Excerpt from Garner by Kirstin Allio, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Garner

by Kirstin Allio

Garner
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    Sep 2005, 232 pages

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An act of leisure—but he fought his own disingenuousness for her sake. At least it was handwork. Besides, he had his own habit.

 

There was a hole in the paper his wife passed him the shape of a young woman in a long dress. Willard cringed, then let out a huff at himself as he read the print below—A modern bride may wear a traditional gown. He allowed a glance at Mrs. Heald's work in progress. Indeed, a stiff cone of lace had taken her fancy.

He took a pencil from his vest pocket. He had thought to compose an obituary but began instead, in the margin of the newspaper,

From the daily threading of the woodland roads I am privy to the long slow cycles.

History has faded into nowadays, thought the postman. Rich farmland is built upon by strangers, an entire orchard goes a second year unpruned, no apples, humpbacked stone walls crisscross forests that were once handhewn pasture.

Trunks knuckled like a working man or woman. Lost ladder left for a year. Unconscionable waste. A lightning scar goes unmended. Old dog licks at the charcoal groove. Death awaits him.

For the sake of new commerce, an orchard is gouged out and graded. An old woman comes to Town Meeting and cannot be convinced that the town did not lose any acreage by losing a hill.

War memorials are observed with gunshots over the graveyard and the volunteer Fire Department hosts a baked bean supper. In the tight breasts of boys and girls, thought Willard Heald, loyalty begins to shiver. Garner's officer of the peace takes his place on parade and the last day of August is the last day of summer and the concord grapes on the road are green as virginity and matted with dust and birdscat and some hasty animal vomits them up in the goldenrod and aster.

Locals fish in streams carved through deepest woods an ice age ago. Beaver Brook and Blood Brook and tributaries of the Saskoba. They weave their lines through potato bugs, entrails of crow's eye blue and gleaming red.

A girl drowns in their fishing hole.

Mrs. Heald reached over the dining room table and put her hand over her husband's hand. "Read it aloud, will you."

On other evenings such a signal from his wife would mark his finest hour. Indeed he often found himself spinning out the town's history or he would illustrate family trees with exquisitely rendered leaves and local birds perched upon their branches. He could draw maps to scale barely glancing at the paper. He laced the town roads with his own footpaths through woods and field—as the crow flies, shortcuts. But his wife's voice was different tonight. The sudden death of a girl had provoked her. Well he had told her what he saw. A girl dead by drowning. He had not mentioned the blood for it came from no wound he could discern—and how he had thought he had her simple company alone in the forest.


"Bounded by her trees was the new England," read Willard without pause. "It is said that if one had the gossamer soul of an angel and wings of an artist's weave, one might pass from Maine to Rhode Island, crown to green crown, and o'er New Hampshire.


"Such are the White Pines of New Hampshire. Straight as masts, full skirted as a woman.


"Tree to tree, one might travel."


He had heard them called the hardwood gentry—oak and maple.


"But the White Pine, privilege of kings, friend of settlers—there was no better contender for emblem of New Hampshire."


He paused and felt more keenly his wife's eyes upon him. Well he would give her this then, the fact that he had in his possession a letter that Frances had written.

From Garner by Kirstin Allio, pages 11-25.  Copyright Kirstin Allio 2005.  All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Coffee House Press.

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