Excerpt from the Novel “This Side of the River,” by Jeffrey Stayton

Jeffrey Stayton

Jeffrey Stayton

Nashville is a rock, the past fossiled in the memory of its stone. It tells me the future embedded in the living rock. I cannot sleep. I dare not sleep. Cat Harvey will send for me. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month. I will go to him, knowing that he has been cursed with his afflictions. I will go to him because he is afflicted.

We are all fossils of the War. Sherman didn’t brush the land with fire; he washed it with floodwater, and we sunk into the bloodstained earth, and there we struck our outraged poses until we were fossiled. But this rock is too loud. It screams at me till I cry. It tells me why the widows flee in the middle of the night. It tells me who is next. “Leave me alone!” I cry into the night. Then I eat my clay. It only makes it worse. The Nashville dirt is in my teeny body that will never be big enough to fight off Cat Harvey when he sends for me. It tells me who is next. It does not say her name, but I know that Metta Dahlgren is in danger.

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