the museum of broken tools on the barn wall. Harlan’s father hadn’t even
tried to farm—he’d sold small appliances door-to-door down the coast.
Evaline fitted a new filter into the pot and filled it with coffee. Out
in the Gillie graveyard, the bones of those who’d retreated here back in
the 1800s still slept, rotting away. Maybe the Baptists were right: soil like
this, the clay, could fill in the spaces between ribs and make the dead
whole again. Like rhodium: resistant to corrosion and capable of converting back to its elemental form after exposure to high heat. Maybe
they all could come back: Papa, Momma, her brothers, Harlan, and the
baby she’d lost in between Joanne and Jake. All of Kester, way back to its
founding, could be remolded out of Kester clay, fired in a kiln, and set
to walk again.
Far afield, a pop of metal from the rig startled her. There could be
no new bodies from this clay now, she thought, picturing the saltwater
worming its way back into the ground.
“Joanne’s here.” Jake pulled the screen door open. “Movers, too. I’ll
go pack up the shed.”
“Wait—” Evaline called, but Jake was gone. He did this on purpose,
trying to get mother and daughter to talk. Someone had to be the peace-
maker in a family of grudge holders. A car door slammed, followed by
the rumble of oversized tires on gravel. Harlan would hate this much
noise. He hated the churn of the drilling rig, even after the sound walls
went up. He hated how the towers lit up like lightning strikes that never
flicked off, keeping him up at night. Then the smells. Diesel so strong his
migraines returned. He drank again to relieve the headaches. To sleep.
Then the phone calls when he needed money: a quarter more of an acre.
Half an acre. Whole. Evaline bit her tongue every time he reached for a
bottle of Advil or beer.
She doubted that Harlan could have imagined that the expanse of
acreage he’d inherited back in 1947 would shrink as much as it had. Hell,
how could either of them imagine how much they’d shrink, too; bits of
the body sold off to age like parcels of property at auction.
“He lived hard,” the pastor had preached over Harlan’s urn. “But he
“He died easy.” The coroner told her that, too, and the phrase was re-
peated by the few in town who’d respected Harlan enough to stop by with
potted lilies or cold cuts and cheese trays. Easy dying: the consolation for
widows whose husbands passed in the night. No cancer, no stroke. No
chest-seizing heart attack or race to the county ER. Harlan went easy,