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SLINGING HASH / Vern Rutsala When she turned up we heard those spike heels first, clicking loud enough to throw sparks. Then she burst in scattering boxes of chocolates and perfume, looking like a million dollars with that smile that could melt even our town's hard hearts. There was usually a man along— that visit's uncle—tall and silent, fairly free with quarters. She had pulled free of town by slinging hash at truck stops from Idaho to California winding up in L.A. which seemed just far enough for her. Far enough at least to allow those yearly visits that let her keep her distance. She was a knockout and always had matching purse and gloves and the first real false eyelashes we ever saw. Her luggage matched too and those bags were bountiful with the spoils of her tips— shirts, ties, belts and bottles of after shave, model planes. It was like Christmas in July. She forgot no one, those quiet uncles spicing up the town's dull gossip for a month or two—just the ticket our nosy rubbernecks needed to get them though the summer. 128 · The Missouri Review RELATIVES / Vern Rutsala You pull away from them, they drift from you becoming a chance phone call, a Christmas card you always mean to answer. You hear of one, a man you never liked, reduced to sitting in a deck chair in California while there is that crackpot uncle who keeps sending you religious tracts and praying ominously for your soul. His letters are always threats but they come less often now. Others suddenly turn up, ancient cousins of your dead father suddenly enflamed with family passion. But you have none and want none. It is all so old, so depleted, so restricted to the dreams conjured by the album. You want the past there with its fading evocations of scattered shadows and drift, but a card from a nearly invisible great aunt uncovers memories you thought were lost of picnics and sun and you say yes, you will drive to see her in the nursing home but you never do. The past is too far away to reach by car. The Missouri Review · 229 ...


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