Excerpt from The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Signal Flame

by Andrew Krivak

The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak X
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2017, 272 pages
    Sep 2017, 272 pages

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Matt Grant

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A fire in the great stone fireplace was as constant in the house as the lengthening days when Easter was early and spring was late. But on the morning after his grandfather died, Bo Konar took the logs and the log rack in the living room out to the barn, swept the bricks clean of ash, and dusted the andirons so that they looked like thin faceless centaurs of black. Two days later, after supper, he and his mother, Hannah, greeted mourners at the door and led them from the foyer into the living room, where each knelt before the body of the man waked in a pine casket by the window, and said a prayer. Some lingered then in the kitchen and the wide hallway to talk about Jozef Vinich. How he had come to America after World War I with fifty dollars in his pocket, after the gold his father had left him paid for the train from Kassa to Hamburg and passage on the Mount Clay. How he had risen from yard worker to co-owner of the Endless Roughing Mill. How he had acquired and managed two thousand acres of the most sought-after land in Dardan. How he had built the house where they all stood before he had turned thirty, something few men in that corner of northeastern Pennsylvania could have done.

No one stayed long. After Father Rovnávaha said the vigil prayers for the deceased, everyone in that room got up to leave, even the priest, and Bo sat alone in the lamplight on a straightbacked chair. Freezing rain rapped outside against the window glass. The old Lab they called Krasna snuffed and sighed on the floor. Bo hunched forward with his elbows on his knees and stared at his grandfather, dressed in a white shirt, blue suit, and a black tie Bo had never seen before. The face dull and wax-set. The misshapen right hand on top of the left at the breast. That one holding a string of wooden rosary beads. And he wondered why he and his great-aunt Sue would have to take turns sitting up all night with the body, because there was not a chance in hell that this man might just be asleep.

Where did you go? he whispered into the room.

He heard the sound of running water coming from the kitchen and a sharp note of breaking glass, and the memory rose to him through the fatigue, a memory of the evening when his grandfather told him (a boy of ten then) to go on upstairs and get some sleep. It was spring. The cold spring that came after his father had died in what they said was a hunting accident, though his father was never a hunter. The meal over, light still hanging in the west outside, Bo asked why he had to go to bed so early.

Because we're going up to the high meadow with rifles in the morning, his grandfather said.

Bo's mother was rinsing dishes, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the glass she was holding slip from her hand, heard the sound of it shattering against the porcelain sink. Jozef looked over at his daughter, who shook her head as if to say, Please, no. Then back to Bo.

It's time you came with me, Jozef said.

They were up before dawn. There was toast and coffee set out, but his mother was not in the kitchen. His grandfather took the Marlin three-thirty-six and a Remington twenty-two out of the gun cabinet, and Bo thought of his father. His mother said that he had fought in the war in Europe, and the boy wondered if somewhere there might still be war, if it might have come to Dardan. His grandfather handed Bo the twenty-two. He held the rifle by the forestock, checked the safety, and said, Are we going to war?

Jozef stopped and stared at him. No, son, he said.

Bo looked down at the floor, and Jozef said, We're going into the woods to find a dog that has taken a liking to deer. That's all.

Outside they walked past the coop where they kept Duna, a Lab and collie mix, who pushed her nose into Bo's gloved hand. He wanted to ask if she was coming with them, but his grandfather did not slow, so he put his head down and followed. Through the orchard, past the horse paddock, into the woods, the fallen limbs and frozen, hard-packed leaves sounding like thunder beneath them, until they found the old trappers' path and walked along the hard dirt, Bo wondering if he would see anything else for the rest of his life but the creased and faded patterns of brown that tracked like roads on a map in the canvas coat on his grandfather's back.

Excerpted from The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivák. Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Krivák. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc

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