“Now things can get back to normal,” he said

Chuck had been out of high school for nearly a year when Mrs. McDermott fired up a chain saw and cut out a small dark cave in the broad line of acacias that separated her backyard from Chuck’s parents’. Chuck watched from the alcove of the upstairs gust room as acacia branches near the ground squirted backward into the thick hedgelike row of trees. Several days later, Chuck spotted Mrs. McDermott again from the alcove, inhabiting the green shadows of her new cave. Kneeled back on her haunches, she cupped one hand by her mouth as if to say something she didn’t want to have overheard. Off to one side in the yard, bare-chested, Chuck’s father was using a long metal-headed rake to punch air holes in the lawn. He pounded the grass a few times and stopped suddenly. His head made several jerking movements as if to locate an alien sound. He found the hole in the acacia trees and Mrs. McDermott beckoned him toward her with milky hands that stretched into the afternoon light. Chuck’s father approached slightly crouched, as if creeping up on an animal he thought could be dangerous,and he peered into the opening, his jaw sliding from side to side. Just as he shaded his eyes to see better, Mrs. McDermott lunged and grabbed the back of his neck. Chuck’s father dropped the rake letting it tip slowly to the ground, and Mrs. McDermott dragged him into the cave, palms wide on his bare back.

— J. C. Hallman, “Savages,” from The Hospital for Bad Poets.

I don’t need to tell you things never get back to normal in most of these stories, do I?


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