SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Nance Knauer

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
Johnny carved an angel in two days with a chainsaw. The wood was poplar, still green, and as the angel dried, cracks appeared in the folded hands and under the wings down along the back. He stained it by rubbing for hours with aniline dyes, first black, then brown, until the grain of the wood popped and the curve of her neck glowed. When his wife slid the barn door back and the red September sun spread across the bowed head, Johnny cried. His wife left him a week later.

The angel was too big to move without help, so Johnny called his brother, Stu, and together they carried her into the house. Neighbors brought their children from nearby farms to stand and look up into the gentle face. Johnny served them saltines and olives, which people ate without comment. As the weeks passed, he began to find baskets of food on his door each morning. He missed his wife's lasagna.

Johnny opened the bills, but he never paid them since he couldn't find the checkbook. The power company eventually cut off the electricity, so he stopped looking at the clock and lost his job at the poultry farm. As the nights grew longer, Johnny cut firewood and kept the woodstove burning. He lit candles and sat in a chair and watched the angel's shadow jump and shift across the ceiling. Occasionally, friends would stop by and some offered to take him to town, but he never went.

His wife came back in the spring and together they drove up to Duluth and watched the ships zig-zag through the ice pack. They kissed on the way home. He sold the angel to his brother for a dollar and couldn't watch as Stu drove down the drive, didn't see the wings hit the side of the truck with each bump. The barn door swayed in the March wind with a squeak as Johnny walked toward it. Before the truck made the turnoff to the main road, the angel split in two. Johnny heard the crack, and his ankles twisted on the ruts in the still frozen ground.

"Johnny" was originally published in FRiGG Magazine. It appears here by permission of the author.

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

Nance Knauer lives on a big river near an even bigger lake. People amaze her.

Read the interview.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly on an as-needed basis.
Issue Twenty-One (June 15, 2008): Paper Mouse by Bob Arter «» The Folk Singer Dreams of Time Machines by Matt Bell «» The Bone Orchard by Randall Brown «» Disease Relics by Blake Butler «» We Decided to Make Porn by Brian Allen Carr «» The Baby Drop-Off by Natascia Casey-Dean «» The Cougar by Dave Clapper «» Anointed by Myfanwy Collins «» Sister Earth by John Colvin «» Soap by Katrina Denza «» The Interpretation of Light by Murray Dunlap «» The Hole by Ashley Farmer «» Repair Man by Kathy Fish «» In the Kitchen She Wakes by Stefanie Freele «» American Gothic by Scott Garson «» Lobster Girl by Alicia Gifford «» Pen and Notebook by Natalie Goldberg «» Memento Mori by Rosanne Griffeth «» BiC by Steven Gullion «» Parting by Evelyn Hampton «» Tuesday by Lindsay Hunter «» Waiting on Lombard Street by W.P. Kinsella «» Johnny by Nance Knauer «» Like Swimming by Jeff Landon «» Feeling Sad by Darby Larson «» Alone With Cooper by Ellen Meister «» The Angel's Visitation by Corey Mesler «» South Dakota by Mary Miller «» California Fruit by Meg Pokrass «» Home Made by Bruce Holland Rogers «» Handful of Dirt by Jim Ruland «» Steam City Girl by Paul Silverman «» Sugar by Claudia Smith «» The 13th Toast by Amy Sparks «» Gathering by Kelly Spitzer «» Tiny Shadows by Maryanne Stahl «» Double-Exposure by Thomas White «» Epistemology by Joseph Young «» Why This Isn't a Good Story to Tell by Shellie Zacharia «» Liquid by Michelle Zellers «» Real Estate by Bonnie ZoBell «» Interviews: Bob Arter «» Matt Bell «» Randall Brown «» Blake Butler «» Brian Allen Carr «» Natascia Casey-Dean «» Dave Clapper «» Myfanwy Collins «» John Colvin «» Katrina Denza «» Murray Dunlap «» Ashley Farmer «» Kathy Fish «» Stefanie Freele «» Scott Garson «» Alicia Gifford «» Rosanne Griffeth «» Steven Gullion «» Evelyn Hampton «» Lindsay Hunter «» Nance Knauer «» Jeff Landon «» Darby Larson «» Ellen Meister «» Corey Mesler «» Mary Miller «» Meg Pokrass «» Bruce Holland Rogers «» Jim Ruland «» Paul Silverman «» Claudia Smith «» Amy Sparks «» Kelly Spitzer «» Maryanne Stahl «» Thomas White «» Joseph Young «» Shellie Zacharia «» Michelle Zellers «» Bonnie ZoBell «» Cover Art "Five Years of SmokeLong" compiled from art by Marty D. Ison, Robert Dornberg, Malina, and Rebecca Gullickson «» Letter From the Editor
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