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That High Lonesome Sound

Edward Miller

He came onto the porch holding the stock of the Remington under his arm and letting the long barrels dandle just forward of his trouser leg as if a gentleman sportsman of some kind. The fading light of the afternoon made him seem lost in thought or perhaps idle distraction except for the undersquare whiskey bottle which flashed now and then as he lifted it to drink. He set the bottle on a railing and opened the shotgun’s breech, slid out the hot shells, chambered two more.


Again he muttered something.


With field glasses the lieutenant reconnoitered the scene: his team setting the perimeter; the armed man at rest; the armed man in motion; the ramshackle house; the ingress; the egress; ways of escape; ways of no hope. And through the front window, something.


Something there. On the living room wall. Some angular collision of color.


The Stars and Bars.


Of course.


Looming visibly, every Johnny Reb’s coat of arms. Symbol of Southern pride. Souvenir of America’s original sin.


Now the man came down off the porch and wandered into the wild disorder of his yard and stopped a moment, listening.


He stepped over a discarded tire. With one hand he raised the shotgun skyward and squeezed off another blast.


Then came another tip of the bottle to his lips.


Good old Jack, he said.


On a bullhorn the lieutenant addressed him. I’ll give you about five seconds, the lieutenant said. Maybe three. Lay down that scattergun. 


The man closed his eyes. O happy day, he said.


The lieutenant began counting.

Ed Miller teaches writing at Madera Community College. Included among his areas of interest are outsider art, street photography, and the American vernacular.

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