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The Bone Orchard
by Randall Brown

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
They were running behind, so Nate pulled his son Joey into the break in the fence, across the broken bricks and their chipped sharp corners, lifted Joey by the arm so he wouldn't trip, thought how light Joey felt, fleshless.

Nate looked up, around, and then stopped. Joey crashed into his hip, laughed, held his head. Stones? He had dragged Joey into a cemetery.

Blurred tombstones lay to the edge of the brick path. "Bliss," he said. "A strange name."

"1761 to 1768," Joey said aloud. "Seven-year-old kids don't die." Joey picked at his lip, stared at Nate. "Right, Dad?"

"Well. Now they don't. That was before medicine." He reached in his pocket, felt the hard tube of the Epi-Pen.

Joey walked around the graveyard, looked at dates, did the math. If he ate dairy, Joey stopped breathing. They were walking along the broken brick streets, winding their way toward the hospital, to Joey's food challenge, where they'd slowly feed him tablespoons and then glasses of milk, then wait—the oxygen and epinephrine hidden in the closets.

Twice before, Nate had rushed Joey to the emergency room, his breath shallow and losing strength. The wrong brand of Saltines. Undeclared milk in a frozen soup. He jabbed Joey in the thigh with the Epi-Pen as if filling him with oxygen. And then that car ride, Joey deflating.

Joey returned to Bliss. "I never saw a kid skeleton," he said. Joey bent down, rubbed his hand over the stone. His finger scraped the groove of the worn-away letters and numbers.

Nate didn't picture bones, not even tiny ones. Instead, he envisioned a white translucent presence, there and not there.

"Did they have ice cream back then?"

Nate picked Joey up, lifted him into the air. He wished he could toss him up through the milky clouds, that Joey could float down into his arms, free of the dark scabs on his lips from the constant picking, the constant wondering, the wishing that milk had lost the power to kill him.

"Well," Joey repeated. "Did they have ice cream then?"

Bliss had fever. They buried her in mounds of ice cream, but still she grew hotter and hotter until steam, like mist off a pond, floated around her, and it grew thicker, and once it dissipated, Bliss had disappeared. They looked for her in the air, in the clouds.

Nate tossed Joey into the air. Joey screamed. And like that, Joey up and down screaming, they made their way through the city, toward the towers, and Joey said, "Dad, I don't want to turn into bones," and Nate said, "I won't let you," as if such a thing were possible.

"The Bone Orchard" was originally published in Front & Centre. It appears here by permission of the author.

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



Randall Brown teaches at Saint Joseph's University and holds an MFA from Vermont College. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Saint Ann's Review, Evansville Review, Laurel Review, Dalhousie Review, upstreet, Vestal Review, Stand Magazine, Dos Passos Review, and others. His collection MAD TO LIVE recently won Flume Press's 2007-2008 Fiction Prize.

Read the interview.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong as needed.
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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