarette. Took one drag before I

flicked it back behind the television. Then I waited. Until the flames

started to lick my momma’s cross stitch, a blue house

surrounded by flowers. That’s when I got up and left. I glance

at the smoke, spiraling up in my rearview like a

stairway. Wouldn’t surprise me if my old man was trying to climb it.

Zack Strait is pursuing his PhD at Florida State University. His work has recently appeared in Poetry and is forthcoming in Ploughshares. (