Excerpt of Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
(Page 5 of 9)
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She gives an assessing look to the accumulating clouds off to the southwest,
checks the thermometer on the garage, and sniffs the air. The wind
is high now, and cooling. The thick humid air thats hovered over town
for the past few days is being pushed aside.
Viney goes in. She changes into footless tights and a leotard. Shell
do her exercise video and then figure out something for dinner.
Maybe hell get to the club and run into Alan or Glen. Theyll have a
drink. Thats probably what hell do. He wont tee off when its sure to
Viney shoves Young at Heart Yoga into the VCR and pushes the Play
While the FBI reminds her of the penalties associated with video
piracy, she unrolls her mat, sits down in lotus, and closes her eyes.
Its Friday. Theyll have frozen lemon pepper filets and that new
Stouffers Spinach Souffle. Shell whip up a salad from Dr. Walkers
cookbook. Shell make a fresh lime and celery juice tonic and mix it with
The music begins. The steady, sangfroid voice of the yoga instructor
encourages her to relax, relax. Breathe.
And for dessert, theyll have big dishes of that fat-free rocky road that
Welly likes so much.
The living arent the only ones unsettled. The deadespecially the
fathersare also perturbed by the mayors behavior.
There he goes, theyre thinking: kicking up dust with that gas guzzler
he drives, hell-bent to engage in his favorite form of outdoor recreation,
putting himself in the path of what any fool could see is a
developing thunder cell, and at the worst possible hour of the day.
The dead fathers of Emlyn Springs are obstinate homebodies. They
value routine. They keep close to their caskets.
This rootedness isnt entirely owed to the fact that theyve been
planted in the landscape. For the farmers, its a matter of habit. They
spent their lives knee-deep in loess, spring water, and manure; laying
drain tile; planting, tending, and harvesting crops. A shackled vigilance
to the soil and to the moods of the provincial sky was essential. It was
possible to leave, but for a few hours at most, and only for the most pressing
of reasons: a drive into town twice a year without fail to go to church;
up to Beatrice to pick up a new transmission for the tractor; over to
Branson, Missouri, to see traveling magicians, lion tamers, Up with
People, or some other cultural event that the mother of their children
arranged, and at which their presence, however grudging, was mandated.
Ever black about the face and hands, pungent, abidingly crumby
with dirt no matter how much they scrubbed, their bodies over time
became so embedded with earthand most of them lived longthat
their skin evolved, adapted, developing a subdermal stratum composed
of equal parts skin and soil. For the farmers, the transition to being dead
and buried was hardly noticeable.
But even the nonfarmers are perfectly happy staying put. There may
not be anything spectacular about the landscape in this part of Nebraska,
but its home. If you leave, youre gonna cry is what theyve always said,
but not everyone listens.
The most compelling reason behind their constant presence, however,
is this: The dead are often called into service as what for lack of a better
term could be called outfielders, catching those disquieted souls who die
unwillingly, with rude, terrifying suddenness (victims of car accidents,
gun blasts, natural disasters, and the like) and conveying them home.
These kinds of deaths arent common in Emlyn Springs, but the dead
fathers maintain a proud readiness.
In the meantime, they are not idle. Far from it.
Excerpted from Sing Them Home
by Stephanie Kallos. Copyright © 2009 by Stephanie Kallos.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.