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Heart of the South (continued from preceding page)
 before I closed the door to the attic room.
At the foot of the stairs stood two men in shadows.
One had my duffle. “I’ll just stow this in the hold,” he said, swinging it onto his shoulder.
The other man was Connie. He held out my guitar in its worn out case.
“What’s going on?” I said
“The General sent the word last night. Bring the boy home. His work is done.”
Years later I found myself in a big white limousine with a television mouthing in silent hysteria and a bottle of champagne cooling in a sterling bucket. We had dropped Miss Best Three Way back at the Tim- berline to freshen up, as if it was possible to be any dewier. Charlie, my chauffeur, was driving. Beside me were two national magazines with Lureen featured on the cover. In one she looked frail and in the other fierce, both a misnomer of the highest order.
The car phone purred, and I put it on speaker.
I said, “Honey, how much you give that reporter?”
“Obviously not enough, Cot. If a certain SOB would unfreeze the accounts, I wouldn’t have had to skimp.”
“Now, Lure, after all what happened in Dubai?”
“All about the past for you, isn’t it Cot? Where’s my fucking song.”
“Sitting right back at the lodge.” “I’ll bet it is.”
“Listen, the lot’ll be ready by recording date like al- ways. You finish up and we’ll go down to the cabin in Como and relax as if it was old times.”
“Cot, you listen to me and you listen to me good. Don’t you dare screw with me. I am a survivor and so are you. Remember what the doctor said. Tattoo it be- tween your ass cheeks. You stay way north of that country shit and don’t try and scare me. I’m not jumpin’ off the tallahassafuckingbridge with you. Got it? Comprenday?”
I tapped the window for Charlie and he nodded. “Don’t you dare disconnect me. Charlie? You hear me?
I’ll goddamn fire you. Where are you two?”
“Oregon,” I said and drew my good finger across my throat.
Then was a blessed silence. The pole dancer had left an adorable dimple in the seat into which I put my ashtray so I could balance the cigar. I leaned forward and tapped the computer screen to conjure up Char- lie’s expressionless face.
“You find it?”
Charlie’s smile curled beneath his dark glasses. “Neighbors twenty years and never even knew their names. Makes Chicago look like a sewing circle.”
We turned into the clearing. Charlie opened my door and I placed one booted foot onto the dirt followed by the other, fifteen hundred dollars each sole. He stood straight like always, with his hands behind his back and his eyes shuttered. It looked much smaller, as these places out of history do. There was no cabin or even an old stick from the porch. Not even a foun- dation remained. But all around us were the tall trees exactly as I remembered, maybe even the same trees. The sky was unearthly clear and the air as sweet as it was thin, clouds untangled from the blue blanket of sky on either side of the massive mountain like white fingers, or curls from a beard.
“Forest service land. Not much of an investment.”
I pointed to what looked like a deer trail leading away from the ghost of the dream of an indentation now all overgrown with thorny brambles and the crossed trunks of young trees.
Charlie looked from the edge of my thick finger to where the grass lay down.
“Buy it. All. I want to own the woods and springs and the land surrounding them like a fence, Charlie. This is where you bury me when my time comes. Get down on your knees in this godforsaken state and swear.”
Duckler is a writer from Portland, OR. Her fiction has been published in many literary journals, including FRiGG, Hobart, and New Flash Fiction. Recent stories won first and third place in the 2019 Jewish in Seattle fiction contest. She was a finalist for the Sozopol Fiction Fellowship and named to the Wigleaf 50. Residencies/fellowships include Yaddo, Squaw Valley, SLS in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ver- mont Post Graduate Conference, and Horned Dorset Writers Colony. She’s an editor at Narrative and the international philosophy journal Evental Aesthetics.

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