into the tank. When the water fired, the fractures it made would fuse
Harlan’s burned bones with the bedrock of the farm, forever. He would
seep up through the cracks and into the soil. He would rise, whole, like
the day she met him. The way she wanted him to stay.
She resealed the tube and climbed back down the tanker. She left Joanne and drove back to the house, the empty urn by her feet.
Out in the field, a tanker backfired like a gun, and the geese, no
strangers to the sound of shot, erupted off the sleeping fields, honking.
They lifted together like a congregation rising and soared away to other
fields. The survivors of winter and the long flight south would circle back
like the loops in the maze Harlan had drawn each year, like the pattern
of forward and backward momentum that was living and dying and living again. They’d pass back through come summer, after the salt-stained
soil had been scooped out in chunks and the ground filled in with dust
and crushed rock from some foreign place. Spring would sow young
cornstalks and grass in the dead roots of the old, when Harlan would
flow into the veins of unfurling green stems, rooting like he’d always
She parked beside the moving truck, stepping out and sinking into
the clay; the ground tried to keep what it wanted.
“Momma, where’s Daddy’s urn?” Jake handed a box to the mover.
“I scattered him,” Evaline said.
Jake nodded. “I figured you would.” He went back inside, the storm
door slamming behind him.
“Buried you,” Evaline said to the field. “Now tell the old ladies to
hush.” She wiped the mud off her boots on the steps.
Evaline went inside. She pushed aside boxes to the wall where the
height marks marched up like ants. She took a knife from a box and
dug into the wall, peeling the strip like skin from bones. The house had
sheltered them from heat, rain, and dust. It had kept the town out and
the secrets in, burying them within its walls. Evaline rolled the wallpaper and rubber banded it tight, then dropped it in a box. Harlan was the
land, but she was the house, and the house was her, and she would take
what was hers in the end.