of his mud-caked truck. Every family in Kester had them, relics revealed
with little more than the scratch of an uncut fingernail.
Evaline knew—had always known—it was the deep things that
brought ruin if exposed to sunlight: the name of Joanne’s real daddy, the
scar on Jake’s cheek, the floor of the ancient seabed beneath the shale.
Too long ago to fathom, the sea’s first inhabitants, soft-bodied squids,
jellies, and cucumbers, had swum where corn now grew, then died and
dissolved into methane and crude oil deep beneath the topsoil and bedrock of the Gillie farmland. Harlan’s family had owned the land long
before Evaline came along and discovered the shale.
Before Kestract Oil & Gas gave a damn about the clay-packed tract,
the first Gillies mined a living in turnip roots, rutabagas, and collards.
The land fought back, and the farmers took to hanging their broken
wagon wheels like trophies on the broad sides of the barn, the rims and
spokes snapped in the trenches of mud where the Gillies worked themselves into graves forcing greens from the clay-thick ground. The broken
wheels still hung there like phases of the moon charted across the peeling paint of the old boards.
With Harlan dead, though, farming was finished. Kestract saw to
that, even though Evaline would be blamed. The neighbors didn’t know
the brine water had spilled, though, so they busied themselves with
other concerns that weren’t their own, like what Evaline should do with
“Bury the body” was the consensus, but on the question of whether it
should be in the Presbyterian churchyard—Harlan’s old religion—or the
Baptist, Kester remained divided.
“Ashes to ashes,” Evaline took to responding. The way she saw it, Harlan hadn’t left much for her to dispose of, anyway. Pieces of his body had
been calling it quits and taking their usefulness with them for as long as
she’d been married to him. That would have been fine if the elements of
Harlan hadn’t taken pieces of the Gillie farm with them each time they
packed up and left. His left knee had been the first to go: years of high
school track and morning PT in combat boots made that departure inevitable. His knee took the chicken coop with it. Sure, a bad storm had
blown in during the night and leveled the coop after the doctor declared
all the cartilage shot, but over the years, Evaline saw the pattern. By the
time Harlan died, there wasn’t much of him left to bury but calcium-be-reft bones and the pooling skin draped over them. With the Kestract