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PALE MORNING DUN / Richard Dokey THAT EVENING WE crawled under the fence and looked at the house where old man Fario had died. Wooden slats were naUed over the windows and the front door was padlocked. The grass was brown Uke the weeds along the road. Some of the branches were dead on the wülow tree. "What do you think?" I asked. Jerry looked at me and smUed. "No problem." He found a stick, broke it in half, put one piece between his teeth and handed me the other. We sUthered forward on our belUes Uke Chuck Norris in the movie playing at the Bijou in Livingston. We got across the dead grass, past the wUlow tree, and Jerry held up a hand. I stopped, bit down on the combat knife, my ear cocked against the sounds of the jungle. "What is it?" I said. "I heard something." The wind came up from the meadow where the stream ran. It Ufted the American flag old man Fario always kept poking from the house. The stripes roUed, turned over and fell limp, like a wide red and white fly line. Something in the roof creaked. The house had stood out here for as long as anyone could remember. The somber grey, which you see painted on a lot of the old places, was gone, the wood, süvered and bleached. Two piUars held up a portico which arched over the front steps. In the late afternoon, with the sun behind the cottonwood trees, it looked Uke the entrance to a cave or the deep, dark water beneath an undercut bank. Over the years, coming up from the stream along the dirt road toward home, we had seen a figure, wavering there in the gloom. We were curious about him. Because he never went to town, never, as far as anyone knew, even left the house—food, medicine and an occasional shirt or pair of boots drifting in to him from the stores along Front Street—he was mysterious and untouchable. Now he was gone, disappeared to that deeper mystery, about which few ever spoke, even on Sunday, to which our own Grandpa Alan had gone one evening last year whUe Jerry and I were kneedeep in Horseman's Run. Gramp loved to flyfish, even when his eyes got so bad he couldn't see the tiny imitation riding the crest The Missouri Review · 227 of Horseman's Run, and Gram had to stand just out of his casting arc to teU him when to strike. He taught Jerry and me all we knew about trout, the patient, gentle rhythm of flycasting and the faithfulness of releasing everything we caught. The evening after Gramp disappeared I fuUy expected he would come in from the hiU where he went to watch the sunset and take his place next to my mother. We studied the house, hunkered down in the dry grass and weeds. We had no idea why anyone would board up the windows and fasten a lock to the front door of such a lonely place, unless it was to keep us out. This was, of course, the thinking of boys, who beUeve that Ufe coincides with their passage upon the current of time, for hadn't we often hidden our rods and crept about the perimeter of the house, hatching a plan of attack, but prepared always for flight? "I don't hear anything," I said. There were underground storage rooms. We had observed the old man remove the chain, throw open the heavy wooden door, descend invisible steps and vanish beneath the house. It was then that we were at our boldest, crawUng up to peer over into the emptiness and gloom. We never saw him. But we heard him— scrapings and grindings and the thick sound of things being moved, and his voice, low and muttering. We were amused that, deep down in the dark, the old man talked to himself. We made our way round to the side, the odd caUs from the jungle, the grotesque shapes of dying trees, the ashen fortress itself rising above us more dangerous than anything Chuck Norris faced, far back in...


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pp. 117-129
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