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What We Said Brad Land Mostly there was us saying motherfucker we got your head. The first time the light was white, or something like white. Aheadlight. A flashlight. A lantern. A streetlamp. Something like all of those, held up high in branches out in the swamp, down over the stump of pulled track. It was also pink, bright one moment, pale the next. Through binoculars, we could see crossbars on a lantern, a handle, and sometimes , maybe, in certain light, fingers. 93 Ecotone: reimagining place ONE thing . A pickup, tail first, just before the swamp. A drop on both sides of the dirt that used to be a railroad track. The northeast corner of South Carolina, more trees and field than people. Beer drunk, wilted cans thrown against the floor, the walls of the bed. Two boys, past the bed, sat down over the dropped hitch. One boy's name taken from a bird, or the bending of some bird's name. Fond of reading aloud to fall asleep. There are times when he leaves the light on all night, and other times, he forgets about opening his eyes to nothing but the dark, and he's asleep, with the light gone, before he can remember to be scared. The other named for his father, and three grandfathers before that. There's been problems with his jaw. Grinds his teeth so hard at night it sounds like wood snapping. Dogs, as well, in the truck, mixed hounds used to run deer, occasionally to point birds, all brown and blinking hard when the boys shine flashlights into the cages. Sometimes the dogs' cries at night are much greater and much more lonely than the dark ever could be. The boys have seen the light. The dogs have, too. Fifteen times. Nineteen. Twenty-seven times. It's pink and white. The dogs do not like coming here. They whine. They jostle the cages, turn around, and put their heads against the back walls. The boys like the light, though, not because they like to be scared for its own sake, like most people they know who come, not because they like the rush of blood to the head, the tingling in the hands, the heart thrown hard against the ribs. None of that. They like the light because it shows its face each time they've come here. Sometimes it's there already, and sometimes, it makes them wait. They like the light because it's a man without a head looking for his head, a wraith, a railroad worker who laid down drunk and had a stump neatly carved by a train's wheels, back when the dirt road that leads down to the swamp was a track and not a road. They've watched it small and white and not much of anything. They've seen it a pinprick in the black, they've seen it big as a hoop made with arms overhead. They've watched itbeat pink, and sometimes, if they yelled, almost red. But neither likes much to yell at the light. There's something in both of them that thinks it wrong, because if the light is a ghost, like a lot of people say, yelling doesn't do much good. And if it's not a ghost, like a 94 Brad Land lot of people say, if it's swamp gas or some person back there with a spotlight, then yelling is just dumb. They've had this conversation. Seeing it is the thing. It seems to both of them yelling could only make a ghost even more lonely than it already is, walking around at night all the time, all the wailing and moaning and gnashing it must have to do. But there were a few times when neither one of them felt good about much of anything. They yelled then. One of them threw empty beer cans into the swamp. One of them told the light it was a dumb bastard light. That wasn't much, though, and both always felt a little sad for all of it afterwards, because the light had come up, and when they yelled, it stayed for...


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pp. 93-100
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