Lawn Chair

by Mark Poe

I have a lawn chair named Matthew. Matthew is as much a part of my family as the rest of this farm. Just as every pecan tree or chicken coop or storage shed that sits on it. He’s really nothing special to look at. He’s weather-beaten and life-battled. Rust holds the spots where bolts once were. Bare metal indicates where he’s been tossed around by the winds and thrown like just any other piece of outdoor furniture. That’s how he’s like me. The coat of black paint that once glistened in the new spring light now is spotted and worn slick from time and use. He probably was once the pride of my grandfather, as he would sit on him in the evenings after long days in the field, worn down from hand-chopping or hand-picking cotton. Matthew was there waiting for him. He was a momentary relaxing transition from the harsh Arkansas summer heat to the cool shower before supper. He was a recharging station for the body to move to that next part of the day. He would allow the mind to mull over the thoughts of the farm life and clear the doubts, before going in to see Grandma. The little extra time it took to change the worrisome smirk of the farmer’s brow to a warm and loving look in the eyes to give her the peace that all was well.

read more

“Ol’ Hez” – Part One

by Mark Poe

His name was Hezekiah Adams. Ol’ Hez. That was the moniker he would answer to. He was a hard man. A man of the woods and river. Some had referred to him once as a river rat. Only once to his face, mind you. The gentleman that called out to him had been rewarded with a swift and intense throat grab by his vise-like grip and reminded that his name was Ol’ Hez. In Ol’ Hez’s mind, the term river rat had connotations of trash. A person that came to his mind as a river rat was one who stayed on the river to avoid an honest job. Yes, he lived on the river. It was true he had no daily job. But his case was different in the way that he had turned his back on society. He came to town once a year to resupply his most basic of needs. He had followed the belief for years that the idea of living was a good job, nice home and family. Only when these basic truths were stripped from him did the American dream become a recurring nightmare and shake loose the hidden darkness of his inner self. He was sickened daily by the idea that one of the most precious gifts from the Good Lord above, the gift of living, was being squandered when the level of existence became tilted more to the chase of wants than cherishing the blessings given. He watched people go about their daily lives in a snow globe. When the world would shake that globe containing their own understanding of the peace and contentment that inspired the daily chase, lives would be turned into a frantic scramble to gain footing needed to climb back to where they were. This would lead many to an inner search for a more spiritual presence, treating God like a candy machine. Plug in a few prayers and watch the right answers and rewards fall for their easy grabs. Others chased it through the bottom of bottles, both pill and whiskey. Once the flakes settled back to the bottom of the globe, then they dealt with the prices of the paths they chose. It was on one of these times of turmoil that led to his decision about his future. The choice was his, but the inspiration was a woman. Not just any woman, but his wife. The innocent of all was one who carried the same dark eyes that Ol’ Hez has passed through birth. Caleb was his name. The dark-haired, dark-eyed son of Ol’ Hez Adams.

read more

“The Cypress Altar”

by Mark Poe

The cold air of the pre-dawn November morning burned the throat as the hum of the outboard motor was lulling me back into any outdoorsman’s dreamland. The boat ride down Maddox Bay to the dropping-off spot of the deer hunters of the Poe family was cold but quick. The morning discussion covered where everyone would be hunting today and concluded with the choice of either quick-and-cold or slow-and-moderate for the 10-minute or so boat ride, depending on the vote. Quick and cold won out. We had all survived, as assured by roll call rounded as the boat slid to a stop on the sandbar. From here, we would begin our stalking of any legal whitetail to be found in the North Unit of the White River Refuge in southeast Arkansas. We had copied this exact scenario countless times in my 25 years of hunting with this family. No thought in heart or mind could foretell the future relevance of this over-played song of the deer hunter. Unbeknownst to any of us, today would change the lives and the future of the clan.

read more

“A Piankashaw Lunch”

by Mat McCarter

The sky looked like it might snow but just didn’t give a shit.  Everything seemed eternally dreary and dismal – damned, even. The weather was insolent and bitchy, like it was on its winter rag.  The streets were bare and nothing stirred on this cold winter afternoon, except for the frigid wind whipping around the old buildings on the square. I walked past the old cannons parked out in front of the equally old courthouse by the war memorial. Every time I passed the memorial, I was always amazed that folks from Piankashaw have been fighting in wars since the Civil War. You’d have thought that after looking at the plaque in front of the courthouse with all of those names on it, that we’d just quit fightin’ any wars.  You’d think that we’d have learned our lesson the first time. I imagined that there would be more names on that plaque before it was all said and done. The country couldn’t stop creating wars any more than young men from Piankashaw couldn’t stop fighting them. The government never walked away from a fight and neither did the kids we send to fight them.

read more

“The Pharm” – Part Two

by Mark Poe

The next morning, the addiction tree had grown to almost six feet tall and the buds were already beginning to show signs of opening. I took the chainsaw and broke the morning silence with the grinding of the chain. Two cuts and I had a two-foot section of the trunk that Cherokee had requested.

read more

“The Pharm” – Part One

by Mark Poe

My hands cradled my head as I stared at the black starlit night, searching for answers to questions I was terrified to ask. I had escaped the guilty barrage of vulgar insults into the rural quietness of my yard. The small towns were pinpointed by the lights   within glow distance of my country home in Poplar Ridge, AR. My community was a center blip in three triangular points of nowhere. These concentrated lights meant that the local Little League teams were playing night games against other small Northeastern Arkansas towns. There were dads coaching, grandpas and uncles umping the bases and moms doing their best to scream their small sons and daughters into greatness. The only sounds around me were tree frogs and the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes in my ear, rivaled only by the numbing hum with lost scenes of my childhood of when I was an active participant in those rituals replaying in my head. My whole inner being was in a constant turmoil with the stress of my everyday life. The addiction had hit hard. My sweet wife, Laci Lee, the absolute love of my life, was caught in the downward swirl of the pills. They had consumed her to the point that fantasy had won the battle with reality, in her mind. I knew of two paths that had to be traveled to get the result I needed for my kids and me and neither was comforting. It was the witching hour and it was time. I knew she had taken her hourly allotment and would be asleep.

read more

“The Room” – Part One

by Markus Moore

“What the hell?!” That observation was followed almost immediately by a blinding flash of pain that made me see stars, as I raised myself to a sitting position. As the pain subsided, I felt all over my head, searching for some kind of bump or gash. Oddly – and much to my relief – there weren’t any discernible wounds. “Must be drugs,” I remember thinking to myself.

read more

“The Struggle” – Part Eight

by Mark Essem

JACK’S ROOM – NIGHT

(Jack is lying on the bed, reading the book about setting goals and positive thinking. He gets a piece of paper and starts making a list of goals.)

“1 – stop and stay off drugs and alcohol; 2 – Math and English; 3 – job; 4 – Own place; 5 – driving licence.”

read more

“The Struggle” – Part Seven

by Mark Essem

AT LIBRARY – DAY

(Jack goes into the library and becomes a member, then goes and looks at some books. He picks up a book about alcohol addiction, 12 steps and drug addiction. He then goes and sits down in the corner, away from everyone, and starts reading.)

read more