Stories 2 Fall 2011

 

                             Contemplation of a Drawing

                                       by Tom Sheehan

                                               

Josiah Gibbons, another of Grady Walker’s cousins, a Yale student working on his PhD in history and art, had won a closet on the third floor with his pick out of the hat, a small closet at the head of the second staircase on the back side of the old house. Grady knew an angry Josiah in a few hours would be wailing away with the tools he brought with him. His body language, for most of the night after the hat was passed, proved sickening. Once, he declared he was “visibly upset,” but in other words, loud enough for all to hear him. Grady knew Uncle Cheesy would turn over in the grave if he heard the mild curse. Nobody had ever heard the old man spill the simplest curse.

 Harvey Cheesy Cheswick, PhD, LLD, had been beyond them all, just as he was now, cavorting with other gods.

Grady stood in the middle of the room he had picked in Uncle Cheesy’s lottery. It was not high noon yet. Debris lay at his feet and across the floor; large chunks of gray plaster and molding of various sorts. What he was doing cut through him swift as a needle. Lazy sheets of plaster dust shifted in bars of sunlight streaming through two windows, their motions so hypnotic a trance could have taken him in tow.

 In one hand he held a pry bar; in the other, a fireman’s ax. Sweat rolled off his brow, stained his shirt at the underarms, and a streak worked down his back. Two more hours belonged to him. With his pick out of the hat at the drawing of room numbers, (the lott’ry as his cousin from Maine called it), praying for a room of good size, not like Josiah’s closet, he had gotten this upstairs bedroom. Second floor, next to the last door on the left. No furniture in the room.

With the furniture removed, the room looked larger. A good-sized closet sat against an inner wall. The two windows looked out on trees. The same molding and cornice work borne in all other rooms loomed lone as guardians. Grady feared the room was closing in on him even with the debris at his feet, with the dark maroon and purple runner still on the hallway floor, after climbing the stairs. It made him think of Dorothy trying to get home again, back to Kansas, to Toto, to Auntie Em. Cheesy had run the film for them many times.

Last night, when the drawing started, Josiah walked to the printed layout of the house tacked on the study wall. With large letters he had written his name in the closet space, the ends of his name spilling into the adjoining rooms. The act couldn’t have said anger any plainer. With a crazy head of hair, he was tall and gawky and too jittery for a long-time student. Since his arrival two nights earlier, Grady driving him from New Haven, he was still wearing a blue Eli sweater. He continually squeezed a rubber ball in his hand, swapping hands every few minutes, his level of pushing iron, getting hands and arms ready for the tools and next day’s task.

Josiah’s assigned number, 20 for the closet, was listed on the schedule as Tuesday 2:00 PM-8:00 PM. The Drawing had begun, Josiah taking the first pick out of the hat, one of Cheesy’s winter caps, ear flaps in a knot. He never wore the hat but Grady remembered it hanging on one bedpost for over a year. Fun was attached to it.

Grady’s number turned out to be 17, a bedroom he had never slept in, though he found a faint recollection that his parents slept in the room during one vacation. His schedule, on the study wall, said, Tuesday 8:00 AM-2 PM. In the square of the house plan he had written his name, lone, level and as neat, he thought, as Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. Cheesy’s voice also came back from that elsewhere he had gone to, saying the poem for the hundredth time maybe. His likes were limitless, from Dorothy and Toto to Ozymandias.

Despite the size of each room, the 6-hour limitation was uniform. Josiah made the biggest stink about the rule. “Just think about it,” he had muttered to one group in a corner of the study, “you get the dining room or one of the main bedrooms and you don’t have any more time than anybody else.” Staring some of them in the eye, it looked like he was practicing for the courtroom rather than a life with the arts.

Another cousin, from Maine, said, “Josie, don’t you really mean that you’ve got an advantage with such a small room, or you’re being penalized for being unable to swing your ax like Paul Bunyan, being too restricted?” The snicker was evident.

“Don’t call me Josie! You know damn well I hate that name, Conrad! And I’m not complaining.” He said Conrad like it was Cornnn...raaad, a real dig at his Maine cousin, boondocks deep in his trapping and hunting, backwoods written all over him.

“Could have beat me with a stick that time, Josie,” Conrad answered, and walked off to see another cousin. On one hand, at his side, a middle finger prominently displayed what everybody knew he was thinking.

Josiah and Conrad and Grady were some of the thirty-two relatives of Harvey Cheswick, PhD, LLD, etc., etc., etc., so gathered for the occasion. Harvey had died a year earlier, having spent ninety-seven years of near grace on this planet. For fifty of those years he had been the curator of The Lampford Museum of Art, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a most celebrated and respected museum. In addition, he had garnered an enormous collection of his own, which some connoisseurs declared to be one of the most valuable private collections in the world.

Now old Cheesy, as many had called him, was dead, and all his collection had been accounted for, delivered to named inheritors around the country, all notable museums. Not one individual made the gift list. Neither of his two sisters, both elderly and in nursing homes. Not his ex-wife, ten years abroad on the Continent, as she would say. Not his only son Harvey Jr., somewhat of a gadfly, a spendthrift of the first class, nor his daughter Juliette who was now married for the fourth time. This one was as promising as the others, as whispered by some of those involved. Both children had fallen far from the tree. One item of the collection, Cheesy’s favorite and his most valued one, a Rembrandt, had not been accounted for. Not before, supposedly, and not now. But, in the will of Harvey Cheswick, however, there had been the promise that this piece of art will become the property of the one who finds it…all in proper order, time, and as directed by his will., in an exercise either he or his lawyer had dubbed The Drawing, now underway.

All nuances allied in The Drawing, both the blunt and smooth edges of humor and irony of the farthest reach, said each one had been picked by old Cheesy’s sense of humor and justice for those involved. The prize, itself a mystery unto itself, was also said to be merely a pen and ink sketch by Rembrandt. But it had never been seen. Though listed in the description and insurance documents of his collection, with date of its creation, no one had seen it, including the family. All that helped bolster Cheesy’s reputation in his mission for the arts. His assessed value of the sketch was six million dollars. The insurance company accepted the valuation. Anybody would knock down a few walls for that much money.

As a youngster Grady, a grand nephew of Cheesy, had spent several summer vacations at Uncle Cheesy’s house on the hill, sitting upstream on the Concord River in Concord, Massachusetts. Young relatives who came for tidy, fun vacations under Cheesy’s wing, and at his expense, called the house The Playpen. Older relatives called it Mount Ararat, Cheesy being god-like in his own way. Children gathered to him like a mystical grandfather, a figure from an old fairy tale, a saint from a fainter volume. Adventure itself hung about the house on the hill, and hidden dramas. Old auto tires hung from great long ropes in the elm trees on the backside of the hill, some ropes hanging sixty feet from high limbs. Downhill three Maine-built canoes graced his own slip onto the river, and beneath the rambling house lurked a dark cellar full of strange ghostly shapes, formations, and secret things only the young talked about late at night under warm, secure covers. The haven kept secrets of its own.

Grady, still in the middle of the room, studied the ceiling, eyed his watch, measured his useless plunges at walls, his wild swings and ripping of plaster. Nothing hidden had revealed itself. He stood motionless at this point, recalling the early days of noise, gaiety, and the mystery of seeing a new painting suddenly hanging on a wall. Nobody ever saw Cheesy hang a painting, as if each one was hung during the night or when not a soul was about, a ghost figure working in the house. Was there a message there? A schedule for utter joy? No one ever heard a nail driven to hang a picture on, or the twist of a screw through plaster searching for a lath. And Grady, still shaking his head, visualized Cheesy sitting back and enjoying the whole shooting match. The laughter came from the far horizon, from elsewhere; distant, secretive, but audible. For all the physical mayhem in the house promised by searching for The Drawing, a ton of humor waited to be revealed.

Grady thought he loved Cheesy more than he did at the beginning of this personal wreckage, if that was possible.

The Playpen, three levels of it, sprawled across the top of a low hill on the westerly side of Concord, the river meandering below like a stream of brown molasses. Each room in the house was accessed by a deep maroon and purple runner that seemed to go everywhere in the house. Grady thought the maroon and purple runner must have been played out from one roll to cover the hallways in the house and climbed, still unbroken, both flights of stairs, the grand staircase up from the front reception area and the darker one at the backside of the house. One vacation, on his own, he had tried to find the beginning, or the end, of the runner. He still didn’t know where it was, or if it was.

“What else have you heard, Grady?” Josiah was all curiosity on the ride to Concord, interested in how Uncle Cheesy unseen managed to hang a painting, or where they came from, or in what manner. Were they delivered? Did someone else hang them? Was there a secret room in the cellar or in the end of the attic where one door carried a big padlock? Josiah’s glasses, thin and rimless, sat professor-like on the bridge of his thin, Anglican nose. His head, ever at an angle, inquisitive, tilted towards answers.

Grady replied to a question about the hat as if it was old hat. “Cheesy’s lawyer, Harmon Askins, said it plain and simple as far as I know. A hat will be passed. We’ll each draw a lot, a number I guess, corresponding to a room in the house. He said any room with four sides to it will have a number.  32 rooms are in the house, including closets. There are 32 relatives. I counted them, in my sleep. Some I haven’t seen in years. I wonder if Cheesy has. The Sketch, as I call it, and Askins does too, is hidden in the house according to Cheesy, so you’d be damn foolish to rip wildly at walls. But the contents of the room you draw in the lottery is all yours, if anything’s hidden there.”

Pausing for added effect, staring at an 18-wheeler sliding by them, Grady said, “Askins thinks Cheesy wanted to tear down the house. Maybe that’s our part in the whole thing. Get a leg up on tearing the house down. Hell, it needs a ton of repair work. Ever notice how bad the front staircase creaks like it’s ready to let go? I think the runner might hold the house together, keep it in one piece. And think of this … maybe The Sketch is not even there. He’s done funnier, stranger things, old Cheesy. ‘Member when he took the screw out the bedroom doorknobs one vacation? We slept out in the screen house, all of us. Had to cook our breakfast on the Coleman stove and his cast iron grill half an inch thick. God, I can taste that set-up now, breakfast so damn delicious that morning. And he was in his glory, showing us how to get it done. One of the best vacations I ever had here. So Askins thinks Cheesy doesn’t want to share the house with anybody. The Sketch is enough to leave to us. But he’s left so much else.”

“How do you interpret the rules of the game,” Josiah blurted out in his haughtiest fashion, “like not going past the laths in your assigned room? How the hell can you do that, or not do that? Damn, you could be in the next room in a matter of seconds, working on somebody else’s wall.” His energy was almost visible in his seat. Grady noted that Josiah had not brought up any of the salient points he’d advanced in to the conversation. It was evident that Josiah had forgotten a lot of what Cheesy had set aside for all of them starting way back.

The rules of the game had been posted a month earlier, and all advised by mail. Each letter had contained the return address of Harmon Askins, Concord Village. In between times, a thief tried to break into the house. A hired security man with a shotgun had driven him off, a dark-clothed person. Twice it happened, and then no more, as if twice forewarned was sufficient.

Josiah kept on. “And the room upstairs with the lock that’s been there since the day we first saw the place? Maybe I’ll draw that room. I’ve thought about what’s behind that door for most of my life. Haven’t you?” Josiah dreamed of hitting the big one. Grady wondered what his study habits were like.

Grady’s father, Gardner Walker, a youth counselor, full of blond curls and a ready smile, had signed his name to number 28, an attic bedroom. When he walked back from the plot marker, his wife Constance said good luck and hugged him, and they both nodded at Harmon Askins whom they had known for thirty years, and then yelled across the room to Grady. “Good luck, son,” they said, a duet in perfect sync. The delivery irked Josiah, the corners of his lips saying so.

All the thirty-two relatives of Cheesy Cheswick were gathered in the large study on the first floor. Many places on the walls revealed where paintings had hung for extended periods during Cheesy’s life.

A contest began trying to remember what painting had been hanging on what spot for those years. Jug Handl, barkeep and owner of a small 6-unit motel in Maine, loud as a cheerleader but warm at the same time, swore he knew two of two paintings. Jug was a big guy, busting at his jeans, and more comfortable sitting than standing.

“No more’n two that I can say. Beside the fireplace. On the left was the shepherd boy with this stick he carried, twelve or thirteen I’d of guessed, and a dog at his heels. Like a twin, the one on the other side was also a young ‘un, with a dog too, a terrier puppy, but that boy was a swimmer. Like he’d just come out of the sea, all shiny like. I remember the rocks and the seaweed and wondered how they were painted so damned real. Like they were from different places or lives and meant something to Cheesy.”

“I think you’re wrong, Jug,” said Bill Cheswick, a tall lonely looking man who hadn’t spoken much since he’d arrived. “Having two boys on either side of the fireplace means balance.” The words moved a thought across his face.

He smiled, nodded, looked away at some point in the distance, and said, “Jug, I figure the on’y one missing is your ole kid partner, Rafe Tucker, out there in Klamath Falls. I ‘member how you guys got along one summer. Never been here since his eighth or ninth birthday from what I hear, that Rafe, but never could afford to come anymore anyways. Rafe’s one of them good ole boys.”

Another thin man spoke from the corner. “What’s Rafe up to these days, Jug? You hear from him at all.”

“Rafe’s a mechanic now,” Jug said. “Says he has a little two-bay shop keeps him ahead of the game. But couldn’t get up enough dough and time off to come out here for this big gamble, if it ever pays off.”  

He took in a small breath of air for such a big guy.

They all thought Jug was about to make another observation, but Harmon Askins looked at the schedule, well underway, and then at his watch. He double checked it with the clock on the mantel, and said, “Gary Plagent, you got your tools, son? You’re up in ten minutes.”

He looked around the room, sadness sitting in his face, loss of one kind or another, one observer could have determined.

There was a hush across the room, like a freeze game at recess. Everybody stopped talking, stopped moving. Some looked at each other and smiled, and a few nodded at relatives closer than others. A few of them had been out and back, and were hanging around for a surprise, a party, whatever was planned. Cheesy could’ve handled it all with his bank account.

Jug Handl burped loudly and a soft titter moved through the room and faded away as if it hadn’t even happened. All could tell that Askins liked the sudden silence, for he smiled at each group around the room, like they were separate flower beds in one garden. He nodded his warm acceptance of all of them, liking most of them, as Cheesy had. Over his glasses, rims dark as Hades because of thick eyebrows, he looked again at Gary Plagent, fifteen years old to the day.

“I got them right outside the door here, Mr. Askins. Long as I can bring up what I brought with me, I’m all set. I got the bathroom upstairs. Can I take a bath when I get done? I got a date tonight. Got to be done before then.” He let go a know-it-all smile.

The room filled with nervous laughter.” Leave it up to a kid,” one relative said.

Harmon Askins was like a teacher, with instructions for a test. “Long as you only got hand tools, Gary. It’s alright by me whatever you got. You get those tools ready because Harry Tilford is now about due from his assignment from the main bedroom.” Again he looked at the clock, and then at the schedule. “We have to be out of here in two days. That’s part of the rules.”

The sadness sat in place, as if Askins owned it all.

Everybody in the study looked at the clock over the mantel and then at the main hall door. Sounds of boot trudging and tool dragging bounced down the stairs. A small curse came along as company, with a faint, “Excuse me,” and a softened, “Oh, damn.”

Harry Tilford, in coveralls over lumberjack shirt whitened by plaster dust, and a pair of Novie boots riding up to his knees, pushed the door wider and dropped his tools on the floor, swapping places with Gary Plagent as the youngster rushed out of the room and off to his quick destiny, six hours worth.

Harry was a teacher from high in the Laurentians and his voice was in perfect pitch with his appearance.

“I’ll take that drink now, Harmon Askins. Goddamn room is in smithereens, nothing to show for it, and my throat’s parched as The Dry Tortugas or whatever the hell old Cheesy used to say about some place without water.”

As an aside he said, “D’ju ever make that trip with him?” Then he continued his litany of wreckage: “Floor’s still there, but the walls are down and the ceiling and not a damn red penny for all of that. Thought I’d find at least some kind of builder’s or carpenter’s amulet or charm or talisman, but not a philter or a scarab in the whole passel. Not a damn antinganting for the whole six hours. Not even a simple two dollar gold piece from back when this place was built.”

He took a deep breath, his chin rising and lifting a long chin and a lean face, and said, “I haven’t worked so hard since I shoveled manure as a kid in the mushroom house for Fred Penney, and that I will tell you, with excuses to the ladies, was an awful lot of shit.”

“Nothing to show for it at all, Harry?” Jug Handl, dreading the work required toward possible fortune, kept his seat. Looking at Tilford, covered in dust, he appeared tired already. “No secret holes? No hidden caches? No little rooms or cubby holes none of us ever didn’t see? Not a one?”

The Cheswick clan, as must be told, was somewhat short of women, for there were only five of them in the room, five of them on the invited list. One of them, MaryAnn Coulter, 35, asked Harry Tilford if he really expected to find anything. “Don’t you think it’s all a joke, Harry? No adjoining rooms being ransacked at the same time. Separation counting for something that I can’t figure out for the life of me. I don’t know why I came.”

She had told a few people that the blue coverall suit she was wearing was one her mother wore as a sweeper during her World War II days at the General Electric Plant in Lynn, Massachusetts. She had kept it her hope chest for all those years, along with her father’s Purple Heart still in its box. The suit fit her like a laundry bag unused for years, wrinkles in place, pressed by old memories.

“The joke’s on me for the time being.” Harry laughed and repeated his search for the drink. “I’ll have a double scotch on the rocks, Askins, and ask Jug to pour it for me. He and I are going to have one hell of a time before we get back home, that’s for damn sure.”

‘M’I right there, Jug?” He pointed at Jug Handl spread on the chair like dough rising.

“Amen,” Jug added, shifting weight, getting ready to prepare the drink.

The scene in the study, in bright pieces like a new checkerboard, kept coming back to Grady as he stood in the middle of his assigned room. The ceiling looked too daunting for him, but he shrugged his shoulders, forced the pry bar into a slash in the ceiling he’d made with the ax edge. He yanked down on the pry bar. Like a cloudburst, the whole ceiling rained down on him in innumerable pieces, like a short cannonade, and every ceiling lath was exposed.

No treasure was found, and he was ahead of schedule. “What the hell,” he said, and then picked up his pry bar, searched for the ax, and found it after some effort under a pile of plaster. He had two hours left, but gave up the ghost on the spot and walked out of the room. He started to laugh. He laughed the length of the hall and stared out a window at the end of the hall. Multiple banging sounds came from other parts of the house. A wall near him shook. A man cursed.

Out the window, on the side of the hill, he could see a tire on a long rope swinging slightly in the breeze. Downhill, on the river, the same breeze moved simple ripples as if an old man was walking there, god-like, across the surface.

“Old man,” he said loudly, “you are frigging beautiful!” Exhilaration lifted him, at first with a sigh and then with a rush of wings, part of him leaping away, part accepting the escape. He’d have trouble giving any account of this exchange. Out of all of them, only Cheesy wouldn’t need an explanation.

Of course, later on, someone had to go get Josiah upstairs, for he had stripped the closet in twenty or so minutes and was well into the room on the backside of the closet. He was screaming foul play all the way down the stairs. Someone told Grady he had gone out to wait in the car, waiting for Grady to drive him back to New Haven and away from this god-awful foolishness.

The study was crowded as Harmon Askins rang a bell in the hallway outside the study. It was Wednesday, 6 PM. He had been looking closely at the mantel clock for a good ten minutes. And he, as much as anybody else, looked tired, some of them saying Harmon had not slept in the time they had been there in Cheesy’s house, this trip. “Nor me either,” was a repeated echo.

When Askins stood up, people moved, shifting about, some also stood, stretching legs, whole bodies, twisting shoulders, screwing necks loose from long-locked positions. There came a small but collected series of relief noises; yawns, sincere little giggles of release, short half-hearted curses, pleasurable grunts at one level or another, twinned tittering of two women who had not seen each other in a dog’s age.  Faces revealed as many studies as there were people in the room. Individual ailments were exposed for the moment, the stiff knees, the arthritic joints, and the eagerness to be away for some of them, but afraid to leave before the show was over. “All the relative stuff,” one wag was heard to say as he stared down at the river.

The clanging of Askins’ bell ran up the stairs and echoed in a distant place, as if it had run out of breath. The rest of the relatives were coming down the stairs and scuffling along the hall. A curse was heard here and there, but also high tones of laughter, people letting go serious consideration for why they had taken part in the exercise.

The Sketch, of course, did not appear. A bunch of them had not expected anything. They again had been taken in by the old man.

Jug Handl offered a bit of summary.

“Cheesy wanted us all to get a last chance in the house, the last visit. Lots of us came here for a long time, for years. We had fun. Some of us grew up here when we took the time to look around. Of course, we had to go on our ways too. But we came together for one slam-bang affair. I enjoyed it. I’m glad you all came. I wish Rafe had made it. He’s a good ole boy, like Bill said.”

MaryAnn Coulter, still in the laundry bag coverall suit, said, “Mr. Askins, is there anything else we should hear before we leave. I must admit, I’m tired after all this.”

She showed a blister on one hand, in the groove near her thumb where Cheesy used to charm her, bouncing one finger on her open-hand fingertips. She said what Cheesy had chimed when he did the trick, “Johnny. Johnny. Johnny. Johnny. Oops, Johnny. Johnny. Oops Johnny,” as he’d go back over her fingertips. She had not thought of it in more than 30 years. It showed on her face.

“Well,” Askins said, “whoever found The Sketch could have the house. He provided for that. Somehow, Cheesy knew that person would be worthy of it, I’d hazard a guess. But if not, then no one was to get the house ahead of anybody else, and it would be well on its way to being razed. Which is now quite evident. I’ll call the wreckers in the morning.”

After a quiet moment he added, “It will be demolished definitely. Tomorrow comes to Mount Ararat.”

The sadness came again.

“There’s a bit,” Grady thought, “sounding like someone out of the Bible.” It put a little fear and a little more respect deeper into place. Looking at Jug still astride his chair, with the loneliest look on his face, Grady wondered how close he and Rafe might have been in another time, at another age. It made him feel as sad as Jug looked.

This was his last visit here, where life had been filled with fun, explorations, drama, and a great deal of love. He was in no hurry to get away, in no hurry to get Josiah away from all this god-awful foolishness. The ride, at least to New Haven, would be borne in a solicitous fashion.

Wanting to be alone, savoring a recess in a life that would never come again, he said his goodbyes, slapped Jug Handl on the back and wished that he and Rafe would get together some time down the road. His parents had left early, other duties calling, so he said a loud goodbye and walked outside.

Behind the house a tire moved on one of the long ropes, a slight breeze teasing it into motion. Grady felt the wind in his face the way it rushed at him as a youngster, one of his parents or Cheesy pushing him on the tire. He heard the poem Cheesy loved. Imagined life going on in some boundless plain, yet always in sight. It unnerved him in a strange way. His mind leaped in a hundred measures, a hundred appreciations. Jug’s last look came at him, saying how much he had missed in life, not just a boyhood pal. Rafe, he hoped, was happy in his own little world of mechanics.

He was thinking of Rafe happily working at a motor job, slipping new rings into an old engine, bringing the engine back for another forty thousand miles of the road. It pleased him as he passed the garage sitting on the side of the hill. As though a magneto drew him, he went in the side door.

Cheesy’s old frame making table was still there. And all his tools. The fine little saws and edge trimmers. The tiny plane that was as good as sandpaper on the scrolled edges. The magical miter box with the magical saw, Cheesy saying that each cut of a frame had to be made from the backside. Oh, the pieces were falling into place. Knowledge leaped at him. Disclosures came.

The pile of basic woods Cheesy used to make his own frames lay heaped against one wall. The colors and grains were diffuse. Grady played with a few red oak pieces feeling solid and life-like in his hands. Mahogany reflected a dark cocoa, smooth as a new candy bar.  A delicate but beautiful piece of walnut strutted its stuff, the grain speaking its mind. Fifteen or twenty pieces of wood were of serious grains and colors, like a collection unto themselves. It was game time again. 

With a sudden twist of one wide mahogany board, a piece of common pine fell onto the floor. The Sketch, it said in ballpoint script, has been given to a museum in Italy, where it belongs. I wanted all of you, who shared the good times here, to be in at the end, for there is no more sharing but with yourselves. The message was in Cheesy’s hand and signed in his distinctive flourish. 

Askins was not surprised when Grady walked into the study with the piece of pine. He was alone. The others had gone.

“Josiah said he couldn’t wait for you, Grady. He got a ride from one of the others, all the way to New Haven. Said he didn’t think you’d mind. Good folks don’t mind the waiting or the showing up.” The finality was found again.

“That’s okay,” Grady said, smelling plaster dust, old wood shaking loose, Time falling all around his ears, Uncle Cheesy’s house taking one last deep breath.

One hundred yards down the road, Grady did not see the small spark, the ignition, the sudden flare amid the clutter and wreckage as Askins, now lost without his Cheesy, who he loved more than all the others put together, sat alone at last, oblivious of that now climbing around him, gaining a full grip.

Guaranteed, there’d be no more sharing here; they were both as free as ever.


Bio: Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea, 1951. His books are Epic Cures and Brief Cases, Short Spans, 2008, Press 53; A Collection of Friends and From the Quickening, 2009, Pocol Press; three novels published, and three manuscripts tendered. He has 15 Pushcart nominations, in Dzanc Best of the Web 2009, nominated for 2010 and 2011 and has 230 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine. His forthcoming book, fall of 2011 from Milspeak Publishers, is Korean Echoes.