Excerpt from Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Stories

By Wells Tower

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    256 pages.

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A minute passed, and then a peculiar thing occurred. Mary lifted Haakon’s tunic again, put her face to the wound, and sniffed at it. She paused a second and then did it again.

"What in the world is this?" I asked.

"Gotta do this with a wound like that," Bruce said. "See if he’s got the porridge illness."

"He doesn’t have any porridge illness," I said. "At least, he didn’t before now. What he’s got is a stab hole in his stomach. Now stitch the man up."

"Won’t do any good if you smell onions coming out of that hole. Means he’s got the porridge illness and he’s done for."

Haakon looked up. "Talking about a pierced bowel? Can’t believe it’s as bad as all that."

Mary had another sniff. The wound didn’t smell like onions. She cleaned Haakon with hot water and stitched the hole to a tight pucker.

Haakon fingered the stitches, and, satisfied, passed out. The five of us stood around, and no one could think of anything to say.

"So," Gnut said in an offhand way. "Were you born like that?"

"Like what?" Mary said.

"Without both arms, I mean. Is that how you came out?"

"Sir, that’s fine a thing to ask my daughter," Bruce said. "It was your people that did it to her."

Gnut said, "Oh." And then he said it again, and then really no one could think of anything to say.

Then Mary spoke. "It wasn’t you who did it," she said. "But the man who did, I think I’d like to kill him."

Gnut told her that if she would please let him know who it was, he’d consider it a favor if she’d let him intervene on her behalf.

I said, "I would like a drink. Ørl, what have you got in that wineskin?"

He said nothing. The skin hung from his shoulder, and he put his hands on it protectively.

"I asked what have you got to drink."

"Little bit of root brandy, for your information, Harald. But it’s got to last me the way back. I can’t be damp and not have something to take the chill off."

Gnut was glad to have something to raise his voice about. "Ørl, you’re a sonofabitch. We been three weeks on the water for nothing, Haakon is maybe gonna die, and you can’t even see your way to splash a little taste around. Now, that is the worst, the lowest thing I’ve ever heard."

So Ørl opened up his wineskin, and we all had a dose. It was sweet and potent and we drank and laughed and carried on. Haakon came to. His ordeal had put him in a mawkish bent of mind, and he raised a toast to his pretty surgeon, and to the splendid day, and how much it pleased him that he’d get to see the end of it. Bruce and Mary loosened up and we all talked like old friends. Mary told a lewd story about an apothecary who lived down the road. She was having a good time and did not seem to mind how close Gnut was standing. No one looking in on us would have known we were the reason this girl was missing an arm, and also the reason, probably, that nobody asked where Bruce’s wife had gone.

It was not long before we heard somebody causing a commotion at the well. Me and Gnut and Ørl stepped outside. Djarf had stripped to his waist, and his face and arms and pants looked about how you’d figure. He was hauling up buckets of cold water, dumping it over his head, and shrieking with delight. The blood ran off him pink and watery. He saw us and came over.

"Hoo," he said, shaking water from his hair. He jogged in place for a minute, shivered, and then straightened up. "Mercy, that was a spree. Not much loot to speak of, but a hell of a goddamn spree." He massaged his thighs and spat a few times. Then he said, "So, you do much killing?"

"Nah," I said. "Haakon killed that little what’s-his-name lying over there, but no, we’ve just been sort of taking it easy."

Excerpted from Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower, published March 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2009 by Wells Tower. All rights reserved.

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