SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Steve Cushman

My six-year-old brother, Bingham, is out back throwing Dadís stuff into the air. There goes a comb, a pair of green underwear, a blue tie, a little tin of Skoal. He looks back at me, standing here at the kitchen window, watching him. I wave and he shakes his head and goes back to the pile under the tall oak.

Binghamís cut-offs are dirty, strings hanging down and his white T-shirt is wet from sweat. There goes a record, an ancient Penthouse, Dadís old tackle box. The phone rings and I go over and listen to the machine. Iím not supposed to answer the phone and let anyone know she's left us home again, but it doesnít matter because before I can pick up the line goes dead.

He is deep into clothes nowó-pants and dress shoes, a flannel hunting shirt, one of Dadís old suit jackets. He lifts a horseshoe and tosses it over his shoulder, and I duck because it looks like it might come through the window. But it lands with a thud, somewhere out there, maybe in the azaleas. Thereís a ketchup bottle, some old photo albums, a basketball, then a baseball. Bingham pauses with the baseball, tries to put it in his front pocket, but it wonít fit so he tosses it over his shoulder.

Mom started throwing the stuff outside last night. She didnít even look like herself really, looked like a crazy woman, like one of those women youíd see on a TV show. But after throwing what she was going to throw, she walked in here, said she was going to find that good for nothing son of a bitch and that I had better watch after Bingham.

Whoosh, there goes a toaster, a coffee pot, one of the nozzles off the kitchen sink. Bingham is laughing like a crazy fool. Iíd like to go out and help him but I got my orders and I want nothing to do with one of her two-day-gone whippings. You wouldnít either if youíd had Ďem like I had.

But Bingham keeps going, doesnít look like heíll ever tire of this work. Iíll let him dig until he canít dig no more and when the pile is gone, or at least the big pile is a bunch of little piles, and he has still not found what he is looking for I will sit him down and tell him this is how we will live now: the two of us, or three if she comes back. Heíll probably frown or go off into some crying fit, but Iíll hold him tight until he stops, like Dad used to do to Mom, back then, before he left.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Steve Cushman's novel, "Portisville," was published in 2004 and named winner of the Novello Literary Award. His short fiction has appeared in The North American Review, 100% Pure Florida Fiction, Lake Effect, Village Rambler, Hurricane Review and the Raleigh News & Observer. He currently works as an X-ray Technologist in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Read the interview.
Issue Thirteen (June 15, 2006): A Foreign Woman by Roberta Allen «» Fetichismo by Christopher Battle «» How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely by Matt Bell «» See Odi Naked by Lisa K. Buchanan «» Memory of Sky by Jai Clare «» The Captain by Ron Currie, Jr. «» Bingham by Steve Cushman «» The Table by David Erlewine «» Daffodil by Kathy Fish «» Fishing by Mike Hagemann «» Real Estate by Jennifer A. Howard «» Emily Avenue by Jeff Landon «» Tough Act by Steven J. McDermott «» Cheering by Srdan Papic «» Something Blew by Ellen Parker «» Euclid's Elements by Mary Lynn Reed «» Miracle by Chad Simpson «» Her Lips by Claudia Smith «» Man and Dog by Girija Tropp «» Randomization by Joseph Young «» Interviews: Roberta Allen «» Matt Bell «» Lisa K. Buchanan «» Jai Clare «» Ron Currie, Jr. «» Steve Cushman «» Katrina Denza «» David Erlewine «» Kathy Fish «» Mike Hagemann «» Jennifer A. Howard «» Jeff Landon «» Steven J. McDermott «» Srdan Papic «» Ellen Parker «» Mary Lynn Reed «» Chad Simpson «» Claudia Smith «» Girija Tropp «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "Despair" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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